Akira Kurosawa's Rashômon is a morass of deceptions, obfuscations and lies — and yet despite a rape and a murder (or is it a suicide?), Kurosawa's film manages to avoid a nihilistic view of human nature and emphasize the inherent decency of the human spirit. Trapped in a gatehouse by a persistent storm, a priest, a commoner and a woodcutter tell tales of the ferocious bandit, Tajômaru (Toshirô Mifune, in a feral performance that made him an international star). In the course of their storytelling, we learn that Tajômaru killed a samurai in the vicinity, after raping the man's wife. Or perhaps he seduced the wife and killed the samurai in an honorable duel. Or perhaps the samurai killed himself to preserve face after his wife left him for Tajômaru. Kurosawa masterfully shows the subjectivity of truth, and constructs a visual language of dappled light, persistent shadows and looming storm clouds that all mirror the darkness of his characters and their role in this tale of misery. And just when you believe humanity to be as gloomy and deceitful as Rashômon makes us appear, a little light shines through and redeems us all. The Webster Film Series screens a new 35 mm print of Rashômon at 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday (September 11 through 13) at Webster University's Moore Auditorium (470 East Lockwood Avenue; 314-968-7487 or www.webster.edu/filmseries). Tickets are $5 to $6.
Sept. 11-13, 2009