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Shinobu Hashimoto

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Title: Rashomon
Directed by:
Akira Kurosawa
Written by:
Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa 

Rashomon belongs to a group of films which can be reviewed in two distinctly different ways. It was released in 1950 and has had a significant impact on many levels. However, should such a film be reviewed in its place in time, or should it be reviewed exactly the same way as modern movies? Even though it might be interesting to relate a film to the time in which it was produced, I’m more interested in how I perceive that movie today (which might also be helpful for others).

The story is based on two facts: a woman is raped and her husband is found dead. Apart from this, however, little is certain. Throughout Rashomon, four different characters tell their story about what truly happened, all of them mutually contradcitive. The narrative starts from the story of a wood-cutter, who found the body. Subsequently, additional versions are added by the rapist, the dead husband (through a medium) and the woman.

To start with, the basis of this movie is quite interesting and withstands the test of time without any problem whatsoever (although that should probably be accredited to the author of the short stories Rashomon are based on). The four stories have their own characteristics, although they all seem to prove the wickedness of man, a theme which is further highlighted by the three men taking shelter from the rain, discussing the case. Kurosawa’s directing is also good (no surprises there), with the possible exception of some scenes, which feel too drawn out (the fighting between the husband and the rapist for instance). It’s a bit tricky to comment on the acting, considering that the language is Japanese and the film is more than half a century old, but I can find nothing to complain about here.

Conclusively, I think Rashomon is quite good, decidedly better than Seven Samurai, but not so good that I will watch it again any time soon. It’s well worth watching and if its age and its influence on subsequent works are taken into consideration, it should be more quite good. I don’t recommend it in general, but if you find anything I’ve written here to sound even slightly interesting, you should give Rashomon a try.

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Title: 七人の侍
English title: Seven Samurai

Directed by:
Akira Kurosawa
Written by:
Hideo Oguni, Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto
Year: 1954

Before watching it, I knew very little about Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, only that it was black-and-white, fairly long and was very famous. I prefer to watch films and read books with that kind of sparse knowledge, because it avoids some of the pitfalls of expectations and false hopes. Since I need to write something about the film in order to review it, you should probably see the film first before reading this review if you are like me. Normal people can read on, however, because I do not plan to spoil anything.

Seven samurai is about- well, no surprises here – seven samurai who are hired by a small peasant village to protect them from bandits. The aggressors are overheard as they plan an attack on the village later that year, after the harvest is done. Desperate, the peasants try to find samurai to protect their homes and their lives, even if they can only pay with food and shelter for the samurai. Gradually, a force of seven samurai is gathered, all with different goals, aims and personalities. They will somehow have to fit into the village pattern of life as they prepare for the attack. In my opinion, this film is much about this relationship between samurai and villagers. Of course, the lives of the villagers, their sorrows and griefs, as well as those of the samurai, also play a major part.

Directing makes this film worthwhile. It is skillfully produced, with nice photography and some really gripping scenes. The story itself is not too complicated, but works. It does not bore me, but neither does it engage my imagination or feeling on any deep level. On the negative side, the continuous overplaying of characters irk me. I guess this is something Japanese, since it has been a part of most Japanese films and series I have seen. Still, I do not like it at all. Why do they always have to shout? Nonetheless, this is not enough to make Seven samurai a bad film. It is still worthwhile to watch, even if its roughly three hours long.

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