A priest has his proverbs. A woodsman, his bravery. But for the two devastated men crouching under the looming wooden arches of a massive dilapidated structure known as the Rashōmon gate, no character armor could provide sufficient protection from the barrage of twisted scenes to which their eyes would bear witness. When an inquisitive wanderer joins their company, they recount for him a braided tale of bloodshed, in which each perspective offers competing motivations and culpability for the violence. It is said that, at the Rashōmon gate, a vicious demon was bested by a valiant samurai. But to comprehend the intricacies of the plots our witness offers us is to know something of the dark corners where this demon lurches still.
Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, while decidedly sporting frayed narrative edges, is an elegantly packaged little piece of cinema. There must be a statistical limit to the number of images a film can impress upon the cognitive firmament, and Rashomon certainly tests that limit: the impermeable waves of rain that flood the gate’s shingles, the glint of the sun battling its way through the forest’s protective canopy, the gnarled shadowy hands of a freshly dispatched victim. Kurosawa’s camera is locomotive, hatcheting its way through dense patches of bamboo and brush. His staging can also be supremely and hilariously absurd: one scene featuring the sotto voce swordplay of two tremendous cowards is both high slapstick and poignant faceting. Many films require an active participation of the audience, but where Rashomon stands above its peers is in its ability to approach this relationship with thoughtful ingenuity.
- Rashomon (Kurosawa 1950) @ BAM/PFA #JapaneseDivas