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‘Cowboys and Samurai’ Double Features at Aero Theatre

SANTA MONICA — The Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave. in Santa Monica, will present a series of “Cowboys and Samurai” double features from April 25 to 28, all starting at 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 25

Rashomon” (1950, 88 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles) introduced not only classic Japanese cinema but an exceptional new talent, director Akira Kurosawa, to a widespread international audience. Based on the short story “In a Grove” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, a tragic event involving a husband (Masayuki Mori), his wife (Machiko Kyo) and a local bandit (Toshiro Mifune) is recounted by participants and witnesses yielding conflicting accounts.

Kurosawa explores the nature of truth, human fallibility and hope in a story that examines each version of what happened one hot, fateful day in a thick and lonely forest. With exceptional cinematography from the great Kazuo Miyagawa and a phenomenally eclectic score from Fumio Hayasaka, and that’s just a start. From the wonderfully theatrical acting to the smooth-like-butter cuts-on-action to the astonishingly visceral orchestration of sound and images, “Rashomon” clearly demonstrates Kurosawa’s brilliance.

This iconic western, named by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 greatest films of all time, won four Oscars, including a Best Actor award for Cooper and Best Song for “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’.” With Katy Jurado. Favorite film of former president Bill Clinton, who screened it a record 17 times at the White House.

Friday, April 26

“The Hidden Fortress” (1958, 139 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles), Kurosawa’s first widescreen film, is a matchless mix of drama, action and humor that helped inspire “Star Wars.” Mifune stars as a warrior shepherding a princess-in-disguise through war-torn feudal Japan with a pair of bumbling peasants in tow. “One of the greatest action-adventure films ever made.” — David Ehrenstein

Saturday, April 27

“The movie was photographed by Lucien Ballard, in dusty reds and golds and browns and shadows. The editing, by Lou Lombardo, uses slow motion to draw the violent scenes out into meditations on themselves. Every actor was perfectly cast to play exactly what he could play; even the small roles need no explanation. Peckinpah possibly identified with the wild bunch. Like them, he was an obsolete, violent, hard-drinking misfit with his own code, and did not fit easily into the new world of automobiles, and Hollywood studios.” — Roger Ebert

Sunday, April 28

This harrowingly dark and beautiful film is one of the most complex, uncompromising westerns ever made, and it won four Oscars in 1993, including Best Picture and Best Director. “A classic western for the ages…a tense, hard-edged, superbly dramatic yarn that is also an exceedingly intelligent meditation on the West, its myths and its heroes…” — Todd McCarthy, Variety

Tickets are $12 general, $8 for American Cinematheque members. For more information, call (310) 260-1528 or visit

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