Rashomon (1950) 4.79/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 92.3
Genre: Jidaigeki, Mystery
Duration: 88 mins
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori

A notorious bandit is arrested and put on trial for the murder of a samurai and rape of his wife. The differing testimonies offered by the suspect, witnesses, and victims (with the dead samurai’s being provided through a medium) all add unique clues to figuring out what happened but none seem to provide a satisfying overall picture. Akira Kurosawa’s seamless psychological and philosophical exploration of truth and personal perspective was as daring as it was imaginative. Not only was it way ahead of its time cinematically but it also foreshadowed seminal scientific critiques of eye-witness testimony in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Though the story is necessarily disjointed, Kurosawa’s tracking of it through editing, staging, and his own use of perspective ties the whole thing together in visionary style. The cinematography too is astounding as the stark daylight in the “reconstruction” sequences is used to telling and quite relevant effect while the capturing of the gatehouse (Rashomon) sequences reflects the murkiness of the witnesses’ accounts as those accounts themselves are analysed in retrospect. The acting is utterly sensational from Takashi Shimura’s low-key and even sinister performance as the woodcutter to Toshira Mifune’s blistering turn as the vicious bandit charged with the crime. Rashomon has gone on to influence countless movies and movie-makers alike and one viewing of this arresting piece of cinema will explain exactly why.

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