By Christopher Null
Not many films have earned the mandate of comparison any time a similarly-structured movie follows it, but any time a modern film is told from multiple perspectives, Rashomon is referenced. It has to be.
Akira Kurosawa masterfully combines the testimony of four witnesses/participants in a rape/muder occuring in the woods in the era of feudal Japan. It all sounds straightforward at the start, but by the end, we're left to wonder exactly who's telling the truth, or even if the participants know what the truth is. The exploration of subjectivity has never been so thrilling, and Kurosawa is at his pinnacle as a filmmaker, framing testimony shots in earnest close-up and staging the flashbacks with inimitable grace. But of course it's not just a beautfully constructed movie, it's also a biting commentary on deceit, gender roles, and due process (not to mention Japanese culture). And every viewer is given the opportunity to draw his own conclusions.
The new Criterion disc remasters the film brilliantly. Most of us have seen aged VHS versions that don't do justice to Kurosawa's gorgeous camerawork. It's restored here, along with an introduction from Robert Altman (irony: Altman claiming Throne of Blood is "more accessible" than Rashomon... as if any of Altman's films were "accessible") and a commentary from Japanese film historian Donald Richie. Also included is a fantastic booklet, which includes the original short stories "In a Grove" and "Rashomon," upon which the script was based.
Not only is the DVD highly recommended, it's a must-have for any serious DVD library.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 26th December 1951
Box Office Worldwide: $96.6 thousand
Production compaines: Daiei Motion Picture Company
Cast & Crew