Rashomon

It’s hard to argue with the fact that the central conceit of Kurosawa’s global breakthrough – presenting divergent perspectives on a single contentious incident – provides such a strikingly insightful way of looking at the world that the term ‘Rashomon’ has entered the language. Far more people are au fait with this idea, however, than have seen the 1950 film, so this digital restoration as part of the BFI’s Kurosawa retrospective is welcome. Thankfully, visionary 1920s short-story specialist Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s multi-layered tale of rape and murder in feudal Japan doesn’t disappoint, and the switchback narrative, as befuddled parties shelter under the old Kyoto city gate to try and make sense of bandit Tajomaru’s attack on a travelling samurai and his wife, remains engrossing and provocative as conflicting testimonies emerge.

Admirers of the subtleties of Ozu and Mizoguchi, however, might find Kurosawa’s upfront project of attempting to make sense of human nature (irredeemable or not?) a little too obviously didactic – and Toshiro Mifune’s central performance veering on the hammy side of ‘earthy’. Those cavils aside, what’s still staggering is the vigour, fluidity and sheer invention of Kurosawa’s direction. No one anywhere in 1950 made the camera engage with movement and location in the way Kurosawa does here, slicing through the forest, and bringing a kinetic impact to violent confrontations,  which is evidently the foundation for modern action cinema. This level of mastery is timeless, and although the movie is overly deliberate at times, when it takes off, it really flies. An essential reissue.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday June 18 2010
Duration: 88 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Screenwriter: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Toshiro Mifune
Machiko Kyo
Masayuki Mori
Takashi Shimura
Minoru Chiaki
Fumiko Homma
LiveReviews|0
2 people listening