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Year: 1950 "I like to be tied up."
Toshiro Mifune
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Producer: Minoru Jingo
Cast: Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Kichijiro Ueda, Fumiko Honma
The Skinny: The story of a brutal crime is told from four different points of view. Which one is the truth?

     Rashomon opens with a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) and a Priest (Minoru Chiaki) sheltering themselves from the rain under the gates of Kyoto's "Rashomon." Once the grandest of the city's entrances, the gate is now a haven for wanderers and thieves as well as dumping ground for corpses. A commoner (Kichijiro Ueda) joins the group and is soon drawn into their conversation regarding a brutal crime that they just can't seem to piece together. This much is certain: a samurai is dead, his wife was raped and a bandit named Tajomaru (played with great zeal by Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune) has been captured as a suspect. At this point Rashomon becomes a series of flashbacks within flashbacks, where we learn what happened through the different retellings of the four people involved. Oddly enough, it never gets confusing, even when it's the dead Samurai's turn to talk. In fact, the film gets more and more interesting as each person's point of view describes the crime in a completely different way.
     The only thing that all four people agree on is that the wife's rape was less an act of violence and more a shameful act of her own volition. By its very definition, rape is a violation and yet each of the men perceives the wife as a self-serving traitor with little loyalty to her husband. This attitude towards sexual assault and women in general may be a little tough for modern American audiences to swallow, but it doesn't take away from the overall dramatic effect of the film. The conclusion is satisfying and uplifting despite all the darkness that precedes it. It definitely leaves you thinking.
      It has been suggested that if you put ten people in a room and make them watch Rashomon, they will all come out describing the movie in a completely different way. It is a brilliant manipulation of the medium of film accentuated by haunting music and gorgeous black and white cinematography. It is apparent that Akira Kurosawa wanted the audience to come to their own conclusions after having witnessed all four versions of the crime. If you want to take this concept to the next level, then stop reading now because nothing in this review is to be trusted. It's just another perspective. (Magicvoice 2002)

Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Full Screen (Original Aspect Ratio)
Japanese Language Track
Removable English Subtitles
image courtesty of The Criterion Collection Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen