MIFUNE, 4-Week Festival of 33 Films Opens Feb. 11 at Film Forum

MIFUNE, 4-Week Festival of 33 Films Opens Feb. 11 at Film Forum
MIFUNE, a four-week festival of 33 films celebrating the legendary Japanese actor Toshirō Mifune, will run at Film Forum from February 11 through March 30. The series, co-presented by The Japan Foundation, includes all 16 of Mifune’s collaborations with director Akira Kurosawa — “the greatest actor-director partnership in film history” (David Shipman) — along with rarities and rediscoveries in 35mm imported from the libraries of The Japan Foundation and The National Film Archive of Japan. See complete schedule below.Mifune (1920–1997) arrived at Toho Studios in 1947 seeking a photographer’s assistant job, when he was spotted by young contract director Akira Kurosawa. Thus began an artistic partnership that would produce some of the greatest masterpieces of world cinema, including Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, Hidden Fortress, High And Low, and Yojimbo. He would cement his icon status with over 150 starring roles, for directors like Mikio Naruse, Hiroshi Inagaki, Kajiro Yamamoto, Kihachi Okamoto, Terence Young, and John Boorman.An actor of remarkable grace and physicality, Mifune remains the lone warrior slashing his way to glory — both Japan’s John Wayne and the prototype for Clint Eastwood. But in the way he revolutionized post-war screen acting with his emotional nakedness, he was also Marlon Brando; in the way he encompassed titanic, complex, classical roles, he was Laurence Olivier. With his towering presence and seemingly endless range, there was, simply, no one like him.The series, originally titled MIFUNE 100, commemorating Mifune’s centennial year in 2020, was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The actor was born on April 1, 1920.

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MIFUNE has been programmed by Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum’s Director of Repertory Programming, and Japanese film scholar Michael Jeck.

“I am a person rarely impressed by actors…But in the case of Mifune I was completely overwhelmed. The ordinary Japanese actor might need ten feet of film to get across an impression. Toshirō Mifune needed only three feet.”– Akira Kurosawa“Under Kurosawa, Mifune’s versatility is phenomenal. It is as though Kurosawa has been able to draw from Mifune something even Mifune did not know he possessed.”– Donald Richie, The Films of Akira Kurosawa“There would be no Magnificent Seven without The Seven Samurai, no A Fistful of Dollars for Clint Eastwood without Yojimbo, no Star Wars for anyone without The Hidden Fortress.”– Keanu Reeves, narrator of Mifune: The Last Samurai
Public Screening Schedule:RASHOMONJapan, 1950Directed by Akira KurosawaCinematography by Kazuo MiyagawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Machiko Kyō, Masayuki Mori, and Takashi ShimuraBased on Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s short story “In a Grove”Rape and murder in 12th-century Kyoto, as seen by four conflicting witnesses. Adapted from two stories by the great Ryunosuke Akutagawa, its worldwide acclaim (Venice Grand Prize, Best Foreign Film Oscar) vaulted an already-great-but internationally-unknown director and national cinema to world prominence. Machiko Kyō’s performance would land her a LIFE cover and, as the Bandit, Mifune goes beyond overacting into something so outrageous it could only be real.DCP. Approx. 88 min.Friday, February 11 at 2:55, 7:10Wednesday, February 15 at 5:35Friday, March 4 at 3:50Saturday, March 5 at 12:40Wednesday, March 9 at 6:00Thursday, March 10 at 12:40, 5:10

I LIVE IN FEARJapan, 1955Directed by Akira KurosawaProduced by Sōjirō MotokiStarring Toshirō Mifune, Takashi Shimura70ish factory owner Mifune (then 35), obsessed with fear of the Bomb, demands his extended family move to the supposed safety of Brazil. Every device at Kurosawa’s command is enlisted to enforce the mood of oppression; with a desperate Mifune’s climactic speech equaling his legendary Seven Samurai monologue.35mm. Approx. 103 min.Friday, February 11 at 12:40, 4:55, 9:10Friday, February 18 at 12:30Saturday, February 19 at 2:50

THE QUIET DUELJapan, 1955Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Miki Sanjo, Takashi ShimuraDuring surgery in a leaky tent at the jungle front, Dr. Mifune is infected with syphilis, then must decide what to do when he returns to an expectant fiancée back home. With Takashi Shimura as his doctor dad; and the opening operation scene a 21-shot tour de force. Kurosawa/Mifune’s rarest film, in a 35mm print especially imported from Japan.35mm print courtesy of The Japan Foundation. Approx. 95min.Saturday, February 12 at 1:00Thursday, February 17 at 6:15Friday, February 18 at 5:10

THE IDIOTJapan, 1951Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Setsuko Hara, Masayuki MoriAkira Kurosawa’s powerful adaptation of favorite author Dostoevsky. The triangle: Masayuki Mori the holy innocent “Myshkin;” Mifune the homicidal “Rogozin;” and Ozu’s loveable Setsuko Hara as the vicious “Natasha.” When the producers asked him to cut his 4½ hour original, Kurosawa famously replied “If you want to cut it in half, you’d better cut it lengthwise.”35mm print courtesy of The Japan Foundation. Approx. 166 min.Saturday, February 12 at 3:20Sunday, February 13 at 5:30Thursday, February 17 at 3:00

SEVEN SAMURAIJapan, 1954Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Daisuke Katō, Isao Kimura, Minoru Chiaki, Seiji Miyaguchi, Yoshio InabaIn 16th-century Japan, farmers under the heel of marauding bandits decide to hire ronin for protection; the odds: 7 samurai vs. 40 bandits; their pay: a few grains of rice.

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With Takashi Shimura as the calm leader, and Mifune as #7, transitioning from manic goofball to tortured, self-hating tragic hero, amid some of the most hair-raising battles ever shot. “No one has come near it.” – Pauline Kael.35mm print courtesy of The Japan Foundation. Approx. 207 min.Saturday, February 12 at 7:00Friday, February 18 at 7:10Monday, February 21 at 12:40Thursday, March 10 at 7:15

SCANDALJapan, 1950Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Takashi Shimura and Shirley YamaguchiA successful painter and an attractive pop singer meet innocently at a mountain resort, but Amour magazine takes it from there, with an action for slander leading to Kurosawa’s only — and brilliant — courtroom scene. Mifune as the motorcycling artist has moments of hilarious deadpan humor, but the film is dominated by Takashi Shimura as the sometime lawyer and full-time slob.35mm print courtesy Japan Foundation. Approx. 104 min.Sunday, February 13 at 12:40Monday, February 14 at 3:00

SAMURAI SAGAJapan, 1959Directed by Hiroshi InagakiStarring Toshirō Mifune, Yoko TsukasaMifune’s 17th century samurai responds to jibes about his enlarged proboscis with witty haiku and slashing swordplay, then plays ghost writer for tongue tied Akira Takarada’s courting of Yoko Tsukasa, even though he secretly loves her himself. Sound familiar? Of course, it’s Cyrano de Bergerac, with Mifune alternately hilarious and moving — and his nose is the best yet, both physically believable, and well, kind of ugly — as called for in the text.35mm print courtesy of the National Film Archive of Japan. Approx. 111 min.Sunday, February 13 at 3:00Wednesday, February 16 at 7:35

STRAY DOGJapan, 1949Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Takashi ShimuraWhile a rubble-strewn Tokyo swelters through a torrid heat wave, awkward young white-suited detective Mifune finds to his shame that his pistol has been stolen — and that it’s been used in a murder. Thus begins his obsessive, guilt-ridden search, highlighted by a nearly 10-minute sequence shot by hidden camera in the city’s toughest black market. Kurosawa adapted his own unpublished novel for this, the beginning of the genre in Japan.35mm. Approx. 122 min.Monday, February 14 at 8:10Friday, February 18 at 2:40Sunday, February 20 at 12:40Thursday, February 24 at 5:50Wednesday, March 9 at 8:10

SNOW TRAILJapan, 1947Directed by Senkichi TaniguchiStarring Toshirō Mifune, Takashi ShimuraOn the run from their under-the-credits bank job, initially creepy Takashi Shimura and intimidating 27-year old Mifune (top-billed in his first film); hole up in a remote Japanese mountain lodge with the aging, unsuspecting proprietor, his granddaughter, and a marooned mountaineer. Vertigo and frostbite-inducing winter location shooting in the Japanese Alps.16mm print courtesy of The Japan Foundation. Approx. 85 min.Tuesday, February 15 at 12:40, 6:00

THE LOWER DEPTHSJapan, 1957Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, Kyōko KagawaGorky’s ensemble play about down-and-outs, transposed to 19th century Japan, in one of the greatest theater to film adaptations ever, with highly original interpretations including Mifune as a punkish thief. All too little known, this is one of Kurosawa’s finest works.35mm. Approx. 125 min.Tuesday, February 15 at 2:45, 8:00Wednesday, February 16 at 12:40Tuesday, March 1 at 5:40

THRONE OF BLOODJapan, 1957Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Isuzu YamadaMacbeth transforms into a medieval Japanese legend, as General Mifune gallops through a seemingly endless forest to his encounter with a single witch, then, as dense fog lifts, finds himself before a looming castle. With the legendary Isuzu Yamada as his Lady, this is a partnership of titans.35mm. Approx. 110 min.Wednesday February 16 at 3:15Thursday, February 17 at 12:40, 8:20Sunday, February 27 at 12:40, 8:10Sunday, March 6 at 9:05

A WIFE’S HEARTJapan, 1956Directed by Mikio NaruseStarring Toshirō Mifune, Hideko TakamineMifune as romantic lead? Every time hard-working wife Hideko Takamine (Floating Clouds, When A Woman Ascends the Stairs) raises enough yen for that coffee shop, her family scarfs it; but visiting bank loan officer Toshirō, here sharply dressed, may have the answer. The intensity of the chemistry between the superstars becomes, without a word or a touch, almost palpable.35mm print courtesy of The Japan Foundation. Approx. 101 min.Monday, February 14 at 12:40, 6:00Monday, March 7 at 7:40

HIGH AND LOWJapan, 1963Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyōko Kagawa.Shoe company exec Mifune is in the midst of a mortgage-everything takeover battle when the phone rings with a giant ransom demand for his son. Adapted from Ed McBain’s novel King’s Ransom, this is the ultimate kidnap movie, with the cops led by Steve McQueen-cool Tatsuya Nakadai; the money transfer aboard the Shinkansen (bullet train); and a jailhouse interview punctuated by the heaviest steel door closing in film history.35mm. Approx. 143 min.Saturday, February 19 at 8:00Wednesday, March 2 at 2:30Tuesday, March 8 at 12:40, 7:50

HIDDEN FORTRESSJapan, 1958Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Misa Uehara, Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari FujiwaraTwo constantly bickering and bumbling farmers on the run from clan wars are dragooned by superman general Mifune into aiding his rescue of fugitive princess Misa Uehara and her family’s hidden gold. Pure entertainment from the masters, acknowledged by George Lucas as the inspiration for Star Wars.35mm. Approx. 139 min.Saturday, February 19 at 5:10Sunday, February 20 at 7:00Tuesday, February 22 at 12:40Saturday, March 5 at 7:10Monday, March 7 at 3:00

DRUNKEN ANGELJapan, 1948Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Reisaburo YamamotoMifune’s greasily-coiffed “Jungle Boogie”-dancing gangster gets the bad news from alcoholic doctor Takashi Shimura — he’s got TB; and then the prewar boss returns. First collaboration of “the greatest actor-director team in film history” (David Shipman).35mm. Approx. 98 min.Saturday, February 19 at 12:40Sunday, February 27 at 6:00Monday, February 28 at 12:40Tuesday, March 1 at 8:20Wednesday, March 2 at 5:50Thursday, March 10 at 2:45

RED BEARDJapan, 1965Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Yūzō Kayama, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Reiko DanIn a 19th-century slum clinic for the poor, a gruff heavily bearded Dr. Mifune (Best Actor, Venice) straightens out an arrogant young intern and through his hardboiled warmth and stern compassion creates, instead of the usual “circle of evil,” rather a circle of good. Mifune’s last film for Kurosawa.35mm. Approx. 185 min.Sunday, February 20 at 3:10Tuesday, February 22 at 3:30Monday, February 28 at 7:45

ALL ABOUT MARRIAGEJapan, 1958Directed by Kihachi OkamotoStarring Toshirō Mifune, Izumi Yukimura, Michiyo Tamaki, Ken UeharaUltra-perky model Izumi Yukimura (a chart-busting singer off-screen) likes single freedom but feels that ryosai kenbo (“good wife, wise mother”) pressure, exemplified by her bored-to-tears sister, with Tatsuya Nakadai arriving late as a hip dreamboat, and Mifune, pricelessly cameoing (uncredited) for friend Okamoto’s first feature, as her acting teacher.35mm print courtesy of The Japan Foundation. Approx. 84 min.Monday, February 21 at 6:00

RED SUNJapan, 1971Directed by Terence YoungStarring Charles Bronson, Alain Delon, Toshirō Mifune, Ursula Andress, CapucineLeft for dead by partner Alain Delon after their robbery of the Japanese Embassy’s train to D.C., Charles Bronson is forcibly recruited to help guard Mifune recover a priceless presentational sword. Then a classic double act across the desert, with cheerful rapscallion Bronson’s repeated escape attempts being foiled by stern straight man Mifune. For once Toshirō dubs his own English, to powerful effect in a speech on the end of the Samurai.35mm. Approx. 112 min.Wednesday, February 23 at 12:40, 6:10

HELL IN THE PACIFICU.S., 1968Directed by John BoormanStarring Toshirō Mifune, Lee MarvinBoth stranded on an unoccupied Pacific island, Yank Lee Marvin and Japanese Mifune (both actual WWII vets who hit it off great during shooting) keep fighting against each other, until… while speaking their own impenetrable (unsubtitled) languages. Two-man adventure story — stunningly shot in Scope on location on Palau in the Philippine Sea.Digital. Approx. 103 min.Thursday, February 24 at 12:40, 8:20

JAPAN’S LONGEST DAYJapan, 1967Directed by Kihachi OkamotoStarring Toshirō Mifune, Chishū Ryū, Takashi ShimuraRelentlessly paced and rivetingly accurate account of the day of the surrender, with fanatical middle-level officers trying to take over Tokyo and thwart even the Emperor’s wishes. Mifune as the War Minister dominates a gigantic cast, with the cinema’s most graphic seppuku as the dramatic and horrific climax.35mm print imported from Japan, courtesy of The Japan Foundation. Approx. 157 min.Tuesday, February 22 at 7:10Wednesday, February 23 at 3:00Friday, March 4 at 12:40

SAMURAI ASSASSINJapan, 1965Directed by Kihachi OkamotoStarring Toshirō Mifune, Koshiro Matsumoto, Yūnosuke Itō, Michiyo Aratama1860; and while “snow seldom falls in March,” it’s coming down hard as progressive regent Naosuke Ii starts his heavily guarded daily procession, even as fanatical anti-shogunate samurai move in for their attack. Mifune’s fictional character, an often unsympathetic, embittered, wrong-headed loser, is arguably his most complex non-Kurosawa portrait. A tour-de-force in dynamic framing for the wide screen.35mm print courtesy Japan Foundation. Approx. 122 min.Wednesday, March 2 at 8:00Wednesday, March 9 at 12:40

THE BAD SLEEP WELLJapan, 1960Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Masayuki Mori, Kyōko Kagawa, Tatsuya Mihashi, Takashi ShimuraScandal-seeking reporters act as a chorus at the wedding reception for bespectacled pencil-pushing executive secretary Mifune and limping boss’s daughter Kyoko Kagawa, even as cops wait in the wings and in wheels a cake shaped like an office building, a single rose marking the site of a notorious suicide — or was it murder? And that’s just the first 20 minutes! Roughly Enron meets Hamlet, as scandal and ruin move inexorably up the corporate ladder.35mm. Approx. 151 min.Thursday, February 24 at 2:50Sunday, February 27 at 3:00Friday, March 4 at 8:20

SAMURAI REBELLIONJapan, 1967Directed by Masaki KobayashiStarring Toshirō Mifune, Yoko Tsukasa, Go Kato, Tatsuya NakadaiBased on Yasuhiko Takiguchi’s short story, Hairyozuma shimatsuFaithful retainer Mifune plays it his Lordship’s way, even when the lord decides to unload his mistress on Mifune’s son. But when their first child suddenly becomes heir, the lord wants her back. The built-up tension is orgasmically released in Mifune’s greatest one-against-all fight and then in a climactic final battle with reluctant pal Tatsuya Nakadai: “As exciting as any duel ever put on film.” – David Shipman. Kinema Jumpo Award for Best Japanese Film of 1967.35mm. Approx. 128 min.Friday, February 25 at 1:00, 6:00

THE LAST GUNFIGHTJapan, 1960Directed by Kihachi OkamotoStarring Toshirō Mifune, Kôji Tsuruta, Yôko Tsukasa, Seizaburô KawazuExiled to a mobbedup town, cop Mifune befriends one oyabun, then sympathizes with another (Koji Tsuruta, Musashi’s final opponent) about his wife’s murder: against yakuza rules. But there’s a gang war coming, a tough choice, and a final twist.35mm print imported from Japan, courtesy of The Japan Foundation. Approx. 95 min.Friday, February 25 at 3:50, 8:40

ZATOICHI MEETS YOJIMBOJapan, 1970Directed by Kihachi OkamotoStarring Toshirō Mifune, Shintaro Katsu, Ayako WakaoMifune squares off with Shintaro Katsu’s Zatoichi in the duel of the super-stars. Twentieth in the Zatoichi series boasts raucous comedy teamwork by the stars, ravishing widescreen color photography by the great Kazuo Miyagawa (Rashomon, Yojimbo), amid a typically complicated plot — craven gang boss, crooked silk merchant, and Mysterious Stranger vying with our heroes for a cache of embezzled gold.35mm print imported from Japan, courtesy of The Japan Foundation. Approx. 116 min.Saturday, February 26 at 7:30Thursday, March 3 at 5:10

MIFUNE: THE LAST SAMURAIJapan, 2015Directed by Steven OkazakiMifune’s life and career, as told through home movies, family photographs (dating back to his childhood in China; he wouldn’t step foot in Japan till age 20), rare archival footage (including some astounding scenes from otherwise-lost silent chanbara movies), and extensive interviews with Mifune’s family, friends, colleagues.DCP. Approx. 80 min.Monday, February 28 at 6:00Wednesday, March 2 at 12:40

MUSASHI MIYAMOTO: SAMURAI TRILOGY PART IJapan, 1954Directed by Hiroshi InagakiStarring Toshirō MifuneAdapted from Eiji Yoshikawa’s novel, MusashiUmpteenth life of the real (c.1584-1645) swordsman, artist, writer (Book of Five Rings) and ronin Miyamoto (here adapted from Eiji Yoshikawa’s 1930s newspaper serial-turned-novel). Mifune’s young rebel Takezo is captured and tutored by his village priest, and after several years becomes Musashi. Path-breakingly lush color photography.Digital. Approx. 93 min.Tuesday, March 1 at 12:40Sunday, March 6 at 2:45

DUEL AT ICHIJOJI TEMPLE: SAMURAI TRILOGY PART IIJapan, 1955Directed by Hiroshi InagakiStarring Toshirō MifuneAdapted from Eiji Yoshikawa’s novel, MusashiMifune’s Musashi takes on an entire fighting school in a nighttime duel and Koji Tsuruta’s Kojiro Sasaki first appears.Digital. Approx. 104 min.Tuesday, March 1 at 3:00Sunday, March 6 at 4:40

DUEL AT GANRYU ISLAND: SAMURAI TRILOGY PART IIIJapan, 1956Directed by Hiroshi InagakiStarring Toshirō MifuneAdapted from Eiji Yoshikawa’s novel, MusashiMusashi and Kojiro pursue separate adventures, but end up at that final daybreak duel.Digital. Approx. 105 min.Sunday, March 6 at 6:50

YOJIMBOJapan, 1961Directed by Akira KurosawaProduced by Akira Kurosawa, Tomoyuki Tanaka and Ryūzō KikushimaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Tatsuya NakadaiWandering into a deserted village, scruffy and hungry ronin Mifune sees his chance to rake in the ryo as a yojimbo (bodyguard). And after checking out the sake merchant’s thugs squaring off against the silk merchant’s goon squad, twice as much, if he hires out to both sides. But there’s a final showdown with Tatsuya Nakadai’s pistol-waving, Elvislike Samurai killer.35mm. Approx. 110 min.Wednesday, February 23 at 8:30Saturday, February 26 at 12:40, 5:10Monday, February 28 at 2:45Thursday, March 3 at 12:40Tuesday, March 8 at 3:30

SANJUROJapan, 1962Directed by Akira KurosawaStarring Toshirō Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yūzō Kayama, Reiko DanPainfully sincere young samurai plan how to save the day in their clan’s power struggle, but they have to be straightened out and bailed out by grubby ronin Mifune, repeating his Yojimbo role, his final showdown with Tatsuya Nakadai coming to a startling conclusion.35mm. Approx. 96 min.Saturday, February 26 at 3:00Thursday, March 3 at 3:00Tuesday, March 8 at 5:45

SWORD OF DOOMJapan, 1966Directed by Kihachi OkamotoTatsuya Nakadai and Toshiro Mifune star in the story of a wandering samurai who exists in a maelstrom of violence. A gifted swordsman plying his craft during the turbulent final days of shogunate rule in Japan, Ryunosuke (Nakadai) kills without remorse or mercy. It is a way of life that ultimately leads to madness. Kihachi Okamoto’s swordplay classic is the thrilling tale of a man who chooses to devote his life to evil.35mm. Approx. 121 min.Monday, February 21 at 7:55Wednesday, March 9 at 3:10

RED LIONJapan, 1969Directed by Kihachi OkamotoStarring Toshirō Mifune, Shima Iwashita1868. Stuttering former “village idiot” Mifune returns to his hometown resplendent in a borrowed officer’s red lion headdress, to announce their liberation by advancing anti-shogunate imperialist forces — but there’s a sting in the tale as slapstick farce turns to…35mm print courtesy of The Japan Foundation. Approx. 115 min.Friday March 4 at 6:00Saturday, March 5 at 4:45

Film Forum Repertory is Programmed by Bruce Goldstein.Associate: Elspeth Carroll
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