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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth hurts... a lot
A man is dead, a woman was raped, and that's all that can be definitely said. Somebody has committed murder, but nobody knows whodunnit. Genius filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon" is a classic for its skillful direction, suspense and wonderful acting. It's one of those movies you think must be vastly overrated until you see it, and are blown away by it.

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Published on 29 Dec 2007 by E. A Solinas

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3.0 out of 5 stars Worse than the literary works
I have to say that as good as Kurosawa is, and it does not get much better than that, the story and acting seemed slightly amiss for me and I have had a fair exposure to japanese cinema across the years and not just Kurosawa-san. Still worth watching mind.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rashomon 1950 dvd from Japan, 10 Feb 2014
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Ms. C. B. Mclaglen "beatrice allen" (Huddersfield, Yorkshire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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If you love the Magnificent Seven then you have to get this original story which is still magnificent to watch. A historically important film that should still be watched as it is a Classic from Japan. Cynthia Allen McLaglen
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5.0 out of 5 stars special classic, 4 Feb 2014
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Zangiku (Kyoto, Japan) - See all my reviews
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one of the very greatest films of all time anywhere, gorgeous camera, weird & wonderful story (a murder mystery essentially), absolutely must be seen. good transfer, good titles, nice book. a bargain.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Worse than the literary works, 30 Jan 2014
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I have to say that as good as Kurosawa is, and it does not get much better than that, the story and acting seemed slightly amiss for me and I have had a fair exposure to japanese cinema across the years and not just Kurosawa-san. Still worth watching mind.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Innovative, Perceptive And Profound, 5 Dec 2013
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Keith M - See all my reviews
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Although particularly notable as being the Kurosawa film that broke the Japanese director in the 'west', and (rightly) cited as a ground-breaking piece of cinema, 1950's Rashomon is a film (I have found) whose qualities gradually 'crept up on me'. Of course, its sensorial appeal is pretty much immediate, with its (for its time) innovative three-point flashback narrative, Kazuo Miyagawa's stunning cinematography (in particular the depiction of light through forests and clouds) and Fumio Hayasaka's mesmerising soundtrack tracking Rashomon's storyline almost to the second. However, its thematic and symbolic significance is more subtle (not to say deliberately opaque), as Kurosawa's film searches for 'the truth' in humanity (whilst along the way touching on elements of fate, chance, memory, honour, jealousy and love (or perhaps lust)).

In one of the most stunning openings in cinema (Kurosawa's influence on Leone seems obvious here), as rain and wind lashes down on the dilapidated Kyoto city gate (a 'hell on earth'), the great Takashi Shimura's woodcutter and Minoru Chiaki's priest stare into nowhere, the woodcutter sighing, 'I don't understand. I just don't understand' (a metaphor for much audience reaction, no doubt!). What follows are (at least) three versions of the truth as Masayuki Mori's travelling samurai and wife (Machiko Kyo) encounter 'notorious' bandit Toshiro Mifune's Tajamuro, leaving the samurai dead. Is it a simple case of 'bandit rape and murder' or is there a 'ritual murder' or even suicide involved? Kurosawa leaves it for us to decide, as the three (the deceased samurai via a medium, no less) give their accounts of events (in court) straight to camera. Throughout, in order to emphasise the 'differing POV' theme, Miyagawa's camera constantly (and cleverly) shifts between 'over the shoulder' shots from each of the three protagonists.

Acting-wise, given the film's cultural milieu these are stylised performances, owing much to the preceding silent film era. Mifune presages his Seven Samurai turn as Kikuchiyo, here as animated (hysterical even) bandit, in a performance of great infectiousness - a dreamer and liar who lives on base instinct certainly, more a petty criminal than cruel murderer, however. Kyo is equally impressive (insecure, desperate, fearful) as the dishonoured wife - either a brazen hussy or a devoted, compromised spouse (depending on your POV), whilst Mori is also good as the stoic cuckold. Shimura is (of course) superb as the priest's co-starer in a (relatively) peripheral role (albeit he is key to the film's denouement).

By the film's conclusion, at which woodcutter and priest achieve some degree of 'redemption', we are left with the strong suspicion that Kurosawa's (almost mythological) characters are mere ciphers for the failings of humanity, moulding the truth to suit their own (nefarious) purposes (base desire, social honour, reputation, etc). Whilst (for me) Rashomon does not quite convey the feel for humanity of Ikiru or the character development (or, of course, pyrotechnics) of Seven Samurai, it makes up for this via its subtle perception, evocative symbolism and technical innovation. And just to reiterate, it is a film (for me at least) whose power (and reputation) grows with each repeat viewing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must for Kurosawa fans, 26 May 2013
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Rashomon is undoubtedly one of the best Kurosawa films and the additional background documentary makes this particular DVD a treat for Kurosawa fans. The film is multi-layered and never fails to satisfy the viewer even after many viewings; I particularly like this version because of the additional material...added to my knowledge and enjoyment of the film. A must for one's film library!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Forget the gripes., 25 April 2013
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Pete Johnson "Pete Johnson" (Norfolk) - See all my reviews
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There are lots of reviews here from viewers who obviously expected to see a modern style sword-fest along the lines of Hero. Others complain that the story setup has been seen many times in modern films. This is the original though, and surely must be given credit for that?

From the huge catalogue of Mr. Kurosawa. This is an earlier work, from 1950, and was awarded an Oscar two years later. Filmed in black and white, and starring Kurosawa's frequent collaborator, Toshiro Mifune, this is set in the 11th Century, at a time of both plague, and Civil War. Today, the story seems simple, dealing with a rape and murder, and three alternative views of the event, seen in flashback, as told by different characters.

At the time of this film's release, such a plot construction was unknown, and it received immense critical acclaim. Most stories of this nature filmed since, certainly owe their origins to this startling original. With twists and turns, tension, action, and brilliant direction at all times, this film is rightly considered for inclusion in the `Masters of Cinema' DVD series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking Classic, 8 April 2013
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MLA (Leyton, London) - See all my reviews
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Rashomon is a groundbreaking 1950 film by the legendary Akira Kurosawa and starring the peerless Toshiro Mifune relatively early in his career. It is largely based on the short story In a Grove by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. What makes Rashomon so innovative is the explicit and repeated use of the unreliable narrator concept. The plot features the telling of the same story from four different perspectives, each perspective imposing the storyteller's own personality and prejudices onto the action.

As Rashomon is a Kurosawa film, it is expertly directed. The pacing of the film is superb. Rashomon has quite limited periods of action but there is seemingly no let-up in the atmosphere. As a black and white film with subtitles for those without sufficient Japanese, it has a somewhat arty feel to it. Rashomon is thought provoking rather than exciting.

Rashomon stars Toshiro Mifune and he is absolutely excellent. He is clearly the class act on screen, able to move his performance with great subtlety to express the different views the story is told from. At times he is the brash and super confident bandit Tajomaru. From the perspectives that see the dangerous bandit as the belligerant, Mifune is imposing and strong, his facial expressions convey his dominance of the environment he inhabits. From other perspectives, Mifune is afflicted by nerves, the very same outcomes happen almost despite Tajomaru rather than because of him.

It is that distinction of perspective that makes Rashomon so cherished. Intriguingly each of the characters plays up their own negative role in the action rather than portraying themselves as heroic. Tajomaru sees himself as a brutal killer when others see him more comedic or even a victim of circumstances. The relationship between the couple in the woods is entirely dependent on the perspective being told from. From Machiko's perspective she is wronged by her partner seeing dishonour in her. From Mayusaki's perspective he is scorned by the woman he loves.

None of the narratives are reliable. There is no real way for the viewer to decide which perspective is true. It is a fascinating study to watch, to be exposed so bluntly to egoistic way each of us understands the actions of others.

Often great film is enhanced by tremendous music. This is not true of Rashomon. Fumio Hayasaka's score is not excellent. The sligtly disjointed tones of the majority of the film are somewhat ruined by an inappropriate use of Ravel's Bolero. Bolero really does not fit Rashomon, it was a bad choice by Kurosawa to insist on it.

There are other aspects of the experience though that are tremendous, in particular the lighting. The oppressive rain experienced by the three characters at the Kyoto city gate is beautifully lit. The various woodland scenes also work very well with incredible use of sunlight.

What makes Rashomon something special is the unreliability of each of the narrators. It is the subjectivity of perception explored so ruthlessly that makes it so intriguing. None of the narrators is willfully unreliable, the tale each tells seems genuinely theirs. These are not narrators manipulating the viewer deliberately and that makes them far more engaging.

The scope and feel of Rashomon does not itself necessarily suit film brilliantly. Kurosawa makes it work thanks to his own genious and the presence of Mifune. They turn a concept into something compelling. Still, Rashomon seems more suited to being a stage performance, it just does not have the scope of Kurosawa's greatest films, tales like Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, or Hidden Fortress. Rashomon is not an epic, it is a thought provoking piece that sets and then exceeds expectations.

The DVD Extras are ok. The Extras mainly offers a discussion among several of those who worked on the 1950 film. It is a somewhat technical discussion about how certain effects were created. The special edition includes a booklet with a terrific extract from The Emperor and the Wolf by Stuart Galbraith as well as text from the novellas Rashomon and In A Grove. Galbraith's history of the film and his own analysis are high quality and offers a fascinating 20 page insight.

Rashomon is a very good film, not the greatest of Kurosawa's unequalled career but still fascinating. The concept is thought provoking and can sit with a viewer for a long time afterwards. The unreliable narrator has a very long tradition but to see that unreliability come about through subjective egoism rather than as a deliberate act is a terrific concept.
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5.0 out of 5 stars rashomon, 27 Feb 2013
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i first saw this film many years ago when it was first released and liked it very much.
this dvd met all my expectatations and brought back memories.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece., 3 Jan 2013
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This is a great film. I show it in class when I get a chance to demonstrate narrative point of view and dramatic treatment of ethical issues and conflict. Excellent.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What happens and why, 7 Dec 2012
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Xenophon (London, England) - See all my reviews
'Rashomon' is, on the surface, a murder mystery: who killed a man and why. What sets the film apart however are the faulty and false narratives by the individuals present at the crime scene and the final scenes where the tale takes on an allegorical, metaphorical meaning and allows Kurosawa to extrapolate and place human nature under the microscope.

'Rashomon' takes its influence from Modernism in the handling of the subject matter, and from the great 19th-century Europea novelists (Tolstoy and Dostoevsky) for the plot and thematic expansion. An incredibly sincere piece of film making that still carries emotive power.
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Criterion Collection: Rashomon [Blu-ray] [1950] [US Import]
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