A samurai's murder and his wife's rape are recalled from
several points of view when witnesses testify in court.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Akira Kurosawa and Shinobu Hashimoto
Starring Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori,
Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Kichijirô Ueda
Based on the short stories "Rashomon"
and "In the Grove" by Ryûnosuke Akutagawa
Oscar Wins - Best Foreign Film (Honorary)
Oscar Nominations - Best Art Direction
This mini-journey into Kurosawa's 50's work has been eye-opening for a number of reasons. I finally get some insight into a man who continues to influence film to this day, and I got to cross some serious hammers off my list. Rashomon is a film that still holds up thanks to the impressive performances and the engaging story. It's the film that started the whole "same story from different perspectives" formula, and probably does it best. Sure, it's a bit slow going and who knows what the hell was going on with the samurai's ghost, but that ending is pretty damn memorable.
A samurai is murdered and his wife is raped. They caught the guy, a dangerous, known bandit (Mifune), but there are lingering questions about how it all went down and why. Witnesses are called to testify, and everyone remembers it differently. The truth is somewhere in the middle, but no one knows where to find it. Wild stories are told, including by the ghost of the samurai channeled by a medium. That part was bizarre and doesn't really work with the rest of the movie, but it's still entertaining. The truth comes out in the last story, from someone who was holding out, and it's equal parts misogynistic in its depiction of women but also progressive in how the woman manipulates the two men into trying to kill each other. It's quite bonkers.
Rashomon may not get you right away, but the effective slow burn will pull you in eventually. It's got a nice crisp hour and a half runtime, so no worries there either. You can feel the influence this film and others like it would have across film history, and it is a strong feeling. Kurosawa was so ahead of his time with the way he used his camera, his locations, his actors, and his script. Nobody in the 50's built a film like he did. That's why we're still talking about him.