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Akira Kurosawa
Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori
Writing Credits:
Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto

Four people give different accounts of a man’s murder and the rape of his wife.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Japanese PCM Monaural
English PCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:
English (For Selected Supplements)

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 11/6/2012

• Audio Commentary with Film Scholar Donald Richie
• “Robert Altman on Rashomon” Featurette
• “The World of Kazuo Miyagawa” Featurette
• “A Testimony As an Image” Documentary
• Interview with Actor Takashi Shimura
• Trailers
• Booklet


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Rashomon: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1950)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 8, 2018)

One would be hard-pressed to find a more influential film than 1950’s Rashomon, as its then-unusual structure has been imitated repeatedly over the last 60-plus years. A woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) encounters a man’s corpse, and the rest of the film explores what happened.

The twist comes from the manner in which we examine the events that led to the death of samurai Takehiro Kanazawa (Masayuki Mora). Told in flashback, we hear the events from four perspectives: the woodcutter, bandit Tajômaru (Toshirô Mifune), Kanazawa’s wife Masako (Machiko Kyô) and Kanazawa himself, told through a medium (Noriko Honma). Each take comes with its own twists and leaves the viewer in search of the truth about what happened.

Which seems to be the movie’s point: “truth” is relative and varies dependent on whose perspective from which it comes. Since we’ve seen so many movies that’ve used this approach over the last 68 years, I can’t imagine how revolutionary it must’ve seemed in 1950. It remains a clever and provocative way to examine events.

While Rashomon’s place as a seminal film classic remains assured, another question arises: is it still an interesting movie? After all, just because something was inventive/influential doesn’t mean it’ll still be enjoyable decades after the fact.

Take Birth of a Nation, for instance. It may be an important film, but that doesn’t mean it’s something I’d like to watch.

Happily, Rashomon still holds up and feels moderately timeless, and a lot of the credit goes to director Akira Kurosawa and his storytelling methods. He uses a mix of evocative visual approaches and editing techniques to keep the story moving well.

With all its differing perspectives, it easily could’ve gotten bogged down in a morass of viewpoints. However, Kurosawa ensures that events remain understandable and clear, without issues related to confusion.

Rashomon looks great, too, as the movie offers a striking visual presentation that allows it to stand out after all these years. This becomes most obvious during the scenes with the medium.

Those offer the most potential to go off the rails, as it could be hard to accept the notion of the man who speaks from beyond the grave. However, Kurosawa avoids potential pitfalls and turns these sequences into some of the film’s most evocative.

It also helps that Rashomon remains philosophically relevant. While many films utilize the “multiple viewpoint” structure as a gimmick, this one does so in a way that opens up interpretations and allows for discussion/debate. The movie doesn’t wrap things up in a neat bow; that may frustrate some, but the choice lets the story deliver a greater intellectual and emotional resonance.

Having seen so many movies that use its framework, I worried that Rashomon itself might seem stale. That concern was unfounded, though, as the film provides a strong effort. It tells an interesting tale in a consistently bright, evocative manner.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

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

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