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Directors, it’s often said, keep making the same movie over and over, though the sameness is more evident with some than others. Akira Kurosawa was among the most eclectic directors of his generation, filming everything from Shakespearean drama (“Throne of Blood”) to popcorn entertainment (“The Hidden Fortress”), but he kept returning to the problem of being a hero in an unheroic world.

Hirokazu Kore-eda, who made acclaimed documentaries before his feature debut with “Maborosi (Maboroshi no Hikari)” in 1995, has placed memory, in both its lighter and darker manifestations, at the center of his work. In “Maborosi” a young woman loses her husband to an inexplicable suicide — and needs long months and years to work through her grief and guilt. In his second film, “After Life (Wonderful Life)” (1999), the newly dead in Limbo select their most precious memory to take with them into eternity.

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