Special Edition, The Criterion Collection
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Brimming with action while incisively examining the nature of truth, Rashomon is perhaps the finest film ever to investigate the philosophy of justice. Through an ingenious use of camera and flashbacks, Kurosawa reveals the complexities of human nature as four people recount different versions of the story of a man's murder and the rape of his wife. Toshiro Mifune gives another commanding performance in the eloquent masterwork that revolutionized film language and introduced Japanese cinema to the world.
- New high-definition digital transfer with restored image and sound
- Video introduction by Robert Altman
- Excerpts from The World of Kazuo Miyagawa, a documentary film about Rashomon's cinematographer
- Reprints of the Rashomon source stories, Ryunosuke Akutagawa's "In A Grove" and "Rashomon"
- Akira Kurosawa on Rashomon: a reprinted excerpt from his book Something Like An Autobiography
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This 1950 Kurosawa crime drama, set in 11th century Kyoto, is one of many pictures which contribute to Kurosawa's reputation as one of the great filmmakers of all time. With its groundbreaking use of flashbacks this picture not only influenced future filmmaking but also contributed to the lexicon of courtroom justice. Eyewitness stories which contradict each other became known as the "Rashomon" effect. In the story four characters are witnesses to, or participants in, a murder or a suicide - and a possible rape. Each character recounts his or her story seemingly in response to questioning, though we never see or hear from an interrogator. It quickly becomes clear that they can't all be right, and what really happened is anyone's guess - until the end of the film.
The deluge at Kyoto's Rashomon Gate which opens the film made a powerful impression on me. Maybe you'll have the same reaction.
This picture won't be everyone's cup of tea, though for some it may become an acquired taste. That said, it's worth seeing for the fantastic acting and directing alone - also for the memorable woodsy mountain scenery and thickets (a Kurosawa specialty also featured in Seven Samurai) where the characters go astray both literally and figuratively. All part of Kurosawa's design, as pointed out in one of the essays included with the Criterion Collection edition of this film.
The picture runs an hour and 28 minutes.