Via Dirk, I was made aware of this archive and pointed in the direction of the classic films by Akira Kurosawa they have available for download, entirely legally. Hop to it — Ikiru and Rashomon are full-blown masterpieces, containing some of the great moments of the art form. Sanshiro Sugata is Kurosawa’s first film and an incredibly impressive debut at that. There is the marvelous scene of Sugata, the judo student protagonist, experiencing enlightenment looking at a lotus flower from a pool (pictured), and a stunning showdown sequence with drifting shadows at the end. Stray Dog is a tense big city drama of a conscientious cop, played by the great Toshiro Mifune, looking for his gun which is stolen from him in the first sequence. A great premise, executed with bravour. They Who Step on the Tiger’s Tail is another early work, which I haven’t seen, but now will.
Also, if you haven’t already done so, go download the free PDF of Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema, David Bordwell’s authoritative monograph on that other great Japanese master, Yasujirô Ozu. Bordwell’s one of our great scholars of cinema and a fantastic writer to boot. What are you waiting for?