138 Rashomon

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Mr Sausage
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138 Rashomon

#1 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jan 19, 2005 6:15 pm

Rashomon

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A riveting psychological thriller that investigates the nature of truth and the meaning of justice, Rashomon is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. Four people recount different versions of the story of a man’s murder and the rape of his wife, which director Akira Kurosawa presents with striking imagery and an ingenious use of flashbacks. This eloquent masterwork and international sensation revolutionized film language and introduced Japanese cinema—and a commanding new star by the name of Toshiro Mifune—to the Western world.

Disc Features

- New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- Audio commentary by Japanese-film historian Donald Richie
- Video introduction by director Robert Altman
- Excerpts from The World of Kazuo Miyagawa, a documentary on Rashomon’s cinematographer
- A Testimony as an Image, a sixty-eight-minute documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
- Archival audio interview with actor Takashi Shimura
- Original and rerelease trailers
- New English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film historian Stephen Prince; an excerpt from director Akira Kurosawa’s Something Like an Autobiography; and reprints of Rashomon’s two source stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” and “In a Grove”



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Last edited by Mr Sausage on Thu Feb 10, 2005 10:33 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Steven H
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#2 Post by Steven H » Wed Jan 19, 2005 11:16 pm

Mr sausage wrote:I suppose I'll inaugurate the new version of this thread.

When I first saw Rashomon, on Criterion DVD, I was quite underwhelmed despite my love of Kurosawa. It was dull and continually redundant; and by the close of the first forty minutes I was pretty irritated. Yes, ok, I get it, all the stories are different and we can never know the truth (yeesh that's smug). I was mordantly disappointed (blasted blind buys); I put it away; and yet the next day was quite sure I had missed something. I've never liked to write off a highly regarded film too quickly, as I am not always a good viewer, and will readily admit this. So I watched the movie the next day--being 80 minutes made it seem less a chore--and was equally irritated. Rashomon was some kind of masterwork--what the hell is wrong with me? Bloody ignorant, that's what.

The essential design of Rashomon is not, as I had previously thought, to examine the nature of truth. In that it would be a redundant and overwrought foray into the obvious. Rashomon is instead a treatise on the fallibility of reality--which is also to essentially explore the fallibility of memory and consciousness, so linked are the three in this movie. Kurosawa's trademark humanism posits the existence of no outside objective reality, and instead presents it as reliant on the human perception of events--in this case four separate individual perceptions, or layers, of reality, each one informed according to consciousness.

The film doesn't seek obscurantism, though, despite such suggestions in deliberately neglecting a solution. It is impossible to know what actually occurred in the sense of seeing the unobstructed series of events ourselves rather than through mediators. But we are not given that, and must read the events through such filters. As I said, the film provides no solution or answer; yet what could be aggravating or manipulative about that is actually the key to understanding. The truth of the matter doesn't indeed matter, and the reality of the event is unknowable, and must be so. Reality in Rashomon is fallible because human consciousness colours it; and reality is presented to us as in a way unknowable in any objective sense: it can only exist as a product of memory, and memory is necessarily clouded by bias and perception, by vanity and desire--by our essential humanity. Reality then in Rashomon is all perception, and we cannot truly know or separate it from subjective colouring. It expands the grandeur and plies us with artifice by making all four stories drastically different, perhaps beyond any verisimilitude, and so confronts us directly with the troubles of reality, and questions how we know what's real. Going over-the-top in pointing out reality's fallibility allows Kurosawa to entertain this notion as well as slip successive layers beneath the surface.

Again Kurosawa's humanism is a way to approach successive filmic layers. Each of the four characters are not symbols--despite often seeming stylized--which importantly removes any suggestion of allegory. So then below the shell of reality's suspiciousness is the question of human perceptions and how consciousness can colourize it. If Kurosawa first plies us with the notion that reality is coloured, later he will ask us to examine how indeed reality has been coloured.

Rashomon is a puzzle, a rubic's cube, an elaborate maze in which the solution plays no part in the problem. To desire to know what really happened in the middle of that forest is to not understand the question; and to find an answer in the middle of the morass is to have misread it. At its heart is a very human issue, and the problem is not in discovering who is right or who is most truthful, but to analyse and understand the various personalities and how each person has constructed their own reality--what in them has coloured their perception; how much is intentional; how much not? The solution plays no part in the problem because the end result does not tell us what happened, nor bring us closer to knowing reality. Rather it gets us to understand, or bring us closer, to the nature of humanity, of which reality is only one part. The end result is not an answer, but a new and knowing question, one which seeks the wisdom in probing questions rather than through answers. In understanding the four characters and their reality, their method and modes of perception, we can, if we wish, ask basic questions about ourselves and our reality and how our consciousness functions. In Rashomon, asking questions is more revealing than getting answers.

Lastly, Kurosawa presents the puzzle of film: that cinema often presents itself as an objective recording of reality--a uncoloured, unfiltered presentation. What Rashomon suggests is that this too is fallible, as an objective reality cannot, in human terms, be knowable; and film is regardless still a filtered representation of the storyteller's personality. This is quite subtle because it isn't directly referenced at all, its formal patterns not really suggesting reflexivity. Yet Rashomon is a film presenting itself as unable to provide an objective representation of a story, essentially refuting all claims in the ability to do this. And even if it were to provide in the end an 'objective procession of events,' it would, after all, be like Shimura's answer to "what really happened, as seen by me, an outside spectator;" just watching alters the events, how ever slight; and even the Woodcutter�s desires, his life, his existence as a poor labourer, have obscured the events.

And yet with such a dark message about humanity, Kurosawa still shows there is essential good in humankind, fallible as we may indeed be.
Great post, Mr Sausage. When I think of the film, it seems to me bordering on self parody. As if Kurosawa is mocking his own attempts in filmmaking at furthering character development and telling stories in general. I kept getting the feeling that the film was maybe born out of Kurosawa second guessing his intentions in directing itself. Maybe exposing an inner distrust of filmic manipulations... I was wondering if anyone else got this impression.

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#3 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jan 20, 2005 7:00 am

Mr_sausage wrote:At its heart is a very human issue, and the problem is not in discovering who is right or who is most truthful, but to analyse and understand the various personalities and how each person has constructed their own reality--what in them has coloured their perception? How much is intentional; how much not?
I think that is an excellent interpretation. It is a very interesting issue about how perception can create one absolute truth for one person and one completely different for another. The only thing for certain is that Takehiro is dead, and each of the retellings is less the 'truth' that is revealed to be a 'lie' but a reflection of each storyteller's perception of events filtered through their psyche and the distance of memory. It is interesting to see how each storyteller portrays themselves in their recollection, and then how they portray the other two, because in a sense the other two characters are as much of a projection of the storytellers ideas about them and the reasoning behind their actions as the storyteller's portrayal of him or herself is.

You get a good insight into the societal ideas of honour that influence the way the characters see themselves and others: such as the honourable fight vs an almost funny sequence of attacking and running off. It seems to me as a viewer more realistic than the honourable stand-off, but this is just my own way as a viewer of placing my interpretation on the event, by being in the position of being able to pick and choose between interpretations. But I have just chosen the one that I find suits my interpretation of events better. I think it is a great achievement to bring the audience this deeply into the central question of the film where they question their interpretation and why they think that.

You also get the question of loyalty of Takehiro to his charge; as well as the role of women in the society with Masako - whether she was raped, but stayed loyal to Takehiro (which might be more societally acceptable) or chose Tajomaru for a quick thrill, or wanted to escape her restrictive life and siezed the opportunity of the attack, or never was attacked! There is the sense that the storytellers face the pressure of having to prove that they acted correctly according to the codes of conduct of the time in which they lived. You can almost see the different weighting each of the three gives the other two in their stories, dependent on how they felt about them.

And then you have the storytellers outside of the main action taking the story and placing their own interpretations on it which brings up the issues of both an individual and societal reaction to an event - for example when the priest and woodcutter are talking about it being so terrible at the beginning of the film, you get the sense that they are in the process of using the case as a symbol of the problems in their society, of which the destroyed gate is a physical symbol. You see a similar thing in the media and newspapers - each placing their own interpretation on an event to suit their own world-view or as a metanym (thanks to Gene Youngblood for describing the definition of metanym as 'part standing for the whole' in the L'Avventura commentary!).
harri wrote:I kept getting the feeling that the film was maybe born out of Kurosawa second guessing his intentions in directing itself. Maybe exposing an inner distrust of filmic manipulations... I was wondering if anyone else got this impression.
I think you are onto something there. I think Kurosawa wants us to question the way we view film, but I think he is trying to make a point about human perception and interpretation of events on a much broader scale as well. In a sense, film is the perfect medium for this discussion due to the very concrete way in which images are fixed in a certain order, with certain actors, acting style, choice of locations, music etc. To make a film about this subject in a way necessarily challenges the traditional process of filmmaking itself and I think is what made it so groundbreaking and influential.

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#4 Post by Lino » Sat Feb 12, 2005 11:37 am

Was this fractured way of storytelling the first of its kind when the film came out? Also, apart from Zhang Yimou's Hero can you think of other films that have used the same device?

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#5 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Feb 12, 2005 12:01 pm

Annie Mall wrote:Was this fractured way of storytelling the first of its kind when the film came out?
Nope: Citizen Kane.

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#6 Post by Lino » Sat Feb 12, 2005 12:04 pm

:oops:

Of course...silly of me...

Any others, though?

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#7 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Feb 12, 2005 12:19 pm

And for _really_ unreliable narration, there is Kinugasa's avant-garde "Page of Madness".

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#8 Post by Lino » Sat Feb 12, 2005 12:35 pm

That one sounds great and it's the first time I've ever heard of it. Have you seen it Michael and can you give us your take on it? I'd love to hear more.

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#9 Post by BWilson » Sat Feb 12, 2005 2:25 pm

Annie Mall wrote: Also, apart from Zhang Yimou's Hero can you think of other films that have used the same device?
Courage Under Fire

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#10 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Feb 12, 2005 2:34 pm

Annie Mall wrote:That one sounds great and it's the first time I've ever heard of it. Have you seen it Michael and can you give us your take on it? I'd love to hear more.
I saw this at the Harvard Film Archive (with Donald Richie talking about it -- before and after) with live accompaniment. It was quite an impressive event. The film, though short, was exhausting -- since you have to watch so intently and piece together what seems to be happening all by yourself.

It involves a married couple -- the man neglects his wife and she goes mad and kills (or tries to kill) their son. In remorse, after she is institutionalized, he goes to work at the asylum as a janitor. Meanwhile, we have a subplot involving their daughter (who is grown up -- and married to a total jerk -- who seems to insist she write off her family).

None of this happens in any clear-cut chronological order. ;~}

No subtitles to help you out -- but there are some subliminal words interspersed with visuals at one point.

One reason I like "Tale of 2 Sisters" so much is the fact that it seems to use a similar methodology in telling its tale of madness and delusion -- and uses it very well.

MEK

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#11 Post by Matt » Thu Oct 19, 2006 3:39 pm

Fans of Rashomon and/or the writing of Ryunosuke Akutagawa may be pleased to learn that there is a lovely new edition of 18 of Akutagawa's stories being issued by Penguin that will feature an introduction by Haruki Murakami and a fully illustrated cover (with French flaps!) by Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

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#12 Post by montgomery » Thu Oct 19, 2006 3:57 pm

Page of Madness is a masterpiece. I have crappy VHS and DVD bootlegs, and they both border on unwatchable (I saw a clean print of it in LA a few years back). Does anyone know if there's a relatively decent DVD version?

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#13 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Oct 19, 2006 4:20 pm

There is no commercial DVD release of PoM at all -- anywhere in the world. I have never heard any rumor as to the existence of any good quality non-commercial DVD.

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#14 Post by shirobamba » Fri Aug 22, 2008 2:36 am

From KineJapan list serv:
The Rashomon Restoration Project

Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

It has been ten years since the legendary director Akira Kurosawa (23 March, 1910 - 6 September, 1998) passed away. Kadokawa Pictures has begun the task of digitally restoring Kurosawa's Rashomon with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Considering Rashomon's arts and cultural values, Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation, The Academy Motion Pictures Arts and Science in the US, and The Film Foundation decided to support the restoration project. Rashomon is the first Japanese film to be restored by the Academy and the Film Foundation. Also for this project, the digital restoration will be done at 4K for the first trial in Japanese film history.

Released in Japan on August 26th, 1950 and exported soon thereafter, Rashomon was immediately recognized as signal achievement in cinema. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1951 and received an honorary Academy Award (Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film) in the following year.

The project is supervised by Michael Pogorzelski, the director of the Academy Film Archive and a renowned film archivist. From Japan, the National Film Center joins the project to provide technical and academic advice.

The restored film will be shown on September 18th at the Samuel Goldwin Theater as a special event of KUROSAWA retrospective "Akira Kurosawa: Film Artist".

●Restoration Process: Scanning Rashomon at 4K to digitize the film =>Restoring damaged film as digital data=>Recording out the restored film at 4K on a new film stock (producing a new negative)
●The picture restoration is handled by Lowry Digital and YCM laboratory. The audio restoration is done by DJ Audio and Audio Mechanics (All the vendors are in Burbank, CA)
●Digitally restored Japanese feature films to date: Shin Heike Monogatari (Kadokawa Pictures/Kenji Mizoguchi/1955), 24 Eyes (Shochiku/Keisuke Kinoshita/1954), Vessel of Sand (Shochiku/Yoshitaro Nomura/1974)
●Kadokawa Pictures' Genban-hozon (Film Preservation) Project

Kadokawa Pictures owns the combined libraries of Daiei, Kadokawa Pictures, and Nippon Herald Films, a collection of more than 1600 feature motion pictures that includes many Japanese favorites and also internationally renowned classics of cinema.

Kadokawa believes that preservation of these precious cultural assets is an obligation of the highest order. We believe that these films represent an important facet of Japanese culture, and that there is significant public benefit in their preservation. The restoration of these films is motivated by cultural and educational imperatives.

Kadokawa's negatives are conserved in the National Film Center's temperature-controlled vault in Sagamihara City. This storage minimizes deterioration and helps to preserve the integrity of the original negatives. Unfortunately, like all celluloid, all of the film negatives will eventually suffer chemical decomposition. Therefore, supported by Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation, we began preservation and restoration of our collection in 2004. We organized the "Genban Hozon (Film Preservation) Project " to inspect, restore and duplicate the fragile original negatives for archival purposes.

Following Shin Heike monogatari, Rashomon is our second film to be digitally restored.

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#15 Post by Jeff » Sat Aug 23, 2008 12:16 pm

There is a little more of the press release on the Lowry restoration here. Janus owns the North American distribution rights. I would expect a theatrical roll-out and a new two-disc DVD and Blu-ray reissue to be the eventual outcome.

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#16 Post by videozor » Mon Sep 15, 2008 12:28 pm

Mulvaney's e-mail:
Hi Mike,

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences just completed a restoration of the film elements of RASHOMON so I suspect at some point we may revisit it, but it's not on the schedule. As far as I know we do not have plans to rerelease THRONE OF BLOOD at this time either. Feel free to check back, and please email again if you have any other questions!

Best,

JM

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#17 Post by Street Dude » Mon Sep 15, 2008 12:41 pm

Has anyone seen the Essential Art House Edition of Rashomon? It looks like these Essential Art House releases come in Digi-Packs. Am I right? Anyone know?

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#18 Post by Adam » Mon Sep 15, 2008 2:24 pm


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#19 Post by Antoine Doinel » Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:11 am

Here are some details regarding the restoration, including Criterion's assistance in providing frames that weren't found in the print being used for the restoration.

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#20 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:26 am

Since the fairly recent Japanese restoration of this film (used by Criterion for its DVD) looks quite wonderful overall, what is the point of this new "restoration"?

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#21 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:25 am

When was that restoration done? Criterion's own release makes no mention of where their elements came from (beyond "a 35mm fine-grain master positive"), and Google isn't helping.

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#22 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 18, 2008 11:28 am

The Fanciful Norwegian wrote:When was that restoration done? Criterion's own release makes no mention of where their elements came from (beyond "a 35mm fine-grain master positive"), and Google isn't helping.
My recollection is that all the major AK films owned by Toho were restored (to one extent or another) for their big centennial DVD box set release. Not sure of details. I just know that this new version looks quite a bit better than older ones.

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#23 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Thu Sep 18, 2008 12:11 pm

Well, if it was done for a DVD release, there may not have been much actual film restoration involved. Of course, the new restoration isn't photochemical either, but at least 4K has enough resolution for theatrical exhibition (I'm glad they didn't settle for 2K). I saw a 35mm screening a few years back and it looked pretty beat up, but I doubt that was a recent print.

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Re: 138 Rashomon

#24 Post by agnamaracs » Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:24 am

Upon re-reading the list of features, I was surprised to see that this DVD doesn't have an installment of "It Is Wonderful To Create." (This probably doesn't even exist; the series is a Toho production and Rashomon is probably still owned by Daiei.)

I definitely remember seeing some documentary, IIWTC or otherwise, where someone who worked on the film kept trims from before and after each take, and they showed all the clips, and one of them showed Kurosawa. What is this? Is this the documentary on the cinematographer, or am I thinking of an IIWTC for some other film?

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Re: 138 Rashomon

#25 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Jan 21, 2009 9:46 am

agnamaracs wrote:Upon re-reading the list of features, I was surprised to see that this DVD doesn't have an installment of "It Is Wonderful To Create." (This probably doesn't even exist; the series is a Toho production and Rashomon is probably still owned by Daiei.)
This was a little before Criterion started including It Is Wonderful To Create on their Kurosawa discs, which I think started with Ikiru (the episode included on the Seven Samurai disc was only included when the DVD was updated. Only the Michael Jeck commentary was initially present. The same applies to High and Low, Yojimbo and Sanjuro etc).

Though you are most likely correct in noting that Rashomon will probably not have an episode even if reissued due to being a Daiei film rather than a Toho.

Yes, the Kurosawa footage is shown in the excerpt from the Kazuo Miyagawa documentary:

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