#99: Rashomon (1950)

When and how did I watch this?

September 22nd, 2016, on Hulu Plus.

Had I seen this film already?


What did I know about the movie before watching it?

A Kurosawa film about one heinous crime described by multiple witnesses.  I also discovered the lead was in Throne of Blood.

What do I know about it now?

Another one of the leads (Shimura) was in Ikiruand he outshone everyone else.  It’s possible it’s because he was the most recognizable to me, but it’s also because he tells the most compelling story, demonstrating the most humility and credibility.  But in the end, we can’t be entirely certain, for he lies outright; all four of the accounts of the murder that takes place in a remote area of the forest bear a hint of bias and deception, a leaning toward a favorable outcome for the storyteller. The woman in various accounts appears weak, manipulative, hostile, and terrified. The thief and the husband also take on different roles, their honor and manhood fluctuating depending on who was telling the story. Even the dead man has a story, spoken through a medium, but even this draws skepticism. In the end, we’re not really sure who’s telling the truth.

What are some themes in the film?

Perception, honor, gender roles, religion/God

Did this affect me personally?

Yes. The crime itself being replayed multiple times helped me realize that, even today with crimes being played and replayed on video, people can perceive the same situation in a different way based on their personal bias regardless of who appears the most honest or credible. This is explored further in To Kill a Mockingbird and 12 Angry Men. Current events and the resulting public outrage can draw a straight line to this film.

Why is this ranked #99?

Kurosawa is a beast, and this really shows off his directorial skills. There are a few of his films left over on the list, but this must certainly be among his best.

Did my wife watch/like it?

Yes, she enjoyed it thoroughly.

Would I watch it again?

Yes. It’s an intriguing film.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Sure.  Once again, this is an important film no one should miss, especially because of its parallels with modern events.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Of course.  The movie draws on some of the greatest obstacles of the justice system: who’s really telling the truth? Which piece of evidence is actually important? What makes a witness credible? The jury (ourselves) are left to decide. The greatness is apparent: the cinematography is brilliant; the action and sentiments don’t seem forced — in one scene where both men are reluctant to kill the other, both men are stumbling over themselves and struggling with their weapons; each character, both in the flashbacks and those who stood about telling the story, are fleshed out; ultimately, we walk away feeling like we understand more, but know less.  Few films can have that effect on the viewer in 88 minutes.

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