Welcome to the new and improved Akira Kurosawa Online Film Club! How improved, you ask? Well, after finishing our second run through Kurosawa’s body of work, we discussed alternatives and came up with a plan to move forward which will cast our net wider than ever before.
The film club originally kicked off in May 2008 with Rashomon, so it is fitting that our third edition of the club starts with the same film. However, this time around instead of watching and discussing just Rashomon, we will be using it as a starting point for a wider discussion of the notions of truth and subjectivity in Kurosawa’s works. While Rashomon is obviously the most famous and straightforward example of Kurosawa’s exploration of these themes, it is by no means an exception as the topic can be found across much of Kurosawa’s oeuvre.
Can, for instance, Scandal be seen as something of a related work in its handling of tabloid journalism and its various characters’ reactions to it? Is the play acting of dreams and wishes in One Wonderful Sunday an example of a post-war need to create your own subjective reality? How about the dualism of Stray Dog, the construction of personal meaning in Ikiru, the all consuming fear in Record of a Living Being, or the question of identity in Kagemusha? In what ways does the notion of subjective reality come into play in Kurosawa’s own autobiography or the film Dreams which many have seen as a cinematic take on Kurosawa’s personal history? And in what way is all this for instance a reflection of the rebuilding of post-war Japan?
While Rashomon is intended as the primary film to watch for this month’s film club, the overall topic certainly is wider. But as always, you are also more than welcome to discuss any other topic in connection with Rashomon, jump into any of our previous discussions of the film, or indeed discuss any other Kurosawa film. To refresh your memory of Rashomon, I have even put together the first Kurosawa filmography page for the website: see here for the result and do let me know what you think. The image galleries may not function yet on all mobile devices, but I’m working on it, and the body of the text will undoubtedly also need some more work at some point, but it should be a start.
Now, if you think that the topic of “Kurosawa and the notion of truth” is way too big for a single month to sufficiently cover, you are absolutely right. That is why we will in fact be devoting about half a year to our investigation. After Rashomon, we will move onto films that are in one way or another related to it, with Rashomon and other Kurosawa films at the back of our minds.
Here is the full film club schedule for the next months:
September: The Usual Suspects (Singer, 1995)
An example of rashomonesque unreliable narration with just one narrator. Probably the film most often cited as Rashomon influenced from recent Hollywood works. Widely available.
October: Les Girls (Cukor, 1957)
Martinez‘s discussion of Rashomon remakes notes two films which she believes “seem truer to Kurosawa’s point about the human heart than do the more faithful remakes, despite the fact that the plots of both films only resemble the original in terms of some of their narrative structure” (65). Of these two films, Cukor’s Les Girls is in general more easily attainable than the Italian Four Times That Night, so we’ll watch it.
November: Hoodwinked! (Edwards, 2005)
An example of a film which fairly closely utilizes Rashomon‘s narrative structure, and one that is better (and certainly funnier) than many others of its kind. A little like Rashomon, it also reinterprets something from the past, or from the mythic domain of storytelling. Widely available.
December: Hero (Yimou, 2002)
An example of unreliable and conflicting narration. We can also discuss Kurosawa’s influence (if any) on martial arts films. Widely available.
January: Ghost Dog (Jarmusch, 1999)
A film which at its very core emphasises the subjectivity and uncertainty of perception and makes numerous references to Rashomon. Ghost Dog also shares themes with many other Kurosawa films, especially Yojimbo and Seven Samurai. Widely and cheaply available for digital rental and purchase.
And nothing (but perhaps time and availability constraints) will, of course, prevent you from watching other films related to Rashomon. For a list of those, see the lsit of remakes and films influenced by Rashomon.
For a little more information about our film club, see the Akira Kurosawa Online Film Club page. If you have any questions, use the comments below or feel free to open a new forum topic.
Let’s talk subjectivity!