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Rashomon
     

Rashomon

4.8 11
Director: Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune, Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyo

Cast: Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune, Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyo

 

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This landmark film is a brilliant exploration of truth and human weakness. It opens with a priest, a woodcutter, and a peasant taking refuge from a downpour beneath a ruined gate in 12th-century Japan. The priest and the woodcutter, each looking stricken, discuss the trial of a notorious bandit for rape and murder. As the retelling of the trial unfolds, the

Overview

This landmark film is a brilliant exploration of truth and human weakness. It opens with a priest, a woodcutter, and a peasant taking refuge from a downpour beneath a ruined gate in 12th-century Japan. The priest and the woodcutter, each looking stricken, discuss the trial of a notorious bandit for rape and murder. As the retelling of the trial unfolds, the participants in the crime -- the bandit (Toshiro Mifune), the rape victim (Machiko Kyo), and the murdered man (Masayuki Mori) -- tell their plausible though completely incompatible versions of the story. In the bandit's version, he and the man wage a spirited duel after the rape, resulting in the man's death. In the woman's testimony, she is spurned by her husband after being raped. Hysterical with grief, she kills him. In the man's version, speaking through the lips of a medium, the bandit beseeches the woman after the rape to go away with him. She insists that the bandit kill her husband first, which angers the bandit. He spurns her and leaves. The man kills himself. Seized with guilt, the woodcutter admits to the shocked priest and the commoner that he too witnessed the crime. His version is equally feasible, although his veracity is questioned when it is revealed that he stole a dagger from the crime scene. Just as all seems bleak and hopeless, a baby appears behind the gate. The commoner seizes the moment and steals the child's clothes, while the woodcutter redeems himself and humanity in the eyes of the troubled priest, by adopting the infant.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Eddy Crouse
With ringing moments of intensity and a radical manipulation of time, Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon stands legitimately alongside Citizen Kane as one of the movies that altered the rules of cinematic storytelling. Based on two short stories by author Ryunosuke Akutagawa ("In a Grove" and "Rashomon"), the movie is set in 12th-century Kyoto and centers around a trial in a prison courtyard. Four defendants -- the bandit Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune); a young woman, Masago (Machino Kyo); the spirit of her samurai husband, Takehiro (Masayuki Mori); and a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) -- each offer varied and often contradictory versions of an incident, the only certain elements of which are a rape, a death, and an ambush. Teasing and hooking a viewer at the same time, Kurosawa mines the fallibility of memory, in the process framing human unpredictability, selfishness, and weakness with multiple points of view. The movie is also distinguished by superior performances by Mifune and Kyo. Filmmakers have chased Kurosawa's achievement for years -- recent movies like Memento, The Usual Suspects, and Jim Jarmusch's overt homage Ghost Dog all pay some tariff to Rashomon's unusual pulse and rhythm. The Criterion Collection DVD edition of this classic boasts a glistening restored image and adds two fantastic extras to the mix: The World of Kazuo Miyagawa, a documentary on Rashomon's painstaking, passionate cinematographer, plus a moving tribute from Robert Altman.
All Movie Guide - Jonathan Crow
Rashomon's winning the Golden Lion in the 1951 Venice Film Festival is one of the key events of world cinema. Not only did it establish director Akira Kurosawa as one of the masters of the medium, but it compelled European and American audiences to look seriously at non-Western cinemas. Without Rashomon, the international critical successes of Kenji Mizoguchi, Satyajit Ray, and others are difficult to imagine. The film's structure, which replays the same event though different characters' eyes, layers ambiguity atop ambiguity. Not only are the witnesses' testimonies completely incompatible but the reliability of the film's primary narrator, the woodcutter, is seriously questioned. If the woodcutter initially lied about his role in this crime, then what else could he be lying about? The film comes precariously close to nihilism--the denial of all objective truth and the utter senselessness of existence. Yet Kurosawa pulls back from the abyss in the film's final moments. Though most of Rashomon is adapted from two short stories by famously misanthropic Japanese author Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Kurosawa himself penned the final sequence, an elegant summation of his signature humanism. The truth may be inscrutable, even unknowable, Kurosawa argues, but hope and compassion remain. This vision struck a chord in European audiences for whom the horrors of war were still fresh and the existentialist philosophies of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus were gaining popularity. Kurosawa's dynamic editing and swaggering camerawork seemed vibrant and sophisticated for a national cinema thought at the time to be second-rate, and the film proved influential to several generations of filmmakers. Ingmar Bergman included a sequence in The Virgin Spring (1960) strongly reminiscent of the film's most memorable sequences--the woodcutter's walk through the forest--and Alain Resnais acknowledged Rashomon's influence on the bold plot structure and existential content of his art-house classic Last Year at Marienbad (1961). In both artistic achievement and historical importance, Rashomon remains one of the masterpieces of cinema.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/06/2012
UPC:
0715515100915
Original Release:
1951
Rating:
NR
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
ABC
Presentation:
[B&W, Full Frame]
Time:
1:28:00
Sales rank:
11,935

Special Features

Audio Commentary by Japanese-film historian Donald Richie; Interview with Director Robert Altman about Rashomon; Excerpts from The World of Kazuo Miyagawa, a documentayr on Rashomon's Cinematographer; A Testimony as an Image, a sixty-eight-minute documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew; Archival audio interview with actor Takashi Shimura; Original and rerelease trailers; ; Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by film historian Stephen Prince; an excerpt from Director Akira Kurosawa's Something Like an Autobiography; and reprints of Rashomon's two source stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, "Rashomon" and "In a Grove"

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Toshiro Mifune Tajomaru, the Bandit
Masayuki Mori Takehiro, the Nobleman
Machiko Kyo Masago, the Wife
Takashi Shimura Woodcutter
Minoru Chiaki Priest
Kichijiro Ueda Commoner
Fumiko Homma Medium
Daisuke Kato Policeman

Technical Credits
Akira Kurosawa Director,Editor,Screenwriter
Shinobu Hashimoto Screenwriter
Fumio Hayasaka Score Composer
So Matsuyama Art Director
Jingo Minoura Producer
Kazuo Miyagawa Cinematographer
Shinobu Muraki Production Designer
Yoshiro Muraki Production Designer
Masaichi Nagata Executive Producer

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Rashomon 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is simply amazing. It was the first Akira Kurosawa film I had ever seen, and I instantly wanted more. The presentation of each different story keeps the movie interesting, and the cinematography is great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a fantastic film. It was my second Kurosawa film, after the 'Throne of Blood'. The cinematography is non-pareil, fluidily placing the camera-work at the most important points of action. This allows for the film to explore the multiple perspectives we see debated in the dialogue through metaphorical angles accentuating each character's firgurative and literal veiw-point. The subject of 'Rashomon' is ingenious as well. It is a film that is entirely self-consious of its own art, in that it openly explores the very idea of truth in story-telling. That is to say, that after the veiwer has labored over whose version of the tale to beleive, they can then expand and veiw the film more globally and wonder not if, but how Kurosawa's telling of the events(though fictional) is tainted or skewed as a result of the self-same human condition that mark his characters' versions.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Aw heck, when i was a-sittin' in the pasture with bessie, i lerned this flick was good. i seen 'er twunty times, an' that be more than i ever seed. go view this 'un and watch the cattle graze.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw this movie in a Film History course I was taking and I was excited to see (finally) a movie by the legendary Akira Kurosawa. Unfortunately (for me at least) the movie did not live up to the legend. Don't get me wrong, the movie is a classic and it was revolutionary. I just feel like the movie I saw advertised too much what it was trying to accomplish and thus blew subtlety out the window. Other than Mifune, the acting was pretty horrible. The movie definitely goes into the category of old movies that were marred by actors who had not yet gotten used to working in front of a camera. That's not meant as an insult to the actors it's just indicative of a different discipline (stagework). The end result is a movie that was important in the history of film but ultimately feels very dated. I cannot speak to the quality of Kurosawa's other movies as I have not seen them, though opinion is overwhelmingly favorable. I have netflixed Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood though.