JonahKeri.com’s Top 20 Movies of All-Time: #20
Embedded in Florida for a week, enjoying the 75-degree sunshine. I’m skipping the local dive bars (The Independent is nowhere near as trendy as the Web site intro implies, thank goodness) to bang out #20 on the JonahKeri.com Top 20 Movies of All-Time.
Now, let’s start the Top 20:
20 Rashomon: Considered by some to be Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s greatest achievement, Rashomon’s plot is also one of the simplest (and most elegant) in movie history. Kurosawa recreates 12th-century Japan, where he tells the tale of a samurai who is murdered, and his wife raped, by the bandit Tojamaru (played by legendary Kurosawa leading man and all-around bad-ass Toshiro Mifune). Tojamaru is captured and put on trial. But the case hinges on the most subjective of standards — eye-witness testimony. The film progresses from there, with Tojamaru, the wife, the spirit of her dead husband (channeled by a psychic) and the woodcutter who found the body all telling their sides of the story.
The film works for many reasons. Kurosawa uses a bucolic backdrop to tell the tale, channeling the visual style that helped forge his image as one of the masters of film. The performances by Mifune and company are also riveting. But at its heart, this film is all about perspective. The same story, told through the lens of four sets of eyes, creates a gripping drama that wraps you up from beginning to end. Few films have been ripped off more often than Rashomon, from the critically-acclaimed crapfest that was Crash (this movie stinks, and you can’t convince me otherwise) to a planned remake called Rashomon 2010 which might prompt me to burn down theaters in protest.
You can make a great film by playing with perspective, like Bryan Singer does with The Usual Suspects. But anyone who tries to get any closer to the original Rashomon format is destined to fail.