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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. This 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.