Ed note: For the next several weeks, composer and film aficionado Lewis Saul has agreed to supply us with in-depth commentary about the films of Akira Kurosawa, now showing in an extended festival at the Film Forum. Even if you're unable to stop by the Forum, we think Lew's insights will deepen your appreciation of these important movies.Rashômon (In the Woods) 
PLAYING on January 28th at The Film Forum
This is Kurosawa's 11th film.
You lucky New Yorkers will see a brand new 35mm restored print! How I envy you! Go see this film today!
This précis is probably unnecessary, so universally known is this story -- but I include it here so as to make the actors who play these memorable characters more familiar to you:
In the 11th century, a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura -- 21 roles for Kurosawa in his 30 films!*) and a priest (Minoru Chiaki) wait out a heavy rainstorm under the collapsing Rashômon gate. A commoner (Kichijirô Ueda) joins them and the woodcutter tells his story about a samurai (Masayuki Mori), his wife (Machiko Kyô, her only AK role) and a bandit (Mifune). They all testified in court, and in addition, a medium (Noriko [Fumiko] Homma) testified on behalf of the dead samurai. Throw an abandoned newborn infant into the mix at the finish, as Kurosawa appends a sharp moral uplift.
The profound influence that this film had on future cinema is impossible to overstate. In 1950, no one had ever seen anything like it! Galbraith points out three films which later attempted to mimic the structure of Kurosawa's masterpiece: Kubrick's The Killing ; Alain Resnais' L'année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad) ; and Mario Bava's Quante volte ... quella notte (Four Times that Night)  [p. 129].