Sunday, July 25, 2010

Movie Review: Rashomon

Rashomon was the coming out party for film maestro Akira Kurosawa. He blended elements from Japanese books to create a tremendous story on film that still holds up 60 years later. As it is set in an extremely old time, there is no worry of dating the film with specific references. The film is in black and white, and that seems appropriate with a story involving samurais and speakers of the dead. This is an old film, with a limited cast and limited budget. Have an open mind and a bit of patience but the pay off is there.

The story involves the murder and rape of a husband and wife, respectively, by a well known bandit. It is told as a series of accounts with the finder of the dead man, the bandit, the wife, the dead husband through a medium, and then the witness. What I find interesting is that the entire thing is told to a random fellow sheltered from a storm. You don't even hear the original accounts (except the witness) since two men retell the accounts of the wife, husband and bandit. The husband's tale is told through a 'medium', so we are hearing the story 3rd hand. Each tale has motivations, cover ups, and oddities. Maniacal laughter is present in all of them. Seriously, did these actors go to a laughing seminar? Pay attention to each account, as the account reveals more about the speaker than the truth.

Black and white films allow for the director and camera crew to play with lighting more than color films. The lighting is great, not just artificial but natural. They had to hide the lights and power cords as any slip would destroy the illusion of 'days of yore'. The camera shots of the sky throw the viewer's vision off, which adds to the confusion of what did happen to that couple? Kurosawa puts on an interesting show with few players. There are 7 characters in total, and no extras (obviously the screen actors guild wasn't involved). The actors all put in good performances, and really sell their post-incident stories. The big reveal is worth it, as is the entire film. Check this one out.

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