Movie Review: No 81. Rashômon

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Movie Review: No 81. Rashômon

“A priest, a woodcutter and a commoner are taking refuge from a rainstorm…”

If you think that sounds like the start of a bad joke you’d be right.

I was actually a little bit excited to see this movie. Most of you would already know that I’ve had the same favourite band since 1998 (I’m nothing if not loyal). That band is ‘The Barenaked Ladies’ (otherwise known as BNL to fans like me). Now, if you can hark back to 1998 yourself for a moment, you may remember their number one hit, ‘One Week’. My ability to recite the full ‘One Week’ rap 15 years after its release is one of my few life skills. I therefore readily recall the line: “Like Kurosawa I make mad films/ okay I don’t make films / But if I did they’d have a samurai”.

In essence, my favourite band promised me that this would be a “mad film”. I suppose it was my own fault that I interpreted “mad” to mean “cool” instead of what it really meant, i.e. “clinically insane”.

Priest: A man’s been murdered.
Commoner: So what? Only one? Why, up on top of this gate, there’s always five or six bodies. No one worries about them.

I’m starting to get the sense that this is a theme with all Japanese movies – that they are simply bizarre. In ‘Rashômon’, upbeat music and hysterical laughter are interspersed with a story about rape and murder. Parts of the film verge on appearing like a Warner Bros. cartoon, yet the Shakespearean influence is clear in some of the more dramatic soliloquies. In fact, the whole thing has more drama than a high school disco.

Takehiro Kanazawa: You’ve been with two men. Why don’t you kill yourself?

After watching this film I was desperate for an explanation. I simply did not understand it. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I’ll try to explain what I mean without giving too much away…

The film follows the story of a rape of a young woman by a bandit, which consequently results in the murder of her husband. The film then revolves around the retelling of this story from three different perspectives including, I feel compelled to add, the perspective of the dead husband as relayed through a psychic medium. Sheesh. It then dwelled on the concept of which person’s account was the true account and which two were lying.

Now, even that would all be fine, except that all of their stories seemed the same to me! We’ve got the priest, the woodcutter and the commoner turning themselves inside out trying to figure out who was telling the truth, when, for all intents and purposes, they could ALL have been telling the truth as the three versions differed only in the most subtle of ways! In other words – who the heck cares?!

Throw into that mix the unexplained introduction of an abandoned baby right at the end of the film and you’ve got yourself some messed up shiz.

I figured it must have been me – that I was too ignorant to understand the underlying message of the film. Seriously though, I searched online for anything resembling an explanation of any of it and only discovered more figurative priests, woodcutters and commoners dwelling on the same inane stuff.

Even that might have been bearable except for one excruciatingly grating factor that literally had me squirming in my seat. If you’ve seen the film before I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about, and for those who haven’t I’ll leave you to discover it for yourself… I’ve just got one word for you:

Eyebrows.

3.5 pumpkins.

Have you seen ‘Rashômon’? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below.

7 responses »

  1. Japanese films tend to go along these lines and I’m usually a little confused after watching them. I haven’t seen this one – and I don’t know if I really want to now ;)

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