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Home Classic Movies Rashomon Effect Revisited: Akira Kurosawa Classic

Rashomon Effect Revisited: Akira Kurosawa Classic

14 minutes read

Rashomon effect: Toshiro Mifune Machiko Kyo
Rashomon effect revisited: Toshiro Mifune and Machiko Kyo in Akira Kurosawa classic.

Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo in RashomonAkira Kurosawa’s 1950 classic Rashomon, which officially introduced Japanese cinema to the world at large, will be the next film presented as part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ series “Monday Nights with Oscar.” The East Coast premiere of the new digitally restored print of Rashomon will take place on Monday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy Theater in New York City.

Though it revolves around the rape of a woman and the murder of her Samurai husband, Rashomon, co-adapted by Kurosawa and Shinobu Hashimoto from Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s stories “Rashomon” and “In a Grove,” is less a crime drama than an examination of the mind-boggling nature of truth. Set in feudal Japan, the film depicts the incidents from four different – and contradictory – points of view: that of the alleged rapist/bandit (Toshiro Mifune); the Samurai’s widow (Machiko Kyo, delivering the film’s strongest, least mannered performance); a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) who claims to have witnessed the crime; and, via a medium, the ghost of the unfortunate Samurai (Masayuki Mori).

Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

I should add that Rashomon boasts excellent black-and-white cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa. The film’s title, by the way, refers to the gatehouse in front of which the woodcutter, hiding from heavy rainfall, narrates the various tales to a boisterous commoner.

In Hollywood, Rashomon was remade as The Outrage (1964), a generally panned Western directed by Martin Ritt, and starring Paul Newman, Claire Bloom, Rod Steiger, and Edward G. Robinson. Kurosawa’s film has also influenced numerous other productions, among them The Usual Suspects (1995), Courage Under Fire (1996), Where the Truth Lies (2005), and the recent sleeper hit Vantage Point (2008).

Machiko Kyo in Rashomon

The Golden Lion winner at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, Rashomon also won the 1953 Honorary Foreign Language Film Award for former World War II enemy Japan (the best foreign-language film Academy Award category was established in 1956) and was nominated for its black-and-white art direction (Takashi Matsuyama, H. Matsumoto). Additionally, the film earned Akira Kurosawa a Directors Guild of America nomination and a National Board of Review win, while also receiving that organization’s best foreign film prize.

This Rashomon screening will feature the new restoration from the Academy Film Archive in association with the Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation and The Film Foundation.

Toshiro Mifune Daisuke Kato Rashomon

Tickets for Rashomon are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. The Academy Theater is located at 111 East 59th Street in New York City. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved.

For additional information call (212) 821-9251 or visit

Rashomon images: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library.

The Count of Monte Cristo
Rescued from an Eagle's Nest

D.W. Griffith“A Century Ago: The Films of 1908” will be presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Monday, Dec. 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. The program will be repeated on Thursday, December 4, at 7 p.m. at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, California.

“A Century Ago” will feature a number of 1908 shorts, among them Edison’s Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest (above, lower photo), featuring a performance by none other than D.W. Griffith (right); Biograph’s After Many Years, starring the Official First Film Star, Florence Lawrence, and in which new director Griffith tries out parallel cutting and camera movement; Vitagraph’s trick film The Thieving Hand; Gaumont’s Fantasmagorie, animated by Émile Cohl; Selig’s The Count of Monte Cristo (above, top photo), starring Hobart Bosworth; Pathé’s comedy Troubles of a Grass Widower, starring Max Linder (curiously, as per the IMDb, this is a 1912 short); and one of the earliest Italian productions, the hand-tinted Le Farfalle (Butterflies).

As in past years, Randy Haberkamp will provide historical context for the rare films, which will be accompanied by Michael Mortilla.

I’m assuming that Randy (who was a great help when I was working on my Ramon Novarro bio) will have something to say about the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC), founded in December 1908. With an eye on the fast-growing film/nickelodeon business, the MPPC – spearheaded by Thomas Edison (the mean-looking gent in the first row of the picture below, fourth from the left) – did its best to destroy competition from independent filmmakers. The MPPC oligarchy, however, apparently failed to bring the right people on their side. The independents prospered so much (especially after many of them moved to the Los Angeles area and began promoting star attractions) that they eventually became an oligopoly of their own, whereas the MPPC was to have its patents voided a few years later.

Thomas Edison, Motion Picture Patents Company founders

Most films will be screened from 35mm prints drawn from the collections of the Academy Film Archive, the Library of Congress, and the UCLA Film & Television Archive, among others.

Tickets to “A Century Ago” in Hollywood are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets are available for purchase online at, by mail, or at the Academy box office during regular business hours. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved.

The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood. Free parking is available through the entrance on Homewood Avenue (one block north of Fountain Avenue). For additional information, visit or call (310) 247-3600.

Tickets for “A Century Ago” in the San Francisco Bay Area are $10 for the general public and free for Academy members. Tickets may be purchased through the Smith Rafael Film Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved.

The Smith San Rafael Film Center is located at 1118 Fourth Street in San Rafael. For more information, call the Academy at (310) 247-2688, Smith Rafael Film Center at (415) 454-1222, or visit

Photos: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library

Miriam Hopkins Time cover‘Time’ magazine cover in Google’s ‘Life’ magazine archives (image: Miriam Hopkins in ‘Becky Sharp’)

‘Life’ magazine archives online via Google

Google has recently launched an online photo gallery featuring images from Life magazine’s archives, many of which have never been seen publicly before. The new Google service is available at; it currently offers 2 million photos, from the 1860s to the 1970s.

In the coming months, Google plans to scan all 10 million photos from the Life magazine library. Life‘s photo archive will also be made available on the magazine’s website in late February 2009.

Miriam Hopkins on the ‘Time’ cover

The Time cover above shows Miriam Hopkins in the title role in Becky Sharp, the 1935 film adaptation of W.M. Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. Hopkins received her one and only Best Actress Academy Award nomination for playing Thackeray’s antiheroine in the Rouben Mamoulian-directed production, which happens to be the first three-strip Technicolor feature film ever made.

Other Miriam Hopkins movies include Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), with Fredric March in the title roles and Rose Hobart as the nice girl (Hopkins plays a doomed sex worker); Ernst Lubitsch’s The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), with Maurice Chevalier and Claudette Colbert; Stephen Roberts’ controversial The Story of Temple Drake (1933), based on William Faulkner’s Sanctuary, and featuring William Gargan and Jack La Rue; and Howard HawksBarbary Coast (1935), co-starring Edward G. Robinson and Joel McCrea.

Additionally, Miriam Hopkins co-starred opposite Bette Davis in a couple of melodramas made at Warner Bros.: Edmund Goulding’s The Old Maid (1939) and Vincent Sherman’s Old Acquaintance (1943). The latter movie would be unofficially remade as The Turning Point (1977), directed by Herbert Ross, and starring Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine. An official remake would follow in 1981, directed by George Cukor, and starring Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen.

Miriam Hopkins died of a heart attack in 1972.

Miriam Hopkins Becky Sharp Time cover image: Life magazine archives.

100 Films for the Ideal Cinematheque

Via Cahiers du Cinéma:

Seventy-eight film critics and historians – mostly from France or the Francophone world, apparently – among them screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, screenwriter-director Claude Miller, and author-documentarian, poll organizer, and editor of the book 100 Films pour une Cinemathèque Idéale Claude-Jean Philippe – have selected their top 100 films for the “ideal cinematheque.” That is followed by a list featuring their picks for the top 50 filmmakers.

There are only two Best Picture Oscar winners in the list: The Godfather (1972) and, gasp, The Deer Hunter (1978). Not surprisingly, the list is dominated by auteurish Hollywood and French cinema titles. In other words: Nothing directed by Henry Hathaway, Michael Curtiz, William A. Wellman, Mitchell Leisen, William Wyler, W.S. Van Dyke, Julien Duvivier, Jean Delannoy, or René Clément. (George Cukor and Elia Kazan managed to be included for the bloated – but auteurishA Star Is Born and America America, respectively.) And you’ll be hard-pressed to find “producer’s films” like Gone with the Wind or Rebecca or Casablanca in the list.

Among the silent films, only the most well-known, prestigious titles were included, e.g., Greed (1924), Battleship Potemkin (1925), The Wind (1928), City Lights (1931). That makes me wonder how many silents those critics and historians have actually watched – or even heard of.

The biggest surprise is probably the inclusion of Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1955) as the #2 title, though I must admit that I’d never have expected to find Fritz Lang’s Moonfleet (1955) – which is actually quite enjoyable – anywhere in such a list, either.

No films from Africa were included. From Asia, there are a handful from Japan and one from India (the tedious The Music Room). From the Americas, the only non-Hollywood entry is Luis Buñuel’s Mexican melodrama El (1953), in my view one of the director’s very worst films. Australian and New Zealand films are nowhere to be found. And from Europe, there isn’t a single 100 percent British production in the list – John Huston’s beautiful The Dead comes closest – and nothing from Eastern Europe, excepting a few scattered Russian entries. Italy, Spain, Germany, and Sweden (the only Ingmar Bergman entry is Fanny and Alexander) are quite underrepresented, with – at most – a handful of films from each country. (Seventy-seven of the 100 films are either French or American productions or co-productions.)

Perhaps all those omissions prove nothing. On the other hand, perhaps they’re proof that French critics and historians are as narrow-minded and insular as their American counterparts.

See below:

Film Title (Director) Number of votes

Citizen Kane (Orson Welles) 48

The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton) 47

La Règle du jeu / The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir) 47

Sunrise (F. W. Murnau) 46

L’Atalante (Jean Vigo) 43

M (Fritz Lang) 40

Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly) 39

Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock) 35

Les Enfants du Paradis / Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné) 34

The Searchers (John Ford) 34

Greed (Eric von Stroheim) 34

Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks) 33

To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch) 33

Tokyo monogatari / Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu) 29

Le Mépris / Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard) 28

27 votes
Ugetsu monogatari / Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi)
City Lights (Charles Chaplin)
The General (Buster Keaton)
Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau)
The Music Room (Satyajit Ray)

26 votes
Freaks (Tod Browning)
Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray)
La Maman et la Putain / The Mother and the Whore (Jean Eustache)

25 votes
The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin)
Il Gattopardo / The Leopard (Luchino Visconti)
Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Resnais)
Die Büchse der Pandora / Pandora’s Box (G.W. Pabst)
North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock)
Pickpocket (Robert Bresson)

24 votes
Casque d’or / Golden Maria (Jacques Becker)
The Barefoot Contessa (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
Moonfleet (Fritz Lang)
Madame de… / The Earrings of Madame de… (Max Ophüls)
Le Plaisir (Max Ophüls)
The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino)

23 votes
L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni)
Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein)
Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock)
Ivan the Terrible (Sergei Eisenstein)
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola)
Touch of Evil (Orson Welles)
The Wind (Victor Sjöström)

22 votes
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick)
Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman)

21 votes
The Crowd (King Vidor)
8 1/2 (Federico Fellini)
La Jetée (Chris Marker)
Pierrot le Fou (Jean-Luc Godard)
Le Roman d’un tricheur / The Story of a Cheat (Sacha Guitry)

20 votes
Amarcord (Federico Fellini)
La Belle et la Bête / Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau)
Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder)
Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli)
Gertrud (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
King Kong (Ernest B. Shoedsack and Merian C. Cooper)
Laura (Otto Preminger)
Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa)

19 votes
Les 400 coups / The 400 Blows (François Truffaut)
La Dolce vita (Federico Fellini)
The Dead (John Huston)
Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch)
It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra)
Monsieur Verdoux (Charles Chaplin)
La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc / The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer)

18 votes
À bout de souffle / Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard)
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola)
Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick)
La Grande illusion (Jean Renoir)
Intolerance (D.W. Griffith)
Partie de campagne / A Day in the Country (Jean Renoir)
Playtime (Jacques Tati)
Roma, città aperta / Open City (Roberto Rosselini)
Senso (Luchino Visconti)
Modern Times (Charles Chaplin)
Van Gogh (Maurice Pialat)

17 votes
An Affair to Remember (Leo McCarey)
Andrei Rublev(Andrei Tarkovsky)
The Scarlet Empress (Joseph von Sternberg)
Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi)
Hable con ella / Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar)
The Party (Blake Edwards)
Tabu (F.W. Murnau)
The Bandwagon (Vincente Minnelli)
A Star Is Born (George Cukor)
Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot / Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (Jacques Tati)

16 votes
America America (Elia Kazan)
El (Luis Buñuel)
Kiss Me Deadly (Robert aldrich)
Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone)
Le Jour se lève / Daybreak (Marcel Carné)
Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls)
Lola (Jacques Demy)
Manhattan (Woody Allen)
Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch)
Ma nuit chez Maud / My Night at Maud’s (Eric Rohmer)
Nuit et Brouillard / Night and Fog (Alain Resnais)
The Gold Rush (Charles Chaplin)
Scarface (Howard Hawks)
Ladri di biciclette / Bicycle Thief (Vittorio de Sica)
Napoléon (Abel Gance)

Filmmakers Number of votes

Jean Renoir 155
Alfred Hitchcock 146
Fritz Lang 143
Charles Chaplin 128
John Ford 124
Orson Welles 114
Ingmar Bergman 113
Luis Buñuel 110
F.W. Murnau 108
Howard Hawks 105
Jean-Luc Godard 99
Federico Fellini 99
Ernst Lubitsch 98
Luchino Visconti 90
Robert Bresson 90
Kenji Mizoguchi 87
Akira Kurosawa 86
Max Ophüls 83
Alain Resnais 82
Carl Theodor Dreyer 76
François Truffaut 75
Stanley Kubrick 75
Vincente Minnelli 73
Joseph L. Mankiewicz 73
Roberto Rosselini 73
Josef von Sternberg 69
Michelangelo Antonioni 67
Sergei Eisenstein 65
Marcel Carné 64
Billy Wilder 61
Buster Keaton 61
Yasujiro Ozu 60
Erich von Stroheim 60
John Huston 59
Elia Kazan 55
King Vidor 53
D.W. Griffith 53
Maurice Pialat 52
Jean Vigo 51
Nicholas Ray 49
Jacques Becker 48
Woody Allen 48
Francis Ford Coppola 47
Jacques Demy 47
Charles Laughton 47
Jacques Tati 46
Otto Preminger 45
Leo McCarey 45
George Cukor 44
Raoul Walsh 44

78 Critics and Historians

Henri Agel
Vincent Amiel
François Amy de la Breteque
Jean-Jacques Bernard
Pierre Billard
Frédéric Bonnaud
Ferid Boughedir
Michel Boujut
Jean-Loup Bourget
Pierre-André Boutang
Frédéric Boyer
Patrick Brion
Freddy Ruache
Philippe Carcassonne
Jean-Claude Carrière
Michel Cazenave
Henry Chapier
Bernard Chardere
Michel Chion
Raymond Chirat
Michel Ciment
Bernard Cohn
Jean Collet
Philippe Collin
Pierre-Henri Deleau
Jean-Luc Douin
Michel Esteve
Jacques Fieschi
Jean-Michel Frodon
Anne de Gasperi
Charlotte Garson
Jean Gili
Claude de Givray
Régine Hatchondo
Noël Herpe
Aude hesbert
Gilles Jacob
Thierry Jousse
Serge Kaganski
Petr Kral
Jean-Marc Lalanne
Xavier Lardoux
Natacha Laurent (Cinematheque de Toulouse. With Christophe Gauthier and Jean-Paul Gorce)
Philippe Le Guay
Gérard Leone
Jean-Yves de Lepinay
Eric Le Roy
Jean-Louis Leutrat
Suzanne Liandrat-Guigues
Lucien Logette
Jean-Claude Loiseau
Jacques Lourcelles
Pascal Merigeau
Claude Miller
Alain Masson
Jean Narboni
Dominique Païni
Olivier Père
Claude-Jean Philippe
Vincent Pinel
René Prédal
Dominique Rabourdin
Jean-Claude Raspiengeas
Alain Riou
Pierre Rissient
Jean-Claude Romer
Philippe Rouyer
Nicolas Saada
Jacques Siclier
Noël Simsolo
Catherine Soullard
Pierre Tchernia
Charles Tesson
Jérôme Tonnerre
Christian Viviani
Edouard Waintrop

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Joao Soares -

lol — well, “All That Heaven Allows”, “All I Desire”, “Written on the Wind”, “Imitation of Life” (although I may actually favour the 1934 version over Sirk’s)… What would be your Top 100?

Andre -


Which Douglas Sirk movies?

Joao Soares -

I’d take a while to put it together — and it would be a bit too long to leave on a reply, I guess… Just browsing my Movie Collector with grades of 5, I would have “Red / Rouge”, many of the Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s (“Suddenly, Last Summer”, “Julius Caesar”, “All About Eve”, “A Letter to Three Wives”), “Dangerous Liaisons”, “Ball of Fire”, François Ozon’s short “Victor”, D.W. Griffith’s “Broken Blossoms”, “The Sealed Room” and “A Corner in Wheat”, Visconti’s “Senso”, “Pillow Talk”, “Meet John Doe”, “Mildred Pierce”, Douglas Sirk’s…

Andre -


What would be *your* choices?

Joao Soares -

Fascinating read (it’s great to have the images, the sounds and even the feelings you’ve experienced watching those movies race back to you in a vertigo-mad kaleidoscope while reading the list).

Andre, why don’t you ask your peers and readers to come up with an 100 Films for the ALTFG?


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