Kurosawa, Rashômon and the Japanese Film Renaissance

         Released in 1950, Rashômon, considered to be the defining film of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, changed the Japanese cinema forever. Rashômon is based on two short stories written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and is about the relativity of truth and shows the same story from four different points of view.

         At first the Japanese were reluctant to enter Rashômon into any international film festivals for the fear that no one would understand it. But they were proved wrong when it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. This film led the way for many other eastern films to do well on the international market, as well as establish Kurosawa as an international film figure.

         Many say that Rashômon is a cinematic masterpiece. The cinematographer, Kazuo Miyagawa, used many complicated shots that laid the groundwork for many other films using the same style. He used a lot of tracking shots to progress the story in a natural way, as well as use subtlety different styles for the different characters and their point of view.

         Rashômon made Kurosawa famous and quite popular in the west because of the western influence in his films. In 1954 Kurosawa directed The Seven Samurai, what many consider to be his greatest work. In the film a small village hires seven samurai to fight off bandits that have been attacking the village. Many consider it a cinematic masterpiece along with Rashômon because of complicated tracking shots that are edited together to create a pace that is in line with the pace of war with small pockets of peace here and there. The Seven Samurai was highly honored on a global scale, receiving the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in the U.S. John Sturges later remade it as a western in 1960 as The Magnificent Seven.

         Rashômon clearly paved the way for many other Japanese films to take their place among the cinema masterpieces.

Justin Wylie

Table of Contents