Releasing on a single-disc Blu-ray package, the 1950 Japanese crime drama "Rashomon" offers a stunning examination of the nature of truth among individuals. Based on two short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, this undisputed classic by Akira Kurosawa follows the investigation of a rape and murder case in 12th-century Kyoto. Although it revolves around a simple mystery tale, it specifically works as an eloquent masterwork that recounts specific variations of actual events behind a heinous crime, as reported by different witnesses. In doing so, this thought-provoking piece impressively provides a fascinating analysis on how people perceive, define, and interpret what they believe is the truth.
This iconic offering is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. It revolutionized the language of world cinema and it became widely instrumental in bringing Japanese movies to the international audience. It won the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, along with a nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Black-and-White). It also won the Golden Lion Award for Best Film and the Italian Film Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival.
This carefully cleaned and vigorously restored digital transfer looks stellar for such a dated piece. Ingeniously structured as a collage of flashbacks, this riveting film features striking grayscale imagery with innovative ways of connecting interrelated and contrasting narrative details. Image depth remains solid from start to end. Blacks are always deep and inky and no significant details get lost in the shadows. Whites never bloom in annoying ways.
Considering its age, it is understandably not a technically flawless presentation. Yet, instances of inherent visual imperfections such as slight hazing, specks, and image jittering are very few, far between, and completely negligible. No detrimental issues on degraining, sharpening, flickering, and other visual problems rob the picture's overall quality.
The improvement on the film's Japanese mono track is not as dramatic as this release's visual upgrade. The audio elements sound tinny, hollow, and uneven, and at some point, suffering from some scratchy hiss and distortion. The supposedly expansive musical score tends to feel trapped in the very narrow soundfield. But regardless of its very limited dynamic range and expected flaws, it is still worth noting that its monaural treatment pays enough reverence to its source material. Background hiss is effectively minimized and no annoying pops and crackles plague the mix.
This Blu-ray offering hosts a comprehensive slate of new and old special features including the audio commentary by critic and Japanese film historian Donald Richie, the featurette "Robert Altman on Rashomon," the audio interview "Interview with Takashi Shimura," the documentary "A Testimony as an Image," excerpts from the Japanese TV documentary "The World of Kazuo Miyagawa," and the film's original Japanese trailer. A 45-page illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film historian Stephen Price, an excerpt from Kurosawa's "Something Like an Autobiography," reprints of Rashomon's two literary sources, and art works from the film, along wth an English subtitle option, cap off the package's available extras.
"Rashomon" is a masterpiece that is beyond substantial and satisfying. As perfect as cinema gets, this landmark film remains one of the most honored, imitated, and influential films ever made. It continues to win new fans from one generation to the next. Its groundbreaking approach to storytelling proves how unlikely it is for humans to achieve comprehensive and absolute truth. As the origin of the idiom "Rashomon Effect," it serves as a beautifully riveting parable on people's ability to manipulate, impose, and realize specific details -- depending on what would suit their own viewpoints.