“Rashomon” is the 1950 Akiro Kurosawa film that announced the excellence of Japanese movies to English-speaking viewers. I first saw it in 1976 and I remember being blown away by the naturalistic characters, the use of sun and of darkness and by the excellent script and plot.
It weathers well. Now remastered as a digital print, it was such a joy to see this at Stratford Picturehouse, as part of their mini-season of films made in 1950.
The story unfolds around a murder and rape in the woods near Kyoto. We begin at the gate to Kyoto, on the way to Nara. The gate is called “Rashomon”. In the middle of a monsoon-like rain storm, a woodcutter, a priest and an ordinary man are discussing the murder of a samurai and the rape of his wife.
Each point of view is then shown, at a leisurely pace. And, of course, each of these is contradictory.
It’s amazing to the modern viewer that only Toshiro Mifune, playing the bandit Tajomaru, became famous in the west. All the performances are outstanding.
If you love Japanese film and recently watched “13 Assassins”, Miike is the fast becoming the natural heir to Kurosawa. But seeing the director of “Seven Samurai” announce a new kind of Japanese film is still thrilling, all these years later.
You have another chance to catch this at Stratford tomorrow night (Monday 23rd) at 8.30pm. Do see it on a big screen, while you can. The enormous importance of the rainy weather and the brilliant photography deserves to be seen with a large picture.
It’s utterly wonderful and shows you the origin of so many of the conventions of the modern suspense movie.
In the same series of 1950 films, “Sunset Boulevard” is showing on Sunday May 29th and Monday May 30th and “The Blue Lamp” is showing on Sunday June 5th and Monday June 6th.
I am quietly hopeful this series will make it to 1954, without which I would not exist. But, while we are all awaiting that, go see “Rashomon” and be thrilled by this astonishingly important film. Please.