Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dir. by Akiro Kurasawa

Perhaps more than any other Kurosawa film, it is Rashomon that is considered his masterpiece. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Yojimbo and Sanjuro, but this is a film even for people who wouldn’t be caught dead watching a samurai film.

It’s a beguilingly simple idea (I first saw it on All in the Family), various people tell a story, and each is compared. It begins when a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) finds a dead man near a forest road. The dead man is a samurai (Masahiko Mori), travelling with his wife (Machiko Kyo). The notorious bandit Tajumaru (a very young Toshiro Mifune) had attacked them, raping the woman. He proudly confesses to killing the man. Or did he? Tajumaru proudly tells of how the woman could not resist his virility and brought about a bloody duel between the samurai and the outlaw. But the woman tells a different story, it just isn’t the one you expect. A spirit medium channels the dead husband and he tells yet a third version. Each one blackens someone’s character, while sparing another’s. Which one is true? Is it possible to find truth at all? How do we find redemption is a world of self-serving lies?

Though certainly not a tough-guy action film in the conventional sense (though there is a surprising amount of swordplay), this is a historical drama of top quality. It is also the sort of film that denies us easy answers while establishing the questions we need to ask.

-Dave Hardy

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