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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Commentary by Japanese film historian Donald Richie
  • Video introduction by Robert Altman
  • Excerpts from The World of Kazuo Miyagawa, a documentary film about Rashomon's cinematographer
  • Reprints of the Rashomon source stories, Ryunosuke Akutagawa's "In a Grove" and "Rashomon"
  • Akira Kurosawa on Rashomon: a reprinted excerpt from his book Something Like an Autobiography
  • Optional English-dubbed soundtrack
  • Theatrical trailer

Rashomon

2002 Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Kichijiro Ueda, Fumiko Honma, Daisuke Kato
1950 | 88 Minutes | Licensor: Daiei Co.

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #138 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: March 26, 2002
Review Date: September 8, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

Brimming with action while incisively examining the nature of truth, Rashomon is perhaps the finest film ever to investigate the philosophy of justice. Through an ingenious use of camera and flashbacks, Kurosawa reveals the complexities of human nature as four people recount different versions of the story of a man's murder and the rape of his wife. Toshiro Mifune gives another commanding performance in the eloquent masterwork that revolutionized film language and introduced Japanese cinema to the world.

Forum members rate this film 8.6/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterionís 2002 DVD edition of Akira Kurosawaís Rashomon presents the film in its original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc. Because of the ratio the image has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Iíve always been fairly defensive of this transfer over the years, which has received a decent amount of criticism by some, but it admittedly leaves room for improvement. The key issue with the presentation is the condition of the source materialsóa fine-grain master positive according to the notes about the transferóused for the film. Time hasnít been too friendly to the film and it shows its age. Despite what I can only assume a vigorous restoration the image is still laced with a heavy amount of damage, which ranges from minor marks to large stains. The sides show wear and tear, tram lines appear, vertical scratches are always present and can get heavy, and along with a constant pulsating effect the frame is always jumping.

The digital transfer itself is fine on the other hand, and this simple improvement, along with the work that did go into the restoration, makes the DVD a marked over any previous home video release. The transfer still manages to offer a rather filmic quality, as much as DVD can offer anyways, and where the source allows there is a decent amount of detail, but most of the image does look a little soft around the edges, more than likely a problem with the source.

In all I donít think it looks terrible and Iíve always been fairly happy with it. Criterion is releasing a new DVD and Blu-ray based on an even newer restoration, so itís more than possible any issues here will be corrected and the presentation will look even better.

6/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The weakest aspect of this disc is the audio presentation. Delivered here in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono itís a shockingly flat presentation, coming off hollow and lifeless. Thereís an audible hiss in the background throughout the entire run time and there are a few pops in places. Dialogue also sounds muffled and the music is a little screeching.

Hopefully the newer editions coming up will improve the audio drastically.

4/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Up to this point most of Criterionís Kurosawa releases didnít deliver much in the way of supplements so this release was a rare treat in that it offered a decent number of quality extras.

The big one is the audio commentary by Donald Richie. It can be a little dry and very ďscholarlyĒ itís actually an entertaining and informative track. Richie can carry on a bit in places but he seems to be a bit excited to be talking about the film and this stops the track from falling victim to being dull. It has a lot of analysis of Kurosawa's techniques and also analyzes the characters, situations and overall story of the film. Itís a standard historian track but itís worth listening to, covering the filmís history, style, and impact thoroughly.

There is also a 6-minute interview/introduction with director Robert Altman who discusses Kurosawa's techniques and its influence on his films. Disappointingly brief but getting the director to participate on this release is a great addition.

Next up is 12-minutes worth of excerpts from a documentary called The World of Kazuo Miyagawa. The excerpts focus on the cinematographer's callaboration with Kurosawa on Rashomon and offers some engaging material. It includes interview footage and archival footage, and as a bonus, not only is there an interview with Miyagawa, you also get an interview with Kurosawa himself. It was also great to learn how Miyagawa kept a lot of the props from the film, including the Rashomon sign. I actually would have loved to get the whole piece but the material we do get is fine enough.

And then closing off the disc is a theatrical trailer, which probably gives away too much.

Criterion then includes another one of their large booklets. We get the short stories the film is based on, an excerpt from Kurosawa's autobiography "Something Like an Autobiography" and of course the usual Criterion essay, this time written by Stephen Prince. The booklet is a good read and definitely worth looking through.

And there you have it. Not loaded but each extra is fascinating and worth going through.

7/10

CLOSING

The audio presentation stinks and the video does leave room for improvement, but Iíve always thought it was a nice enough transfer, much better than any previous video release. It also has some decent supplements. There is a newer DVD and Blu-ray edition coming out in November of 2012, which will more than likely deliver a much stronger audio and video presentation, making this release moot.


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