Rashomon (1950) Poster

(1950)

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9/10
I saw it with my own eyes!
mungo395 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This fabulous work was years and years ahead of its time when it was made in 1950, being a work of art that engages the eyes and the ears, but most essentially, the brain. The film is both aesthetically beautiful, using amazing camera techniques, extensive periods of silence and a very limited cast to deliver the action, and the story is typically Japanese...ostensibly amazingly simple, but complex to the point of sending you cross-eyed!

The basic tale is this: a woman and her husband, a Samurai, are travelling through a forest when they meet a bandit. The bandit has sex with the woman and the Samurai ends up dead. That's it. This tale is related to us through the woodcutter and a monk who saw the protagonists give their evidence to the police (the dead Samurai through a medium), but unfortunately the three tales conflict with one another. Each confessor says that they killed the Samurai, and then we hear from the woodcutter who in fact witnessed the event, who gives us a version of events that borrows from each individual account, and is still less credible!

The conclusion presented by Kurosawa seems to be firstly that individuals see things from different perspectives, but secondly, and most importantly, that there is no objective truth. There is no answer as to what took place in the forest, and Kurosawa offers us no way of knowing what went on. Each story is as credible as the other, and so no conclusion about guilt can be reached. We even have to think at the end that as the whole thing is reported to us by the woodcutter and priest, was there any truth in anything we heard at all?

This film leads to an especially tricky conclusion for a movie-goer! Your eyes are supposed to show you objective truth, but they don't. The camera is supposed not to lie, but it does. I feel that the simple message is that subjectivity lies at the heart of life, and this subjectivity needs to be recognised before any attempt is made to understand events.
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What did we just see?
rogierr10 February 2002
'People forget the unpleasant things. They only remember what they want to remember.'

In Rashomon the editing tells ½ of the story. It may feel experimental or unconventional, but Kurosawa perfects the concept second by second, directing and editing. This film didn't need a big budget to come perfectly to the point. It's a simple tale, but not a superficial tale. Different points of view and selective memories ('It's true! I saw it!') don't only make the woods unsafe, but are one of the most universal topics of humanity. 'We humans are weak creatures. That's why we lie, even to ourselves' says it all actually: it's about what people want to hear and when they start being interested at all, apart from wishful thinking. Selfish excuses vs trust in other people.

Rashomon gets masterful when in one instant there is literally a different point of view: the camera takes another position to shoot the same sequence, thereby forcing the audience to reconsider what they just saw. That is the sort of storytelling that the supposed masters of cinema in our time yet have to equal, or try to copy when they fail. Admitted 'Memento' (2000, Nolan) is a truly great one. Still not THAT universal. 'Pulp Fiction' (1994) didn't come close, 'La Commare Secca' (1962) also didn't. 'Ghost dog: the way of the samurai' (1999) touched another border of the concept, or does it?

The use of (non-original) music in my opinion reveals a certain interest for western influence, not only in Rashomon, but also in Kurosawa's forthcoming films, and is probably why his films were so influential on western filmmakers too.

The cinematography is dynamic and changes scene by scene to emphasize exactly what is going on. The shadows of leaves and branches, captured by cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, make you really feel 'in the woods', while the actors (Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura) convince the remaining part of the audience (which adds up to 100% breathless viewers). It may be after days that you first realize you saw an important film. After weeks you realize that you must see it again to comprehend (despite it's only 85 min), and ironically that is just one of the crucial points that Kurosawa made. 10/10
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To what extent does subjectivity affect perception?
ametaphysicalshark9 September 2007
"Rashomon" tells a very simple tale in a very complicated manner, presenting four 'versions' of the truth, each from a party either witness to or involved in the incident depicted. It is not the film's intent to have you piece together a puzzle since that would be impossible based on how drastically the four tales differ. We know that lies don't enter the equation since the participating persons all claim to be guilty. "Rashomon" is not about choosing a version of the incident you believe is true; it is about human perspective and how it shapes what we see. Even if we truly believe what we have seen is true, is it really?

The film opens when a priest and woodcutter are encountered by a man who engages in a conversation about crime with them and subsequently learns that a samurai has been killed in the woods and his wife raped by a bandit. These two details are the basic, practically undisputed facts which make up the foundation of the four versions of the story we hear: the bandit's, the woman's, her husband's (through a medium), and the woodcutter's (the only presumably objective account, which still does not make sense in relation to the others). In many ways the best thing about "Rashomon" is that it never reveals what actually happens (or if any of the four accounts is in fact true), and although we are not meant to solve the mystery (the idea here is that there is no objective truth since humans are too selfish and dishonest to view anything without bias) the story structure is still brilliant and adds a lot of ambiance to the film. The narrative flow is strong and the method seems fresh and inventive today despite countless imitations (including one inexplicably popular one- "The Usual Suspects").

"Rashomon" is very much a visual film. It would be reduced to unimportant and insignificant fare without the cinematography, which captures the mood and feel of the jungle perfectly, as does the score. The film achieves an epic feel very rare for films filmed in fullscreen, especially during the battle between the bandit and the samurai during the last telling of the story. Kurosawa was also wise enough to choose a location for the film that would accurately capture the eerie, slightly disturbing mood of the story. Just picture the events taking place anywhere other than a jungle.

"Rashomon" is not without its (minor) flaws, however. While theatrical acting (Kurosawa was fascinated with silent film) worked perfectly with films like "Seven Samurai" and "Throne of Blood", it does nothing but take away from the realism of this oft claustrophobic human drama. Yes, Mifune (Tajomaru, the bandit) does provide an interesting spin on his character for each telling, and Takashi Shumura (the woodcutter) seems as honest and real as any character could possibly be, but nearly all of that effect is lost every time Machiko Kyo appears on screen. It is hard to take her seriously and during moments when I should have been close to tears I was much closer to laughter. I'm not sure how much blame I would place on her as Kurosawa probably asked her to act exactly as she does. While discussing actors I have to (unconventionally) note Fumiko Honma as the medium, who brings a wonderfully eerie air to the film during its greatest scenes.

I don't think "Rashomon" is Kurosawa's best or most important film, but it is still a masterful piece of cinema which is absolutely essential for any film lover. It's extraordinary how much Kurosawa accomplished at such an early stage in his career and without the benefit of the lavish budgets he was allotted for later projects. The film's main question is also still relevant and confusing today: is what we think we see really the truth, and to what extent does subjectivity affect perception?

4.5/5
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10/10
A brilliant masterpiece from a masterful director
MovieAddict20168 April 2006
"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.
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8/10
Most of the time we can't even be honest with ourselves.
film-critic5 January 2006
To have a film that holds the coveted title of being the reason that the "Best Foreign Film" category was created for the Oscars is one thing, but to be able to back up that myth with a powerful film that speaks both about humanity and the strength of truth is a whole new angle. Often we witness powerful foreign films that slip through the lines of cinema, regarded by so many as valuable assets to the film community, but never see the gold of Oscar. In the same sense, sometimes the most popular of those foreign films eventually become Oscar contenders, not because they are worthy enough, but because studios had the funds to allow bigger distribution to audiences, thus allowing popularity to do the rest. Rashômon is one of those few films that succeed in giving us both a quality film and the accolades to represent it. Rashômon is a rare breed of film. The Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa took many bold steps with this film (pointing his camera at the sun, filming deep within the jungle, and the mockery of truth), that it is unlikely that you could go to a modern day Hollywood film without seeing one of these techniques being "borrowed". His bold storytelling, creative camera work, and powerful characters give us a unique story that should be included in everyone's film library.

While the characters were strong, the direction was flawless, and the story was compelling, there is a theme that needs to be discussed while talking about Rashômon. This is the story of murder, betrayal, and rape and in any typical "courthouse" film you would have some spineless witness finally break down and confess the truth. At the end of these films the truth is discovered, but not in Rashômon. Kurosawa gives us the "black sheep" of themes by never really giving us what we really wanted from the beginning of this story. As I began this film, I thought I was going to get a clear-cut story with honesty and troubled souls, but instead I was handed no prize at the end. What I sought after the most is not handed to me in a Happy Meal container at the end, but instead trapped still within the film. Kurosawa gives us the meaning behind the story, that there possibly is no way of knowing the true "truth". Four different souls, seeing the same event all culminating to four different results means that the "truth" may never be known. Kurosawa has taken the story and provided us with the main character being truth, and like Kaiser Soze, the greatest trick it ever pulled was convincing us that "it didn't exist". Deep within Rashômon the truth is hidden, and it may never emerge, but that is what Kurosawa intended. A viewer could walk away from this film, after several viewings, and discover different truths about the characters and story. This is a constantly evolving film that will continually get better with time.

Outside of these beautiful themes, Rashômon is a flawless film. From the execution of the actors to the simplicity of the direction, there is plenty in this film to keep your mind busy and your jaw nearly dragging on the floor. To begin, the performance by Toshiro Mifune ranks among the best in film history. In each of the stories he is portrayed differently (even in his own) and with precise execution he delivers every time. He is insane, passionate, loyal, and villainous all at the same time. While some may see his acting as eccentric or over-the-top, I found each of his portrayals as accurate and astute. When Mifune is on the screen his presence commands your eyes and you cannot help but become involved. Second to his performance is that of the troubled wife. While her characters is the most confusing/suspicious of them all, Masayuki Mori keeps us intertwined with the story by controlling her character with the greatest of ease. When it is time for her to be unleashed, the true drama of the story is thrown in your face with brilliance and expertise.

Overall, I thought that this was a near perfect film. Kurosawa is intense, original, and adeptly secure about his stories. I have seen the same passion in Ran, and it cannot be denied. My only concern with this film is that if you are going to watch this movie, make sure that you can devote your entire mind to it. I found myself watching it three times because I could not stay focused (outside factors) enough to see those darkly hidden themes. I especially enjoyed the unearthed darkness of humanity, which is hinted on at the end. The fact that after hearing these stories of murder and rape, it doesn't stop one from continuing along a similar path. It is a powerful tale that should be enjoyed by all!

Grade: **** out of *****
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10/10
Kurosawa's first milestone, one of the top foreign films of the 20th century
Quinoa19842 August 2003
Akira Kurosawa was one of those directors, the first from the Eastern hemisphere, to develop the form and structure of cinema in ways it hadn't been. The story he used for Rashomon is now, like Seven Samurai, Hidden Fortress, and Yojimbo, a near archetype that at this point in the history of film has become formula and common knowledge for writers and directors. In that sense, Rashomon is as important and entertaining as a film as Citizen Kane, Battleship Potemkin, Rear Window, or Open City. Tee basic premise- Four different people give four different accounts on the rape and murder of a couple in the woods. A key ingredient to the success of Rashomon, is that the recollections given to the courts by the woman, the bandit, the as well as the four in discussion, is that their emotions reveal their humanity, even if their details reveal nothing, or everything. It's difficult to say whether character goes over story here, or if they have equal importance to understand Kurosawa's psychology with these people.

The opening shot of the house is a perfect representation of the mature of the picture, something that has fallen apart over time due to disasters that go beyond control of individuals. The man who heard the testimonies of the trial says "I don't understand". This has been a discussed line, since essentially he's saying the point right up front. All the information won't ease his puzzlement. The three who discuss the details of the crimes and confessions are crucial- they speak for us, what our opinions might be, and we listen to each version of the story, the characters, the fears, the pride, the shame, and the search for judgment and/or truth in the situation.

Along with being director and co-adapter, Kurosawa's mastery is revealed heavily in his use of editing- there are short, fleeting moments that hint, or rather pronounce, emotions and thoughts. For instance, when we first see Tajomaru, the bandit, played by action-legend Toshiro Mifune, he is looking up at the sky, bound in straps to keep him from moving, and for a second, or less than a second, there's a shot of what he sees in the sky, then back to his face which reveals an expression that borders on skeptical, and a bit crazed, or more. Mifune's part is of a barbarian, but all the more believable as a human barbarian since he acts as such with animal desires- he sees the woman in the woods, and knows he wants her, and while he reflects that he didn't have to have killed the man, he did as a last resort as a man with an urge. This is intensified by a sadistic flee with his actions.

What's intriguing about that first description/recollection of the battle between him and the other man, is that it seems like it could be the truth, and to one viewer it could, and to another it seems like it could all be apart of his hyperactive and trapped imagination. And in the attack of the bandit on the woman, at first to him, it's like a game, then in later descriptions, he feels a little more un-easy, then later, it's of neither pleasure or discomfort, it just is. This kind of technique later happens with the woman who was victim (who has conviction, though is herself an archetype of Lifetime women), the presence who saw it "all", and with the man who in the beginning didn't understand. In each telling the expressions, the cut-aways, the lighting and movement by Kazuo Miyagawa, it's equally startling, exhilarating.

That the film gives off such a hypnotic aura isn't surprising, or perhaps it is for those in the grips of the emotion of it all- the dead man's story is like the hook ripping into a twelve foot bass. The final accouter of the tale proves the most accurate to the common observer, yet Kurosawa knows that's not the point- if he made it as such to be bold AND had a definite concrete point, the ending would be as poignant when revealed is the truth, or what one could believe as the closest thing to it is. We know why that last person didn't want to get involved with the courts with what he knows: his story is no more a revelation, of any comfort or consolation to the listeners, than the others. I highly recommend this to anyone, and to those who have distaste to foreign films should view it once anyway- it's certainly not a long movie, and it won't loose its grip on anyone willing to give itself to the tale(s). For me, it's another to add to my top 50 of all time.
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10/10
A rare and a unique masterpiece from the master himself
murtaza_mma26 July 2009
As oppose to its commonplace plot, Rashomon as a concept is extraordinarily idiosyncratic and perhaps it is this striking attribute that makes it an undisputed masterpiece, howsoever improbable. It vividly limns the artistry of contrivance innate in the human psyche owing to the importunate desire of humans to placate their insatiable egos. This manipulation of facts has no limits and entirely depends upon the skill of imaginative improvisation of the individual along with his level of comfort at skullduggery. The ability to misinterpret comes naturally to the humans as a desperate ploy to counter the adversities of life and that's what makes it indispensable. As a direct consequence of contrivance, the concept of truth no longer remains universal but becomes rather subjective and a matter of individualistic perception.

Rashomon pioneered Kurosawa's dream tryst with perpetual brilliance and undoubtedly played a pivotal part in making his name a mark of excellence in the world of cinema. Rashomon is a well knitted tale about a supercilious samurai, his whimsical wife and a boorish bandit. The bandit inveigles the samurai into imprisonment and has his way with samurai's wife. The dead body of the samurai is later discovered under mysterious circumstances by a woodcutter. The bandit is captured and arraigned along with the deranged widow of the samurai. Their narrated versions seem such contrasting that a psychic is called upon to conjure up the dead samurai's spirit to record his testimony in order to corroborate the facts that seemed excessively manipulated. The samurai's version yet again differs considerably from the testimonies of the other two. Each version though different seemed to satiate the respective ego of the testifier. The woodcutter, who didn't want to get involved personally, later confesses to a priest to have actually witnessed the incident and comes up with a version of his own which falsifies the other three. The movie is ingenious as its actual motive has nothing to do with the revelation of truth as verity is merely a matter of lame perception, but rather is to highlight the discrepancies among the different versions as a medium to depict the irrational complexities associated with the human psyche.

The concept of Rashomon though well ahead of its time, sowed the seeds for creative innovation in the world of cinema and has served as the undisputed benchmark of innovative excellence for well over five decades. A quintessential Kurosawa classic, strongly recommended to the masses for its sheer brilliance and enigmatic charm. 10/10
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9/10
Amazing
Darren-1223 January 2001
Warning: Spoilers
The more I watch and re-watch Kurosawa's films, the more I am sure that he will be remembered as the greatest director of the 20th century. Although I prefer "Ran" and "The Seven Samurai" for reasons of personal taste, I don't think I would argue very much with anyone who proposed that "Rashomon" was his best film. Made in 1950, it is so unusual and so far ahead of it's time that it takes your breath away.

The story itself deserves a mention: A husband & wife travelling through woods are attacked by a thief, who ties up the husband and rapes the wife. This is as much of the story as we can be sure of. The husband ends up dead of a stab wound. How did he die? Who was responsible? Each of the three give their accounts before a court (the dead husband through a medium!), and each account is entirely different. A woodcutter who witnessed the events gives a fourth, entirely different, account.

Each flashback is an absolute gem in itself, and lives long in the mind. Toshiro Mifune as the thief exudes more raw masculinity and charisma that I think I have ever seen in ANY movie, and creates a totally believeable character. Machiko Kyo as the wife is superb in what are essentially four different roles, her own version being the highlight. The husband's character is the least well developed, but since he spends a lot of the time either tied up or dead, that's not really surprising.

Because the viewer knows that each flashback is highly personal to the teller, a vast amount of brainpower and concentration are required if you are going to try to work out what actually DID happen. Alternatively, watch the film twice back-to-back, once for the visuals and acting, and once for the detective work and philosophical implications.

My favourite shot in the movie is one which starts with the husband and wife kneeling, facing each other, a view of the wife over the shoulder of the husband; the camera then moves round to the side and simultaneously zooms in on the wife's profile; then pulls back behind the wife, ending with a view of the husband's face over the shoulder of the wife - a mirror image of the initial shot in the sequence. Absolutely awesome! And dating from 1950! Unbelievable!

I normally try to keep my reviews a LOT shorter than this, but I make no apologies in this case. Indeed, there are lots of other points I would like to make (I haven't even mentioned the central importance of the dagger, or the relevance of the Rashomon gate itself). I could go on and on and on... however, a better use of your time would be to seek out and watch this film...NOW!
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10/10
"I just don't understand this story"
RWiggum18 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
These are the opening words of Rashômon, and in a way that's also a summary of the entire film. It is the story of four testimonies of the same event that couldn't differ more. It is told by a priest and a woodcutter to a commoner, as they seek shelter from the rain under the Rashomon gate. The priest and the woodcutter were witnesses in a trial, and what they heard there made them puzzled, and after they told everything, the viewer is just as puzzled as these two.

What happened? Takehiro, a samurai has been murdered and Masako, his wife has been raped, the suspect is Tajômaru. And indeed, in court he confesses to have raped the woman and to have killed the samurai in duel. Masako however tells quite a different story: After Tajômaru took advantage of her, he left and despair and pity made her kill her husband, but to commit suicide, just as she originally planned, she's to weak. Then the murdered samurai speaks, through the voice of a medium. In his story, he committed suicide because of disgust at his wife, who asked Tajomaru to kill him in order to accompany the robber. At the end, we hear even another story from the woodcutter, who was, as he reveals, an eyewitnesses. In his version, Tajômaru killed the samurai in a duel (or rather: in a brawl) that was demanded by his wife.

Now what did really happen? Why did at least three of these four people lie? The reason cannot be (as the commoner says at one point) that everyone told what was useful for him, since, except for the woodcutter, everyone told a story in which he was the killer. So do they all think their story is true? Do they all feel guilty for a reason or another? These questions will cause endless discussions once you watch this film.

And the end, Kurosawa raises another question: If man keeps lying (to others as well as to himself), does that mean he is evil? This question is underlined by the crying baby the three men find in the Rashômon gate. Kurosawa's answer to this question is clearly a no: the woodcutter takes the baby to raise him and the priest realizes that he is a good man, even although he's a lier and a thief.

But if Kurosawa had only raised these questions, Rashômon wouldn't have become such a classic as it is considered today. He is telling his story with breathtaking images, as when he's holding his camera directly into the sun, when he uses the wood, light and shadow to create a dense atmosphere, or when he shows the trial scenes, where he makes the witnesses talk to the viewers to make them feel like the judges. The fight scenes are all terrifically shot, and the scene before Masako kills Takehiro can move you to tears. Rashômon also has some good acting, especially the breathtaking Toshirô Mifune in one of film history's most unforgettable performances as the wild robber Tajômaru, always jumping around and seemingly untamable and unafraid. All this makes Rashômon a mind-boggling experience, that had me talk all night through with friends of mine, and still stirs me whenever i watch it.
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9/10
Art!
Spondonman15 December 2007
This was Kurosawa's first big international hit, from then on his films would be avidly watched and (usually) feted as Art. His style was always so breathtakingly simple that you can't help but get sucked into the rainy and sunny bestial world depicted in here, with a beautiful use of the black and white nitrate film stock contrasting against a sordid storyline. I've probably seen it 10 times now over the decades and it seems to get better every time I settle down to it - it's been a continual treat.

A horror story from a few days previous is recounted on a ferociously wet day: beautiful woman is (apparently) raped by animalistic bandit in front of her husband who is then (apparently) murdered. But who really did what to who and why? It's told from four viewpoints: the bandit's, the honourable woman's, the heroic dead husband's via a rather startling medium and lastly a breathless version from a timid eye-witness. The event becomes a crime scene with the beauty of forest surrounding us and splintered sunlight beaming down on us through the trees bearing mute witness to the savage few moments. It's a salutary lesson in Human Beings vs Objectivity; the psychologies of the main protagonists are laid bare, as well as the story-tellers, even to Kurosawa and the viewers themselves. Who's telling the truth/ was it a mixture of all versions/ was there another truth untold? Only you can decide!

I urge all innocent bystanders who have a problem with b&w non-HD 4:3 subtitled Japanese films from 1950 to try to get over it! Because it's a riveting journey, expertly handled by probably the best film director who's ever lived, all subjective of course.
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8/10
Kurosawa is just so damn good
FilmOtaku23 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"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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Masterclass storytelling
darth_sidious15 January 2001
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!
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A Technical & Creative Success
Snow Leopard29 September 2004
It's hard to tell just how striking "Rashômon" might have seemed to those who watched it in 1950, rather than seeing it after so many subsequent movies and other works have made use of its techniques and ideas. But it's clear that it is a technical and creative success. The story itself is not particularly satisfying, which was most likely by design, and the movie is carried by its structure and by the concept of the markedly different perspectives on the same series of events. The cast also deserve their share of credit for how well it works, and the photography is excellent, as it is in almost all of Kurosawa's films.

Kurosawa's expertise makes the interwoven sequences of past and present - essentially telling two different stories - not only work flawlessly, but fit together thematically. It's even more commendable when compared to some of the subsequent films that have tried to use similar ideas, only to come off as pretentious rather than creative or innovative. Kurosawa was also working with much less in terms of possible precedents.

In one sense, the choice of specific story material could seem a little odd.

The downbeat, rather sordid scenario makes the movie somewhat less enjoyable than several of Kurosawa's other pictures (which is, admittedly, a pretty high standard), and as a result "Rashômon" is more a film to respect and admire than one to enjoy and take pleasure from. Still, it does have significantly more substance to it than do most of the more recent pictures that have been deliberately downbeat or negative in their portrayals of humanity. Such stories are more trendy at present, and they often receive undue praise simply for so being.

At the same time, the lack of sympathetic characters and the paucity of hopeful developments bring out all the more its success in developing its ideas about narrative and about reality, ideas that are more fundamental and, in their way, perhaps at least as important as any specific story or events.
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9/10
Kurosawa, do I need to say more
rbverhoef7 April 2003
Kurosawa tells a story four times through different characters. The characters tell the story different four times. In flash-backs, all as the characters tell them, we see the stories. Are they lying, are they all telling their own truth or is there someone who tells THE truth? The way this is handled by Kurosawa is absolutely masterful.

Of course, his direction is great. Together with cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa they do a tremendous job with the atmosphere in the woods. With perfect light angles it looks beautiful.

A real Japanese classic.
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Roshomon – Kurosawa's journey into human psyche… In search of truth!
sreenyvasn-125 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
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!
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Nested, Folded, Parallel Narrative
tedg17 April 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Superficially about truth, this is more fundamentally about the nature of nested and floating narrative.

Kurosawa is one of three men who invented film, and this is his most influential one. Much is made of the construction of the story, which you can read elsewhere. I'd like to focus here on what I think is the rarest of Kurosawa'a abilities: the way he changes the eye of the camera -- and the composition of the world it creates for us -- for each of the narratives.

Some are impressionistic; some flat and full of contrast; some deep. Some are composed around people, some around the environment with people in it, some around fleeting motion. Sometimes the words are the organizing principle, sometimes images.

I know other directors who can do this once within a film: to twist the consciousness of the viewing eye to match the perspective of the narration, even some capable of a dual view within and without. But I know of no one else capable of doing so multiply within the same film and with such obvious link to the story.

The DVD is astonishingly clear. It has an introduction by Altman which says nothing interesting; but watch his hands. The DVD has a commentary which is horrid -- just the sort of talky vapidity about apparent insight the film criticizes!
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10/10
Who is more wrong?
zhixiong6 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Firstly, you need to appreciate the fact that everyone in Rashômon lied. This includes the Buddhist priest because he mentioned that everyone is good in nature. Even though he is aware of stories of rape and murder, he chooses to live in self-denial; to have faith in the goodness of humanity. Therefore, if you are still debating on who is absolutely right or wrong, then you are probably missing Kurosawa's intention. We need to analyze who is more wrong than the rest. Similarly, philosophy students will go off-topic if they choose to debate on whether Euthyphro was absolutely right or wrong to prosecute his father for accidentally murdering a murderer.

The deceased samurai claims that someone removed the dagger from his chest and the woodcutter admits to the theft in the ending. So, let us start from here. Two claims from two accounts support that the murder weapon was a dagger. This eliminates the possibility that the murder weapon was a sword. Therefore, the bandit lied about killing the samurai with a sword. It is plausible that his ego as a famous bandit made him conjure this lie. In fact, it is possible that he ran off like a typical bandit after the rape without engaging a meaningless fight with the angry samurai.

Did the deceased samurai lie? Yes. Remember what I said earlier, everyone lied in this film. The discussion should be centered on who lied the most. It is plausible that he did not commit suicide even though the murder weapon has been verified to be a dagger in the above paragraph. It is possible that the deceased samurai lied about his suicide to protect any remaining samurai dignity because the bandit raped his wife. So who killed him then? It is possible that his wife actually tripped and killed him accidentally with the dagger. To reveal the truth that he was killed in a freak accident is probably one of the last things in a respectable samurai's mind.

Finally, the woodcutter, probably the biggest liar of all the characters' lies combined. He lied from the beginning, filed a false police report, made false statements in front of the judge, stole the valuable dagger and angrily accused the deceased samurai of lying about the murder weapon, which was later exposed by the commoner. He even reprimanded the commoner for stealing the clothes from an abandoned baby, which shows how hypocritical he is. All these accumulated lies make his claim of having a family of six children extremely unreliable. In the ending, the woodcutter was wearing a mild smile while walking towards the camera with the baby in his arms. The unusual eerie music played in the ending was also very suggestive. In my opinion, he is probably going to sell the baby to the black market for more money, considering the fact that he stole the murder weapon out of greed.

Rashômon's ending was left open-ended by Kurosawa and I urge the audience not to watch on a superficial level. The ending is not as simple as it seems. This is Kurosawa we are talking about, not any random 'grade C' director. It is definitely not a hundred percent happy conclusion. Another open-ended film directed by Kurosawa is 'Rhapsody in August' (1991), which I studied for my film module.

Mao points: 10/10
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10/10
Another Masterpiece by Akira Kurosawa Showing Different Perspectives of a Crime
claudio_carvalho31 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
In a heavy rainy day on the Eleventh Century, a priest, a woodcutter and a common person are protected together in the ruined temple of Rashomon. They are discussing a recent murder of a man and rape of his wife by the bandit Tajômaru (Toshirô Mifune, in a superb performance). Each one of them has a version for the crime, including the one from the spirit of the dead husband. In the end, an event with an abandoned child and the symbolic appearance of the sun shine return hope in human race for the priest.

"Rashomon" is amazing, stunning, a masterpiece. The screenplay is fantastic and shows different perspectives for a same event. This was the theme of one of the classes I had of Methodology of Science many years ago (the same event, watched by different persons in different angles, presents different testimonies). Akira Kurowasa offered us a magnificent (as usual) direction of a movie performed by an outstanding cast and a having one of the most wonderful black & white photography I have ever seen. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Rashomon"
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1/10
Overrated piece of cra... cinema
brian-nyc20 May 2007
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.
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8/10
Too drawn out
ahumanlikeme3 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Rashomon runs only 88 minutes, which to me is fairly short for a feature-length movie, but it seems this could have been accomplished in about 45 minutes or an hour. Many of the scenes are too drawn out, simply taking too long to achieve what we already know is going to happen.

You can notice this early as we spend minutes just watching the Woodcutter walk through the forest. There are interesting shots and directing techniques in this scene, but it goes on for too long.

Also see the wife's extended bouts of crying, although her performance is great in the Woodcutter's version of the story, in the scene where her tirade on the male species motivates the two men to fight each other.

But it further drags as the wife takes forever to kill the husband, then the husband takes forever to kill himself, the final sword fight that goes on longer than it needs to. The outcomes of these scenes are predictable. The predictability is not the problem. The problem is that these scenes linger on when we already know what the result will be. We know the final sword fight will end with the bandit killing the husband with his sword because the Woodcutter has already swore that the husband died by sword before we entered his version of the truth. If we did not know the result, this might be suspenseful, but since we already do, it just drags.

The story itself I found to be very good, but the case here is that the screenplay has been cursed by having been directed by its own writer. So I have settled on rating it a 5. Luckily for Kurosawa, many of you don't feel the same way.

Having said that, I have seen Seven Samurai before this, rated it an 8, and though it's damn long at nearly three-and-a-half hours, I did not feel it was as drawn out, though maybe it would be easier to swallow if it were two separate movies.
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10/10
Dirty degradation away from mysticism
Polaris_DiB1 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Rashomon is one of those movies that at first seems to have a lot of peculiarities, but upon further viewing makes more and more sense. It doesn't need multiple viewings in order to be appreciated, though... it's impact is pretty immediate. It's just that some of the things that seem more odd about it are much more lasting than one would think.

The story is about four people who are involved in a rape, a murder, and a theft in the woods, and how each tells the story of the events with a different stress in order to make themselves look better. What is clear is this: a woman was taken in front of her husband by a bandit. The husband was killed. His sword was taken by the bandit and the woman's dagger somehow disappeared. With those elements, a cynical outside observer hears the stories of each character and eventually comes to the conclusion he has from the beginning: that people are selfish and self-interested, and that good no longer exists in the world.

The woman's, bandit's, and witness's stories are more easily accepted, but what do we do with the presence of the dead husband's ghost and his story, especially when the priest points out that "dead men don't lie"? Akira Kurosawa often puts metaphysical beings into the story with the same matter-of-fact quality as he does any other character, and to a cynical observer's eye, this could be considered a distraction. However, just the ghost helps illustrate just how far Japanese society has degraded away from classic values. Just as the listener of the tales tears apart Rashomon temple as the movie progresses for the selfish need of firewood, the ghost no longer is held to the same amount of abstractly definite authority. The presence of the priest and his clenched grip around his faith in humanity helps create a dialog about how removed people have become from abstract concepts of good and evil. The ghost, the priest, and the temple are all a very important part of the story, the same way the outsider's anecdote, "They say the demon who resided here fled rather than be met with the evil of human beings" has dire importance to the interplay of relationships in this film.

Kurosawa's skill is not just in dialog and relationships, his visual acuity helps accentuate these themes as well. When the story begins, the woods is magical, even colorful (despite the black and white photography). It is a woods of fairy tale, with magical breezes and quiet streams. As the movie progresses, the woods lose more and more of their mystical quality and become dirty and dry. By the time the battle between the husband and the bandit is played out in its final representation, it is no longer a valiant battle of skill against two well-versed opponents, its a stressful, scary affair that has the two kicking up more dust than swinging their swords. The dust itself shows the degradation of the story away from the abstract qualities of truth and justice to a much more dirty, ugly reality as promoted by the outsider.

I don't think Akira Kurosawa necessarily holds the theme of this movie as utter truth, especially considering the hopeful ending, but it does seem as if this movie came during a very cynical time during Kurosawa's life. Many discuss it as a post-war film, which isn't a bad guess. But even without it's affinity to the post-war world of Japan at the time, it somehow has a profound effect on viewers even today.

--PolarisDiB
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1/10
overrated in any sense possible
dragokin25 February 2012
After watching movies for several decades, i still get puzzled which of them have been considered masterpieces. In this sense, Rashomon epitomizes everything i don't understand about cinema.

Judging by the literature, Kurosawa drew part of his inspiration from classical Russian writers. In order to be on par with their Russian role-models, artists often feel the urge to make their work slow-paced and lengthy. For the average viewer this usually means boring. And we see that in Rashomon's long shots during which there is absolutely nothing going on.

As far as acting is concerned, let's just say that Toshiro Mifune's delivery is too theatrical even for the time of movie's creation.

There might be a discussion on various levels about Rashomon, but the bottom line is that it's an overrated piece of cinema.
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5/10
I had a different perception about this classic film
estebangonzalez1024 August 2013
"Well, men are only men. That's why they lie. They can't tell the truth, even to themselves."

Rashomon was the first film from critically acclaimed Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa, that I got to see. I was expecting some great things from this film considering it ranks among the best films in history. The black and white cinematography was breathtaking and there were some great long shots, but the story fell flat and the performances here were a bit theatrical for my taste. The film is only 85 minutes long, but it seemed to drag forever. The film was made in 1950 so I can imagine there were several inventive elements incorporated here, but they really don't stand out today because we've seen those tricks so many times now. For example, it is claimed that this was the first time that a camera was pointed directly at the sun, but of course that doesn't have an effect on the viewer today. However, I've seen many other classic films which I thought still managed to seduce me and have timed really well, but it wasn't the case with Rashomon. The film focuses on different realities and perceptions about humanity, but in doing so it really never manages to find a deep meaning. It focuses on the lies we tell, our selfish desires, and our pursuit or need to believe in the goodness of humanity (reflected through the Priest in this film), but ultimately it plays down to discovering that sometimes reality is just a matter of perception and differing point of views. "Rashomon is a reflection of life, and life does not always have clear meaning," is what Kurosawa would say about this film when approached about its meaning. What I can say about Rashomon is that the cinematography is great and the lighting effects were also astonishing for its time.

The film takes place during a heavy rain storm (classic trade mark from Kurosawa) as a priest (Minoru Chiaki) and a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) are taking refuge from the rain and talking about a terrible crime that has been committed. A peasant (Kichijiro Ueda) who is unfamiliar with what they are talking about joins the conversation and the two men recount the events of what they consider the most horrific crime they have experienced. The woodcutter happened to discover the body of a samurai three days ago as he walked across the woods and was summoned to testify at a trial for the samurai's murder. The priest also has to testify since he had run into the samurai (Machiko Kyo) and his wife (Masayuki Mori) as they were passing through the town before the murder took place. The woodcutter and the priest then recount what they heard from the three direct witnesses of the murder: the suspected bandit Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune) who apparently raped the wife and killed the samurai, the wife, and the samurai himself who testifies through a medium. They all give different accounts of what took place, and each account is as unreasonable as the next. The story is told in the form of flashbacks through the perception of each witness.

The main issue I had with the film is that the horrendous crime never felt like it was that terrible or memorable to begin with. It was just a common crime, a terrible one, but nothing to have an existential or philosophical debate about. Besides the main concern they had wasn't because a murder was committed but rather that everyone seemed to be lying about what happened. They couldn't find a reasonable explanation for an unreasonable act. The flashbacks were sort of interesting despite me not liking the performances, and I really liked the fighting choreography staged near the end between the bandit and the samurai. It was nothing you would expect from a Japanese samurai film. That was probably my favorite scene in this film and it had some funny moments as well. I can see the influence the director has had in modern films like Vantage Point or The Usual Suspects, but despite that I had a difficult time carrying about this movie. Well I guess I'm on the minority here, but Kurosawa would have to accept my opinion and the perception I had of this film because that is what this film is really about: differing perceptions of what we believe to be real.
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3/10
Different cultures, different aesthetic values
drnllsnyng9 August 2004
I just watched this film for a film history class, and I have a somewhat ambivalent reaction to it. I recognize the qualities that make it great, in terms of the theme (i.e.--a visual examination of the subjectivity of knowledge), but their are aspects of the cinematography that are very off-putting for a 21st century American audience. Most notable are the exceptionally long takes focused on an actor's face while he/she emotes for the camera. After the first few seconds of this type of shot, no new intelligence is communicated by continuing to view the actor's face. I did like the realism of the fight scenes, which struck me as much more in line with reality than the highly choreographed demonstrations of virtuoso sword-play that many more modern action films offer.

Overall, I give the film a 3, based on the fact that it's just not all that accessible to most modern viewers, due to differences in culture and aesthetic values between 1950 Japan and 2004 America. Since the purpose of any text is to reach out in a meaningful way to its audience, that inaccessibility constitutes a fatal flaw in the film. In other words, it's dated, badly.
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10/10
All of the praise is deserved.
susansweb24 September 2002
From this movie came the idea that no one can objectively tell a story. Everyone has an agenda. Toshiro Mifune gives a great performance. From his introduction watching the people pass by, he told so much just from his expression, to his final appearance in the "real" story, he showed a range that very few actors are capable of. This movie regularly makes the top ten movies of all time lists and deservingly so.
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