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Rashomon: The Wipe (17 posts)

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Current forum section: Akira Kurosawa Forums » Theories & Interpretations

The topic Rashomon: The Wipe was started 5 years ago.

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#1


Vili Maunula



I don't think that any Kurosawa discussion is complete without mentioning the wipe. :wink:

Most of the wipes in Rashomon seem quite natural, as for example in "pushing away" one witness to replace him or her with another one at the police station scenes. Of those, I have very little to say except for that they seem to work very well.

There is, however, one wipe that I am not entirely comfortable with. If I am not mistaken, it is also the very first wipe of the film, and occurs during the woodcutter's first account, at the end of the forest sequence.

(I wanted to insert a video here, but after more than two hours of banging my head against the wall with YouTube I gave up.)

The sequence is roughly between 11:32 and 11:44.

The woodcutter is basically running in the forest towards the right edge of the screen, with three cuts bringing us progressively closer to him. At the end of the third, a rightward wipe takes place, as if catching up with the woodcutter. The music simultaneously fades out and a courtyard scene replaces the forest.

Why did Kurosawa employ the wipe here? Personally, had I edited this sequence, I would have ended the forest scene with a strong and harsh cut, and with the music simultaneously sealing this cut with a finishing bang. This, in order to mark the change of scene as well as to mark the feeling of horror that the woodcutter was experiencing at this point, but what he is no more feeling at the police station. Sort of like drawing a more concrete line between the two scenes. I feel that this would also function better than the wipe considering the tension that was built up earlier with the three cuts bringing us closer and closer to him.

Instead, the wipe and the simultaneous fading out of the sound really soften the transition. It, to me, seems to waste the tension that was built up with the woodcutter's run and the cutting so far. I feel a bit cheated.

I can, however, personally think of two explanations for the wipe here.

One is that the forest symbolically "consumes" the woodcutter. It is an interesting idea, I think, but in reality I don't think that the cut really accomplishes that, and neither does it seem to make any sense at this point of the film. I therefore doubt that this was Kurosawa's intention.

The other explanation that I can think of is that Kurosawa is signifying that in fact the scene is not changing -- we are still listening to the woodcutter's narration, even if his narration has changed to the police station. Hence, the softness.

The latter would to me seem like the more logical explanation of the two, but only until you realise that after the woodcutter we get wipes to the priest's testimony and then to the police officer's testimony that becomes Tajomaru's testimony. While I can imagine that the woodcutter is narrating also the police officer's and Tajomaru's testimony, why would he be narrating what the priest had to say?

Does any of this make any sense?

I would be really interested to hear others' opinions about the wipe. I know that Jeremy can bring a professional take on the matter, while Lewis would probably also be able to say a thing or two considering his fascination with the wipe -- but he has, alas, been taken from us by the world of music. (Have you, by the way, taken a listen to Lewis's two compositions on the wipe? There's vertical wipe and horizontal wipe.)

But I would really be interested to hear everyone's take on the matter.


 

#2


Jon Hooper



I don't really have the know-how to say much, but for what it's worth I'll give it a go. I had a look at the wipe for myself and actually it works for me, though I'm not sure I can say why. You mention that a "finishing bang" might have worked better - a more pronounced way of ending the scene, then. The way I see it, and for want of better words, the woodcutter is in a whirl as he flees through the forest - he is confused, shocked, disorientated (I will not entertain the thought at this point that he is lying). The wipe functions to underline that fact as far as I can see. Had Kurosawa chosen a more drastic cut, I think it would suggest that the woodcutter is able to close the book on what happened, to put his thoughts into order, but the fact is he is still disorientated. Of course, one might also say that we do not need a more pronounced cut because his tale is still in the process of being told, so to speak. But I really have no idea beyond that, and am interested to hear what Jeremy has to say.


 

#3


Jeremy



I can bring a take; professional? That part is currently in question, if you guys only knew the mess I'm in now with a old studio I did work for. :???: :razz:

Actually, I like Sanjuro's post, and say it reflects my thoughts completely.

I do like the hard cut, but in this case, to me it would not be very clean. Having a series of pans and follows, ending with a hard cut, would much like Sanjuro mention, like closing a book.

I do have to agree however, some if not all tension is lost, and still have to consider more Vili's post, I can agree on many factors, minus the whole cheated part, to me the wipe was very natural.

I'll do a re-edit of the that scene, with a hard cut and hard drop of the music, like Vili mention, as to have something to compare with. I'm a bit interested how this would look, maybe a fun learning experience. I'll also do what I would consider: A cut to soild black for 2 seconds, then a cut to the court yard, this should maintain tension and mark a new scene--I think :)

I'll look into the other use of wipes, but I dont know anything about wipes, they scare me.


 

#4


Jeremy



Well, I must say now after re-editing the footage, I certainly feel Vili is one to something. I do like the hard cut, and would even say its better then the wipe. The tension does carry over strongly, and the disturbing cut didnt happen as I imagined.

Vili, I messed around with varying lengths, and pauses and found the cutting hard to the woodcutter saying "hai" give the smoothest flow, without making it disturbing. The finishing bang? Well I couldnt find any audio clip that matched well, so again I decided the "hai!" was the next best solution in bringing together the two scenes.

I already did the hard stuff like making a dvd into a editable file--what a pain :sad: So re-editing is very easy,if you want I can change up anything you like, and if you have a audio clip for the big bang let me know. Just a few limitations, being that I'm cutting from a dvd, and have no extra footage (duh)to smoothing out things.

I decided not to do my cut to black, because surprising to me it had the same effect as the wipe. I love cutting to black, or any solid color, and never considered doing a wipe(they scare me remember-seriously they do). But due to this re-editing job, I think the solid color and wipes are roughly the same in the end, this is very weird for me, something I should look into. Its like some sort of re-awaking-thanks Vili.

Vili's Rashomon re-edit

3megs in .wmv format.

You can stream or download, dont worry about virus or anything of the sort, its my server and completely safe.

I have non compressed render version if someone wants it, let me know.


 

#5


Jon Hooper



I think it's a very good job, but to me it now seems rather too abrupt. It may be just that I am expecting the wipe there and can't get used to it. I imagine if I was watching for the first time I wouldn't think it lacking anything, seamless as Jeremy has made it.


 

#6


Lewis Saul



would be really interested to hear others' opinions about the wipe. I know that Jeremy can bring a professional take on the matter, while Lewis would probably also be able to say a thing or two considering his fascination with the wipe -- but he has, alas, been taken from us by the world of music. (Have you, by the way, taken a listen to Lewis's two compositions on the wipe? There's vertical wipe and horizontal wipe.)

I am very busy -- but I can sum up how I feel about this wipe pretty quickly...

imo, this is one of those "musical" wipes -- a filmic "burp" or "gurgle" of transition to the next scene.

I happen to like the wipes that occur during the woodcutter's walk -- it gives an impression that he's walking quite a distance ...

... and -- in fact -- we later get to judge the distance _sans_ wipes when other characters run up the path...

Sorry I can't be here. This is all **GREAT** stuff!!


 

#7


Vili Maunula



Yes, I think that it is a bit abrupt. Good work though, Jeremy!

I imagine that it would feel a little bit less abrupt if the last shot could run a little bit longer (as it kind of does with the wipe). Also, I would probably put some of the silent courtyard scene in before the woodcutter says anything. Just to give the audience time to recover from the cut.

But since Jeremy seems to unenthusiastic about re-staging and re-shooting the entire scene for us -- not to mention re-recording the score -- we shall never know. Sometimes I really doubt if you guys are at all committed to Sparkle Mot... um... this website! :razz:

(Just kidding, of course. It was really neat to see the re-cut version!)


 

#8


Vili Maunula



Sanjuro wrote: The way I see it, and for want of better words, the woodcutter is in a whirl as he flees through the forest - he is confused, shocked, disorientated (I will not entertain the thought at this point that he is lying). The wipe functions to underline that fact as far as I can see. Had Kurosawa chosen a more drastic cut, I think it would suggest that the woodcutter is able to close the book on what happened, to put his thoughts into order, but the fact is he is still disorientated.

This is an excellent point, I think, and makes a lot of sense. Thinking of it this way, it doesn't seem uncomfortable at all.

I'd probably still make my own cut though, if I was the editor. :smile:


 

#9


Jeremy



Here is two clips with a bit more lead in after the cut.
There is not enough extra footage to give a longer lead in to the court room scene. I'm stuck with final cut footage, so unless someone has access to the scraped footage dumped in the trash can back in 1950, its the best that can done.

hard cut, with lead in
2nd Re-Edit

fast fade cut(to smoothing the transition a bit), with lead in.
2nd Re-Edit w/fade

But since Jeremy seems to unenthusiastic about re-staging and re-shooting the entire scene for us -- not to mention re-recording the score -- we shall never know.

I got the forest part, but when I realized I only had my dog to fill in for the woodcutter, and I can only play the Mario Brothers theme song on the piano for the score, I quickly lost enthusiasm. :cry:


 

#10


Vili Maunula



Thanks again, Jeremy! I must say that I like the fast fade cut (3nd re-edit w/fade) the most, including more than Kurosawa's own cut.

If the music ran to its conclusion, I would say that the fast fade would be strong enough to achieve what I think this cut needs (see above), while at the same time being a bit softer than the harsh cut that I had originally envisioned.


 

#11


Jeremy



I'll mess about with the music a bit more, but doubt I could do much of anything, but poorly raise the levels, and stitch a loop of some sort. I'm no sound engineer, and only know the basics with this editing program, so I'm just about at my peak.

I'm still at a bit of a toss up between Kurosawa's and Vili's cut. Its really interesting to me. I suppose if I had to choose, I would favor Vili's slightly.


 

#12


Jeremy



Well you'll just have to use your imagination :grin:
I have some fancy pro-level audio editor program, but no idea how to use it.

Anyways, I did what I could, its rather laughable and I dont think anywhere with what Vili mentioned, but here it is.

Edit v3 w/ quick fade and music carry out

I just carried out the music a bit, you may not even notice it without a back to back play with the others.


 

#13


Vili Maunula



Thanks again for the edit, Jeremy! It's pretty close to what I had in mind, actually -- probably as close as you can get without re-shooting the scene. Well done with the music!


 

#14


Jon Hooper



I just noticed when rewatching the original Star Wars that there's a wipe that seems, to me at least, to imitate the very wipe that Vili introduced here. George Lucas is well known for his admiration of Kurosawa and for his employment of motifs like the wipe; however, I never thought that this might extend to the imitation of a specific wipe.

Just like the rightward wipe that seems to catch up with the woodcutter as he's running towards the right of the screen, there is a similar wipe in Star Wars in the scene just after the discovery of the slaughtered jawas. I don't have the DVD to use a screenshot or to provide a timing but it occurs in the first third of the film, after Luke has been rescued by Ben and they come across the bodies of the Jawas. When Ben tells him that Imperial stormtroopers were the culprits, Luke realises the danger for his aunt and uncle, and races back home in his landspeeder. The camera follows the landspeeder, admittedly without any of the cuts that bring us closer to the woodcutter in Rashomon, as it moves towards the right. A wipe comes from the left and catches up with the landspeeder, much as it does in Rashomon, albeit a bit of a quicker wipe. It expresses the panic and apprehension Luke feels and works well in the same way I argued the Rashomon wipe works.

This is probably all just a coincidence, and perhaps I shouldn't be wasting time discussing Star Wars on this board, but it just goes to show how thinking about a film can inspire one to look for such connections, as misguided as they might be.

Now, about that sump in Drunken Angel and its similarity to the swamp on Dagoba in The Empire Strikes Back... or how about Yoda's resemblance to Kambei :wink:


 

#15


Vili Maunula



Now, about that sump in Drunken Angel and its similarity to the swamp on Dagoba in The Empire Strikes Back... or how about Yoda's resemblance to Kambei :wink:

:lol:

I haven't seen Star Wars in something like 10 years, so I'm afraid that I won't be able to add much to this comparison. It would, of course, be interesting to watch Lucas's use of wipes and compare his technique with Kurosawa's, although I'm sure someone has already done that.


 

#16


yippee



Lucas is thinking of Kurosawa with the wipes, and he's thinking of Saturday afternoon serials. "Thrills and chills, spine-tingling action, hair-raising adventure..."
-and the wipe!

A film student might note interesting similarities in technique. I just remember the wipe felt "retro-fresh" when seeing Star Wars, and especially Indiana Jones for the first time.


 

#17


Lewis Saul



Of course, that is exactly correct -- (about Sat. aft. serials) ...

the wipe become a huge device in the 30's and both Ford, AK and Lucas are either directly or indirectly inspired by the way it was used back then! (esp. ak!)


 

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