Brimming with action while incisively examining the nature of truth, Rashomon is perhaps the finest film ever to investigate the philosophy of justice. Through an ingenious use of camera and flashbacks, Kurosawa reveals th... more »e complexities of human nature as four people recount different versions of the story of a man's murder and the rape of his wife. Toshiro Mifune gives another commanding performance in the eloquent masterwork that revolutionized film language and introduced Japanese cinema to the world.« less
"If you have never seen this film, you will come to it and find it very familiar. That's because Rashomon has become part of the world's consciousness & lexicon. It's story of an action involving several participants, each with their own differing version of the truth, has been elaborated and riffed-on by many others since it appeared on the world's stage in the 50's.So, it is an old movie, often imitated. And yet, I found it fresh and involving and well worth a look. As Robert Altman says on the DVD extras, many of the camera techniques, particularly shooting directly at the sun and allowing lens flare, were taboo-breaking and radically new when this film appeared. Now, that is put in as a joke in Shrek. So you come to Rashomon not to be overwhelmed with its "newness" and the refreshing change of first encountering Japanese cinema and acting styles. No, you come to Rashomon as to an old master, to appreciate its lasting impression of the universality of human foibles and passions and the illusory nature of truth.A rape and murder have occured in a woods. We hear and see different versions of the same encounter. Who is telling the truth? Is there an absolute objective truth, or does every teller of the tale inherently only tell the truth as he sees it? And if everyone is a "liar" and there is no absolute truth, what is the point of anything?Don't let the heavy questions mislead you. Rashomon moves quickly, fluidly and gracefully, telling its story with economy and, to me, humor. Much is made of the dark philosophy underneath the theme, but I find great sardonic humor in the film. One example, the fight between the thief & the man as related by the woodcutter...it is messy and unheroic, sweaty, breathless and awkward and the antithesis of the stylized balletic sword fights found in, even Kurosawa's, samurai movies.In the end, as familiar and much copied as Rashomon has been, it is still like no other film. It is unique, and the result of a master filmaker's vision, unified and beautiful and unforgettable."
About the Criterion DVD
keviny01 | 04/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"RASHOMON, Kurosawa's classic existential masterpiece, is Japan's CITIZEN KANE. It offers some rather profound insights on the human condition while also being a technical and artistic tour de force. Like KANE, RASHOMON also uses a nonlinear, fragmented narrative to show the multiplicity and unfathomability of human nature. With an engaging murder mystery as its basis, RASHOMON should please film enthusiasts and novices alike. The restored video transfer on this Criterion DVD edition makes the film look as good as new. Blemishes that used to be on older video releases have been digitally cleaned up. Sharpness and contrast, while not spectacularly good, are excellent (to provide a point of reference, it looks much cleaner than Criterion's SEVEN SAMURAI DVD). The original Japanese mono soundtrack is rather hissy, however. A cleaner English dub track is included, but voice acting is sub-par (actually, in my opinion, terrible; in one instance, it is even out of synch with the action). The analytical audio commentary by Donald Richie is well-rounded, covering the themes, photography, acting, editing, and music of the film. The booklet includes English tranlations of the two short stories that inspired the film, and an excerpt from Kurosawa's autobiography that pertains to RASHOMON. In a 16-minute excerpt from a Japanese documentary about the film's cinematographer, various camera techniques used in the film are revealed. This DVD is encoded for Region 1 only. For those who keep track of things like this, Criterion has only made a handful of Region 1 DVDs, which include ARMAGEDDON, BRIEF ENCOUNTER, CHASING AMY, THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE, GIMME SHELTER, THE HIDDEN FORTRESS, HIGH AND LOW, KWAIDAN, NOTORIOUS, THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, RASHOMON, THE ROCK, SAMURAI I, II, and III, SANJURO, SEVEN SAMURAI (second printing), THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET, THE VANISHING, and YOJIMBO."
Alternative Expressions Of Fact: A Puzzle Without Solution
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 09/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Somewhat curiously, Japanese critics were not enthusiastic about RASHOMON when it was released in 1950 Japan. Today, however, RASHOMON is generally considered to be the film that introduced both master director Akira Kurosawa and Japanese cinema to the west; it is also often cited as the film that prompted The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to create an award for Best Foreign Language film. It is widely regarded as a masterwork of world cinema.
Set in 12th Century Japan, the film's premise is at once both very simple and very complex. A man is found dead in a forrest, and several people are brought forward to give testimony in the matter. In some respects their accounts agree--but in numerous others, some obvious and some very subtle, their stories differ. As each character gives his or her version of events, the various differences pile higher and higher, leaving the viewer to wonder at the motivations involved.
Has each person simply interpreted the same facts in different ways? Do they deliberately lie in order to protect themselves? Are the differences in their stories deliberate or subconcious? The film offers no easy answers. Some have criticized the film for seeming to state that there is no such thing as ultimate truth, but RASHOMON is more complex than this: it is essentially a meditation on our inability, be it deliberate or unintentional, to reach more than an approximation of ultimate truth due to the very nature of humanity itself.
Much has been written about the look of the film, which is indeed memorable. Filmed by Kazuo Miyagawa, it presents the forrest as a living, breathing entity; the images are powerful, the editing remarkable. No less so are the performances, which require the various actors to shift in behavior as each person involved gives their own account of the event; this is particularly true of Toshiro Mifune, a frequent performer in Kurosawa films, and actress Machiko Ky?. But whether lead or supporting player, all performaces are equally astonishing.
The film has been extremely, extremely influential over the years, and as such it no longer has quite the same "shock of the new" that it had for audiences of the 1950s; nonetheless, this is director Kurosawa working very close to the height of his power, and while he would create other films that equalled and bested RASHOMON, it remains among his masterworks. The Criterion edition is quite fine, offering a near-pristine print with your choice of subtitles or dubbing (the former is recommended) and several memorable extras. Strongly recommended for fans of world cinema.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer"
Chris Peters | Austin, Texas | 02/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first time this movie told its story, I sat there almost bored, but the second time my interest was perked, and by the fourth time, I was mesmerized. Confused? This movie has that tendency. It's basic "hook" is that 4 people tell very different versions of the same story, and each time you hear it, your faith in reality is shaken just a little bit. Even in the end, you won't know left from right, but you'll probably have a grin from ear to ear. Rashamon is a masterpiece because of the utter ease in which all this flows. This movie often made me wonder just how on earth it was conceived and created in the first place. The audience is effortlessly introduced to the story as if it were an after-thought, just some gossip between peasants. A noble samurai and his loving wife are attacked by a ruthless bandit on the highway. The samurai is tortured and killed, and the wife raped. Or is that really what happened? The wild bandit gives a very different version of the story, and then, amazingly enough, the dead samurai speaks through a medium and tells HIS version. After all three witnesses speak, you don't know who is the villian and who is the hero.And yet, amazingly enough, the movie digs deeper, and one of the peasants tells HIS version of the story, as he witnessed it from behind a bush. As I sat watching this final telling in utter disbelief, I suddenly thought: I have just watched the same thing 4 times in a row, and never once was bored! Of course, Toshiro Mifune gives a typically outstanding performance, yet this film is all about Kurosawa, the master director working behind the scenes. Every shot and edit is in perfect place, nothing the director does undercuts his actors or his story. There are no harsh angles like in Kubrick, or sappy endings from Spielberg. Even the strong, general themes from directors like Ford are muted to serve the movie as a whole, complete story. And what a story it is..."
WHAT IS TRUTH?
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 04/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"With great action and memorable characters, Akira Kurosawa's "RASHOMON" is perhaps the first and probably the best film ever to investigate the philosophy of truth and justice and the inherent conflict with our fallibly subjective attempts to be objective. Is this the first film to fully embrace relativism? Certainly somewhat existential and post modern in its central conceit, this exceptionally absorbing drama still resonates with a timely and provocative tale of the illusive nature of so-called Truth. Through an ingenious use of camera and flashbacks, Kurosawa reveals the seemingly paradoxical complexities of human nature as four people -- all witnesses to one degree or another -- recount different versions of the story of a man's murder and the rape of his wife. Toshiro Mifune gives another commanding performance in this eloquent masterwork that secured his international stardom.With a restored image and sound, this classic revolutionized film language and introduced Japanese cinema to a global audience. Loaded with extras, including a video introduction by Robert Altman and a brilliant commentary by Japanese film historian Donald Richie. Excerpts are also included from "The World of Kazuo Miyagawa," a documentary about Rashomon's incredible cinematographer. Even in the pantheon of our greatest filmmakers, Kurosawa stands apart as an intellectual and an artist. His best films have a shimmering beauty and a visceral impact while also engaging the mind. A rare feat. This 1950 masterpiece is an essential element of any serious digital library."