Saturday, May 7, 2011


Rashomon – 88min - NR/Not Rated

As you might have guessed by my screen name, I am a fan of the Japanese culture and have always liked Akira Kurosawa films. I was eager to watch Rashomon and was not disappointed. This is a marvelous movie. I had to watch this movie a second time to really observe some of the wonderful elements in the film. The first viewing I let the story take me away and paid no attention to any of the finer elements. I truly love so many aspects of this film, from the cinematography to the acting. The story captures many facets, I really don’t have enough time to truly dedicate to fully explore all of them. If you have never experienced a Kurosawa film this is a good one to start on. I would suggest Seven Samurai next, but that will have to wait till a different review.

The story takes place at a ruined gatehouse called Rashomon. It’s raining and three people talk about a crime while they wait for the rain to stop. A wood cutter (Takashi Shimura) was involved in an investigation that took place after he finds a body in the woods. A priest (Minoru Chiaki) was also a witness to events that took place. They are joined by a commoner (Kichijiro Ueda) and they proceed to tell him what they witnessed at the investigation. The movie takes place in flashback as each of the people involved in the crime tells their stories of what happened. A bandit by the name of Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune) attacks a couple on the road, husband and wife (Masayuki Mori and Machiko Kyo). They are giving testimony to the magistrate so we get to see the crime from the different points of view. There is one person giving testimony from the dead husband point of view, she is a medium (Noriko Honma) they did a voice over with the husband talking through her, she does a wonderful job of a haunting portrayal of channeling the dead husband’s sprit.

The theme of the film is that each event is changed by the memory of those who remember it. We get to see each of these versions play out as the person is telling them. I believe there are three sides to a story, your side, my side and the truth. This movie personifies that thought. With each telling of the same events we see more of what motivates each person by how they tell what went on. I also like how it tells the story of human nature without being overly preachy.

The technical aspects of the film are wonderful. We have some really good use of camera angles and lighting. There is one scene that uses a hand held camera and they use it as a great element in following the characters through the woods. This was one of the earliest uses of this type of shot. There is also a shot that is up at the sun through the canopy of the forest and it makes for a wonderful setting of the environment. Kurosawa could not bring lights into the forest so they had to use full length mirrors to light the shots. During the investigation scenes, the audience takes the role of the investigator and the actors tell us directly what they saw giving us a feeling of involvement in the story. I also found that the title of the film has now been used to describe what happens when people tell the same information from different points of view. It’s called the Rashomon Effect.

I have fallen in love with the way Kurosawa tells a story. I truly can’t explain how I completely fall into the story and time fades away. I am going to have to spend some time on his other films. I feel a connection with his stories that I have not felt with any other director.

What movie have you known about but have not watched yet? You know the one, it has your favorite actor in it or it’s made by your favorite director but you have not had the time to see it. When it came out in theaters and you said I will go see it next week but never did. Take some time this week and follow back up on it and watch it. Hopefully you will have a wonderful experience like I had while watching this film. Tell me about what movie you watched.

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