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High and Low at the Boulder Public Library

Throughout his career, director Akira Kurosawa regularly brought his distinctively Eastern vision to Western cinematic elements, with fascinating results. But whereas Kurosawa's best-known films, including 1950's Rashomon and 1961's Yojimbo, tend to be set in a medieval Japan strode by samurai, 1963's High and Low is a contemporary crime tale, albeit one whose moral complications echo themes in his other work.

Toshiro Mifune, Kurosawa's favorite leading man, stars as Mr. Gondo, a shoe-company executive whose plans to seize power at his firm are thrown into chaos when a man kidnaps the son of his chauffeur — and then threatens to kill the boy if Gondo doesn't pay. The film's opening section is a virtual one-act play, with Gondo practically torn asunder by conflicting emotions, whereas the second half turns into a police procedural that pushes him off stage for significant stretches. Given the power of Mifune's volcanic performance, that's unfortunate — but the investigation is handled with such precision and clarity that it's enthralling in and of itself. The movie cuts deep, even though there's not a sword in sight.

High and Low screens Monday, March 9, at 7 p.m. at the Boulder Public Library, 1000 Canyon Boulevard; admission is free. Get details at 303-441-3100 or www.boulder.lib.co.us.

 
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