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 ... Written by
"Rashomon", Akira Kurosawa's 1950 film about a horrible crime and the various versions of the "truth" that come to fruition during the investigation is absolutely amazing, pure and simple. The story is told four different times, each time from the point of view of one of the participants. The basic story of the crime is that a bandit (Mifune) comes across a husband and wife traveling through the forest. The bandit, Tajomaru, seduces/assaults the Masako (Kyo) after tying up her husband Takehiro (Mori), and soon after, Takehiro is dead. What happens between the times Tajomaru encounters the couple and the discovery of Takehiro's body is what is left to be discovered. Masako, Tajomaru and even Takehiro (with the assistance of a medium) each tell their account of the story, each taking blame for Takehiro's death. The fourth telling is from a passer-by, and the audience is left to decide which is the true account.
I absolutely loved this film. I had heard that Yimou Zhang's "Hero" had, if not as an homage, employed the same technique of storytelling and perspective, but seeing this great film was a real treat. The story is original and rich, and Kurosawa always is able to pull great performances from his actors. I found "Rashomon" to be extremely compelling from start to finish, and even managed to be really creeped out at one point. (The psychic medium is pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel) From the very little that I know of Japanese cinema of the 1950's & 1960's, I realize that Kurosawa was not the only director, but he certainly was the trailblazer and set the bar for the genre for decades to come. His peers were putting out material, it was just fairly primitive. (It is easy to forget that not every country's film industry was as opulent as America's) To see this kind of film, a film that is actually incredibly simple, but so ingeniously conceived of and executed makes me remember why I have been and always will be both a student of and lover of film. 8/10 --Shelly
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