Rashomon was the first Kurosawa movie I'd ever seen, and it blew me away. The movie is based on a short story called "In a Grove," which describes an incident that takes place in the woods. The incident involves the death of a samurai (Mori) and the rape of his wife (Kyo) after an encounter with the bandit Tajomaru (Mifune). But the exact details of what transpired there we may never know. The movie proper begins at Rashomon Gate in a torrential downpour. We see a priest (Chiaki) and woodcutter (Shimura), who both witnessed the court hearings and walked away baffled. After hearing each individual's conflicting account of the incident, each more self-incriminating than the last, the priest is on the verge of losing his faith in mankind.
The movie I remember is better than the movie I saw. The movie I analyzed is better than the movie I saw. That is not to disparage Rashomon at all, as it is a great film that has stood the test of time, but rather a mark on its characteristics. It is more art than entertainment, more stimulating to discuss than enjoyable to see. Whereas I could rewatch No Country for Old Men 100 times for the sheer fun of it, Rashomon more appropriately aims to contribute through its complex thematic possibilities. It is a movie that discusses insight and ideas first and foremost and then tries to tack on the human element afterward. The acting serves to advance the plot, and fails at realism or empathy. Unlike The Rules of the Game, the dialogue contains hardly any quotable gems. But there is something inimitable and profound about this movie that I cannot shake, something that sparked a fire in me and inspired me to search out art house cinema. Rashomon turned me on to Kurosawa, and to the moving pictures as works of art, and for that I will always be indebted to this film.
IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042876/