ACF #26: Kurosawa, Rashomon


Here’s our first Kurosawa podcast–Rashomon, one of the master’s early Oscar nominations, a sign of the openness of Hollywood to great moviemaking elsewhere. The movie is still near the top 100 on IMDb, which I take as a sign that American film lovers nowadays also sense its greatness–in the beautiful cinematography and acting, and above all in the poetic device.┬áThis podcast also gives me an opportunity to introduce a new contributor, Molly McGrath, who teaches philosophy at Assumption College and now and then writes on movies, always with force and insight.

Rashomon uses a series of flashbacks that retell the same events from different perspectives, each contradicting the others and furthering a revelation that might induce hope or despair in the audience. All parts of medieval Japanese society are present in the story: Outlaws, commoners, nobles, and magistrates. The commoners who pass judgment on the lawsuit at the core of the story talk about injustice as a greater calamity than war or famine. This is Kurosawa’s vision of a society in times of decay–which is, of course, tied to Japan’s moral and political self-destruction in WWII. Still, Kurosawa took it as his task to point out the strong reasons for hope for the future.