Rashomon

I just finished watching Rashomon and had a bit of a relevation. I don’t enjoy anime because it’s anime. I enjoy anime because it’s Japanese. Or at least, that’s the theory I’m going on for now.

Rashomon is a 1950 film from director Akira Kurosawa, probably best known in the US for Seven Samurai. Like Samurai, Rashomon is sub-titled, though its fairly light on dialog.

Its the story, basically, of a murder, as seen by four individuals (included the dead man, via a very creepy medium). Each of the four is giving testimony to an unseen judge, but none of their accounts agree, and as a typical American film viewer I was waiting to see everything tied up at the end and for The Truth to be revealed. Only it wasn’t. Just like a lot of my favorite anime titles, the viewer is left to create his own interpretation of what really happened, and what it all means.

Cinematography is by Kazuo Miyagawa, which I fear meant nothing to me until I watched some of the bonus material. But it’s really interesting. The film is in black and white (of course, like I said…1950) so Miyagawa uses light and shadow to get it texture. Lots of ‘sun through the leaves’ shots abound and… well hell, I’m just parroting the bonus features now, so I’ll shut up.

If you’re up for a bit of a challenge, try this movie. I’ve linked to it at Amazon, but Netflix carries it too. Enjoy!

3 thoughts on “Rashomon

  1. Good film. My favorite Kurosawa flicks are “High and Low” and “Yojimbo”. “The Hidden Fortress” also has some excellent cinematography, and was one of the inspirations for “Star Wars”.

    One reason that Kurosawa might remind you of anime is that Kurosawa was a very intentionally international director… he used American and European film techniques to throw a unique light on Japanese culture. “Seven Samurai” and “Yojimbo”, for instance, are basically samurai westerns, while “High and Low” and “Stray Dog” are noir films.

    Anime, as the usually westernized characters (big eyes, small mouth) point out, is also a reflection on the internationalized nature of Japanese culture.

    The really cool thing about Anime is that it’s acceptable to use the technique for any genre of film, so that the Japanese animated scene is actually representative of the Japanese film scene as a whole.

  2. Interesting. I consider myself a ‘movie watcher’ and not a ‘movie viewer’ (or maybe its vice-versa since I just made up the terms). What I mean is that I’m pretty passive about watching movies and don’t take away as much as more serious movie viewers do. So I always really appreciate getting insight into what others are seeing on the screen (for example, see the guest post on ‘Heathers’ further down the page).

    What caused me to make the connection between Rashomon and Anime was how things weren’t all wrapped up neatly in a tidy bundle at the end of the film. Also the last scene with the baby, which kind of came out of nowhere but at the same time really twisted the movie around..I can’t articulate it at all well.

    As an aside, and not so much in Rashomon (but there’s a bit of it) is that one of the first things I noticed in anime is that quiet is ok. In Rashomon it manifests itself, for example, in the scene where the woodcutter is walking through the woods. An American film…no, let me say a HOLLYWOOD film, would never have a scene that goes for so long without An Event happening, y’know?

    Anyway, thanks much for the comment!

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