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A riveting, philosophical film that launched Akira Kurosawa as an international director, Rashomon offers a stark philosophical view of human nature, of mankind's inability to speak truth, and of truth's relative subjectivity. As the first scene opens on three men under the Rashomon Gate trying to wait out a storm, it allows us to see and hear conflicting testimonies, as the three men tell each other courthouse accounts they've heard of a recent murder in the nearby woods. Three versions are repeated for us through the three rain-soaked men; each one offering significant -- whether minor or major -- details. The fourth version is by from dead man hiimself, speaking through a medium. Each retelling is almost unrecognizable.

The dead man might have been murdered by a crazed bandit (Toshiro Mifune) who raped his wife (Machiko Kyo), but she tells a version utterly unlike anyone else's. The bandit has no shame admitting he raped her, then killed her husband in a duel. One of the three men repeats the story as recounted by a priest (Minoru Chiaki); a second version is that of a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura), and a third account is by a commoner (Kichijiro Ueda), blatantly unconcerned about truth, but eager to tell an amusing tale -- we learn that only one indisputable fact has emerged: a man (Masayuki Mori) was killed. But the final say belongs to an impartial bystander, who reveals that nearly everything else that's been said so far is false. Can the viewer trust any version of the story?

A feminist note: Machiko Kyo, who plays the wife, is the film's best actor, by turns a helpless victim, or an icy seductress. The film leaves us with great questions about human nature, but doesn't pretend to have the answers. After all, as much as we know about human psychology, the human mind is still a mystery we'll never fully unravel.

(Black and white; 88 minutes.)

Awards: (1951) First Place at the Venice Film Festival and an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.that
Director(s): Akiro Kurosawa
Writer(s): Akira Kurosawa and Shinobu Hashimoto
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Takashi Shimura, Masayuki Mori, Minoru Chiaki, and Kichijiro
Release Date: 1950   
Keyword: Truth distortions, Human nature, Japanese Shinto philosophy
Target Age: Rating10+ (Not MPAA)   Category: other
Documentary: no
Language: Japanese; English subtitles   Reviewer's Name: Micah
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