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I know, a lot of reviews, but when you have a lot of laundry to take care of, and other relatively immobile housework/repair, one has time for movies. And what a movie!

Akira Kurosawa's 1950 masterpiece remains as relevant and as pointed today as when it was first made. Based of two stories by Akutagawa (who is sometimes called the "Poe of Japan"--I'd say he is the de Maupassant of Japan) Rashomon tells the story of the forest rape of young woman and the murder of her husband. And all of this with neither overt sexuality nor overt bloodshed.

But the events of the story are less important than its telling. The main events are narrated by four different narrators--a bandit, the wife, a witness, and the dead person through a medium. It is this last that gives the film some of its creepier moments, as the medium is a pretty Japanese woman speaking in the voice of a Samurai.

Naturally the four stories do not agree on the details and particularly not on the manner of death of the Samurai. And what you realize is that there is no way for an observer outside the scene based upon the stories alone to say what really happened.

When I finished watching the film, I thought, "Wow, it's just like reading any modern political commentary--Ann Coulter, Al Franken, Pat Buchanan--most are documented to a greater or lesser extent and yet look at the same presidency and the same actions and see entirely different things. And each of the things they see redounds to their greater glory and honor, just as in the film. Odd, no?

Kurosawa managed to give the film a "happy" resolution, which is more than I can hope for from the American Political scene or news scene. I remarked in an email to TSO one time that I didn't see any reason to read a book by John Cornwell because I felt upon finishing anything I had to go and check out everything that had been written.

Kurosawa aptly taps into the human condition, and he does it in the context of a beautifully filmed movie. This is one of those films "in glorious black and white" that just shimmers and explodes off of the screen to come alive in the mind. The questions Kurosawa poses and the lack of a substantive response are disarming and to those unconvinced of the fall of humankind, perhaps a bit disheartening. But they are eye-opening and they are the necessary questions even for today.

Highest possible recommendation--even though you will have to read it and perhaps watch it several times for it to sink in. Also, the Criterion package (I love Criterion produced DVDs) includes a booklet that contains the short stories "Rashomon" and "In the Grove" on which the film was based.

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Here's hoping you have lots more laundry to do. I enjoy reading your reviews of whatever you're watching or reading. Rashomon has been on my to-investigate list for a while, and I may move it to the top now.

I really need to see Rashomon. I enjoyed Seven Samurai, Kagamusha, Yojimbo and Ran tremendously. I'm enjoying reading all your reviews -- helps make up for the fact I haven't had time to see a feature film in quite a while...

Rashomon is probably on the top 10 movies of all time list, for the reason given in the post.

Of course, all of Kurosawa's movies are fabulous. Each frame in Ran, for example, is an exquisite photgraph.

Rashomon, though, is spell binding and deeply thought provoking.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 31, 2006 9:03 AM.

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