Rashōmon (1950)

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10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great classic Akira Kurosawa film

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Movie Info

Movie Name:  Rashōmon

Studio:  Daiei Film Co., Ltd

Genre(s):  Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  August 25, 1950 (Japan)/December 26, 1951 (US)

MPAA Rating:  NotRated

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This has been one hell of a day!

A woodcutter (Takashi Shimura), a priest (Minoru Chiaki), and a commoner (Kichijirô Ueda) try to sit out a storm at the Rashōmon gate and begin to tell a tale of events that occurred in town.  The story of a bandit named Tajōmaru (Toshirô Mifune), a samurai’s wife named Takehiro Kanazawa (Takashi Shimura), the vengeful spirit of her husband Masako Kanazawa (Machiko Kyô), and the woodcutter is revealed but who is telling the truth about what happened in a quiet woodland grove?

Directed by famed director Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon (or 羅生門 Rashōmon in Japan) adapts the story “Rashomon” (1915) and “In a Grove” (1922) by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa.  The movie was met by high praise by critics and won an honorary Academy Award and the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.  Rashōmon has also been remaster and released by Criterion Collection (Criterion #138).

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I’m a wicked awesome samurai…yeah!!!

Rashōmon not only is a great film, but it started a style of filmmaking and storytelling which continues today as seen recently in Vantage Point and the short lived (but acclaimed) television series Boom TownRashōmon tells a crime/event from multiple perspectives and the “truth” of what occurred has to be considered by the viewer.

The court case is at the center of Rashōmon and propels the film.  The first story is what the woodcutter told the judge of what he found.  It is followed by the boastful Tajōmaru whose legend precedes him and wants to impress with his tales of being a bandit.  The third story is of the raped wife who paints herself as a victim who wants nothing more than to die because of what happened to her and her husband.  The third story is told through a medium (Noriko Honma) who channels the angry husband who speaks his wrath toward his wife and the bandit.  The court case leads into the bookend scene at the gates where the woodcutter speaks again.

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A wife wouldn’t lie about her dead husband…right?

Unlike some tellings, this version does give a rather “final” account of what really happened in the grove…some Rashōmon-style stories never give the definitive version of what happened.  Here, the woodcutter’s tale is rather believable, and it can be assumed that the truth is found in his story.  It also leads to a moralistic recogning which the question of the nature of man and their motivation is questioned.  Is man only motivated by self-interest or is there a greater power has the potential to lead men to goodness?

The role of the woman becomes an interesting part of the story, and isn’t very flattering.  First the woman is a victim of rape and as a result is rejected by her husband.  The woman is revealed to have hated her husband, rejected the pleas of Tajōmaru to join him, and then her husband is killed in a sad attempt to win her…It is an odd message and kind of a disturbing message of how women were perceived at the time.

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Sword fight!!!

The movie, like all of Akira Kurosawa’s film, looks great.  The contrasts of the rainy gate, to the peaceful glade in the lush forest, to the stark bleak trial give lots of different settings for Kurosawa to show his skill in cinematography.  The sets aren’t amazing, and the great look is a result of the directing.

Rashōmon is a classic.  It is an important film and a great film that should be sought out by fans of film.  The movie is very influential and also was remade in in a Western in 1964 called The Outrage starring Paul Newman, Edward G. Robinson, William Shatner, and Claire Bloom.  It is definitely worth seeking out…but that is just my opinion…your perspective may differ.

Related Links:

The Outrage (1964)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by

Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn’t afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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