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World Movies Channel is presenting a program of movies by some of the most celebrated directors spanning almost 100 years, over 25 Saturdays at 8.30, starting April 3, 2010. From Akira Kurosawa to Federico Fellini, from Pedro Almodóvar to Wong Kar Wai and Francois Truffaut to Lars Von Trier … decisions, decisions! says Andrew L. Urban (Channel Host at World Movies for almost five years).

The list of 25 filmmakers and the films selected for this program is a procrastinator’s nightmare; if you could only watch a few, which ones would you pick? Or which would you chose to miss? It’s a happy conundrum and if you can plan your schedule around the next 25 Saturday nights, you’ll be rewarded with some of cinema’s most enduring classics.

The season begins with the legendary AKIRA KUROSAWA:
Originally trained as a painter, the late director broke through the market in 1950 with Rashômon, revealing the richness of Japanese cinema to the West. He has won a multitude of prestigious awards, including the Palme d’Or for Kagemusha at Cannes in 1980 and both Rashomon and Dersu Uzala won Oscars for Best Foreign Film, and in 1990 Kurosawa was honoured with an Academy Award for his lifetime achievement.

Kurosawa is regarded by his peers as pretty much peerless; "it is impossible to surpass him," comments Chinese director Zhang Ymou. George Lucas cites Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress as inspiration for Star Wars.

With his samurai films, Kurosawa pioneered the realistic portrayal of violence before Sam Peckinpah. He was the first to use wide screen in Japan and he introduced the use of long lenses and multiple camera set-ups for the legendary concluding battle in the torrential rain in Seven Samurai.

During the 1987 Tokyo Film Festival, I attended a special press conference to meet Kurosawa at picturesque Hakone, just outside Tokyo. Kurosawa was asked what was the most important thing for him in making films. Kurosawa didn't hesitate (but spoke through an interpreter): "To make a good film, the most important thing is to make the film you really want to make - and to be honest. It's no good making a film you've been asked or commissioned to make. And you must never forget that you are making a FILM. It's a very specific art form. It's a unique method of making contact: we share the laughter and the tears of a common life through the screen, with the audience. It has a specific power."

Discussing the notion of film 'nationality', Kurosawa was surprised to hear that in Australia discussion is heated about the making of "Australian" films.

"Film has no nationality, no frontiers. It's a strange discussion ... I shoot in Japan, but I don't set out to make Japanese films. They're about life ... I don't think of a Japanese audience particularly, rather, I want everyone to share my films. I want to be understood universally."

His film Yojimbo (1961) screens on Saturday, April 3. 8:30pm. A samurai wreaks havoc on a village divided by rival gangs. Kurosawa’s most popular film in his native Japan also inspired Clint Eastwood’s 1964 hit, A Fistful of Dollars.

LARS VON TRIER’S Zentropa (aka Europa) will screen on August 14, 2010.
The film was in Competition at the Festival de Cannes in 1991, where I had the good fortune to interview Lars. He told me that his mother confessed on her deathbed two and a half years earlier that Lars was illegitimate, revealing to him the identity of his real father - an artist. It helped explain to Von Trier why she bought him an 8 mm camera for his 12th birthday.

"She had an ambition for me to be an artist....and when you start very early, you have to learn everything, all the elements of film making. You get fully involved in them."
Then 34, von Trier, as his name might imply, was trying valiantly, indeed, having had each one of a feature film trilogy invited to the Cannes film festival. The last of them, Zentropa, won the Jury Prize and the Technical Prize. His 1984 entry, Element of Crime, also won the Technical Prize, and went on to win prizes at other festivals.

In his homeland, the Danes thought his films a bit strange at first, while the French loved them.

Zentropa is the story of a naive American who goes to Germany immediately after WWII, and tries to play a role in helping to rebuild the country. Through an uncle, he gets a job on the railways where he is gradually drawn into the country’s shameful secrets.

The full season in chronological Wednesday order from 3/4/2010:

Director & Title
Akira Kurosawa: Yojimbo
Jean Renoir: The Grand Illusion
Federico Fellini: Nights of Cabiria
Luis Bunuel: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Jean Luc-Goddard: Pierrot Le Fou
Luchino Visconti: Rocco And His Brothers
Guillermo del Toro: The Devil's Backbone
Jean-Pierre Melville: The Red Circle
Emir Kusturica: Life Is A Miracle
Bernardo Bertolucci: The Last Emperor
Pedro Almodóvar: Volver
Wong Kar Wai: Ashes Of Time (Redux)
Francois Truffaut: The Last Metro
Werner Herzog: Fitzcaraldo
Francois Ozon: A Time To Leave
Satyajit Ray: Pather Panchali
Jean-Pierre Junet: City Of Lost Children
Roberto Rossellini: Journey In Italy
Wim Wenders: Wings Of Desire
Lars von Trier: Zentropa
Hayao Miyazaki: Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind
Henri-Georges Clouzot: Les Diaboliques
Krzysztof Kieslowski:The Double Life Of Veronique
Jacques Tati: Playtime
Ingmar Bergman: Fanny And Alexander

Published March 18, 2010

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Akira Kurosawa



Lars Von Trier


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