Sunday, August 21, 2005

"Rashomon" by Akira Kurosawa

"Rashomon" was filmed in 1950, the exact halfway point of the last century, but even then some of the innovative shots still cause me do the "how the heck did he do that" double takes. Its story is so well-known now that the term "Rashomon-like" has become an adjective for describing a situation in which different witnesses provide dramatically different accounts of one particular incident, often biased in favor of their own self-interest. In this film, a man is murdered, and everyone involved, including the victim's wife, tells a different story about what went on.

"Rashomon" is not just a murder mystery, although it can be enjoyed on that level as well. Kurosawa frequently expressed his philosophical views on the relationship between men and women in his movies; just when you thought he was about to slip into some sort of Strindbergian misogyny, he often surprised us by including strong female characters. In "Rashomon", the female lead, Machiko Kyo, totally outshines the male lead, Toshiro Mifune, who plays the role of a murderer/rapist, and yet it is the rape victim's moral character that is being called into question in this thought-provoking film. I suppose that is Kurosawa's way of shocking the audience, or, if you will, challenging us intellectually.

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