Kagemusha, legendary director Akira Kurosawa's return to the samurai genre, began life as a series of paintings Kurosawa made in an attempt to win the necessary financial backing to shoot the film. These painterly origins are evident in the film's gorgeous panoramas and vivid use of color; Kagemusha is rife with unforgettable imagery. The plot, concerning a condemned thief who is spared death because he physically resembles an ambitious warlord and can stand in for the conqueror in dangerous situations, is no potboiler about mistaken identities. Once the warlord is killed, the thief (Kagemusha, meaning "shadow warrior") assumes the role full-time, adopting and eventually internalizing the mannerisms and mindset of the deceased. His total transformation from shiftless coward to fearless samurai becomes a thoughtful examination of social status and the lure of power — and the final scenes will stick with you long after the film is over. The Webster Film Series screens a new 35mm print of Kagemusha at 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday (April 10 through 12) at Webster University's Moore Auditorium (470 East Lockwood Avenue; 314-968-7487 or www.webster.edu/filmseries). Tickets are $5 to $6.
April 10-12, 2009