Rashomon appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image held up well after many decades.
Sharpness seemed good. A couple of slightly soft shots materialized, but these remained minor, and the movie usually offered nice accuracy and definition. I noticed no issues with jaggies, shimmering or edge haloes.
Print flaws created no distractions, as the film came with a clean transfer. Blacks were largely deep and dense, while shadows mainly displayed nice smoothness. A couple of small exceptions occurred, but these created no negative impact. In the end, the image satisfied.
I felt the PCM monaural audio of Rashomon seemed lackluster but acceptable given the movie’s age and origins. Speech varied; some lines appeared fairly natural and concise, but others could be rough and edgy.
I couldn’t easily judge intelligibility since I don’t speak Japanese. I’d estimate that the work remained understandable but lacked strengths.
Music was generally decent. The score could sound somewhat shrill at times, but it usually appeared acceptably full.
The same went for effects; while these occasionally came across as distorted, they still provided acceptable clarity. Occasional bouts of noise could cause distractions. Nothing here was memorable, but the mix was decent for its period.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the Criterion DVD edition? Audio was largely a wash, as the uncompressed Blu-ray track still suffered from the restrictions of the source, but visuals showed improvements.
One of those came from the elimination of the DVD’s “pillarboxing”. Criterion chose to use black bars on the top/bottom as well as the sides for the DVD, but it dropped these for the Blu-ray, which was good. The DVD shouldn’t have been pillarboxed either but at least Criterion made the right decision for the Blu-ray.
I also thought the Blu-ray simply looked better, as it benefited from the usual format strengths. The Blu-ray was better defined with deeper blacks and smoother shadows, so it became a nice visual upgrade from the DVD.
The Blu-ray repeats the DVD’s extras, and we launch with an audio commentary from film scholar Donald Richie. He offers a running, screen-specific look at story/characters/themes, various filmmaking techniques, and cast/crew.
Though Richie occasionally touches on aspects of the movie’s creation, he mostly sticks with interpretation here. And that’s fine, though I prefer historical commentaries with more balance, so I like a better mix of moviemaking info along with thematic/subtextual thoughts. This is a generally intriguing chat nonetheless.
We hear from a famed filmmaker via the six-minute, 37-second Robert Altman on Rashomon. The director reflects on Rashomon and gives us his thoughts on the movie’s techniques and impact. Though brief, Altman’s chat offers nice insights and observations.
Under The World of Kazuo Miyagawa, we find a 12-minute, 34-second look at the cinematographer of Rashomon. We hear from Miyagawa as well as director Akira Kurosawa. They cover aspects of the creation of Rashomon in this short but informative piece, as we learn some cool facts about the techniques Miyagawa utilized.
A Testimony As an Image runs one hour, eight minutes, 22 seconds as it presents notes from script supervisor Teruyo Nogami, co-writer Shinobu Hashimoto, assistant director Tokuzo Tanaka, sound man Iawo Otani, lighting assistant Genkon Nakaoka, sound assistant Tsuchitaro Hayashi, dolly effects Hiroshi Shibata, 2nd AD Mitsuo Wakasugi, camera assistants Kanichi Aoki and Kenichi Araki, and trailer cinematographer Fujio Morita.
They discuss aspects of their careers as well as elements involved in the making of Rashomon. It’s good to hear more from those involved in the shoot and we learn a fair amount from this useful documentary.
In addition to two trailers, we locate a 16-minute, three-second audio Interview with Actor Takashi Shimura. Recorded in 1961, the actor discusses working with Kurosawa and aspects of making Rashomon as well as other films. Due to translation issues, the piece can move a bit awkwardly, but it nonetheless offers good insights.
Finally, the set includes a 44-page booklet. It presents an essay from film professor Stephen Prince, excerpts from Kurosawa’s autobiography, and the source stories on which Rashomon was based. Criterion usually creates solid booklets, and this is one of their better efforts.
Nearly 70 years after its creation, Rashomon remains an important, influential film – and it’s pretty involving, too. It uses its unusual techniques to draw us into its relative realities. The Blu-ray offered very good picture along with representative audio and a largely informative set of supplements. This turns into a fine representation of a seminal work.
To rate this film visit the prior review of RASHOMON