Friday, July 04, 2008

Rashômon

Director Akira Kurosawa
Cast Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Takashi Shimura
Released 25th Aug, 1950 (Japan)
26th Dec, 1951 (USA)
My Rating4.0

A woman is raped, her husband killed. A woodcutter finds the body and a bandit is arrested. Next we have four perspectives of the murder: the wife's, her dead samurai husband's through a medium, the rapist bandit's, and the woodcutter's. The four versions are mutually contradictory, leaving the viewer in the end to determine, which of them, if any, is the truth.

The four stories are flashbacks within flashbacks, as told by the woodcutter and a priest (who had seen the couple a couple of days before the crimes) to a commoner, all three of whom happen to be stuck at the Rashômon Gate in a heavy downpour. The narrative style of different perspectives to the same event is adopted by an extensive variety of future films, such as the IMDB# 21 The Usual Suspects, Vantage Point, Courage Under Fire, and closer home, Kamal Haasan's Virumaandi (Tamil).

The mysterious piece of work is considered one of Kurosawa's masterpieces, and simplicity is its biggest feature. The black and white movie is shot at just three sets: the woods where the rape and the murder occur, the supposed court where the all those involved testify, and the Rashômon Gate. Brilliant use of mottled light is made in the woods through tree-leaves, adding to the ambiguity. The cinematography and the background score capture the mood of the movie quite effectively. The epilogue where the commoner flees away with the kimono off the crying baby who has been abandoned by its parents at the gate, and when opposed by the woodcutter and the priest, depicts the changing world then, where every man is selfish. Kurosowa mentions in his autobiography that Rashômon is a reflection of life, and life does not have clear meanings.


The cast contains only eight people, and I felt everyone did their job well. Toshirô Mifune portrays the savage look of an animal as the bandit Tajômaru. The only overdone part was the crazy laughs, the bandit's barbaric and the rape victim's hysteric. The laughs appeared forced and artificial to the point of irritation.

The movie had quite an influence in many aspects, including film-making inside and outside Japan. It also has an effect named after it in psychology, the Rashomon effect: the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection, by which observers of an event are able to produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of it.

Kurosawa was conferred with the Academy Honorary Award in 1990, two years before Satyajit Ray was awarded the same Oscar.

Recipient of high critical acclamation, this movie is supposed to have brought Japanese cinema to the rest of the world. I've seen a few foreign-language-films (French, German, Italian, and Dari), but this marks as the first Japanese movie I watched. It would be inappropriate to consider this sixty years old movie as a representation of Japanese cinema. However, there are quite some similarities with Indian movies of that era, not only in presentation but also in content, the way certain things (read sex) were taboo to be talked about in any form, even on screen, unlike Hollywood. Somewhat gloomy, thought-provoking, ambiguous, freaky, Rashômon was quite a refreshing change from the usual stuff.

12 comments:

Roli said...

It seems, its a very interesting movie... the starting is superb and if one start reading then he can't leave it in between :). So, I think I will surely watch this movie sometime.

I am happy to see the frequency of your posts, infact increase it to a blog per day. I love to read your blogs. Vaise main mostly tere hi to blogs padhti hoon na, isliye intu rehta hai. heheeeee.

Shailendra said...

Hey ... U shld have thanked Zee Studio, for showing the "Akira Kurosawa" movies.. They are showing all his classics. And the imp thing is that they are not dubbing it they are showing it with English subtitles. I have watched this movie during my colz day (Final Year)that was dubbed in English. Watched it again and loved it more this time. The screenplay is awesome, the way the camera rotates and changes frames is pure class -when every one narrates their part.

The all time classic "The Seven Samurai" u must watch it, an inspiration for India's biggest film "Sholay".I loved the background score of 7 samurai more than Rashômon. Regarding the acting part - if u have a well written script then u don't need any extraordinary performance from actors. Everyone performs their part n let the movie roll.

ashes said...

Roli:

A very prompt comment this time from you. Yeah it is quite an interesting movie.

Yeah, I shall gradually increase the frequency. A good way to kill time and keep the mind out of the devil's reach. :)

Hehe @ intu :)

ashes said...

Shailendra:

Oh I didn't know Zee Studio is showing Kurosawa these days...I downloaded Rashômon and watched it, with subtitles, not the dubbed version.

Yes, the Seven Samurai is already on my list. But I disagree on the script part; you still need some acting skills to deliver a well-written script.

Shailendra said...

wat i meant was "Extra ordinary" performance. :-)

If directors of caliber Kurosawa,Scorsese,Spielberg,Lee,Tarantino
and many more of th A list- cast anyone in their movies then they are bound to have acting skills... if they don't then they will develop one.. these are the statures of these guys. :-)

ashes said...

Shailendra:

Agree completely with you now :)

Anadi Misra said...

Yaar, teri writing maxx. polished ho gayi hai...Rashomon is one of the movies on my to-see list!

But I know about the movie...And this concept about different perspectives has been used in several movies, besides the ones you have listed.

But that makes me think, once an idea is out there, if anyone has a similar idea, it will always be assumed to be inspired by the original.
Case in point, Casablanca, which is now considered the mother of all Love Triangle Sacrifice movies...Makes me wonder, how many original stories are out there...perhaps each new story is more of a mix of several old ones...Jaise 7 notes giving rise to so many different melodies. Ahh, I guess now I am rambling on.

ashes said...

Anadi:

Thanks.

Yes, many stories are mix of several old ones, and a few ideas can originally strike to many people at the same or different times.

But comparing movies with seven notes is an exaggeration. :) If you look at it, there are far more books that have been the bases of motion pictures.

Amiya Shrivastava said...

I haven't seen the movie!! but after reading what have you written here, I am sure I am going to see it very soon.

ashes said...

Amiya:

Watch it out dude. A really good one.

Violet said...

Sounds so interesting. I would definitely want to see this one as and when I get an opportunity.

ashes said...

Violet:

I thought you wouldn't be interested. Well, I've deleted it, but can see it again with you.

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