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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon

A couple of nights ago, I watched the Kurosawa Akira (surname first) flick Rashomon (羅生門 Rashōmon) on TCM - Turner Classic Movies.

Although made in 1950 and set in Japan's 8th century, there is proof that movies have changed quite a bit in the ensuing 60 years.

What's it about? Well… I won't give anything away, suffice to say there is a rape and a murder, and the story is told from multiple perspectives, including: the rapist, the rape victim, the murder victim (??!!) and…

Although the movie's storyteller would have you believe it is a horrible, horrible story that he has just heard - perhaps in 1950 it was - but us jaded 2015 viewers might say, 'uh, no.'

That, however, does not detract from the black and white movie one iota.

Because the movie involves basically common people, the sword fight scenes we are treated to are less a work of art than they are a work of realism.

Imagine you and I having a sword fight. We might know the basics, but the odds are pretty good we'll cut ourselves open in an attempt to lop off a head. That's how realistic the fight scenes were.

Each character tells their version of events, with each highlighting different aspects - and when you are sure you've got it all worked out Kurosawa tosses in a curve ball.

Even the ending… with the surprise twist of an additional character… although the movie's character's aren't stating who it is, the viewer who paid attention earlier should realize the answer. Let's just say it wasn't a McGuffin, after all.

I know, I'm being vague… but this is Kurosawa… I don't want to give away anything that would detract from your enjoyment of Rashomon… and believe me, you will enjoy it.

The movie stars: the great Mifune Toshiro (my favorite Japanese actor after the guy in the Godzilla rubber suit), Kyō Machiko, Mori Masayuki and Shimura Takashi - all surname first.

It is actually based on two stories by Japanese writer Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (surname first): "Rashomon" for the setting, and "In a  Grove" for the plot and characters.

Akutagawa is regarded as the "Father of the Japanese short story", with Japan's premier literary award, the Akutagawa Prize, named after him. Born March 1, 1892 and passing on July 24, 1927, he committed suicide in true artist angstafter an overdose of barbituates. Duuuude. It's why I sometimes think I shouldn't be a writer... I don't have all that angst. I mean I do, but I don't let it mess me up as it does everyone else. Hell, my uncle (dad's brother) Harold Joseph - conductor of the New Delhi Symphony was a major booze hound, a fact that disappoints me more and more every time I mention it. It contributed to his death. Fricking artists.

By the way… whenever a director uses several characters to provide alternative and contradictory versions of a single event, it is known as a 'rashomon'. Really.

I saw it on AMC (American Movie Classics)… and wish I received a monthly notice of programming it has planned… Most of the good stuff is on the wee hours of the morning, but that's what  a PVR is for.

If you don't have a PVR - you could purchase the movie, but whomever owns the rights charges some insane amount for all Kurosawa flicks - over $100 each.

For those who prefer alternative methods, I have heard that acquired files often lacked subtitles. Of course, some people don't know how to access the subtitles from these alternative methods.

Whatever… Rashomon… watch it, and enjoy it.

Rashomon, which won the Golden Lion award the 1951 Venice Film Festival and an Academy Honorary Award at the 1952 Academy Awards, was the movie that pushed Japanese film onto the world stage.

Although on the list for one of the greatest films ever made, I can not lie, I think Kurosawa's Seven Samurai kicks bigger butt.

Andrew Joseph 

1 comment:

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