Marge: You liked Rashōmon the last time we saw it.
Homer: That’s not the way I remember it!
In September two years ago now, at the tender age of 36, I started practicing karate.
Everything started from the desire of my husband and me to enroll our son Daniele in a sport activity not intended to “wear him out so he will go to bed earlier”, but to assist his education provided at home, learning a discipline that by its very nature engages body and mind together (and heart, as my Sensei Valerio Polello would rightly add).
Therefore, driven by the desire to achieve what I had never undertaken, which is to say, to practice a martial art too – for the same reasons I wanted to enroll Daniele, and also for the sake of understanding and sharing completely a path which, I hope in the long, will be part of his life, twice a week I find myself struggling with kumite, kata and kion.
Sometimes I leave the dojo I am satisfied enough (and I stress the word “enough”) with my training, other times I would bang my head on the wall because for one reason or another I believe I did not applied myself enough – I have continued to redundantly repeat the same mistakes, I got caught by performance anxiety, in short, when I think I trained in a fairly disgusting way.
As Sensei Polello often and willingly states, that learning karate, especially “our” karate, which follows directly from Sensei Funakoshi, is and must be characterized by a spur to train each time better and better with the instruments (mind, body and heart precisely) in our hands, and that even the highest-level black belts, when they face a new technique, they experience the same difficulties of a white belt. This thought is making its way slowly in my mind, not to excuse my faults, but to apply myself “beyond” what I think my limits are.
To Akira Kurosawa’s movies and to Rashōmon in particular I did not get thanks to my interest in the Eastern culture, but from an entirely different way – or, from that way that “as time goes by”, it continues to introduce myself to new perspectives, both contextual and intertextual: William Shakespeare and his works.
Talking about “that” Shakespeare, again? Someone would protest.
Because after watching Ran (1985), because I was curious about this adaptation of King Lear by Kurosawa, I googled (sic) for more information about this director. I admit my ignorance, still a week ago, Kurosawa was for me the last name of a Japanese director who I knew only for his reputation, while actor Toshiro Mifune was just a name my family quoted when referring to Samurai films.
And here I am now, sharing with you a movie by this director which attracted me immediately for its plot and film story: Rashōmon (1950).
For the plot, please refer to the detailed page dedicated to the movie in Wikipedia.
I will not go into details about terms and techniques of script and filming, it is not my intention to bore the reader and all the details about the movie have for our good fortune already been thoroughly described in several papers and documentaries, available also online.
I just want to share with you today my appreciation for the objective beauty of this black and white film, rich of shades, both visual and emotional, comparable to a theatre play, not only for the pathos and the way events are described through script, directing and acting, but also for the director’s choice to film the players on several occasions, not the individuality of the action, but as they interact with each other.
The choral images amplify the viewer’s involvement and constitute a sort of continuous reference to the various truth narrated by the witnesses at the trial, while the eyes of the performers intersect in their inner world and back to the “outside” world.
Eight actors involved in three simple scenarios, Humanity revived, like in a play by Shakespeare (again!!): raise your hand if you have never thought at least once about the multiplicity, of reality/realities, which are never objective, not only when the individual looks outward looking for explanations, but also in the selection process of personal memories – to “tell” oneself the truth for anybody very often it is not just a saying but a matter of fact. And the fiction in this film by Kurosawa, however symbolic, is masterful in its imitation of the real world, precisely because it so dramatically depicts it as multi-faceted, objectively subjective.
The presence of Nature is strong, in the forest location, in the decadence of Rasho gate, in the shots of moving clouds. And in the heat of the sun that makes actors Mifune and Kyo sweat profusely, while they struggle body and soul between leaves and conflicting desires.
In the meanwhile, waiting for your comments, after I watched the movie, I cannot hide from you what follows: curiosity took the better of me (again …) and I am looking forward for the arrival of an English edition including some stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, two of them having inspired to Kurosawa the idea and the realization of Rashōmon…
As for the proverbial boxes (Chinese time), and as for the way of Karate – the way I wish I will get one day to understand it, – I could say that the road to knowledge is made up of many small alleys branching out to infinity. I do not think at this point there is a goal, if not the knowledge itself, or rather, more than one knowledge.
Someone will stop reading at this point, in a desperate mood. Others already stopped two paragraphs ago and went out to look for a copy of the book by Akutagawa. Some others, who knows?
I humbly thank the very honorable Sensei Valerio Polello from Yudanshakai Casale ASD’S dojo (Casale Moferrato AL, Italy) and the very honorable Master Shuhei Matsuyama, the first for his kind patience and willingness he has always shown to me and my family, the second for helping me through Sensei Polello with the translation of the Japanese title of this post.
WHERE CAN I WATCH RASHOMON?
Of course it is available for sale on DVD.For those who could not wait to see Mifune in action and knows English language, I carry on the “long tail” effect mentioned by my sister Roberta in her article on “The Phantom Chariot,” and I post here for you the Youtube link to the full version of Rashōmon (Japanese with English subtitles) Note: Do not panic at the idea of facing a black and white movie dated more than sixty years ago. You must see it, even if you never liked Oriental movies(!), one of the occasions in which an Oscar was really a merit award.