Rashomon (1950)

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Released 8-Nov-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-(68:21)
Featurette-The World of Cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa (12:34)
Outtakes-(3:56)
Featurette-Newsreel Footage (1:05)
Gallery-Poster-Image
Gallery-Photo-Promo
Gallery-Photo-Production Stills
Gallery-Storyboard Art
Gallery-Inside The Scrapbook
Gallery-Photo-Venice Film Festival, 1951
Trailer-Kill!; Kwaidan; Seven Samurai
Theatrical Trailer
Reversible Cover
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1950
Running Time 84:11 (Case: 88)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (14:54) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Akira Kurosawa
Studio
Distributor
Madman
Madman Entertainment
Starring Toshirô Mifune
Machiko Kyô
Masayuki Mori
Takashi Shimura
Minoru Chiaki
Kichijiro Ueda
Fumiko Honma
Daisuke Katô
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Fumio Hayasaka


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    On an isolated bush trail in 12th Century Japan, a woman is brutally raped and her husband is found murdered nearby. Rashomon relays the story of their final hours together from the points of view of four witnesses. First, a woodsman (Takashi Shimura, Ikiru) who claims to have discovered the body, followed by a captured bandit (Toshiro Mifune) who seems happy to confess all. We then hear the surviving wife share her harrowing tale, an account that is only bettered by a shocking revelation from the dead man himself, communicating via a typically eccentric medium.

    In a film that leaves the viewer wondering who to believe, it's not all that surprising to find that we're also faced with a very negative view of mankind. Lies, treachery and callousness abound. The discovery of a dead samurai in the 12th Century was nothing special considering the country had been enduring years of war, famine and plague. It is the method of the man's betrayal that makes the situation so shocking. Was he simply murdered at the whim of a passing bandit, or could it have been a cold betrayal on the part of his dissatisfied, yet highly decorated wife? The viewer is given the facts at hand, and is left to draw their own conclusions.

    In its time, Rashomon was considered by many as an experimental or arthouse piece, even though it went on to gather awards at festivals around the globe. Kurosawa applied many unique camera angles and utilised long shots with the camera mounted on a complicated dolly system; all stylistic devices that had not been used on screen before to that scale. In fact, Kurosawa is recorded as saying proudly that the camera had a starring role in Rashomon. The film's use of light and shadow is similarly striking, and although the effects seem subtle, applying them to a scene was quite an involving process, as is described in the accompanying featurettes on this disc.

    Production of the film was threatened twice by fires at the Daiei studio, the second occurring only four days before the film was due to premiere. Despite many members of the crew being overcome by toxic fumes coming from the burning celluloid, only one reel of negative was lost in the fire and the film debuted to schedule.

    Rashomon stands to this day as a fascinating, thought-provoking, and visually arresting film, yet still only one of the many jewels in Akira Kurosawa's magnificent directorial crown.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This video transfer is marred by some distracting artefacts inherent in the film source, but for a film that is more than fifty years old that is hardly surprising. Telecine wobble and general instability is consistent in the source and varies in severity from one scene to the next. Film artefacts range from specks of dirt to scratches and marks that occupy a fair portion of the frame. Although the state of the source is a bit of a worry initially, the quality improves considerably after only five minutes.

    The film has been transferred to DVD in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1, full frame. None of the disc's content is 16x9 enhanced. The image is slightly windowboxed on all sides by a thin black border.

    The black and white image is sharp enough to be easy on the eye, with a good degree of visible detail in most scenes. I noted a few moments that seemed a little too bright, or unnatural, but these were few. Otherwise, the transfer has good depth and is suitably dark when necessary.

    I didn't note any MPEG compression glitches in the slightest, thanks to a healthy, constant bitrate over 7Mb/s.

    An English subtitle stream is activated by default, and is comprised of a white font that is easy to read. I didn't notice any annoying typos or errors in the text.

    This disc is dual layered, with the layer transition placed during the feature at 14:54. The placement is between scenes and of minimal intrusion.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Like the video source, the audio suffers from a bit of wear and tear. There is only one audio option, being the film's original Japanese language mono soundtrack, encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

    The dialogue is distinct, but suffers from distortion on a number of occasions, usually as the result of laughing or yelling. There are no dire audio sync issues present, but there are numerous clicks, pops and dropouts in the course of the feature. Again, given the age and condition of the source this isn't surprising.

    The score by Fumio Hayasaka is orchestral, hauntingly beautiful and highly memorable. I was surprised to learn that Hayasaka was threatened with a plagiarism lawsuit for his work, claiming that he stole the theme's rhythm from Bolero. I can see the similarity, but some stretching of the imagination is required.

    There is obviously no subwoofer or surround activity to report.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is an excellent and informative array of bonus material. English subtitle streams are included where necessary.

Menu

    The main menu and scene selection pages are animated with flashes of imagery from the film, accompanied by inventive page transitions. Most are accompanied by music from the film.

Featurette-Making Of - Behind The Scenes of Rashomon (68:21)

    This is an extensive look at the making of the film, guided by a reunion of the surviving crewmembers. All the participants share anecdotes from the film's production and divulge a few of the tricks that were used to achieve certain effects, many of which seem quite primitive by today's standards. This is a fascinating and revealing dissection of the production that should satisfy most fans of the film.

Featurette- The Camera Also Acts: The World of Cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa (12:34)

    In archival interview footage, Miyagawa and Kurosawa discuss their working relationship and how they came to the Rashomon project. This piece is an excerpt, taken from a larger documentary on Miyagawa's life.

Outtakes (3:56)

    I found this piece particularly interesting. During the editing process, pieces of remaining film from the beginning and end of a shot are sometimes kept for future reference. Here, these pieces have been spliced together to form a reel of unused footage. Some are just glimpses of scenes, while others carry on for quite a few frames. There are clacker boards visible and also members of the crew at some points.

Featurette- Newsreel Footage (1:05)

    A short newsreel from back in the day, mentioning the film's success in Europe and overseas.

Gallery -Images

    There are six separate galleries in total, with a great collection of stills to browse using your remote.

Theatrical Trailer (3:19)

    The film's trailer is overly sensational, which I suppose was the trend in those days, but it conveys the general premise well.

Madman Trailers (3)

    Additional trailers are included for Japanese-language classics Kill!, Kwaidan and Seven Samurai.

Reversible Cover Slick

    The other side of the slick has alternate artwork and is void of ratings logos.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 2 BFI release includes a few biographies and that's it.

    The Region 1 Criterion disc of 2002 includes the following extras:

    Our Making-Of featurette makes the Region 4 disc pretty worthwhile. It looks like we may have finally outdone a Criterion Edition in Region 4!

Summary

    Rashomon is challenging, entertaining and thought-provoking cinema. This is one of Akira Kurosawa's finest achievements.

    The transfer shows its age, but the degree of damage is tolerable.

    The extras are fascinating and pertinent to the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Monday, January 15, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3806 (via Denon Link 3)
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Criterion Edition -
Criterion Edition - REPLY POSTED
Criterion's booklet, commentary and stories - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
Better than the Criterion... -