Joe Pettitt, an amateur screenwriter, has fortunately written a fantastic review on Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) for you all to read.
“Well men are only men. That’s why they lie. They can’t tell the truth, even to themselves”
It can be assumed that most film fanatics can recall, with detail, scene’s from their favourite courtroom drama – a sub-genre that transports the viewer through the grand, unshaken walls of a legal house. It is in this transportation that the genre emits its allure and suspense, wherein the viewer must watch on, often through the dramatic irony of knowing the truth, but powerless to affect the verdict. This is perhaps what has made the legal drama such an enjoyed subgenre within hollywood for so many years. Kurosawa’s Rashomon hit the western cinema screen in 1951 a year after its initial release in Japan and it rocked the film industry in a way no one saw coming. Kurosawa neglected to endow his audience with the foresight of knowing what really happened, thus presenting an unsolved mystery about interpretation and the ego’s embellishment of the truth.
Kurosawa’s Rashomon takes place in rural Japan, presumably pre-dating the Second World War by decades. Still mourning the loss of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many enjoyed and took pride in narratives of classical sensibilities, distracting them from the realities of post war Japan. It’s opening shots of a decrepit, pre-war Japanese building is symbolic of the devastation the war inflicted on the nation and nods to this popular nostalgic mindset of the people at the time. The rain helps to reinforce this melancholy but is also used wonderfully by Kurosawa as a device to convey the differing time zones in which our narratives take place. In one of the most beautiful scene transitions in classic cinema, we come from the heavy rain of the opening shots to see the woodcutter wandering through the forest, as the camera points upward through the canopy with the sun shining through the leaves, we seemingly enter another realm. Kurosawa uses weather fantastically in this film.
Through the rain that pours over the building at the beginning we are introduced to three men, who huddle around a fire – the visual equivalent of someone saying ‘You are about to be told a story’ – and the events of our court hearing are disclosed. From here we are told three contradicting stories surrounding the murder of a samurai. One from the point of view of the Bandit Tajomaru, one from wife of the murdered samurai, and one from the samurai himself who communicates through a medium. Each character’s story is portrayed with the same conviction as the next, all seemingly believing what they say. This is what made the this film so difficult for western audiences to grasp. Kurosawa’s narrative arcs contradict and yet are all equally plausible and true, it is as if he is asking us to confront our prejudices. Do we believe the filthy bandit, with his scratchy skin, swatting flies and raping women? Do we believe the wife, who one of the characters describes as a typical woman who will believe her own lies? Or is it the samurai whose story bears the most candour, speaking through the mystical medium? – As the priest says ‘dead men tell no lies’. These are the questions we ask when watching Rashomon with narratives that are truth, lie and neither at the same time, in a film that is courtroom drama, mystery and something entirely it’s own as well.
And the top 5 Japanese blogs are… In no particular order…
Tofugu is ideal for anything really. They offer travel guides, reviews, and a bunch of videos and interviews related to Japan and its culture.
2) Off The Block Site
This blog is generally reviews on anything from films to video games. I found these anime reviews very interesting as I discovered new film I had never heard of before. They blogger also posts some of their own short stories which are definitely worth a read.
Daiyamanga is perfect if you’re intrigued to know that little bit more about Japanese manga. Offering reviews on manga series and not just individual manga, AND reviews on anime. Fabulous blog!
4) Funny Anime Pics
The title is pretty self explanatory. If you’re in the mood for some homemade hilarious gifs/memes check out this blog. The author even writes adult fantasy novels which you can view on his author website (www.cassidycornblatt.wordpress.com)
5) Tokyo Fox
This blog is written by an English teacher in Tokyo and freelance journalist. It’s an extremely insightful blog. He posts about his travels, food & drink, action and adventure, reviews all around Japan, and so much more!
For the first time in my life I made a 3 course Japanese meal… and it turned out SO delicious. Thanks to www.japanesecooking101.com I managed to cook Karaage (Japanese fried chicken), Salmon Teriyaki, and Dorayaki (the fluffiest pancakes).
1) KARAAGE (Japanese Fried Chicken)
Karaage is essentially a traditionally Japanese meat or fish dish. Anything fried is tasty to me so i decided to make a ton load. This dish is usually cooked with chicken thigh but I decided to make chicken wings instead which took slightly longer than thighs would.
Prep: 30 min – 1 hour
Cook time: 10-20 minutes
Servings: 6 people
750g of chicken wings (equivalent to around 6 chicken thighs)
2 1/2 tbsp of Sake
2 tbsp of Soy Sauce
1/2 tsp of Salt
3-4 tsp grated garlic
3-4 tsp grated ginger
1 cup of all purpose flower
1 cup of corn starch/flour
oil for cooking
salt and pepper
– In a bowl, mix Sake, Soy Sauce, salt, garlic and ginger. Then place the chicken in and mix together. Leave for around 30 minutes to 1 hour to marinate.
– In a different bowl, mix together the corn starch/flour and the salt and pepper and sieve into the marinated chicken bowl and mix it all together.
– Heat around 5 cm of oil (enough to cover the chicken at least half way) at a medium/high heat
– Deep fry for 15-20 minutes, or till its golden brown and crispy.
Recipe and method courtesy of: http://www.japanesecooking101.com/karaage-recipe/
2) SALMON TERIYAKI
Salmon Teriyaki is pretty much loved by everyone. The teriyaki sauce is sweet and salty making it one of my favourite dishes ever.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 people
4 tbsp of Soy Sauce
2 Salmon fillets, sliced in half long ways
2 tbsp of Sake
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of grated ginger root
1 tsp of vegetable oil
– Mix the Soy Sauce, Sake and ginger in a small bowl
– Heat the oil in a frying pan at a medium, once hot place salmon in the pan skin side down.
– Cook the salmon for around 3-4 minutes on each side
– Once pretty much cooked, reduce the heat and add the sauce. Wait until the sauce starts to thicken and after around 4-5 minutes remove from pan, ready to serve.
I ended up adding more teriyaki sauce from the packet because unfortunately I didn’t make enough. But this home made sauce beats the packeted one any day.
Recipe and Method courtesy of: http://www.japanesecooking101.com/salmon-teriyaki-recipe/
Prep: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
1 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2-1 cup of sugar
1 tbsp of honey
1/2 cup of milk
– In a bowl mix the baking soda and flour
– In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and honey and add milk. Mix well.
– Pour in the flour and baking soda mix into the egg mixture and whisk until the batter becomes smooth.
– Heat a non stick frying pan with a tiny piece of butter but rub around the pan with a tissue to make sure there isn’t too much on. On a medium to low hear, pour in some mixture onto the pan so it looks thick and circular like ny other pancake.
– Cook for around 2 minutes until the top of the pancake starts to slightly bubble and then flip over to cook for a further 1 minute.
– Usually you’d place a tablespoon of Anko red beans and cover it with another pancake, wrap it up with plastic and press down the edges. But I just made two separate pancakes, spread my jam on one side with the maple syrup and placed another pancake on top.
My photo isn’t that great because I started to eat it all forgetting I needed to take a photo and by the time I realised I had eaten all the mixture…
Recipe and Method courtesy of: http://www.japanesecooking101.com/dorayaki-recipe/
It’s a pretty daunting thought a 3 course meal that you’ve never cooked before but it was surprisingly really easy! And so yummy I’m even making Dorayaki instead of American pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.
Born in Japan 1910 Kurosawa always knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. At the age of 26 after his brother died he was recruited by Japanese film studio PCL. Film became his life, making more than 30 films, working as an Assistant Director, and writing many screenplays.
Rashomon (1950) winning the Golden Lion award became one of the biggest moments in Japanese film history. With an enormous amount of press worldwide it was the first time Japan had been viewed internationally in a great light after WWII. Startled by their success, Daiei Film Co. produced many subtitled versions for American and European countries and rereleased it worldwide. This meant that Rashomon was the first Japanese film to be seen and loved worldwide.
Seven Samurai (1954) and Yojimbo (1961) being his most influential works in Hollywood sees films such as The Magnificent Seven and A Fistful of Dollars deriving most of it’s style from them. Kurosawa was the most successful director to first use telephoto lenses for photography and the first to use slow motion in action sequences.
Kurosawa’s film generally follow 4 characteristics which make his films so unique:
In order to emphasise the dynamic nature of some scenes, Kurosawa will repeat various narrative elements.
2. Narrative Pauses:
For the audience to take time and reflect on the previous scene to be able to follow what happens next, Kurosawa uses the simple technique of long narrative pauses.
3. Other Influences:
As a fan of European and American film Kurosawa has adapted literature such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth for his film Throne of Blood (1957). John Ford being his greatest inspiration, Kurosawa is rumoured to draw upon many of Ford’s great westerns.
His work is based on the goodness and dignity of human beings. The human spirit is often the main notion around Kurosawa’s films.
“Kurosawa was one of film’s true greats. His ability to transform a vision into a powerful work of art is unparalleled” – George Lucas
1) SPIRITED AWAY (2001)
The first time I saw Spirited Away was at the Secret Cinema where I was able to eat all the different foods they were eating on screen. This included yummy rice balls, sweets and all sort of sushi, this is what makes Spirited Away one for the foodies.
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, this Stuido Ghibli film offers an equal balance between horror and humour. The beautiful composition of art and Miyazaki’s unique way of making the audience feel compassion and appreciation towards the characters makes him one my top storytellers.
This film follows a shy, grumpy young girl named Chihiro whose parents decide to move far out of the country. Whilst on their way to their new home they explore an abandoned theme park where she is approached by a boy who warns her to leave before nightfall. However, before she is able to escape night has fallen and she ends up stuck in a spirit world.
I’m not going to give away the rest as it’s a great start for those who have never seen any anime before. Miyazaki draws on pain, death and blood whilst still keeping a childlike atmosphere around. It can be said this film features many life lessons implying that with love, humour and stunning animation these life lessons are all worth while.
2) URUSEI YATSURA: BEAUTIFUL DREAMER (1984)
Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer is a long-running manga silly comedy series about a flirty schoolboy, his alien girlfriend, and their crazy classmates. This is the second Urusei Yatsura film for director Mamoru Oshii, and you can distinctively tell he made this film however and whatever he wanted. Although not being completely embraced by some Japanese, Western culture took a huge liking towards it as no previous manga knowledge is needed. Due to its cheeky innuendos and quirky humour this film makes it universal and fun despite your background.
3) PAPRIKA (2006)
This was he last of masterful director Satoshi Kon’s work before he sadly died. However, he still managed to convey (like all this other films) tales of dreamy exploration and manipulation.
It is basically a film about dreams, jumping from one to the other eventually loosely tying up at the end, and revolves around the manipulation of dreams and how they can be accessed even in real life. Kon perfectly depicts the shift between reality and the dreamworld. It should be enjoyed as an exciting ride with giant dolls and clowns entertaining you throughout.
Paprika draws you in and never lets you go. You may feel a little confused throughout but that is the whole point, it opens up your conscious to some out of this world imaginations. Its visual beauty and vibrant characters makes it a must see.
4) PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997)
Another Miyazaki film, Princess Mononoke is set in a medieval Japan where some men lived in coherence with nature and others were out to destroy it. It tells the story of how all humans, animals, and nature Gods will fight for their power and land they want.
It’s attention to such close details makes this film, for me, one of the most visually inventive films. Miyazaki also creates a deep sense of humanism which differs from many other Hollywood love stories. In one scene, Ashitaka and San confess their lvoe for each other but because of the different paths their lives take they have to let each other go. Overall, it’s a must see and sways from conventional animations.
5) GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995)
Ghost In The Shell, directed by Mamoru Oshii, was adapted from Masamune’s manga series. Set in its near-future world, humans co-exist with robots and cyborgs. This film is predominately aimed at a more mature audience because of its scenes filled with sex, violence and nudity, and displays women as being protagonists but completely in the nude.
It’s not a film which can be grasped immediately, but it you can get past it’s mind-altering storylines it’s an anime which Sci-Fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.