Review: Rashomon (1950)

rashomon review

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.

rashomon review toshiro mifune

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.

rashomon review takashi shimura

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.


-Khalid Rafi


14 responses to “Review: Rashomon (1950)

  1. Great review. I watched this months ago but never got around to reviewing it – I’ve been wanting to do a “Kurosawa month” at some point. Having said that, I’ve only seen this & Seven Samurai but I LOVED Seven Samurai so much that I want to start a Kurosawa project because of it. 🙂 Rashômon was certainly not as good as that one (what is?!) but it was still a very good film. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Yes, I loved Seven Samurai, even though the film was 3 and a half hours long, I never got bored. My favorite Kurosawa film, though has got to be Yojimbo, I’d heavily recommend it as well, it’s the movie that was basically remade into A Fistful of Dollars. Ran, Throne of Blood are also among his essentials. I think, very few of his films can be considered bad films.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this film and it’s wonderfully deliberate pace. Nice review and I can see your point about scale. This is a local, quite film and is much different that most of his other works. So influential.


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