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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 masterpiece of Japanese cinema! A must-see!
Akira Kurosawa's classic Rashomon is one of the most amazing movies I have ever seen. It is often cited as the reason that the Academy Awards started a foreign film category. Incidentally, it did win an Honorary Award from the Academy for Best Foreign Film. More than a film, Rashomon is more of a meditation on this dishonest nature of man. As we listen to four different testimonies of the same heinous crime, we see that people will lie to save themselves, no matter what the circumstances. The film begins with a priest and a wood cutter speaking within a temple during a terrible rain. Their conversation is a mystery until another man arrives, and begins to ask questions about their subject matter. It is revealed that the men have just returned from court, where they gave their testimonies in a trial against a vicious bandit known as Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune in all of his manic, savage mastery). The bandit tells his side of the story. The woman that he most-likely raped follows with her version of the truth. Then, the story takes an odd twist toward the macabre as a medium is called in to channel the spirit of the woman's murdered husband, who provides an all-together different story. Needless to say, the case is hopeless. The priest and wood cutter find themselves drowning in their own self-pity because of the horrendous state of the world. The priest lamenting that he has lost his faith in man. The other man at the temple laughs it all off, having seen too much tragedy in his lifetime to weep over the injustice which has just taken place. The film does end on a relatively upbeat tone, however. The wood cutter is given a chance to take control of life, a reminder that his life is his own, and that his decisions are still his own, even in the face of the insurmountable odds against anyone struggling to survive in his troubled times. To me, the three men at the temple are the forces of good, evil, and humanity, which is trapped in the middle. The priest is a holy man seeking virtue in a time when virtue was essentially a sign of weakness. The man who approached the wood cutter and the priest embodies the corrupted soul of man, embittered by the harsh cruelties of reality. The wood cutter, neither virtuous nor evil, is confused, and has resigned to be neutral, no matter how much it may hurt him. However, out of the midst of all of this chaos, rain, murder, rape, and perjury, hope is found, and I believe that the wood cutter takes his first step toward realizing his dream by attempting to become that which he prays for - a man of decency.

This film is extraordinarily powerful. The contrast of the endless downpour at the temple and the beautiful, sun-soaked forest is magnificent, as is the cinematography on the whole. The writing and directing is wonderful, and the performances of the actors and actresses, while arguably over-the-top (note that this was the acting style being used at the time), are more powerful than anything else. Toshiro Mifune's performance was particularly striking as the remorseless bandit. Emotionally poignant performances from Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, and Takashi Shimura, among others create a stirring ensemble which Kurosawa masterfully uses to weave this ancient tale (the film was based on a story called "In the Grove") into a cinematic masterpiece that brought him international recognition.

I would recommend this film to anyone due to the fact that I believe it to be a work of infinite cinematic value and of great philosophical significance. This is an absolute must-see!
2004-12-22
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
Roshomon – Kurosawa's journey into human psyche… In search of truth!
Based on the stories, 'Roshomon' and 'In a Grove' by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, this is a masterpiece by the legendary Akira Kurosawa.

Highly regarded for its philosophical undertones and its exploration of the unfathomable human psyche, 'Roshomon' is a brilliantly spun riddle. It is about the four people, who give four different versions of the testimonies at the court, on the recently occurred crime.

The story is set in ancient Japan, where three passers-by seek shelter from intense rain in the ruined temple called Roshomon. Two of the witnesses, a dumbfounded woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) and a priest (Minoru Chiaki), are narrating the crime trial to the commoner. More than the crime, they are astonished to witness the testimonies of three people, connected with the crime, which shatters their faith in humanity.

A man (Masayuki Mori) has been murdered, and his wife (Machiko Kyo) was allegedly raped, while they were traveling in the woods. A notorious bandit (Toshiro Mifune) has been arrested, regarding this despicable act. As the trial starts, the fabricated lies resurface over truth. According to the bandit, he and the man waged a war after the rape, resulting in the man's death.

But the woman's version is that she was rejected by her husband, after being raped. So, with uncontrollable grief, she killed him. However, the dead man testifies, through the medium, that the bandit insisted to marry the woman after the rape, but the woman demanded the bandit should kill her husband first. The angry bandit left the place and the guilty-conscious man committed suicide. According to the woodcutter, the woman had manipulated the two men, who were finally pushed to gruesome fight that lead to the man's death.

All these testimonies are believably told to the viewers, making them the judges of this baffling trial… At Oscars, the board of governors voted 'Roshomon' as the most outstanding foreign language film released in the US in 1951. This was an enormously challenging task for the artistes— who had to enact in 3 different ways for the same story– and they excel. Toshiro Mifune attained worldwide fame for enacting the clumsy bandit's role with insurmountable passion.

'Roshomon' is not about analyzing the chronological facts or its relevance. It focuses on, how perspective distorts reality and makes the absolute truth unknowable. Eventually, this movie has been touted as the classic case study for the film students, connoisseurs and movie critics, all over the world.

This simple-looking tale, with its complex web of deceptive elements, remains as the finest cinematic riddle unsolved!
2005-02-25
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
Kurosawa'd not give a damn but he'd be my most favorite director if...
...he had not done this.

Rashomon might be a masterpiece in what it deliberately crafted into by the grandmaster Kurosawa but it, like any other masterpieces claimed by other fellow peers or famed critics, is strictly subjected to my own ultimate judgment. And with that being stated, I cannot endorse and celebrate with the general masses on this piece of art. Because it sucks ball.

The movie grants me with an ending of extreme discomfort that I have to bang my head continuously against the DVD-cover and question what was the 88-mins content I just spent starring critically on the screen is essentially about? I finally come to term with myself and realize that it's just a bunch of baloneys.

What's even better is I get to watch the stupid story told 4 times differently. Very nice! The story's plot is embellished with characters that capable of bringing the art of silly overreacting to a higher realm of mastery, especially Toshiro Mifune. It also has one of the best sword-duel scene in the history of cinema that consists of the constant tripping over twigs, running around trees, dropping swords, ridiculous facial expressions and screaming. This particular scene, with an addition of a cheesy Indian song, would make a perfect blockbuster Bollywood flick.

The movie has no resolution afterward. You just have to take in the 4 different versions of the account without knowing the truth in the end even though I don't see the motivation for the woodcutter to lie but you never know what's the real story. Perhaps, it's better that way because up to that point, if given that the woodcutter lies too, I'm too fed up for the real account even if they decide to reveal it.

Do yourself a favor and watch Yojimbo - Kurosawa's best.
2010-07-17
about truth
a murder. a novel. a film. three characters. and web of lie.result - fragile, delicate, subtle, profound masterpiece. about an ordinary story of hate, love, appearances and beauty. about basic things in the nuances of rain and stories of few men. about fruit of death and force of life. not a moral lesson. but only a trip in the heart of feelings.the domination of gray. the slices of tale. the innocence of bonze. the extraordinary science of detail of Kurosawa. the splendid role of Mifune. all - parts of a beautiful meeting with special images and science of exploration of small facts. and the delicate wind of final part is really touching. because truth is more than convention. it is form of faith. and light behind a long rain front of an old temple.
2012-05-29
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!
2002-04-17
Great film with amazing influence
Rashômon is one of legendary director Akira Kurosawa's (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo) great works of art. It is a dark and cynical outlook on mankind and it's morality and integrity. It is the story of the murder of a man and the rape of his wife, told from four different perspectives. Each perspective contradicts the others and it is left to the audience's interpretation as to who told the truth. Rashômon was the first film to utilize the telling of the same story from different perspectives and that technique has now become a staple in creative filmmaking. It is used in many different films such as Vantage Point (2008), The Usual Suspects (1995), and even the animated film Hoodwinked! (2005). It is for this reason that you absolutely cannot say that Rashômon is not an influential film.

Akira Kurosawa is highly acclaimed to be one of the greatest directors who ever lived, and his skills in cinematography and art direction never fail to amaze. Rashômon is no exception. It is beautifully shot in its three settings the entire movie takes place in. It is this intelligent and immaculate direction which captivates and awes you, as you try and decipher the mystery taking place. The story is not complex on the surface but it is the intriguing themes and motifs that Kurosawa explores that make Rashômon an experience that makes you think. Nothing in the film is set straight and it is all up to viewer interpretation.

Rashômon is an excelling work of art, yet a few things must be taken into account to truly understand where the film comes from. It was made in 1950's Japan, a very different time with a very different culture. The filming and acting techniques are noticeably different than modern filmmaking is used to. At times the acting seems very overdone and melodramatic, but you have to take into account the time period. Also the portrayal of women in this film could be looked upon sorely, but this is likely a cultural thing which can't be understood without the proper research. These "issues" are hardly minor gripes and can't really be considered legitimate thing to complain about.

Rashômon is influential filmmaking at it's best. What Kurosawa explores in this film are things that will stand the test of time and make Rashômon a classic film by a legendary director.
2010-07-21
Technique sends differing messages
A must see movie for film technique.

"Rashomon" is a movie that encompasses both, "In a Grove" and "Rashomon," two stories written in pre-war Japan, into one cohesive, post-war film. In the movie, a samurai is found dead in a forest. The movie is the accumulation of accounts from different people, each telling their story of what happened. Conflict ensues when the accounts, while similar, have vastly different conclusions.

From a technical standpoint "Rashomon" is a movie that is a pioneer it its time. The use of nature, sky, and weather are truly one of a kind. For example, when people are shown as small creatures inside of a huge forest that envelops them, the insignificance of one man over all of nature shines through.

While on the topic of shinning, deliberate shots of a sun-filled sky are scattered throughout the film. These spots of intense sun splashing through the tree tops is always paired with a time in the story the when viewer beings to think they are listening to an untrue portrayal of events.

Knowing that in film, sunshine is typically used to show truth and purity, this indicates that while there is bad in all humans (as seen through the incessant lying) there is at least a little bit of good that lives with the bad (as is seen through the sun.) Keeping this same theme in mind, the sun points to the individual accounts as not being a total fabrication, indicating that there is a little bit of truth in all of the accounts. However, the film indicates that while there is perhaps some good in people, the bad side is what will always prevail, it is the easiest to satiate.

A step further.

The words of the characters tend to indicate that they are all false and all bad (this is a post-war perspective.) The environment, tells a different story, allowing for the possibility of some good (this is a pre-war perspective.) With these ideas in mind, it is fair to say that the language of the film is modern, while the ambiance sends a traditional outlook.

These subtleties make the film. By bring many opposites and situations into the same screen, Akira Kurosawa (director), is allowing the viewer to draw many of their own conclusions. Each person can take a different message from the film. In fact, it would be fair to say that within each person a different meaning may come to pass with each successive viewing.

Check it out.
2007-04-30
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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