Nothing can prepare you for the power and the beauty of Akira Kurosawa's 1950 breakthrough movie, "Rashomon." This fractured morality play -- almost an amorality play -- about a bandit, a samurai, and the samurai's wife unspools this weekend at the AFI Silver Theater. As the director unfolds a terrible crime from four conflicting points of view, he both sweeps you up in the action and makes you question the possibility of objective truth. (That's Toshiro Mifune as the bandit and Machiko Kyo as the wife, right.) One character proclaims that this story's view of human existence is "horrible," worse than war: When no one can be trusted, everyone lives in existential isolation. The basis for hope in "Rashomon" is the richness of Kurosawa's own brilliant and instinctive narrative art, which unites audiences in awe and wonder. It screens tonight at 7 p.m., Saturday at 7:15 p.m., Tuesday at 7 p.m., and Thursday at 7 p.m.
Cinema Sundays at the Charles will spotlight an old master of a different sort, James Ivory. His latest film, "The City of Your Final Destination," has all the earmarks of classic Ivory productions like "Howards End," including an impressive cast (Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney, Charlotte Gainsbourg) and a literary pedigree (Ruth Prawer Jhabvala adapted Peter Cameron's novel). Omar Metwally plays a grad student who seeks to write an authorized biography of a deceased Latin American author; Linney is the dead writer's widow, Gainsbourg his mistress and Hopkins his brother. Showtime is 10:30 a.m.
Do you think anyone in any genre has matched Kurosawa's ability to put meaning and impact behind a multi-part narrative? And who will take over for Ivory in the art of the well-wrought literary adaptation -- or has that craft gone to television?