Three disparate travelers, a disillusioned preacher, an unsuccessful prospector, and a larcenous, cynical con man, meet at a decrepit railroad station in the 1870s Southwest. The prospector and the preacher were witnesses at the singularly memorable rape and murder trial of the notorious Mexican outlaw Carasco. The bandit duped an aristocratic Southerner into believing he knew the location of a lost Aztec treasure. The greedy "gentleman" allows himself to be tied up while Carasco deflowers his wife. These events lead to the stabbing of the husband and are related by the three eyewitnesses to the atrocity: the infamous bandit, the newlywed wife, and the dead man through an Indian shaman. Whose version of the events is true? Possibly there was a fourth witness, but can his version be trusted? Written by
Sometimes, I'm amazed at the low level of commentary on these films. This one is no exception. The reviewer opening these comments comments on a "Western" as if this were a Roy Rogers or Gene Autry oater. While I'm aware that we all have the right to express our views, I would like to see a little more insight on those selecting which reviews will be presented. This film is a remake and reset of the Kurusawa classic and is a classic in its own right. Fine, fine performances are given by Newman, Harvey, Bloom, Shatner(in his pre-Kirk days), Robinson, Salmi, Da Silva and Fix in this casting of a Japanese film play-- which is a composite of two stories, BTW-- by Akira Kurusawa. It's not perfect. The role of the medium, the old Indian shaman portrayed by veteran character actor, Paul Fix, doesn't have the cultural impact of the original. There is confusion around the rape and fight scene, but these are small things. The film is marvelous and the black and white setting captures much of the shading and light contrasts of the original Rashomon. The story in both films, which Kurusawa wove out of two earlier stories, is full of archetypes but lacking much of the impending chaos of the original. The first tale of the old gate at kyoto tells of a ronin confronting an old woman and taking the blanket from an abandoned child in the time of civil war and political upheaval; the other tale, in the woods, tells of the various versions of rape, murder, honor and shame, told by each of the participants. Kurusawa blended them into an excellent film story. While the cultural background of the original sets it apart from this American version, there is much that does make it work. The genteel Southern couple, the Mexican bandido, the pragmatic sheriff, the country preacher, the snake-oil salesman and the miner/prospector, fit the Samurai, bandit, medium, etc., of the original very well. So, face it. It ain't John Wayne. But it's good cinema at it best.
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