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Rashomon
Year:
1950
Country:
Japan
Genre:
Crime, Drama, Mystery
IMDB rating:
8.3
Director:
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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Reviews
A Brilliant work
"Rashomon" is brilliant.Rashomon pioneered Kurosawa's dream tryst with perpetual brilliance and undoubtedly played a pivotal part in making his name a mark of excellence in the world of cinema.The concept of Rashomon though well ahead of its time, sowed the seeds for creative innovation in the world of cinema and has served as the undisputed benchmark of innovative excellence for well over five decades.Each flashback is an absolute gem in itself, and lives long in the mind. This was Kurosawa's first big international hit, from then on his films would be avidly watched and (usually) feted as Art. His style was always so breathtakingly simple that you can't help but get sucked into the rainy and sunny bestial world depicted in here, with a beautiful use of the black and white nitrate film stock contrasting against a sordid storyline.
2014-10-05
A rare and a unique masterpiece from the master himself
As oppose to its commonplace plot, Rashomon as a concept is extraordinarily idiosyncratic and perhaps it is this striking attribute that makes it an undisputed masterpiece, howsoever improbable. It vividly limns the artistry of contrivance innate in the human psyche owing to the importunate desire of humans to placate their insatiable egos. This manipulation of facts has no limits and entirely depends upon the skill of imaginative improvisation of the individual along with his level of comfort at skullduggery. The ability to misinterpret comes naturally to the humans as a desperate ploy to counter the adversities of life and that's what makes it indispensable. As a direct consequence of contrivance, the concept of truth no longer remains universal but becomes rather subjective and a matter of individualistic perception.

Rashomon pioneered Kurosawa's dream tryst with perpetual brilliance and undoubtedly played a pivotal part in making his name a mark of excellence in the world of cinema. Rashomon is a well knitted tale about a supercilious samurai, his whimsical wife and a boorish bandit. The bandit inveigles the samurai into imprisonment and has his way with samurai's wife. The dead body of the samurai is later discovered under mysterious circumstances by a woodcutter. The bandit is captured and arraigned along with the deranged widow of the samurai. Their narrated versions seem such contrasting that a psychic is called upon to conjure up the dead samurai's spirit to record his testimony in order to corroborate the facts that seemed excessively manipulated. The samurai's version yet again differs considerably from the testimonies of the other two. Each version though different seemed to satiate the respective ego of the testifier. The woodcutter, who didn't want to get involved personally, later confesses to a priest to have actually witnessed the incident and comes up with a version of his own which falsifies the other three. The movie is ingenious as its actual motive has nothing to do with the revelation of truth as verity is merely a matter of lame perception, but rather is to highlight the discrepancies among the different versions as a medium to depict the irrational complexities associated with the human psyche.

The concept of Rashomon though well ahead of its time, sowed the seeds for creative innovation in the world of cinema and has served as the undisputed benchmark of innovative excellence for well over five decades. A quintessential Kurosawa classic, strongly recommended to the masses for its sheer brilliance and enigmatic charm. 10/10
2009-07-26
An Interesting Must Watch
I know I am totally writing this review out of my memory of watching this movie. There is a certain thing about reviewing the movie when you have just finished watching. Sometimes certain scenes can come to the fore and help you better elaborate and justify the review. Sometimes, it is better to let the movie sink in and then write the review about the movie.

This one falls into the second category. I was just Wow-ed by this movie. This movie exploits an interesting method of perspective narration. Stories are often perspective oriented and in this movie, one story is narrated by many people involved in the story.

What the viewer as well as the person who is listening to these sets of narration has to decipher is - which one is the truth?

While you start with this idea, you end up taking it to a whole new level and not knowing if there is a true perspective you would want to search for? The plausibility of some of these perspectives as well as the intertwined self interest of the narrator implies that there is this haze in everything.

That is when the film leaves you hanging and you're stunned by the turn of events. Its as if someone has tempted you and left you high and dry. Thats what's the Rashomon effect.
2016-01-08
Distinctly Resonates As Akira Kurosawa's Finest Outing
Examining Rashômon is a lengthy process, mainly due to the substantial amount of material on offer and the thought-provoking questions which should be probed subsequent to viewing. Not only does the film ask some of life's most profound questions, but it also begins to confront various evocative ideas. Essentially, Akira Kurosawa's unmatched classic is about gaining an understanding; the film's first conversation introduces characters who "don't understand" and are looking for answers, this is opening the primary theme.

Personally, Rashômon has forever been favourite of Kurosawa's directional works. It also happens to be the film which introduced me to the work of an auteur; a man whose vision echoes that of a revolutionary cinematic historian. From the likes of Shichinin no samurai, to Ran, Kurosawa is *the* director of Japanese cinema. During his lifetime he managed to confirm himself as one of the world's leading film-makers. He was director who created cinema which was impossible to match, and his influence still resounds within even the most mainstream works of today. For example, the non-linear narrative structure of Rashômon has been respectfully woven in numerous films since. Rashômon was the work which propelled the career of Kurosawa; even though it was not widely regarded in its own country at the time, it was hailed by the critics of the Western world.

Rashômon is the compressed tale of an innocent woman's rape and her husband's murder, performed by a ruthless bandit (acted out by Kurosawa's long-time working partner Toshirô Mifune). Even though the bandit is caught and consequently put on trial, the seemingly simple crime soon becomes questionably more complicated as it is recounted from four individually detached "eye-witness" perspectives. Posing many philosophical questions for the viewer, the picture asks which story is the one to believe (if any), through -what was at the time and still remains- a highly stylised storytelling technique. Establishing a verdict on the heinous crime centred upon in Rashômon is as much an ordeal as the crime itself because it proves to be an incident which provokes moral questioning and fierce debate.

The film-making techniques used in Rashomon gave birth to a distinct style that Kurosawa was prepared to develop further in his later works, which can be seen in films such as Yojimbo and Shichinin no samurai. Level-headed pragmatism plagued Kurosawa's features throughout his earlier years; this was something that came as an advantage for his films, being that the characters (even the villains) portrayed in his films were genuine people you could feel compassion and remorse for. Also, Kurosawa began to define genres throughout the 1950s and 1960s, while also bringing to light some now-popular (often overused) methods of camera movement, e.g. dutch angles, revolving shots and amplified close-ups.

For those who question the film's offbeat narrative structure, they should ask themselves whether or not the cut-throat editing is there as a means of symbolising the colliding viewpoints. I consider this to be a daring means of combining humanitarian lies and honesty, and also a means of creating a disorientating, volatile impression. With Rashômon, Kurosawa's admiration for silent cinema came into evident practice; this can be seen through the minimalist set-pieces, which are a contrast to the complex storytelling procedure that his work embodies. The ambiguity of Rashômon is detailed through subtly metaphorical cinematography and lighting techniques. I have always seen the setting of the woods as a display of the work's central atmosphere (intrigue) and the shadows periodically depicting a loss of empathy and symbolising the isolated danger of the surroundings.

The majority of films fail to emphasise with the viewer, this can blamed on the morals being "mixed" and ultimately enabling the viewer to become unsure of a film's statement. However, with Rashômon the morals are clear and refined, without being preachy or simplistic. Summing up the greed, confusion, deprivation and indulgence of the world is a tricky business, but somehow Kurosawa has the ability to perform such a task with exceeding talent. Rashômon warrants a right to be hailed as a definitive classic. Unlike its story, I doubt that viewers of Rashômon hold clashing opinions, being that it is far too flawless to be argued over.
2007-10-08
The husband, the wife...or the bandit?
In ancient Japan, a woman is raped and her husband killed. The film gives us four viewpoints of the incident - one for each defendant - each revealing a little more detail. Which version, if any, is the real truth about what happened?

I was looking forward to this film because I love the concept of POV films, even this, which I believe started the whole thing. Well, that's the problem. If this was the first POV I've ever seen, which is certainly not the case here, I would probably have loved it like everyone else. Well, I've seen many more POV films before this, like "Vantage Point," which takes the same idea but uses it in a more sophisticated way.

The whole POV thing in here is pretty simple and really easy to understand and I was disappointed in that. I just expected more. More complicated things. Small significances that I wouldn't have noticed the first time when watching the film a lot more. But no, it's just a simple plot compared to the other films which took the idea and turned it into a much more complicated way.

Away from that, the film was still good, especially close to the end. I just don't like that the film had a lot of unintentional laughs because of some horrible acted scenes and some amateurish directing. However, they're all tolerable. Overall, it's nothing big compared to films with the same idea released these days so don't keep your expectations high.
2008-05-25
Who is more wrong?
Firstly, you need to appreciate the fact that everyone in Rashômon lied. This includes the Buddhist priest because he mentioned that everyone is good in nature. Even though he is aware of stories of rape and murder, he chooses to live in self-denial; to have faith in the goodness of humanity. Therefore, if you are still debating on who is absolutely right or wrong, then you are probably missing Kurosawa's intention. We need to analyze who is more wrong than the rest. Similarly, philosophy students will go off-topic if they choose to debate on whether Euthyphro was absolutely right or wrong to prosecute his father for accidentally murdering a murderer.

The deceased samurai claims that someone removed the dagger from his chest and the woodcutter admits to the theft in the ending. So, let us start from here. Two claims from two accounts support that the murder weapon was a dagger. This eliminates the possibility that the murder weapon was a sword. Therefore, the bandit lied about killing the samurai with a sword. It is plausible that his ego as a famous bandit made him conjure this lie. In fact, it is possible that he ran off like a typical bandit after the rape without engaging a meaningless fight with the angry samurai.

Did the deceased samurai lie? Yes. Remember what I said earlier, everyone lied in this film. The discussion should be centered on who lied the most. It is plausible that he did not commit suicide even though the murder weapon has been verified to be a dagger in the above paragraph. It is possible that the deceased samurai lied about his suicide to protect any remaining samurai dignity because the bandit raped his wife. So who killed him then? It is possible that his wife actually tripped and killed him accidentally with the dagger. To reveal the truth that he was killed in a freak accident is probably one of the last things in a respectable samurai's mind.

Finally, the woodcutter, probably the biggest liar of all the characters' lies combined. He lied from the beginning, filed a false police report, made false statements in front of the judge, stole the valuable dagger and angrily accused the deceased samurai of lying about the murder weapon, which was later exposed by the commoner. He even reprimanded the commoner for stealing the clothes from an abandoned baby, which shows how hypocritical he is. All these accumulated lies make his claim of having a family of six children extremely unreliable. In the ending, the woodcutter was wearing a mild smile while walking towards the camera with the baby in his arms. The unusual eerie music played in the ending was also very suggestive. In my opinion, he is probably going to sell the baby to the black market for more money, considering the fact that he stole the murder weapon out of greed.

Rashômon's ending was left open-ended by Kurosawa and I urge the audience not to watch on a superficial level. The ending is not as simple as it seems. This is Kurosawa we are talking about, not any random 'grade C' director. It is definitely not a hundred percent happy conclusion. Another open-ended film directed by Kurosawa is 'Rhapsody in August' (1991), which I studied for my film module.

Mao points: 10/10
2006-12-06
I saw it with my own eyes!
This fabulous work was years and years ahead of its time when it was made in 1950, being a work of art that engages the eyes and the ears, but most essentially, the brain. The film is both aesthetically beautiful, using amazing camera techniques, extensive periods of silence and a very limited cast to deliver the action, and the story is typically Japanese...ostensibly amazingly simple, but complex to the point of sending you cross-eyed!

The basic tale is this: a woman and her husband, a Samurai, are travelling through a forest when they meet a bandit. The bandit has sex with the woman and the Samurai ends up dead. That's it. This tale is related to us through the woodcutter and a monk who saw the protagonists give their evidence to the police (the dead Samurai through a medium), but unfortunately the three tales conflict with one another. Each confessor says that they killed the Samurai, and then we hear from the woodcutter who in fact witnessed the event, who gives us a version of events that borrows from each individual account, and is still less credible!

The conclusion presented by Kurosawa seems to be firstly that individuals see things from different perspectives, but secondly, and most importantly, that there is no objective truth. There is no answer as to what took place in the forest, and Kurosawa offers us no way of knowing what went on. Each story is as credible as the other, and so no conclusion about guilt can be reached. We even have to think at the end that as the whole thing is reported to us by the woodcutter and priest, was there any truth in anything we heard at all?

This film leads to an especially tricky conclusion for a movie-goer! Your eyes are supposed to show you objective truth, but they don't. The camera is supposed not to lie, but it does. I feel that the simple message is that subjectivity lies at the heart of life, and this subjectivity needs to be recognised before any attempt is made to understand events.
2005-06-05
Most of the time we can't even be honest with ourselves.
To have a film that holds the coveted title of being the reason that the "Best Foreign Film" category was created for the Oscars is one thing, but to be able to back up that myth with a powerful film that speaks both about humanity and the strength of truth is a whole new angle. Often we witness powerful foreign films that slip through the lines of cinema, regarded by so many as valuable assets to the film community, but never see the gold of Oscar. In the same sense, sometimes the most popular of those foreign films eventually become Oscar contenders, not because they are worthy enough, but because studios had the funds to allow bigger distribution to audiences, thus allowing popularity to do the rest. Rashômon is one of those few films that succeed in giving us both a quality film and the accolades to represent it. Rashômon is a rare breed of film. The Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa took many bold steps with this film (pointing his camera at the sun, filming deep within the jungle, and the mockery of truth), that it is unlikely that you could go to a modern day Hollywood film without seeing one of these techniques being "borrowed". His bold storytelling, creative camera work, and powerful characters give us a unique story that should be included in everyone's film library.

While the characters were strong, the direction was flawless, and the story was compelling, there is a theme that needs to be discussed while talking about Rashômon. This is the story of murder, betrayal, and rape and in any typical "courthouse" film you would have some spineless witness finally break down and confess the truth. At the end of these films the truth is discovered, but not in Rashômon. Kurosawa gives us the "black sheep" of themes by never really giving us what we really wanted from the beginning of this story. As I began this film, I thought I was going to get a clear-cut story with honesty and troubled souls, but instead I was handed no prize at the end. What I sought after the most is not handed to me in a Happy Meal container at the end, but instead trapped still within the film. Kurosawa gives us the meaning behind the story, that there possibly is no way of knowing the true "truth". Four different souls, seeing the same event all culminating to four different results means that the "truth" may never be known. Kurosawa has taken the story and provided us with the main character being truth, and like Kaiser Soze, the greatest trick it ever pulled was convincing us that "it didn't exist". Deep within Rashômon the truth is hidden, and it may never emerge, but that is what Kurosawa intended. A viewer could walk away from this film, after several viewings, and discover different truths about the characters and story. This is a constantly evolving film that will continually get better with time.

Outside of these beautiful themes, Rashômon is a flawless film. From the execution of the actors to the simplicity of the direction, there is plenty in this film to keep your mind busy and your jaw nearly dragging on the floor. To begin, the performance by Toshiro Mifune ranks among the best in film history. In each of the stories he is portrayed differently (even in his own) and with precise execution he delivers every time. He is insane, passionate, loyal, and villainous all at the same time. While some may see his acting as eccentric or over-the-top, I found each of his portrayals as accurate and astute. When Mifune is on the screen his presence commands your eyes and you cannot help but become involved. Second to his performance is that of the troubled wife. While her characters is the most confusing/suspicious of them all, Masayuki Mori keeps us intertwined with the story by controlling her character with the greatest of ease. When it is time for her to be unleashed, the true drama of the story is thrown in your face with brilliance and expertise.

Overall, I thought that this was a near perfect film. Kurosawa is intense, original, and adeptly secure about his stories. I have seen the same passion in Ran, and it cannot be denied. My only concern with this film is that if you are going to watch this movie, make sure that you can devote your entire mind to it. I found myself watching it three times because I could not stay focused (outside factors) enough to see those darkly hidden themes. I especially enjoyed the unearthed darkness of humanity, which is hinted on at the end. The fact that after hearing these stories of murder and rape, it doesn't stop one from continuing along a similar path. It is a powerful tale that should be enjoyed by all!

Grade: **** out of *****
2006-01-05
A great work
I first read this when I was a high school student in Japanese class.

I was not able to understand the story at the first but through the class I realized the serious meaning and message from Ryunosuke Akutagawa. The darkness of human beings...

The movie's director Akira Kurosawa is surely one of the best directors in the world.

I'm very proud of this as a part of Japanese nation. This movie affects the world in many ways and in 1964, this is re-directed as "The Outrage" which the story is laid in Mexico.

This is truly an immortal work of Akutagawa and our nation.
2013-09-29
Good -- but hardly a masterpiece
Let me start by saying that this movie is quite good. You will not have squandered the hour and a half it takes to watch it. However, a few things bothered me: 1. Perhaps a quibble, but I *hated* the music. The endless loop of what sounded like variations on Bolero for the first half of the movie -- augh! In general, I found it very choreographed; at times, it was more like watching a ballet. It was very overwrought and distracting.

2. The acting. Horribly overdone on the part of Toshiro Mifune; at times he seemed to have taken classes at the Daffy Duck School of Acting. He was not the only one overacting, either, just the most prominent.

3. The ending. We get through this very subtle and ambiguous movie, where, even at the end, we have no clue which of the four versions (or which mix of the four versions!) of the story actually happened, and Kurosawa absolutely clubs us silly with the theme of redemption. I wanted the movie to end when the woodcutter said, "On days like this, we have cause to be suspicious" (or something similar). I don't know what possessed Kurosawa to bugger the ending like he did, but, in my version, it'd be about two minutes shorter.

That said, there's a lot to like about the movie. I love how Kurosawa leads you into a false smugness at the end when it's revealed that the woodcutter stole the dagger. "Ah hah!" I thought; "Clearly, the dead samurai was telling the truth!" I was impressed with my sleuthing, my quick recall of the medium relating that he felt someone removing the dagger. Then it occurred to me that, in every story, the dagger was left behind. Probably my favorite part was when I had to go back and watch the end of all of the stories to ensure that the dagger was still there, either in the samurai or in the ground.

Good movie, but in desperate need of a dose of subtlety.
2005-05-09
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