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Rashomon
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Genre:Art/Foreign
Year:1951
Rating:NR
Length:1h 28mins
Cast:Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune, Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyo

With ringing moments of intensity and a radical manipulation of time, Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon stands legitimately alongside Citizen Kane as one of the movies that altered the rules of cinematic storytelling. Based on two short stories by author Ryunosuke Akutagawa ("In a Grove" and "Rashomon"), the movie is set in 12th-century Kyoto and centers around a trial in a prison courtyard. Four defendants -- the bandit Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune); a young woman, Masago (Machino Kyo); the spirit of her samurai husband, Takehiro (Masayuki Mori); and a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) -- each offer varied and often contradictory versions of an incident, the only certain elements of which are a rape, a death, and an ambush. Teasing and hooking a viewer at the same time, Kurosawa mines the fallibility of memory, in the process framing human unpredictability, selfishness, and weakness with multiple points of view. The movie is also distinguished by superior performances by Mifune and Kyo. Filmmakers have chased Kurosawa's achievement for years -- recent movies like Memento, The Usual Suspects, and Jim Jarmusch's overt homage Ghost Dog all pay some tariff to Rashomon's unusual pulse and rhythm. The Criterion Collection DVD edition of this classic boasts a glistening restored image and adds two fantastic extras to the mix: The World of Kazuo Miyagawa, a documentary on Rashomon's painstaking, passionate cinematographer, plus a moving tribute from Robert Altman. Eddy Crouse

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