In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.
A priest, a woodcutter and another man are taking refuge from a rainstorm in the shell of a former gatehouse called Rashômon. The priest and the woodcutter are recounting the story of a murdered samurai whose body the woodcutter discovered three days earlier in a forest grove. Both were summoned to testify at the murder trial, the priest who ran into the samurai and his wife traveling through the forest just before the murder occurred. Three other people who testified at the trial are supposedly the only direct witnesses: a notorious bandit named Tajômaru, who allegedly murdered the samurai and raped his wife; the white veil cloaked wife of the samurai; and the samurai himself who testifies through the use of a medium. The three tell a similarly structured story - that Tajômaru kidnapped and bound the samurai so that he could rape the wife - but which ultimately contradict each other, the motivations and the actual killing being what differ. The woodcutter reveals at Rashômon that he ...Written by
The "Rashomon" sign from the gate was preserved and kept by Director of Photography Kazuo Miyagawa at his home until his death in 1999. See more »
I saw the couple three days ago. It was a hot afternoon. Suddenly a cool breeze rustle the leaves. If it hadn't been for that wind, I wouldn't have killed him.
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Criterion Collection releases of this film feature an English Dubbed Version in addition to the traditional, original Japanese version. This is unusual in that Criterion are usually film purists that do not put English language dubs on their discs that contain a foreign language film. See more »
Woman's Tale Theme (Bolero)
Written by Fumio Hayasaka inspired by Maurice Ravel's "Bolero", using the same background rhythm, and similar orchestration and build-up, but different melodic lines. See more »
It's hard to tell just how striking "Rashômon" might have seemed to those who watched it in 1950, rather than seeing it after so many subsequent movies and other works have made use of its techniques and ideas. But it's clear that it is a technical and creative success. The story itself is not particularly satisfying, which was most likely by design, and the movie is carried by its structure and by the concept of the markedly different perspectives on the same series of events. The cast also deserve their share of credit for how well it works, and the photography is excellent, as it is in almost all of Kurosawa's films.
Kurosawa's expertise makes the interwoven sequences of past and present - essentially telling two different stories - not only work flawlessly, but fit together thematically. It's even more commendable when compared to some of the subsequent films that have tried to use similar ideas, only to come off as pretentious rather than creative or innovative. Kurosawa was also working with much less in terms of possible precedents.
In one sense, the choice of specific story material could seem a little odd.
The downbeat, rather sordid scenario makes the movie somewhat less enjoyable than several of Kurosawa's other pictures (which is, admittedly, a pretty high standard), and as a result "Rashômon" is more a film to respect and admire than one to enjoy and take pleasure from. Still, it does have significantly more substance to it than do most of the more recent pictures that have been deliberately downbeat or negative in their portrayals of humanity. Such stories are more trendy at present, and they often receive undue praise simply for so being.
At the same time, the lack of sympathetic characters and the paucity of hopeful developments bring out all the more its success in developing its ideas about narrative and about reality, ideas that are more fundamental and, in their way, perhaps at least as important as any specific story or events.
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