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Crime, Drama, Mystery
IMDB rating:
Akira Kurosawa
Toshirô Mifune as Tajômaru
Machiko Kyô as Masako Kanazawa
Masayuki Mori as Takehiro Kanazawa
Takashi Shimura as Woodcutter
Minoru Chiaki as Priest
Kichijiro Ueda as Commoner
Fumiko Honma as Medium
Daisuke Katô as Policeman
Storyline: A priest, a woodcutter and another man are taking refuge from a rainstorm in the shell of a former gatehouse called Rashômon. The priest and the woodcutter are recounting the story of a murdered samurai whose body the woodcutter discovered three days earlier in a forest grove. Both were summoned to testify at the murder trial, the priest who ran into the samurai and his wife traveling through the forest just before the murder occurred. Three other people who testified at the trial are supposedly the only direct witnesses: a notorious bandit named Tajômaru, who allegedly murdered the samurai and raped his wife; the white veil cloaked wife of the samurai; and the samurai himself who testifies through the use of a medium. The three tell a similarly structured story - that Tajômaru kidnapped and bound the samurai so that he could rape the wife - but which ultimately contradict each other, the motivations and the actual killing being what differ. The woodcutter reveals at Rashômon that he ...
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Truth is relatvie
This movie trying to show truth is relative. There is an incident occurred and there were some witnesses of that incident, each narrate the story from their point of views. The outcome the story is identical however each narrator saw it differently.

One of the interesting part of the movie there is no interrogator shows in the movie. The questions are repeated by the witnesses and answered accordingly to keep the story intact from the interrogator's characteristic.

I categorized this movie under philosophical genera. It shed light on human being nature and how they think and interpret their surround. The human nature is to look for truth and yet they alter the fact to be able to leave with it in a way or another.
They all might be genuinely thinking to themselves that they're telling the truth
There's a scientific study called "Rashomon Effect". You could say this film is that good, plus given the circumstances of the making in 1950s. Alas the film work alone deserves the spotlight.

We all can think of our own "Rashomon" experiences from our lives. People can be believing in a same event in different ways. They would tell similar yet different stories.

This might sound a cliché, but sometimes there can be no absolute truth of one thing. Things could happen to have its different perspectives subjectively. So it leads to a problem that if we can blame someone that he/she lied because another person is telling differently. They all might be genuinely thinking to themselves that they're telling the truth.

Aside the well known quotes of this film, I also liked the quote: " ... I even heard that the demon living here in Rashomon fled in fear of the ferocity of man."

By the way, Homer Simpson says he liked Rashomon. Although he remembers it differently.
Something Special Was On Its Way
This is a fascinating film. It is one that is based on multiple accounts of an event that takes place in a forest in Japan. A man is traveling with his young wife when they are set on by a bandit (Toshiro Mifume). The man is killed and the woman escapes after being raped by the bandit. The story then becomes a series of four accounts of the events of that day. Each of the participants, including the murdered man gets to describe what took place. It is a story about the sorry state of humanity, but it is more about the Japanese culture. What takes place is hard for a Westerner to really comprehend. Given those circumstances, death, rather than shame, becomes a central issue in the film. Once the woman is raped, her status as a human being is diminished tremendously. She becomes the baggage of the man who wants her. It is totally captivating to see each of the figures tell his or her story. This technique has been used in many TV shows and movies (I remember a show called Petrocelli, years ago where it was the lifeblood of the show), but nowhere is it done better. There is a very positive ending as well where a sense of redemption is left with the viewer.
Well ahead of its time
I watched Rashomon for the first time yesterday. Although I've seen plenty of Japanese movies in the past, this is the first Akira Kurosawa movie I've ever seen.

The first thing that stands out when watching the movie is the direction and cinematography which looks well ahead of its time, like the shots where the camera occasionally points towards the sun. As the story begins to unfold, the next obvious thing we notice is the innovative premise of the film, now known in academic circles as the "Rashomon effect", where several witnesses give different interpretations of what happened at a scene.

The best performance in the movie was definitely from Toshiro Mifune in one of his first major roles. Whether he was over-the-top earlier on or more subtle and realistic later on, his performance was incredibly versatile.

After I finished watching the film, I was initially a bit disappointed that the film didn't spoon-feed us with a final answer, but I've realized that this is exactly what makes it such a thought-provoking movie. Now I'm really looking forward to watching Kurosawa's other most famous movie, The Seven Samurai.

"I just don't understand this story"
These are the opening words of Rashômon, and in a way that's also a summary of the entire film. It is the story of four testimonies of the same event that couldn't differ more. It is told by a priest and a woodcutter to a commoner, as they seek shelter from the rain under the Rashomon gate. The priest and the woodcutter were witnesses in a trial, and what they heard there made them puzzled, and after they told everything, the viewer is just as puzzled as these two.

What happened? Takehiro, a samurai has been murdered and Masako, his wife has been raped, the suspect is Tajômaru. And indeed, in court he confesses to have raped the woman and to have killed the samurai in duel. Masako however tells quite a different story: After Tajômaru took advantage of her, he left and despair and pity made her kill her husband, but to commit suicide, just as she originally planned, she's to weak. Then the murdered samurai speaks, through the voice of a medium. In his story, he committed suicide because of disgust at his wife, who asked Tajomaru to kill him in order to accompany the robber. At the end, we hear even another story from the woodcutter, who was, as he reveals, an eyewitnesses. In his version, Tajômaru killed the samurai in a duel (or rather: in a brawl) that was demanded by his wife.

Now what did really happen? Why did at least three of these four people lie? The reason cannot be (as the commoner says at one point) that everyone told what was useful for him, since, except for the woodcutter, everyone told a story in which he was the killer. So do they all think their story is true? Do they all feel guilty for a reason or another? These questions will cause endless discussions once you watch this film.

And the end, Kurosawa raises another question: If man keeps lying (to others as well as to himself), does that mean he is evil? This question is underlined by the crying baby the three men find in the Rashômon gate. Kurosawa's answer to this question is clearly a no: the woodcutter takes the baby to raise him and the priest realizes that he is a good man, even although he's a lier and a thief.

But if Kurosawa had only raised these questions, Rashômon wouldn't have become such a classic as it is considered today. He is telling his story with breathtaking images, as when he's holding his camera directly into the sun, when he uses the wood, light and shadow to create a dense atmosphere, or when he shows the trial scenes, where he makes the witnesses talk to the viewers to make them feel like the judges. The fight scenes are all terrifically shot, and the scene before Masako kills Takehiro can move you to tears. Rashômon also has some good acting, especially the breathtaking Toshirô Mifune in one of film history's most unforgettable performances as the wild robber Tajômaru, always jumping around and seemingly untamable and unafraid. All this makes Rashômon a mind-boggling experience, that had me talk all night through with friends of mine, and still stirs me whenever i watch it.
A Film Put In Perspective
Rashomon was a great achievement of the time and still holds a lot of its great cinematic elements today. It is a movie that tells a story and it tells it very well. The traditional style of the movie seems a bit odd for the taste of most Western Audiences today. This has a lot to do with the long rolling scenes and very few cuts at times. This can be looked at as boring to some people and that can detract from the overall experience of the movie itself. The actors made the story very believable and worked with the scenery and natural settings very well. The whole unreliable narrator aspect to this movie made it very interesting because there are very few movies, even today, which don't give you a direct aspect of what has happened. A lot of the cinematic elements that are present in Rashomon are ones that have been taken for granted today and are sometimes hard to point out. From the set and on site locations to the actors and the story itself this film was very well made and is one of the more enjoyable foreign films around.

The way the film was shot and how it progressed is not suitable for all audiences. The most appropriate audience, for enjoyment of the film, is the one that is familiar with Japanese film or Asian film in general. A lot of the scenes have too much build up for the typical American Audience. A lot of the great aspects of the film will be missed by people who do not understand the genre well. That being said this movie is very enjoyable when you are in the mindset of who the film was originally made for. It has a very interesting story and it never gives a resolution to the story only different aspects of what happened. The non-resolute ending and the lengthy performances are not what most Americans would prefer, but the ones who can put this film in perspective will enjoy it.
Weak Story, No Mystery
Maybe 60 long years back this film was a masterpiece. But I watched it in 2017, I frankly did not find anything extraordinary. Even for the styles of 1950s, this film does not seemed as a movie of great content to me.

The main reason the movie was mediocre is the story. The story was about mystery but they hyped it as it was a great mystery which baffled the characters of the film. But actually the mystery was stale and unappealing. In every version of the story the final outcome stays the same and there was not much variation between stories.

In my opinion it was an average film, does not deserve this high ratings. If you did not watched it yet then do not feel obligated to watch it.
Ultimate dismissal of objective truth...
I oftentimes wonder, upon seeing classic films like this, what the atmosphere would have been like in a 1950s movie theatre that had just shown the film. I would imagine that viewers would have experienced the same feelings that I experienced after watching ground-breaking visual spectacles such as THE MATRIX and mind-warping thrillers such as MEMENTO.

This film was lauded at that time (1950) for its stunning visual appeal and epic footage. Watching it in today's high-tech world it is a bit difficult to imagine this as cutting-edge, but one thing remains outstandingly clear: this is yet another one of Akira Kurosawa's brilliant stories.

The story itself is relatively simple by today's standards, yet there is a pervasive air of complexity that surrounds the film long after its 88 minute run-time. The simple story is told and re-told from four different perspectives, as can be read in any generic plot summary. The problem (and fascination) here is that no two stories are the same, and they all conflict with each other. What's even more perplexing is that the fourth story is told form a neutral point of view and it should therefore be easier for the viewer to believe this recreation, but having seen the initial three scenarios (each of which are equally credible), it is hard to buy into even this final telling.

But forget the story, because this film is so much more than just that. This is a film that focuses on truths, untruths, and perspective, all told in a beautifully poetic way. To the viewer, the camera should not lie. The camera is the viewer's perspective into the on-screen world. As such, the camera serves as the viewer's viewpoint and should therefore be totally and objectively honest. It is by such means that people watch movies. However, in this relatively short motion picture, the camera 'lies' to the viewer on at least three occasions, and in the end the viewer is left questioning subjective truth versus objective truth. Many of the core principles are the same as in MEMENTO...that there is no such thing as an objective truth or objective memory. All events are dependent on the observer, and are hence subjective. Indeed, this is a film that has, and will continue to, spark many intellectual conversations/arguments.

As with the meticulous Kurosawa, the storytelling and screenplay is marvellous. It is hard to judge the musical aspect of the film simply because it is difficult to compare it to today's standards. All I can say here is that the music appears to 'fit' the movie well. The acting is top notch, and special mention should be paid to Kurosawa's mainstay Toshiro Mifune, as well as Minuro Chiaki, who plays the role of the melancholy priest exceptionally well. My vote for the best actor, however, has to go to Machiko Kyo, who competently takes on a different personality in each version of the story.

While some people find it hard to watch classic movies such as this, I recommend that you see this at least once. It may just be one of the more rewarding 88-minute cinematic experiences you will ever have.

3.5 stars, 8/10. Should enter my Top 150 at about 115. Highly recommended.
Perhaps more linear than not
Although there are many ways to define the non-linear narrative, I would like to argue that Rashomon is not a non-linear piece in the traditional sense, but rather contains only elements of non-linearity than as a whole. It includes, for the most part, digetic non-conventional elements in a linear type structure (one that is fluid in terms of its story) as opposed to the traditional non-conventional structure containing mostly non-digetic material. That is to say, when the characters and viewer do not have a frame of reference as to where they really are, (i.e. location, dialogue, and story) but are rather given vague suggestions, the traditional non-linear structure is more present than not. However, Rashomon does not leave the viewer confused or without a frame of reference. This is clearly illustrated around the stories main theme: In a world of deceit, can anyone be trusted? From the beginning, the viewer holds expectations that the film is going to reveal a story within a story within a story—all told from four different perspectives. As it turns out, this structure remains consistent throughout the piece. Already then, this film does not follow the true non-linear format. Following the true format would create more chaos and less order. This aspect of the film's orderliness brings up its digetic qualities. Not only do the characters in the story know that they are telling stories within stories, but the viewer also understands this aspect. Thus, time and space are not irrationally violated. It's true that the film contains non-linear elements that are demonstrated through its use of flashbacks, but the flashbacks themselves are set in a linear structure. The viewer always has a frame of reference as to where they are. The director presents this idea in the following way: Dissolves are used each time a character begins telling their story/flashback, thus allowing the viewer to enter that world without confusion. Knowing this sets up the viewer to contemplate the stories theme.

The four different perspectives that are shared regarding what happened between the woman, her husband and the bandit, leave the viewer, as well as the characters in the story, unable to distinguish the truth from the lies. In one story, the woman indulges the bandit and asks him to kill her husband so she can marry him; in another, the woman is appalled by the bandit's actions and rushes to the aid of her husband but is rejected. When the priest tells his side of the story, he tells it through the perspective of the dead husband, who in turn lives vicariously through a witch doctor of some sort. This particular story stood out above the rest as the best example of non-linearity. When the witch doctor tells the police that the husband was stabbed to death, she herself acts out the stabbing sensation to heighten the effect of the actual death. This element added a type of metaphorical abstraction to the film more so than a realistic quality. Still, the viewer cannot objectively come to a solid conclusion on whose story is true and whose is false.

However, the viewer is given strong incentive to assume that the man who carries the baby away at the end was the truth-teller. Why? Because the other two men have created suspicion in the viewer to think otherwise (i.e. the first man stealing the arm bracelet from the baby, the second man lying about the dagger in the story so he could sell it for money). Both implicit ideas strongly reveal the film's theme in terms of the corrupt nature of men and their tendencies to lie to gain the upper hand.
"I don't understand my own soul."
Akira Kurosawa is unquestionably the most recognised film-making talent ever to emerge from Japan, his string of reputed masterpieces including 'The Seven Samurai (1954),' 'Yojimbo (1961)' and 'Ran (1985),' each of which I have yet to enjoy, my experience with Asian cinema worryingly limited. After recently enjoying my first Kurosawa picture, the powerful but slightly-overlong 'Nora inu / Stray Dog (1949),' I was keen to watch another, though I couldn't yet find the time to commit myself to one of the director's three-hour-long epics. 'Rashômon (1950)' proved the perfect alternative. Kurosawa's film, the first to bring him into the international limelight, uses a simple story – of a husband's death in the woods – to reveal a simple but worryingly-accurate truth of human existence: that the truth itself is unknowable. The unique narrative structure of the film, of replaying the same event four times from differing perspectives, had the potential to become nothing more than a curious gimmick, yet Kurosawa makes it all work wonderfully, aided by the exquisite cinematography of Kazuo Miyagawa and electric performances from all involved, most particularly Kurosawa-regular Toshirô Mifune.

The film opens in a bleak, bitter rainstorm – one of those mighty skyward torrents that makes us drought-stricken Australians green with envy – where three men are sheltering in the ruins of a gatehouse. Three days previously, the oldest of the three, Woodcutter (Takashi Shimura), discovered the body of a man in the woods, and has recently returned from a police inquiry. The coarse, unkempt Commoner (Kichijiro Ueda) demands to hear the remainder of the Woodcutter's story, and so he recounts three "versions" of the shocking rape/murder, told from the perspective of the Bandit (Toshirô Mifune), the husband (Masayuki Mori) and the wife (Machiko Kyô), each story differing substantially from the other two. The existence of subjectivity, it seems, has permanently obscured any chances of ever knowing the absolute "truth" of the incident, with each perspective – perhaps deliberately, perhaps subconsciously – distorting the truth to conform to their own interests. It is revealed that even the seemingly-passive observer, Woodcutter, has his own reasons for adjusting the facts, this final revelation almost permanently denting the honest Priest's (Minoru Chiaki) belief in the goodness of Mankind.

After portraying a modest, tentative rookie detective in Kurosawa's 'Stray Dog,' Toshirô Mifune is an absolute revelation as the notorious Tajômaru. Regardless of the specific version of events, Mifune unequivocally dominates the screen, his maniacal energy and frenzied cackle certain to imprint on your mind. The basis for the film was derived from two stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, with "Rashomon" providing the setting, and "In a Grove" supplying the characters and plot. The flashback components of the story unfold under the dappled light of the trees, and, on several occasion,s Miyagawa films the Sun directly through the leaves of the forest canopy, perhaps representative of the "light of truth" that is being obscured by the inherent dishonesty in Man {personified in the selfish Commoner}. Of course, Kurosawa couldn't bring himself to end the film in such a pessimistic fashion, and the Woodcutter redeems his previous deception by offering to care for an abandoned newborn baby discovered in the gatehouse. As the rainstorm ceases, and the glorious sunlight once again begins to beam down upon the lands, the Priest finally regains his faith in the goodness to be found in a man's heart.
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