Program Notes: Rashomon (1950)

What is reality, anyway? (Lily Tomlin once called it “a collective hunch.”)

Set in feudal Japan, Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) explores that question by examining a violent crime.

Rashomon, the unexpected hit that introduced Western audiences to Japanese films, screens as part of the Movies That Matter series presenting essential masterpieces of world cinema.

On a forest path a samurai has been murdered and his wife raped. But during the trial of the perpetrator we hear four wildy contradictory reports of what happened. The fragile wife says one thing, the preening criminal (Toshiro Mifune in the role that made him an international star) another. The ghost of the dead husband, speaking through a medium, offers a third version. And contradicting everyone is a woodcutter who saw it all unfold.

Film Screening:
Rashomon (1950)
Sunday, Oct. 14 at 1:30 p.m.
Plaza Branch

Whom are we to believe? And can we ever really know the “truth”?

With Rashomon Kurosawa took his place as one of the world’s great filmmakers. In his half-century career he made more than 30 movies, including masterpieces like The Seven Samurai, Ikiru, Yojimbo, Ran, The Hidden Fortress, and Throne of Blood.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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The tracking shot through the

The tracking shot through the woods in the film is one of the most beautiful examples of cinematography in the history of movies.
I'd recommend reading the short story "In a Grove" on which the movie is based -- it's only about 7 pp. long or so. And, like the film, we don't have a single authoritative version of what happened.

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