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.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Vice

      Christian Bale transforms into Dick Cheney in this blackest of political comedies.
    • 2018: The Year In Film

      Chaos, power, and love at the multiplex

Blogs

Beyond the Arc

Trade Deadline Forces Grizz into a Tough Gasol Decision

Tiger Blue

Tigers 83, SMU 61

Politics Beat Blog

In Brief Address, Governor Bill Lee Takes the Oath in Nashville

News Blog

Haslam Grants Clemency to 23 on Last Day

Music Blog

Listen Up: Bailey Bigger

Hungry Memphis

Midtown Donuts Opening February 1st

Fly On The Wall Blog

On Gannett, The Commercial Appeal, and Digital First

News Blog

Memphians Vie to be Best Pinball Player in State

Politics Beat Blog

No Surprise: Strickland Announces for Reelection

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Addison Engelking

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2019

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