Rashomon/kurosawa in general

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well, i watched this movie for the first time in three years (first kurosawa film i've seen in a while too), and i was surprised and disdained to find that i did not enjoy it as much as i remembered the first time.
here's what i wrote about it right after watching it:

synopsis: The tellings of a wealthy man's murder (or suicide) and his wife's rape from four fundamentally different perspectives.
A strangely unemotional experience for me this time around (with a couple exceptions, namely the final act.) in spite of the charged performances, i didnt find the drama very engaging in between the four segments, and within them (save for the fourth one.) the final telling, by the woodcutter, was the dramatic focal point of the film. the complexity of the interactions and struggles within each character in this part was a surprising step above the rest of the movie, though it failed to redefine anything significant.
the woodcutter's moral dillemma was overplayed, for once, i actually think a more steril teller would have suited the film better.
curious how ozu would have handled it....

so what am i missing? kurosawa used to be my favorite director, but after rewatching this, i cant figure out why. at first i wrote it off because i watched it back to back with 'the seventh seal', which is a tough act to follow, but it doesnt fully stack up...
was it just me, or was there an overly sentimental quality to it?
curious to hear what you folks thought of this movie...

I'm not old, you're just 12.
I liked Seven Samurai. It's the only one of his films I've seen, though...
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He's great, just ****ing great i love the guy. He was found in hawaii surfing, and ever since then he was a huge success. Everyone should watch 7 samurai. Its great! He's the best foreign director of all time.
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Initially I was not a huge fan of Kurosawa, but have learned to appreciate his work through the guidance of some friends .

I should mention that I've only seen three of his films, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Yojimbo and I'd probably rank them in that order.

Other than the fine performances he always seems to draw from his actors I most remember him for some of his camera shots... especially the scene where the woodcutter is walking through the woods to open Roshomon.

The Fabulous Sausage Man
Originally Posted by linespalsy
the final telling, by the woodcutter, was the dramatic focal point of the film. the complexity of the interactions and struggles within each character in this part was a surprising step above the rest of the movie, though it failed to redefine anything significant.

I think you're definitely missing the point if you expect the woodcutter's tale to 'redefine' what occurred before. The final telling reinforces the film's central point about the mutability and self-serving nature of memory; it re-frames objectivity as just another form of subjectivity; and it forces us to re-evaluate what we 'know' about 'truth.' No, it doesn't redefine anything, but that in itself is the point. By not redefining the picture in its final sequences, Kurosawa retains its crushing ambiguity. He teases us with closure and certainty, then snatches them away. The brilliance of Rashomon is in the degree to which it denies us the easy answer or the satisfaction of knowing 'the real story.'

As for the Ozu suggestion, what a horrible thought. I can't think of a film less suited to Ozu's dispassionate, static, observational style. Material like Rashomon absolutely demands a passionate, dynamic and subjective camera: it is the sort of work that cries out for a Kurososawa, and, thankfully, it was Kurosawa who had the helm.

hmm, note that this comment was written five years ago. i'm not going to bother defending opinions i no longer hold. espeically when i have no idea what i was going on about.

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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
I don't want to use the word 'overrated', but I expected to like Rashomon and Seven Samurai more than I did. Ran, on the other hand, is absolutely brilliant and deserves all the praise it gets. Throne of Blood is the next Kurosawa in my rental queue.

Thought I'd resurrect this one.

My views on Rashomon are similar to both of yours, but I do feel Kurosawa gives is a bit of closure, anyway. The woodcutter's tale certainly reinforces earlier themes about the ambiguity of memory, and the uncertainty even of things we ourselves have seen, but I also feel that the film uses this to strengthen the necessity of trust. We may never know the truth, but we cannot hold a semblance of civility for one another without making a concious decision to trust other people, even with the knowledge that they sometimes will be wrong.

This message is most obviously underscored in the priest's decision to hand the child over to the woodcutter. The priest clearly feels strongly that this baby should be protected, and despite having been privy to a stunning example of the pitfalls of trusting other people, he decides to trust this man. Not just any man, either; one who had just admitted to lying about his initial testimony. Perhaps this admission is what leads the priest to trust him with the child, but regardless, the film's final act is one of trust.

A system of cells interlinked
I think, at the age he did Rashomon, Kurosawa still had enough hope for humanity within him, that he had to put a glimmer of hope at the end of the film, lest it seem too dire. Flash forward to Ran, a much older Kurosawa held no such illusions. Grim, to the end...
"There’s absolutely no doubt you can be slightly better tomorrow than you are today." - JBP

Kurosawa did mean to inject positive resolutions into much of his work, but I believe more as dogmatic filmmaking than personal hope. He addresses this in his autobiography though it's been a while since I read it. Rashomon is a good example of this as he added the ending with the baby to give the audience hope. Otherwise this movie would be downright ruthless.

The entire saga of the rape/murder is in itself an "evil" story. Even after the trial has ended it is used by the peasant to justify stealing from a baby, casts an overwhelming self-doubt on the woodcutter and completely unseats the priest's faith in humankind. The latter two become deadlocked, metaphorically trapped at Rashomon gate for all eternity in turmoil.

It isn't until the woodcutter makes a willful attempt to break the cycle that the curse is lifted. While the priest accepts his adopting the baby it is uncertain whether or not he truly believes him. More to the point, he has to believe. Thus an unspoken pact is made and the two part ways knowing even trust can be a selfish act, but one of pure necessity.

I've watched this movie maybe 5 times and every time I come to the same conclusion, but the beauty of it is just how many interpretations can be made even now. So which is the right one? Forget it, Jake, it's Rashomon.