By now I’ve seen most of Akira Kurosawa’s prominent films but Rashomon was one that had been in my computer for quite some time, but I never got down to actually watching it. Anyways, a buddy of mine recently loaned me his projector for a week and the older, 35mm films are just perfect to watch on it so, I finally saw the film and I have to say while Rashomon is a perfectly good film I don’t think it compares to some of Kurosawa’s work I’ve grown to love.
In 12th century Japan, a samurai and his wife are attacked by the notorious bandit Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune), and the samurai ends up dead. Tajomaru is captured shortly afterward and is put on trial, but his story and the wife’s are so completely different that a psychic is brought in to allow the murdered man to give his own testimony. He tells yet another completely different story. Finally, a woodcutter who found the body reveals that he saw the whole thing, and his version is again completely different from the others.
Like Yojimbo and Seven Samurai, Rashomon has had massive influence on Hollywood as well, however instead of countless remakes, Rashomon’s influence has resulted mainly from the films’ inventive narrative structure and unique style of story-telling that has now been used at least once on every American television show. Showtime’s latest, The Affair bases it’s entire plot on a narrative structure similar to the film, and I have to say, this is what I loved most about this movie. The story is very intriguing and compelling and as meticulously constructed as any Kurosawa film. The film’s editing deserves great praise as well. The film is so cleverly edited that it challenges the viewer to think at each turn and helps keeping the plot immensely engrossing.
Kurosawa’s films feature some of the most notorious over-acting I’ve ever seen, over-acting that would even put Ol’ Nic Cage to shame but Kurosawa always seems to do such a remarkable job of making it feel good, so much that over-acting is something I usually like in Kurosawa films. However, it doesn’t work here and apart from Toshiro Mifune’s performance and Takashi Shimura’s supporting turn, I didn’t like any of the acting and Machiko Kyo hamming it up didn’t work for me. Also, I thought the film’s ending could have been better and I felt the film kinda backed out on delivering a strong end to an otherwise great story.
All in all, though, Rashomon is a very good film. The film lacks the richness and scope of some of Kurosawa’s best films but it stands out as an ingenious piece of work. The film’s enthralling story, excellent editing and Kurosawa’s taut direction overshadow some of the film’s flaws and all-together the film is an absorbing piece of cinema and a good way to spend 90 minutes.