We are talking about the international breakthrough of Japans number 1 director Akira Kurosawa today with his majestic Rashomon.
Kurosawa has always fascinated me. Definitely the filmmaker from Japan that has influenced most of Western modern filmmaking and for a good reason. Kurosawa made 30 films over a 57 year career and had a close collaboration to the talented actor Toshiro Mifune who starred in sixteen of Kurosawas films.
Rashomon is a masterful directed Samurai film and the plot is this. A Dead Samurai is found in the woods, and the story about how he died is told through four different characters with four different versions of what happened. And of course all the stories are contradictory.
The first thing we should address is how clearly Rashomon is a low-budget film. It takes place in three sets. The Rashomon gate where the woodcutter tells his story and the climax happens. The courtyard where the bandits trial happens, and the forest where the murder takes place. The use of light and cinematography here makes it pretty extraordinary to look at, and Kurosawa had several cameras filming so that the editing part of Rashomon is pretty to look at.
Now there are so much symbolism to talk about that we are probably not gonna be able to address it all, but a nice example is that the cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa directly filmed the sun through the leaves of the trees to show the truth of what happened being obscured.
The use of dappled light throughout the film is quite interesting. It could mean a symbol of evil and it helps to give character to the characters and the locations of the film. Rashomon is a beautifully choreographed film.
Toshiro Mifune as the bandit is an amazing role, and his laughing is generally terrifying. Masayuki Mori plays the dead samurai and Machiko Kyo is the samurais wife. The chemistry between the three main roles is so fun and I found myself laughing several times.
It is clear that Rashomon was one of the first Japanese films to be successful in the west, and in the 1950s a film like Rashomon had everything it needed to become incredibly successfull in Hollywood. It was an exiting costume drama with great acting, some amazing cinematography and strong directing. It stands the test of time as a filmatic piece of art