dir. akira kurosawa
“Maybe goodness is just make-believe.”
My introduction to Akira Kurosawa is a challenging one. Rashomon marked the emergence of Japanese cinema into global awareness, and for good reason.
“When one sees a film, you see the characters on screen. It’s not like reading where you imagine certain things; you see very specific things: you see a tree, you see a sword. One takes that as truth. But in this film, you take it as truth and then you find out that it is not necessarily true…It is all true and none of it’s true.” – Robert Altman
Rashomon follows several perspective of the same events, though the details rarely align between the accounts. All that is certain is that a man is dead: murdered somewhere under the protective (and obstructive) branches of the surrounding trees; it is up to the viewer to decide how he met his fate. It isn’t easy, and that’s the point. The film is about human nature; it’s about truth; it’s about the fragility of masculinity and the fragility of the human soul and the power of self-interest. It’s biting, it’s raw, and it’s scary.
Every frame, shot by cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, is like a painting. The courtroom scenes (like that shown above) all find characters telling their stories directly to us, the spectators, waiting to hear our judgment. It’s a powerful device, one mimicked again and again.
The acting and the editing and the pure storytelling all align to create a cinematic masterpiece; one that’ll leave you thinking long after the credits roll.
Criterion Spine #138
Available to stream via Filmstruck