Friday, February 18, 2011

Capsule Review: Rashomon (1950)

It's difficult to view Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece of perspective Rashomon without pondering just how influential it was - even as most of those works that tribute it miss the ambiguity that Kurosawa injects into his tale. Three men; a priest, a woodcutter and a rather good-natured commoner, discuss a recent murder of a samurai which involves both his wife and a rogue bandit, based on the testimony of all involved (even the spirit of the samurai as told through a medium). Each story includes many of the same details but are noticably different in terms of motivation and action, and in fact reveals a very cynical view of humanity that is only briefly overturned by an act of kindness at the film's end. It's the movie that broke Kurosawa in the West, an irony since it was initally rejected as too Western by Japanese critics, and holds up as an exciting and - even in light of its imitators (including The Outrage, a Western remake) - original piece that fortells many of the amazing films to come from the director. Amazing and original use of lighting, and a wonderful, manic performance by Toshirō Mifune as bandit Tajōmaru.

7 comments:

Emily said...

One of my many new year's resolutions has been to watch one Kurosawa a month because--prepare gasp--I've NEVER seen one before 2011. I absolutely loved Rashomon and was surprised how much I enjoyed it on its own terms without necessarily thinking of how it's been copied or homaged. Great stuff.

onimaru_sixx said...

I love the subtle way that Kurosawa emphasizes Tajōmaru's bandit nature by making his weapon of choice a Chinese jian instead of a domestic katana.

Such a master of detail...

Doug Tilley said...

Emily: I'll admit I'm well behind on seeing all of Kurosawa's masterpieces - his filmography seems a bit overwhelming to approach at times. However, I can honestly say that what I've seen of his work I've overwhelmingly enjoyed, and look forward to finding the time to plow through more of his films.

Onimaru: That's a wonderful observation, and is exactly the sort of thing that Kurosawa would specialize in throughout his career. While his films often have broad themes, he was also at home with more subtle details.

;Burgundy LaRue said...

Emily: I recommend THRONE OF BLOOD, Kurosawa's take on Macbeth. Wonderful acting, especially by the actress in the Lady Macbeth role, and the 'moving' forest scene is amazing. It's a very accessible movie. I think you would enjoy it.

Emily said...

Oooh thanks for the tip!

J.T. said...

I guess I will be the wet blanket here.

I love Kurosawa's jidai-geki but I have found his contemporary pieces (Dreams, Stray Dog, High & Low) to be much more enjoyable than his period pieces.

I guess I am weird like that.

gunman said...

im going to be watcing this movie on thursday...and expecting a lot of violance....oh by the way your comments are very interesting