RASHOMON (1951) B/W 83m dir: Akira Kurosawa

w/Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Kichijuro Ueda

This superb film, which caused quite a stir when it was shown at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, is about a quartet of people involved in a rape and murder that take place in the forest. The crimes are reported by each of the four, but their accounts differ. Japan's foremost filmmaker, Kurosawa combines pictorial beauty and techniques of poetic cinema to achieve an exciting and memorable screen experience.

From Georges Sadoul's Dictionary of Films: "This powerful drama was the first Japanese film to have a wide impact in the West. It was selected as the Japanese entry for the Venice Festival (by then head of Unitalia Film) and received the Golden Lion. Kurosawa was astonished and said he would have preferred the award to have gone to 'a film reflecting contemporary Japanese life.' Though its appeal in the West rested largely on its fascinating exoticism, it is not without contemporary allusions. Its four contradictory stories helped end the 'samurai' stereotype: the bandit, the nobleman, and his wife are revealed as cowardly, untruthful and vicious in the final story of the woodcutter. In the epilogue, the action of the woodcutter, an ordinary man terrified of the three in the wood, restores a faith in humanity.

"Each of the episodes has its own particular style but at the same time is dominated by the conflicts in the forest. The somewhat westernized music is based on Ravel's Bolero. The acting, particularly that of Machiko Kyo [as the wife] and Toshiro Mifune [as the bandit], is excellent."

Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.