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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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Nested, Folded, Parallel Narrative
Spoilers herein.

Superficially about truth, this is more fundamentally about the nature of nested and floating narrative.

Kurosawa is one of three men who invented film, and this is his most influential one. Much is made of the construction of the story, which you can read elsewhere. I'd like to focus here on what I think is the rarest of Kurosawa'a abilities: the way he changes the eye of the camera -- and the composition of the world it creates for us -- for each of the narratives.

Some are impressionistic; some flat and full of contrast; some deep. Some are composed around people, some around the environment with people in it, some around fleeting motion. Sometimes the words are the organizing principle, sometimes images.

I know other directors who can do this once within a film: to twist the consciousness of the viewing eye to match the perspective of the narration, even some capable of a dual view within and without. But I know of no one else capable of doing so multiply within the same film and with such obvious link to the story.

The DVD is astonishingly clear. It has an introduction by Altman which says nothing interesting; but watch his hands. The DVD has a commentary which is horrid -- just the sort of talky vapidity about apparent insight the film criticizes!
Another Masterpiece of Akira Kurosawa Showing Different Perspectives of a Crime
In a heavy rainy day on the Eleventh Century, a priest, a woodcutter and a common person are protected together in the ruined temple of Rashomon. They are discussing a recent murder of a man and rape of his wife by the bandit Tajômaru (Toshirô Mifune, in a superb performance). Each one of them has a version for the crime, including the one from the spirit of the dead husband. In the end, an event with an abandoned child and the symbolic appearance of the sun shine return hope in human race for the priest. This film is amazing, stunning, a masterpiece. The screenplay is fantastic and shows different perspectives for a same event. This was the theme of one of the classes I had of Methodology of Science many years ago (the same event, watched by different persons in different angles, presents different testimonies). Akira Kurowasa offered us a magnificent (as usual) direction of a movie performed by an outstanding cast and a having one of the most wonderful black & white photography I have ever seen. My vote is ten.
Perceiving the difference
I'd give any Kurosawa film, except maybe for his very first and very last ones, a mark of 10/10. His films should be watched over and over again, their inner depth and cinematic mastery are breathtaking.

What is strange about Rashomon is that it was taken among western viewers as a film depicting the inability of memory to capture reality, somewhat like Antonioni's Blow-Up. But, watching the film, that is not what is depicted. What we get to see are three characters, each telling his or her version of a crime that was committed, each blaming himself or herself for an act of murder. The bandit says he has killed a man after raping his wife. The wife says she has killed a man, her husband, after being raped by the bandit. The dead man himself, through a possessed shaman, says he has killed himself, after watching his wife being raped. It's hard to believe they would have doubts about something like an act of murder or suicide and their complicity in it. It is obvious that at least two of them are lying (and not 'simply' remembering differently what has happened). Isn't it peculiar that the characters fake their guilt and not their innocence?

I believe Kurosawa tries to tell us about the way people make up their own personal blame in order to get respect, the way they tend to crave self-sacrifice. This critique is then taken even further, once the witness tells his own version of the story, and the monk looses faith in humanity. Kurosawa has dealt with similar themes in some of his other movies. These issues, I feel, are much more complex than what is usually perceived as the film's 'existentialist' theme, and might also hint at what has alienated Kurosawa's art from Japanese audiences.

Perhaps, ironically, the real 'Rashomon Effect' could only be found in western audiences' perceptions and interpretations of the film.
overrated in any sense possible
After watching movies for several decades, i still get puzzled which of them have been considered masterpieces. In this sense, Rashomon epitomizes everything i don't understand about cinema.

Judging by the literature, Kurosawa drew part of his inspiration from classical Russian writers. In order to be on par with their Russian role-models, artists often feel the urge to make their work slow-paced and lengthy. For the average viewer this usually means boring. And we see that in Rashomon's long shots during which there is absolutely nothing going on.

As far as acting is concerned, let's just say that Toshiro Mifune's delivery is too theatrical even for the time of movie's creation.

There might be a discussion on various levels about Rashomon, but the bottom line is that it's an overrated piece of cinema.
Kurosawa's differing interpretations
Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon for the time would had looked like an experimental film about unreliable narrators and recounting an incident through different viewpoints and flashbacks.

In 17th century feudal Japan, some men take shelter from the rain they discuss a murder which took place recently. A notorious bandit (Toshiro Mifune) catches a glimpse of a woman's face (Machiko Kyo) travelling with her wealthy samurai husband (Masayuki Mori) and pursues them both. The husband does battle with him and is killed with his body discovered by the woodcutter.

At the bandit's trial, all the witnesses which includes the victim speaking through a medium give different accounts of what actually happened that day, a lot of it is contradictory.

The film shot in black and white is far from the historical sagas the director was known for, it is a simple story with a small cast that leaves you flummoxed with the different perspectives regarding the murder. Maybe Kurosawa was making a point about the justice system where people can see the same incident and come to different conclusion as well as indirectly wanting to show themselves in a better light.

The film is thought provoking and for Kurosawa a relatively short one but it has aged, with the acting looking a tad overcooked. The film also has a strange soundtrack which is basically Ravel's Bolero.
These stories we tell each other
Based on a short story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Rashomon is one of Akira Kurosawa's biggest films and the breakthrough film that brought him and Japanese cinema in general to Western audiences. A tale about a murder and the various lies we tell each other to make sense of our existence.

The film is about a murder trial. A nefarious bandit, Tajômaru (Toshirô Mifune), is accused of murdering a travelling samurai in front of his wife. We hear four different versions of the events that took place. One from each of the three and one from a bystander. Each tale differs from one another and in the end it's left for the viewer to decide who to believe.

Rashomon is a clever tale and full of depths, but it also shows that Kurosawa was still travelling towards his prime. The acting is a bit overplayed in certain scenes. Mifune especially overacts constantly, which in some ways fits the character, but is still a bit jarring. The score is also surprisingly distracting. That being said, the camera-work is beautiful, the storytelling works very well and even the framing story about people hiding from the rain and talking about the trial is not as bad as it could be.

And it's simply a fascinating story on thematic level. It's made clear very early that all the witnesses lie to make themselves look better. They all try to shift the blame, to make their own accord seem dignified or born out of necessity. Even the final story by the bystander has undercurrents that make it seem not as objective as it should. So who to believe?

In the end the film provides no answers. Rather it asks us to wonder how common this sort of behaviour is in everyday life. Do we shape our subjective realities by telling stories? And if we do so, do we also allow the stories of others to have an affect on what we believe to be true, to be reality?

It's up to you to decide. But first you have to ask the question in the first place.
In a Grove where the Rashomon lies
Earlier this evening, I had the great pleasure to watch Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece "Rashomon." A disturbing film examining the nature of truth and the human ego, "Rashomon" arrives at a conclusion that there still are good people out there, even if deception and lies are about to become the norm. (To this end, "Rashomon" might just be the most realistic character study ever made.) Based on the short stories "In a Grove" and "Rashomon" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Kurosawa's picture is set in the aftermath of a heinous and brutal crime: a samurai has been murdered, and his wife raped. Three people, including the alleged murderer and the dead samurai (through a medium), give varying, conflicting accounts of the crime, thus leaving it up to us, the viewers, to decipher these characters and their motives for deceiving. I am currently majoring in criminal justice in college and if I were to ever become a professor, I would certainly make "Rashomon" required viewing, and Akutagawa's book a required text. Never has conflict been so daringly portrayed on film, especially when viewed as the aftermath of a violent crime. Even after listening to the testimonies, you sort of become disillusioned that you're unsure of what really happened, and maybe that's Kurosawa and Akutagawa's point. What is certain, what is the truth, is that "Rashomon" is a classic of cinema, made by one of the greats to ever pick up a camera and shoot into a grove.

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.
Selective Perception
Path breaking cinema if you may permit me to call considering the fact that it was made in 1950. Very creative of Mr. Kurosawa of breaking away from the norm and invent something new totally unheard/ unseen. I bet the audience were confused when they watched it back in 1950 as one would today.

The cast is perfect (and fat-free, meaning bare-minimum cast!). The changes they bring about in the emotions for each segments is commendable. My favourite segment: the last!

Even though a 90-minutes movie, it appears to be a bit slow probably because you watch the plot churned out 4-times and the boredom tends to set in. Or perhaps because its 1950's movie? Regardless, it can be safely overlooked.

The director attempts to convey one message thru the movie namely "Perspective".

PS: Definitely qualifies for one of the "must-watch" movies before you die!
Masterclass storytelling
Rashomon by Akira is probably one of his very best, from his storytelling to the visuals, the picture is amazing.

The film is about about the truth, and burying it because no one can handle it. People prefer to live a lie than admit the truth, very reminiscent of today's world. The characters are talking to us, we are the jury.

The performances are amazing, nothing acting is so good, blows away today's competition.

The film score is stunning as well, one of my favourites from a Japanese film.

The direction is breathtaking, the jungle is beautifully lit, it has a sense of horror to it. Black and white was the perfect choice.

Overall, an amazing film from a genius!
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