RED BEARD (1965)
If you can get past the long running time and occasional overt sentimentality, this is one of the most rewarding films in Kurosawa's canon. This marked the end of an era for him; his final film with Toho company, his last collaboration with the great Mifune, his final black-and-white film (his second last film in cinemascope) and most importantly, his swan song to optimism. After this remarkably hopeful story, Kurosawa's world view would turn much darker. Financial failure, Hollywood blacklisting, extreme illness and attempted suicide would follow. With that in mind, Red Beard remains an extremely emotional experience for me. The sheer humility and supreme goodness of this film is so utterly inspiring. It's an honorable movie, with many memorable characters, photographed in a way that makes every mis-en-scene look like a painting. Clearly, Kurosawa was in his prime and no other film in his body of work holds melancholy and hope in such equal measure.
Director: Akira Kurosawa