Rashomon (1950)

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Akira Kurosawa based on stories by Ry√Ľnosuke Akutagawa
(number 297)

Rashomon is a classic, and it’s one that’s had influences over many tv series and movies since, you’ve probably seen a version of it without realising the roots. I think the first one I saw was on the X-Files where when Scully described the local sheriff he was handsome and charming, but when Mulder described him he the actor was played with ugly make up and seemed stupid. Supernatural did a really good one where Sam and Dean get more and more insulting of each other as they go. It’s the story where the events are recounted later by different people and there’s subtle and not so subtle differences each time. It’s highly entertaining.

The movie is beautifully acted and it’s filmed in very beautiful Japanese countryside and ruins/buildings. The costumes were great, the make up…I don’t know what much else to say about it honestly. It’s a great film.

Does it make me love the people? I mean… kind of? I don’t know that you get enough time getting to know any of them to really love or care for them, and they’re all pretty much assholes so. Maybe not really but I can see that this movie is a pretty damning summary of human condition all round. I could definitely do without the rape scene and the general fall out of the rape.

The big sword fight was highly entertaining. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sword fight between people who were so afraid of being in a sword fight before. Worst samurai ever, just saying.

Bechdel test: No, only the one woman in this story.

Best line:

In the end, you cannot understand the things men do.

State of Mind: I pretty much enjoyed this, and I think I’d like to watch it again. The third storytelling was very unexpected! Very impressed. Probably need to rewatch it a couple times to get the nuances and the details which I didn’t quite catch. I might not watch it again soon, mind. Great film, great director, good watch. Do it.

Watched movie count


Ran (1985)

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni and Masato Ide based on King Lear by William Shakespeare
(number 291)

First of all let me say the costumes in this are off the hook awesome.

I watched it with Ellen on a partially foggy, partially sunny Saturday afternoon after we’d failed to find a copy of La Maman et Le Putain with English subtitles. Realising this is one the based on Lear we agreed to watch this instead. I had for some reason, imagined this was a much older film than the 80s so I was surprised by the lush colours of it. It’s gorgeous, the long shots of people on horseback at the top of a hill, or the interiors lit up by the bright kimono of one of the wives.

Lord Ichimoji wakes up and looks out the window to see his third castle is under siege, many warriors and horses and things burning.
Ellen: uh oh!
Jenni: yeah, that’s no good, I wouldn’t want to look out the window and see that.
E: If I woke up and saw that out my window I’d be more surprised than anything.

It’s a fantastic battle sequence though, beautiful music and fantastic staging. The burning castle was a real castle they build on the slopes of Mt Fuji and the fleeing had to be done in one take since they’d really burned their set. Full on. I can see how this movie was Kurosawa’s most expensive.

Does it make me love the people? Sure. Right at the start when the elderly Lord Ichimonji falls asleep, Saburo cuts the branches of a tree to set up a little shade for him, it’s very sweet. Much like with Lear, you feel sympathy for the old man while knowing he basically brought it all upon himself. The fool is awesome too, love a fool.

Ellen wondered where this was filmed and I found out some astounding stuff on the wikipedia page. An $11 million budget in 1984, all the uniforms and armour handmade over two years, Kurosawa’s wife died during the filming and they paused for one day to mourn her and then he just kept on filming. I’m pretty inspired to read up more on Kurosawa after this movie.

Bechdel test: There are named women, but they’re just wives of the sons and never in the same scene. Sue does talk to an older lady over who should go get the flute but the older lady isn’t named I think, and they’re talking about getting a flute to make a man happy so… I don’t think it counts.

Best line:

“all we did, was speak the truth”

Fool: must be nice, having no idea what’s going on.

“Lady Sue must have been a fox in disguise!” – this whole sequence was golden, remind me if anyone ever charges me with bringing them a head that I have to use the fox head trick and then be as surprised by it as the recipient.

State of Mind: Very impressed, not just in the elegant translation of Lear to medieval Japan but with the production and the way it managed to keep my attention even though it’s not the shortest movie. Stunning stuff, Ellen was also impressed. Highly recommend and may well watch again at some point.

Watched movie count

Ikiru (1952)

Ikiru (Ikiru means ‘to live’
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni
(number 459)

A black and white Japanese movie from the early 50s – the only other Kurosawa film I’ve watched is Seve Samurai which I thoroughly enjoy but suspect this movie is nothing like that one.

A man who has worked for decades in the same bureaucratic job finds out he has less than a year to live. This piece of storytelling is handled beautifully though – the bureaucracy shown with a group of people wanting to complain about an cesspool in their community and being sent place to place, through department after department until they’re back where they started.

The diagnosis is shown with Kanji Watanabe waiting in the doctor’s office and a talkative fellow patient explaining that if you have really bad cancer then the doctor will only say it’s a mild ulcer and to eat whatever you like… Kanji gets more and more afraid and then gets the mild ulcer diagnosis. It’s an inevitable piece of dialogue, and the emotions are sold perfectly by Takashi Shimura. You feel his fear and his sorrow just by watching the way his eyes crinkle and shine.

With this as a premise, it’s undoubtedly a movie with an aura of sadness to it. Watanabe asks what he’s been doing with his whole life? The only thing he has to show for it is the certificates of long service for his government job.

Its kind of heartbreaking how relevant this whole story line is still to modern society, like.. working endlessly at a job and not doing other stuff with your life. The way bureaucracy can wear down intention and make people not even want to try.

Does it make me love the people? I adored the novelist with his hat and his high thoughts, Toyo and her Genki outlook on life but ultimately I loved Watanabe the most. How relatable is he? I’m sure everyone at some point in time is waiting in a doctor’s office imagining the worse, or daydreaming about ‘what if I only had six months to go?’ what would you do? What could you do?

Bechdel test: Toyo talks a lot but not to other women. This movie is pretty tightly from Kanji’s point of view and the other characters pretty much talk to him.

Best line:
Kanji’s brother to his son: he’s stayed single all these 20 years for you, makes sense he’d explode eventually.

Kanji Watanabe: I can’t afford to hate anyone. I don’t have that kind of time.

Novelist: How tragic that man can never realize how beautiful life is until he is face to face with death.

State of Mind: I feel that this movie’s spiritual successor is Departures, a Japanese film I really love. It was long but it didn’t feel long to me, it wasn’t boring, there was always an emotion or an experience happening on screen.

It makes you want to go out and seize the day a bit, but it also is a calm movie so it quite made me want to sleep as well. Will seemed to enjoy it as well, although he kept trying to name all the other characters as manic pixie dream (whatevers), when really the motivation factor was Watanabe’s cancer.

Watched movie count