Rashomon (1950)

SBS have dropped the ball terribly over the last decade or so when it comes to classic world cinema; I’m lucky I was growing up on that stuff in the 90s when they ran hundreds of films like this constantly. Now they’ve handed the ball to the DVD companies and never seem to show anything more than a few years old, which is why the classic Asian cinema timeslot SBS2 have opened up on Monday nights has been welcome even if, frankly, I keep forgetting to tune in (I’ve missed a couple of Shohei Imamuras I wanted to see that way)… which brings us to tonight’s film, as soon as I saw it in the TV guide I knew I had to remember to watch it. Cos I’ve been meaning to for years; I love Kurosawa but I wasn’t excited by this the first and hitherto only time I saw it (which must’ve been what, early to mid-90s—like I said, when SBS showed classics all the time). And yet for years I’ve been thinking I should give it another chance, in case it was one of I don’t know how many films I may have wronged in the past. In this case, I didn’t find the redemptive ending quite as weak as I did before, and having read a bit more on Buddhism I perhaps understand the monk’s angst better; if “right view” is part of the Noble Eightfold Path, the way of perceiving reality correctly, then the events of Rashomon possibly constitute something of an assault on that with the implication that, at worst, there may not be a reality to be objectively perceived or, at best, it can only be subjectively perceived. But beyond that, it’s not so much about how people lie to other people as it is about how they lie to themselves, and to that extent it’s actually a much bleaker film than I previously gave it credit for being. As such, I can understand why Kurosawa wanted to give it an uplifting ending; the woodcutter, who lied right from the start of the telling of the story, redeems himself by rescuing the newborn child. Mind you, not that long ago I read Akutagawa’s original story and to be honest I think I may prefer it without the happy ending. I liked this better on the revisit, but to be honest there’s a lot of other films by Kurosawa I still prefer.

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