Rashomon

dir. Akira Kurosawa

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Akira Kurosawa's dazzlingly stylized eleventh-century tale of a rape and murder that is recounted from four equally unreliable perspectives was the film that introduced Japanese cinema to the West.
The film that introduced Japanese cinema to the West, Rashomon won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival and the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film, made Toshiro Mifune an international superstar and landed actress Machiko Kyo on the cover of Life Magazine. Opening in the rain-pelted ruins of a temple in twelfth-century Kyoto, Rashomon examines a tale of rape and murder from four different perspectives, revealing complex and conflicting accounts of what transpired when a bandit (Mifune) came upon an aristocratic woman (Kyo) and her samurai husband (Masayuki Mori) in the forest. Recounting their respective versions before an unseen tribunal, all three participants (including the dead husband's spirit!) and a supposed witness to the crime contradict each other in significant ways; each has a reason to tell the tale the way he or she does, but none ultimately can be trusted for the truth. Kurosawa's muscular style, replete with flashy editing, peculiar music choices (Ravel's Bolero) and high-contrast cinematography, transforms Rashomon into a startling tour de force, while the then-unknown Kyo counters the capering Mifune's wild excesses with a startling performance that combines simpering servility and fierce vengefulness.