Saturday, May 30, 2009

Movie Review: Rashomon


Hello again faithful reader, today lets look at why Kurosawa's Rashomon got a worse mark than Seven Samurai.

Of course, it's a subject scary enough to scare any reviewer into a fortnight's procrastination - after all, there's no questioning that Rashomon is an extremely accomplished piece of work - sort of a prototype for all fractured narratives yet to come.

It tells the tale of a trial, held in the immediate past, of a bandit (played by the ever watchable Mifune) in which none of the witness testimonies agree and of two participants' disillusionment with the nature of truth and the honesty of humanity as a result.

I'll discuss my views below, but beware of spoilers, hence why I break here - follow the link for the full review.

My main problem here is that the stories are so incompatible that no reconciliation or indeed "eureka" moment is possible. It's not quite the parallel I need, but remember how wonderful it was in Usual Suspects when all the unanswered questions suddenly revealed themselves? How you realised where and when you ahd been tricked - only to watch again immediately and see that, yes, you were taken in but the evidence was there.#

The similar revelation dragged out of the witnesss at the end of this film has no such effect. No such answers are given. We know no more about events than we did - merely that the story the last witness told is a lie. We don't know who killed the samurai, or the true reaction of the wife.

In fact, we know precisely nothing about anything. Since none of the stories are compatible, they are useless to construct your own opinion, even a prejudiced one; surely the aim of the piece.

Not too much of a problem from the point of view of this film on its own, but I would have preffered something approaching an opinion in my head of what really happened.

This left me a little unsatisfied as a result.

Probably the greater problem is the lack of a single likable character in the whole tale. No matter what version of the tale is told, the woman is hateful, either manipulative and spiteful (understandably annoyed - I would be) or just plain strange.

The Bandit, played by Toshiro Mifune is irritating, arrogant and detestably garrolous (again, understandable since he's a rapist). I love Mifune, but here he's actually annoying, especially since his performance is frequently punctuated by a particularly false sounding pantomime laugh.

Even the samurai and the witnesses are self absorbed, selfish and cold.

These factors do not reduce the film's accomplishments in style and atmosphere, particularly in the medium's section where she conjures up the spirit of the samurai husband to testify (surely that would never stand up in court?) and manages to be utterly terrifying as well as sad and moving in parts.

SO the film is a success, but a qualified one, since unlike the later film its story failed to connect with me on a deep level. It was still quite a ride, though.


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