Thursday, December 6, 2012
CANON OF FILM: "RASHOMON"
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Screenplay: Akira Kurosawa & Shinobu Hashimoto based on the stories “Rashomon,” and “In a Grove,” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
To those who don’t know the name, and, really if you don’t, you better get a recheck on your film IQ, Kurosawa’s work, starting with his Oscar-Winning hit “Rashomon,” is 1950, broke the doors down for Japanese films being viewed in America, has been a direct and immediate source of inspiration for filmmakers like Coppola, Speilberg, Lucas, Tarantino, Leone, Scorsese, Eastwood,… all of them consider Kurosawa, not a master, but “the master.” Sergio Leone in particular remade two of his films “Yojimbo", and it's sequel "Sanjuro" into the Clint Eastwood westerns “A Fistful of Dollars,” and “For a Few Dollars More,” and John Sturges’s western “The Magnificient Seven,” is a remake of Kurosawa’s, “The Seven Samurai.” This film “Rashomon,” which is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made, was a huge hit when it got released, despite the fact the film was barely released at all, and was actually kind of lucky to have been made. Many people on the crew apparently understood the movie’s premise, and the Japanese production company that did the film hated it so much, the head of the company took his name off the credits. The movie shows an incident as seen from four separate and distinct points-of-views, each one of them ending, with the Samurai, Takehiro (Masayuki Mori) getting killed and his wife, Masako (Machiko Kyo) getting raped, and the Bandit, Tajomaro (Toshiro Mifune) getting arrested. It takes place in the 12th Century Japan, and a Priest (Minoru Chiaki) and a Woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) are staying out of the rain as a man who is usually described only a “Commoner,” (Kichijiro Ueda) comes in from the rain to where they're at. The Priest and Woodcutter are confused and baffled by the events they’ve just heard during a court trial that happened earlier in the day, in which all three people involved in the earlier event claim to be the murderer, including the victim whose testimony was given through a medium. We are then shown each character’s POV’s through distinct flashbacks, each one showing it from a different perspective, each emphasizing only certain parts of what each character thinks happened. None of the characters are right, but none of them are wrong, either. We never get a true description of what actually happened either, and even if we did, it wouldn’t be a true description of the events, as those events would still be shown through a subjective viewpoint., and that is basically the point of the movie in of itself, that truth is subjective. Those last three words basically describe the contents of the entire film, yet the movie plays more philosophical than that and encourages the audience to think for ourselves and try to piece together our own plausible scenario for the events, and the movies is told in such a way that we feel as though we are eventually through these flashbacks are going to come to an eventual conclusion. The trick of the movie is that we don’t. Each scenario given to us are plausible but are completely subjective, even the one which appears to give the most unbiased truth of events is still told from someone’s views of the events, so we’re still looking at a perspective. In our search for absolute truth, we find that there isn’t one. According to some, it's the first movie to ever use flashbacks that weren't trustworthy. Normally, flashback are used mainly to give us information about what happened before, and are always regarded as truth. Not here. The only truths that this movie seems to have is that a trial occurred, a man was killed, his wife was raped, a thief was involved, and a witness saw it, and yet these events are so unbelievable it’s placed the people who have heard them in a state of amazement. The final sequence of the film was much criticized even at the time, and personally, I’ll be honest, I don’t know what it means. Theories yes, but in this movie, is seems kind of redundant to even have theories on the film because I’d be looking at them through the context of the events in the film, and with this movie, that hardly seems appropriate. The movie works on the mind and dares us to make us think, and cares little of what we actually think about because we are all limited by our own thoughts and what we make of them, so I just let the ending stay as it is, and let it be. If I’ve made this film seem like a wood falling in a tree theory, there may be something to it, and maybe that’s all it is, or maybe it isn’t. But this film, if anything, it’ll make you wonder why it would matter if it made a sound or not, unfortunately though, that’s still my thought.