Article 2132 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-16-2007
Posting Date: 6-14-2007
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Featuring Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori
Three men gather at the Rashomon gate during a rainstorm and relate the conflicting testimonies of the participants of the murder of a Samurai and the rape of his wife which occurred in the nearby woods.
I am a huge fan of the work of Akira Kurosawa, who I consider one of the finest directors of all time. I find it highly regrettable that I will be covering only a smidgen of his work for this series, as he rarely ventured into the cinema of the fantastic, and of the only three that I anticipate covering, two are quite marginal indeed. I’m also a little disappointed that one of those three is this one; not that I feel it doesn’t deserve its acclaim (it would merit it just by telling this incredibly complex story in the first place), but because I don’t fondly dote on it in the same way that I do on THE SEVEN SAMURAI, THE HIDDEN FORTRESS or YOJIMBO, just to name a few of his other classics. The basic concept is brilliant; we hear four substantially different tellings of what happens in the aftermath of the capture of the samurai and the rape of his wife. One is from the bandit’s point of view, another is from the wife’s point of view, the third is from the point of view of the dead samurai (who tells his story through a medium, which provides the fantastic content to the story), and the fourth from a witness who never testified and whose story is, as far as it goes, probably the most accurate. It is the vast differences between the stories that makes it fascinating; for example, the samurai dies at the hands of three different people in the course of the four stories. It’s the performances that stick in my mind the most from this one, particularly from Toshiro Mifune (whose character is quite different depending on whose story is being told) and Takashi Shimura as the woodsman who discovers the body of the samurai and has secrets of his own. It’s a profound story, and the movie is definitely a triumph, but I think one of the reasons it isn’t one of my favorites is that I had more enjoyment performing in a stage version of the play. I played the character known in the movie as the Commoner, though in the play he is called the Wigmaker, who makes his living by selling wigs he made from the hair of the dead around the Rashomon gate. When I think of this story, it is for that version that my fondness lies.