the coolest thing I'd ever seen on film--and a half-century later it remains so.
You can have your crouching tigers, hidden dragons, and Bruce Lee stunts, but all those are cheap tricks compared to what Kurosawa did. The master is way better than his imitators, and in his prodigious body of work Kurosawa laid the groundwork for much of modern cinema--not just Japanese film. By the time that swarm of shafts buzzes out of the trees, all the dramatic tension of Macbeth has been mounted in a way both faithful to Shakespeare and entirely appropriate to a new setting and unique story.
Kurosawa's films have a universality that grows out of human struggle and a specificity that is rooted in time and place rendered with painstaking accuracy. The U-M Center for Japanese Studies is showing a seven-week-long series of Kurosawa classics on Friday nights this fall, and all of them are worth a new look (if you've never seen them) or a fresh look on a big screen. Watching DVDs of such exquisitely constructed movies is not the same.