The AFI Theater in Silver Springs, MD is celebrating the centennial of one of the greatest filmmakers Akira Kurosawa. This centennial is broken up in two parts the first of which is currently showing, here is a complete listing. I made the long trek to Silver Springs to see my favorite Kurosawa film Ikiru (To Live). If not for Shaft (1971) this would be my favorite film of all times. With an auteur like Kurosawa it’s often difficult to choose, but this film just grips my attention and never legs go. I went with my friend Chris because we’re both huge fans and seeing these classic films on the big screen is always better than watching them on other altered formats.
AFI Theater – Silver Spring
We arrive early and fight the automated box office agent inside the theater. The ticket machine is slow, unhelpful and poorly designed. If you can avoid using it I would recommend doing this because it will only annoy you. You may however enjoy its strange Kiwi (New Zealand) accent. The theater is always clean with spotless restrooms. The lounge area near the concessions also features the original solid marble box office and a machine used to process, alter and display films. If you have some time to kill before your film this is a great way to do it.
-Food/Drink: The food is just as bad as other theater food and nearly as overpriced. Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) in the can is only 3 dollars and the best value money wise if you enjoy a drink with your movie. Some concessions employees will allow you to buy more than one at a time. Others will only allow you to get one and some will be kind enough to walk your extra beer back to your seat for you. Never quite sure which is going to happen?
-Theater 1: I’ve been here several times so I know that each screen is completely different from the next. Some theaters are only large enough to seat 30 people. Theater 1 is the largest and most impressive with its original layout and grand old style. It has recess work, statues, and in laced painting. The seating is roomy with a perfect view of the massive screen whenever you sit. I love seeing films in theater one. I also saw Night of the Living Dead here during Halloween and was also impressed then.
–Plot: Ikiru follows the life of Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) who is a lifer in the city bureaucracy. Like any office job he and is co-workers spend their days doing nothing. When he learns he has incurable cancer he wants to find a purpose to his life. He finds his purpose by attempting to build a children’s playground in a drainage field. In a bureaucracy designed to do nothing this is an insurmountable task.
-Sound/Picture: having seen this film several times I thought I was familiar with it, but on the big screen I was taken back at the depth of emotion you see in the face of Kanji. You feel every pluck of his heart strings as he searches for meaning in his life. The sound also had new life as you could hear the bustle of post WW2 Japan. I also noticed several things in the background that never caught my attention. If you watch the background you see whole activities acted out as if a movie isn’t taking place. Modern movie extras are often lifeless or over acting to get the point of what they are doing quickly. In this the slow pans really allow you to get a feel for the world you’re in.
If you enjoy Ikiru you may also enjoy:
-Diary of a Country Priest
-Address: 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910
-Phone: 301.495.6720 & 301.495.6700 (Movie listing recording)
-Parking: Lee Building behind theater $3 a night
-Closet Metro: Two blocks Silver Spring (Red Line)
-Tickets: Varies but usually around $10
-Food: Hot dogs, pop cord, etc
-Drinks: Soda, beer, wine
-Gift Cards: Yes