Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Toshiro Mifune
RASHOMON (1950). Director: Akira Kurosawa.

Taking shelter in a rainstorm in the district of Rashomon, a traveler (Kichijiro Ueda) encounters a priest (Minoru Chiaki) and a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) who attended a trial concerning a murdered samurai, Takehiro Kanazawa (Masayuki Mori). They tell the traveler of the disparate accounts given to the court by various witnesses, including an infamous bandit, Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune), who encountered Kanazawa and his wife, Masako (Machiko Kyo), in the forest. Tajomaru claims he had his way with the wife, but only killed her husband when she insisted they fight a duel over her. Then the wife claims her husband was disgusted with her, and she may have stabbed him during a black out. The husband's ghost, via a medium, says that his wife asked the bandit to kill him and he later committed suicide. The woodcutter, who did not tell his story to the court, tells the traveler that he witnessed everything, and his account is entirely different from what the others have said. Rashomon is a thought-provoking and fascinating movie that greatly benefits not only from some wonderful performances but from striking cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa and an interesting score by Fumio Hayasaka (although I guestion Kurasawa's insistence on doing a riff on Ravel's Bolero). The picture proceeds as an allegorical dream and works beautifully on that level, although some viewers may be insistent on more clear-cut answers than the film provides. Mifune's performance borders on caricature at times, but Machiko Lyo as the raped and abandoned wife, is especially excellent. The picture has an almost-feminist perspective (intended or not) yet it also suggests the old style attitude of the duplicitous nature of females. This was remade as The Outrage, with Paul Newman surprisingly effective as the bandit.

Verdict: A classic. ***1/2. 


angelman66 said...

Beautiful film I need to see again. Just saw Kurosawa's Seven Samurai after many years and it was spectacular.

William said...

Thanks for reminding me of that picture, Chris. It's on my short list to see in the next few weeks.