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Crime, Drama, Mystery
IMDB rating:
Akira Kurosawa


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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
Rashômon 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...
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A superb Classic
Kurosawa's magic film is a composite of 2 Japanese short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa: One, "Rashomon," the title tells of a confrontation of a young man at Rashomon, the large, fortified gate at one entrance to Kyoto where people would abandon children and corpses; the other, yabu no naka ni, "In a Grove," tells of the confrontation between the bandit, the samurai and his wife, told from the point of view of the woodcutter. In 1950, Kurosawa weaves this tale of human vanity and duplicity with the young Toshiro Mifune, as the bandit, Machiko Kyo as the lady and Masayuki Mori as the samurai. The tale unfolds through the flashbacks in the narration of the great Takashi Shimura as the woodcutter, supported by character actors Minoru Chiaki as the monk and Kichijiro Ueda as the bum. Basically, with a cast of six and the stark settings of a woods and a dilapidated castle gate in pouring rain, Kurosawa the magician gives us four views of human vanity, excessive pride and cultural conflict. The foibles of human needs are exposed but redeemed in the final scene where the basic act of kindness brings closure to the bizarre display of greed, lust and mendacity that has gone before. For a Kurosawa film, this one is short, to the point with an economy of emoting-- for which Mifune was never accused of under doing and the viewer is left somewhat exhausted by all the twists and turns, confused by the mix of contradictions and seeming paradox, but satisfied with a feeling of hope.
Jidaigeki Noir
There are only a handful of films that so permeate the film culture that they are loaded with so much expectation, having influenced so much, that it's impossible to see the film for the film itself. Kurosawa has made quite a few of these films, of which "Rashômon" (1950) is, for me, the hardest to approach for the very reason that it seems to penetrate everything.

The narrative is, of course, legendary not only how it is executed but how it has influenced art ever since. The untrusted narrator was hardly a new invention, even in film, since didn't noir explore its possibilities in depth? But it is never the novelty of the idea rather than its execution and application that counts in the end. And not that I think it's even remotely interesting and important who did what first here - the reason I mention noir is its vicinity to "Rashômon", which can be aptly described as jidaigeki noir. This is what Kurosawa did so well, taking a genre and then reshaping it, often revolutionizing it in the process.

Perhaps there's a need to moralize towards the end that doesn't seem to come so naturally, since to some extent the drive of the disoriented narratives works toward a rather more pessimistic solution, yet on the other hand it's wise to have a counterpoint that actually gives some sense of closure. And if one yearns for pessimism, Kurosawa gives that amply in his last epic.
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!
A Film Put In Perspective
Rashomon was a great achievement of the time and still holds a lot of its great cinematic elements today. It is a movie that tells a story and it tells it very well. The traditional style of the movie seems a bit odd for the taste of most Western Audiences today. This has a lot to do with the long rolling scenes and very few cuts at times. This can be looked at as boring to some people and that can detract from the overall experience of the movie itself. The actors made the story very believable and worked with the scenery and natural settings very well. The whole unreliable narrator aspect to this movie made it very interesting because there are very few movies, even today, which don't give you a direct aspect of what has happened. A lot of the cinematic elements that are present in Rashomon are ones that have been taken for granted today and are sometimes hard to point out. From the set and on site locations to the actors and the story itself this film was very well made and is one of the more enjoyable foreign films around.

The way the film was shot and how it progressed is not suitable for all audiences. The most appropriate audience, for enjoyment of the film, is the one that is familiar with Japanese film or Asian film in general. A lot of the scenes have too much build up for the typical American Audience. A lot of the great aspects of the film will be missed by people who do not understand the genre well. That being said this movie is very enjoyable when you are in the mindset of who the film was originally made for. It has a very interesting story and it never gives a resolution to the story only different aspects of what happened. The non-resolute ending and the lengthy performances are not what most Americans would prefer, but the ones who can put this film in perspective will enjoy it.
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!
The Theme of the Picture....
A host of reviewers seem to think this movie is questioning the nature of truth or of reality. Perhaps the late director Robert Altman said it best in his introduction to the Criterion Collection DVD: "....the proper conclusion (is) that all of it's true, and none of it's true." According to this school of thought, Kurosawa's film speaks powerfully to the postmodern consciousness--in effect telling us that there is no such thing as objective truth or objective reality.

Nonsense. Many of these reviewers wonder at the inclusion of an "epilogue" in the movie--the bit with the baby at the very end--saying that it is unnecessary, but doesn't necessarily detract from the movie. It is no wonder: if the movie is trying to tell us that absolute truth does not exist or that reality is completely subjective, there is no need for this "epilogue." If that is what the movie is about, there is, in fact, very little need for anything but the stories of the participants/eyewitnesses. But the movie cannot be telling us that objective truth does not exist or that the nature of reality is insuperably perspectival, for underlying the competing truth claims and the varying perspectives on reality are hard, undeniable facts: a man is dead, and his wife has been had by another man, and each of three people testified in court that he or she murdered the dead man. These are presented as facts that are undeniably true.

The movie is ultimately about mankind: we are evil, so corrupted by our own selfishness that we can't tell the truth to or about ourselves. This was an important consideration for the humanist Kurosawa, for as his priest says, "If people cannot trust each other, this world might as well be hell"--in other words, why go on living if humanity is so incorrigible? The priest's problem is intended to be our own as we watch this movie: Throughout the movie, it is the priest's faith in mankind, his belief that life is worth living, that is tried--you never see him wondering if anything can be said to be "true" or ultimately "real." He, like us, believes at first that the woodcutter may be a "good man," or at least trustworthy, but the man is human, and is shown to be an unreliable storyteller.

Funnily enough, it is the same woodcutter who, in this particular story, is supposed to give us a reason to continue living. We know that man is incorrigible, that he can't do anything but be deceitful (at least to some degree), even about himself. Can there thus be any reason to think that this world is any better than a hell? Yes, says Kurosawa. The hope for man is in the kind of compassionate action displayed by the woodcutter in adopting the abandoned baby. As long as man can show compassion to his fellows, man can consider living to be a worthwhile endeavor.
Overrated piece of cra... cinema
There are several reasons why this film is painful to watch. The first reason is the childish cinematography. While this may have something to do with conditions in postwar Japan, the cinematography is far exceeded by many films of the early twentieth century, so it has nothing to do with the film's age. As for the story, it is almost nonexistent—thin gruel for a film that presents so many different perspectives. The lack of a story probably accounts for the painfully slow pacing. It takes a Herculean effort of will not to shout at the screen, "Get on with it!" Still, good acting can often salvage the weakest story. Sadly, the acting in Rashômon mostly consists of odd poses and staring. For the first five minutes, the lingering shots of overwrought facial expressions and contorted bodies can induce an occasional chuckle. After about twenty minutes, you'll wish you had access to a dagger, too. This tedium is punctuated by comically staged sword fights. I mean, how long can two expert swordsmen wrestle and parry without a decent thrust? Again, get on with it! Of the film's many annoyances, the worst are the idiotic laughing of the bandit and the screeching of the woman. With his constant ha-ha-has, you have to ask, is the bandit insane? Is he reckless? Is he a really, really bad actor? As for the woman—well, if she's the vision of a goddess, thank god I'm an atheist! Once you hear the dulcet tones that come from this angel—a scream slightly more annoying than the amplified sound of fingernails running down a chalkboard—you wonder why a sword or a dagger wasn't immediately used on her.

Sorry folks, the Chrysanthemum Emperor has no clothes.
A brilliant masterpiece from a masterful director
"Rashomon" was Akira Kurosawa's first national hit (becoming, at the time, the highest-grossing foreign film in America) and even gained an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, but almost sixty years later it still hasn't lost any of its impact. It is widely revered as one of the most influential films of all-time, but unlike some other movies, it is not a film that feels dated. The revolutionary methods of Kurosawa are still effective and on-par with the cinema of today -- this isn't a movie where you say, "Yeah, fifty years ago it might have been different, but now it's done in all the movies." Kurosawa's techniques are still superior to most of his imitators. Look at the 2003 John McTiernan film, "Basic," which copies a good portion of "Rashomon's" concept. Which is the better film? It's not a hard choice.

The film begins under a structure which reads "Rashomon" on its exterior, in a small Japanese village. It's raining outside and a woodcutter (Takashi Shumura) and a priest (Minoru Chiaki) inadvertently find themselves in the company of a wandering commoner (Kichijiro Ueda), and as he asks them what is the matter they both begin to relay the most horrific story they claim to know -- of a brutal murder a few days prior.

Kurosawa then switches to flashback and we see three different versions of the exact same event -- the slaying of an innocent man (the murderer played by Kurosawa film regular Toshirô Mifune) in the woods outside the village. Was it because of lust? Betrayal? Envy? Or insanity? We hear from the murderer, the wife of the victim, and a woman channeling the spirit of the dead man.

"Rashomon" is brilliant. Some people have complained that the ending is a cop-out and sentimental hogwash, but I think Kurosawa was fond of sentimentality to a point (he uses a good deal of it in "Ikiru") but the difference between what he does with sentimentality as opposed to many filmmakers of today is that he uses to to ENRICH the story, not provide an easy solution to all the problems.

Is there resolution in the finale of "Rashomon"? To a degree. But, like "Ikiru," it also leaves an open answer to its audience -- this film questions us, and our humanity, and it says something about the human condition and our weaknesses as a species. Yet it also proposes that along with the evil is an inherent good, and in my opinion the message of "Rashomon" is just as important and effective as its film-making techniques and acting.
Excellent Kurosawa
Let's begin by explaining that 8/10 is a very high score for me: 95% of all films score lower than that. So this would be one of the best.

I don't think I can ad anything substantial in describing this film relative to others. I would only say that it is a very interesting film and one would certainly improve his knowledge of world culture by watching it. It is also very enjoyable in its own right, with some very funny moments and overall it provides an unforgettable experience.

Highly recommended for those that are open to different types of film than those we see today. Though it is actually more accessible than many films from the 1950's. It is not slow paced, but instead requires quite a concentration from the viewer to understand it: some parts are really fast, which is natural considering that this is a 1 and half hour film.
Perhaps more linear than not
Although there are many ways to define the non-linear narrative, I would like to argue that Rashomon is not a non-linear piece in the traditional sense, but rather contains only elements of non-linearity than as a whole. It includes, for the most part, digetic non-conventional elements in a linear type structure (one that is fluid in terms of its story) as opposed to the traditional non-conventional structure containing mostly non-digetic material. That is to say, when the characters and viewer do not have a frame of reference as to where they really are, (i.e. location, dialogue, and story) but are rather given vague suggestions, the traditional non-linear structure is more present than not. However, Rashomon does not leave the viewer confused or without a frame of reference. This is clearly illustrated around the stories main theme: In a world of deceit, can anyone be trusted? From the beginning, the viewer holds expectations that the film is going to reveal a story within a story within a story—all told from four different perspectives. As it turns out, this structure remains consistent throughout the piece. Already then, this film does not follow the true non-linear format. Following the true format would create more chaos and less order. This aspect of the film's orderliness brings up its digetic qualities. Not only do the characters in the story know that they are telling stories within stories, but the viewer also understands this aspect. Thus, time and space are not irrationally violated. It's true that the film contains non-linear elements that are demonstrated through its use of flashbacks, but the flashbacks themselves are set in a linear structure. The viewer always has a frame of reference as to where they are. The director presents this idea in the following way: Dissolves are used each time a character begins telling their story/flashback, thus allowing the viewer to enter that world without confusion. Knowing this sets up the viewer to contemplate the stories theme.

The four different perspectives that are shared regarding what happened between the woman, her husband and the bandit, leave the viewer, as well as the characters in the story, unable to distinguish the truth from the lies. In one story, the woman indulges the bandit and asks him to kill her husband so she can marry him; in another, the woman is appalled by the bandit's actions and rushes to the aid of her husband but is rejected. When the priest tells his side of the story, he tells it through the perspective of the dead husband, who in turn lives vicariously through a witch doctor of some sort. This particular story stood out above the rest as the best example of non-linearity. When the witch doctor tells the police that the husband was stabbed to death, she herself acts out the stabbing sensation to heighten the effect of the actual death. This element added a type of metaphorical abstraction to the film more so than a realistic quality. Still, the viewer cannot objectively come to a solid conclusion on whose story is true and whose is false.

However, the viewer is given strong incentive to assume that the man who carries the baby away at the end was the truth-teller. Why? Because the other two men have created suspicion in the viewer to think otherwise (i.e. the first man stealing the arm bracelet from the baby, the second man lying about the dagger in the story so he could sell it for money). Both implicit ideas strongly reveal the film's theme in terms of the corrupt nature of men and their tendencies to lie to gain the upper hand.
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