Rashomon 

A Japanese film constructed like a Chinese box, Rashomon is still as pictorially ravishing as it is intellectually suspect. Set in the 12th century, director Akira Kurosawa's 1950 international breakthrough starts out like a bad joke: A priest, a woodcutter, and a bum meet in a rainstorm ...

But there are no laughs in Rashomon. It is a deadly serious exploration of a recent rape/murder that grows ever more unfathomable with each re-enactment, since its witnesses and participants hardly seem to have witnessed the same thing. The tension and uncertainty generated by the differing versions of the story spills into the film's divided soul: Kurosawa's exhilarating modernist delight in remixing the details and actions of the four versions of the crime is undercut by a trite, undergraduate anti-humanism that threatens to spoil the formalist party. The film claims to offer truth but leaves you feeling as lost as its characters, who stare at the sun, the rain, and the sky in search of answers to questions they can't quite articulate.

The formal ingenuity triumphs over the "everybody's a liar" conceit, though. Rashomon remains one of the major treatments of what Donald Richie called "relative reality," and it's set in the film equivalent of a World Heritage site — a forest grove alive with leaves, trees, sunlight and shadows as beguiling and mutable as the characters' testimony.

In a movie where every character eventually plays his own doppelganger, Toshiro Mifune thrills as the bandit Tajomaru, a one-man zoo who mimics the scratches and gaits of lions, gorillas, and pit-bull terriers.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Free Fire

      Slapstick shoot-em-up rises to the level of art film
    • Power Rangers

      The cheapest heroes of the 90s return to save the Krispie Kreme
    • Raw

      There’s more to this stylish French horror film than just cannibalism.

Blogs

Intermission Impossible

High School Musical Award Nominees Announced, 2016-17

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: The Band CAMINO

Hungry Memphis

901 Wings Opening Downtown

Politics Beat Blog

Schedule for Local Democrats' Reorganization Efforts

From My Seat

Softball Sisters

Beyond the Arc

Game 4: Grizzlies 110, Spurs 108: One For The Ages

Politics Beat Blog

Low Early Voting Totals for District 95

News Blog

State Officials Search for North Memphis Bear

News Blog

4/20 at Overton Park, Not Very Lit

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Addison Engelking

Readers also liked…

  • On Location: Memphis 2015

    This year’s festival brings filmmakers and audiences together.
    • Sep 4, 2015
  • Maggie’s Plan

    Comedy perfection from director Rebecca Miller
    • Jun 17, 2016
  • Mistress America

    Greta Gerwig is a whirlwind of energy in director Noah Bombach’s latest New York tale.
    • Sep 7, 2015
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation