This is what Alex Proyas had to say about one of his early short filmsStrange Residues.
I was a teenager when I made this film in the second year of film school. Even so there’s plenty of ideas I would keep coming back to. And “STRANGE RESIDUES” is possibly the silliest title for a film I ever came up with…
UPDATED January 2022: If you want to be a screenwriter you need to read a lot of screenplays. And if you are going to read film scripts might as well read some of this year’s best. Below is an active running list of 2021-2022 Oscar Contending Screenplays. I’ll be adding new screenplays as they become available so check back often.
PLEASE NOTE: These Screenplays Are FREE And LEGAL To Download For Educational Purposes. The Studios Will Only Keep Them Online Throughout The Awards Season So The Clock Is Ticking. Enjoy.
We started a new weekly series where we highlight a screenwriter and post a collection of most if not all of their work in one online resource. Sign up for our weekly newsletter above to get weekly updates sent to your inbox. Here are a few recent screenwriter collections:
Amblin’ is a short film made in 1968. It is the first completed film shot by Steven Spielberg on 35mm. The film is a short love story set during the hippie era of the late 1960s about a young man and woman who meet in the desert, attempt to hitchhike, become friends, then lovers, make their way to a beach, and part ways. It later became the namesake for Spielberg’s production company, Amblin Entertainment.
A young man carrying a closely guarded guitar case meets a free-spirited young woman while hitchhiking across the Mojave Desert, she befriends him, then he hauls both of their luggage, they play an olive pit spitting game, she shares a cannabis joint, he becomes her lover, and they accept various rides, en route to a Pacific coast beach. At the beach, the man runs, fully clothed, into the surf, and splashes about, while the woman with daisies in her hair, hesitatingly opens his guitar case and lays out its contents: a tie, wingtip shoes, Thrifty Drugs mouthwash, a paperback of Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars, a white shirt, Right Guard spray deodorant, a suit, a roll of toilet paper, white crew socks, Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia, and toothpaste. The woman smiles in bemusement, perhaps sensing that her companion was not the free-spirit that she assumed that he was. She frowns in sad disappointment and climbs back up the beach stairs without him. – Wikipedia
There is no spoken dialogue in the film aside from the lyrics to the opening and closing theme song. There is an ambient soundtrack featuring bird sounds, wind, passing car noises, popping noises made by the characters, fire sounds, and laughter, along with instrumental music.
If you are Rick Linklater fan this is a film you need to watch. A day in the life of Richard Linklater, taking in a conference call with some young studio executives and a session with a psychologist. The section when he talks to Hollywood executives is priceless.
Watch the entire short film and a behind the scenes discussion on the making of it below.
Alex had the pleasure of speaking to Richard and discussed his philosophy, filmmaking and creative process.
Want to watch more short films by legendary filmmakers?
Our collection has short films by Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, Chris Nolan, Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg & more.
The list below is definitely has podcasts for screenwriters with a who’s who in the screenwriting world. From Oscar® and Emmy® winners like Eric Roth, Edward Zwick, Richard Linklater, David Chase to screenwriting coaches like Robert McKee, John Truby and Chris Vogler.
These episodes are the best podcasts for screenwriters wanting to learn more about the craft and business of screenwriting. Be sure to take notes because there are a ton of knowledge bombs that are dropped in these screenwriting podcasts.
This list will be updated every few months so keep checking back.
This week, I sat down with one of the most legendary and successful screenwriters/producers in Hollywood, Oscar® Winner Eric Roth. Over a 50+ years career, he’s well-known for writing or producing films like Forrest Gump, A Star is Born, Mank, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Munich, Ali, and the list goes on.
Today on the show I bring you one of the most influential and iconic writer/directors in the history of cinema, three-time Oscar® winner Oliver Stone. Throughout his legendary career, Stone has served as writer, director, and producer on a variety of films, documentaries, and television movies. His films have been nominated for forty two Oscars® and have won twelve.
We are joined by indie film icon and Oscar® nominated writer/director Richard Linklater. Richard was one of the filmmakers who helped to launch the independent film movement that we know today with his classic 1991 indie film Slacker. As a bonus, we will not only dive into the extraordinary career of Richard Linklater but also that of collaborator and longtime friend writer/director Katie Cokinos, the filmmaker behind the film I Dream Too Much.
The legacy of the crime drama television series, The Sopranos remains a defining art of storytelling for mob TV shows. We have the genius behind this hit TV series, David Chase as our guest today.
As expected, Chase is a twenty-five-time Emmy Awards-winner, seven times Golden Globes winner, and highly acclaimed producer, writer, and director. His forty-year career in Hollywood has contributed immensely to the experience of quality TV.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of Chase, let’s do a brief of the HBO 1999 hit show, The Sopranos: Produced by HBO, Chase Films, and Brad Grey Television, the story ran for six seasons, revolving around Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, a New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster, portraying the difficulties that he faces as he tries to balance his family life with his role as the leader of a criminal organization.
Today on the show we have Hollywood screenwriter, director, producer, podcaster and novelist John August. He is known for writing the hit Hollywood films Go, Charlie’s Angels, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Big Fish, Charlie, and the Chocolate Factory and Frankenweenie, the Disney live-action adaptation of Aladdin and the novel Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire.
We have been on a major roll lately on the podcast and this episode keep that going in a big way. Our guest on the show today is Oscar® Winning screenwriter, producer, and director Edward Zwick. Edward made his big shift from his childhood passion of theater to filmmaking after working as a PA for Woody Allen in France on the set of Love and Death.
I’m so excited to bring this episode to the BPS Tribe. Today we have legendary screenwriter James V. Hart. James is the screenwriter behind some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters like HOOK, directed by Steven Spielberg based on an idea by Hart’s then 6-year-old son, Jake, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND, directed by Brian Henson, and CONTACT, directed by Robert Zemeckis. MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN, TUCK EVERLASTING, AUGUST RUSH, SAHARA, LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE, AUGUST RUSH and many more.
“No one has a job in our business until you type ‘the end’.” — James V. Hart
Get ready to have your mind blown! I’ll be releasing a 3-Part Limited Series of conversations between the legendary screenwriter James V. Hart, the writer of Hook, Contact, Bram Stroker’s Dracula, and Tomb Raiderjust to name a few, and some of the top screenwriters in the game.
First up is the screenwriter that took the world by storm with his Oscar-Winning screenplayGet Out, Jordan Peele. If you have been living under a rock for the past few years here is what the film is about.
This was recorded before Jordan’s next hit film Us was released. Listening to these two masters discuss character, plot, theme, and more is a rare treat. It’s like being a fly on the wall. When you are done listening to this conversation you can read some of Jordan’s screenplay here.
Today on the show we have Damien Chazelle, the Oscar® Winning director and screenwriter of La La Land. He bursted on the scene with his debut film Whiplash. The film is about a young musician (Teller) struggles to become a top jazz drummer under the tutelage of a ruthless band conductor (Simmons).
James and Damien discuss how he wrote and structured La La Land and much more. Enjoy this rare conversation between James V. Hart and Damien Chazelle.
Have you ever wondered what it is like screenwriting inside the Marvel and Studio machine? Wonder no further, today we have screenwriter and director Joe Cornish. Joe was one of the writer’s on Marvel’s Ant-Man.
Joe honestly, was extremely forthcoming and transparent about a lot of things; like what really happened behind the scenes on Ant-Man and what it’s like to write inside the Marvel machine, having Edgar Wright as a writing partner, working with filmmaking legends like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. And we also discuss his craft, how he approaches screenwriting and directing, and much more.
It’s been a hell of a year so far. I’ve been blessed to have had the honor of speaking to some amazing filmmakers and man today’s guest is high on that list. On the show we have writer/director Joe Carnahan. Joe directed his first-feature length film Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane. which was screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, and won some acclaim.
I’m always looking for success stories in the film business to study and analyze.Edward Burns (The Brothers McMullan) Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi), Kevin Smith (Clerks), and Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) come to mind. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the cult indie film classic The Boondock Saints but many of you might not know the crazy story of its writer and director Troy Duffy.
Well, prepare to get your mind BLOWN. I had an EXCLUSIVE discussion with Troy this week, and let’s say, he did not hold back. Nothing was off-limits – from his instant rise to fame to the brutal fate he met – getting blacklisted, all of it. He wanted to set the record straight because there is always another side to the story, and what better side to hear than that of the man who lived this brutal Hollywood adventure?
Being a podcaster now for over 600 episodes I’ve heard all sorts of stories on how people make it in the film business. From Sundance darlings to blind luck. Now today’s guest story is easily one of the most incredible and entertaining origin stories I’ve ever heard. We have on the show today award-winning director, producer, and screenwriter, Sacha Gervasi.
Sacha won the screenwriter lottery with his first-ever screenplay, which was a un-produceable short film script, caught the eye of the legendary Steven Spielberg. That script, My Dinner with Herve would eventually be expanded and released in 2018 by HBO. The film stars the incomparable, Peter Dinklage.
Sasha is such an interesting human being, I had such a ball talking with him. We talk about the film business, his origin stories, his screenwriting craft, what he’s doing now, and so much more.
Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Sacha Gervasi.
Today’s guest is a writer, director, producer, actor, and indie filmmaking legend, Edward Burns. Many of you might have heard of the Sundance Film Festival-winning film called The Brothers McMullen, his iconic first film that tells the story of three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island who struggle to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity.
His Cinderella story of making the film, getting into Sundance, and launching his career is the stuff of legend. The Brothers McMullenwas sold to Fox Searchlight and went on to make over $10 million at the box office on a $27,000 budget, making it one of the most successful indie films of the decade.
I’ve spoken to many people in the film business over the years but today’s guest is one of the hardest working craftman I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with. Today on the show we have screenwriter, producer and director, Mark L. Smith.
If you look at his IMDB you’ll see a list of 15 projects at various stages of development. He’s come a long way from entering the Hollywood scene some 15 years ago with his fear-striking horror screenwriting and directorial debut, Séance in 2006.
I had an absolute ball speaking to Mark. He’s one of the hardest working screenwriters in Hollywood. We discuss everything from The Revenant, genius-level tips on how to adapt a book to the screen to what it was like work with Quentin Tarantino on the Star Trek script that has yet to be made.
If you pray, please pray to the Hollywood Gods that Mark and Quentin’s Star Trek gangster film sees the light of day.
Today on the show we have million-dollar screenwriter Diane Drake. Her produced original scripts include ONLY YOU, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomei, and WHAT WOMEN WANT, starring Mel Gibson.
Her original script for ONLY YOU sold for $1 million, and WHAT WOMEN WANT is the second highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time (Box Office Mojo). In addition, both films have recently been remade in China featuring major Chinese stars. And WHAT WOMEN WANT has recently been remade by Paramount Pictures as WHAT MEN WANT, with Taraji Henson starring in the Mel Gibson role.
We have for you on the show today screenwriter and director, Boaz Yakin, The writer behind The Punisher, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, The Rookie, & Safe and directing, The Fresh, Remember the Titans and the comedy-drama, Uptown Girl among others.
Boaz and I chatted about his creative process, the business side and political side of screenwriting and directing in Hollywood during this conversation. He was extremely raw and honest about what it really is like working inside the Hollywood machine.
Today on the show we have screenwriter and director Jeffrey Reddick, who is best known for creating the highly successful Final Destination horror film franchise. The franchise has grossed over $650 Million world-wide. Not bad for an idea that was first conceived for an X-Files episode.
Jeffrey has had an amazing career so far and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
There are performers that impact your life without you even knowing it and today’s guest fits that bill. On the show, we have comedic genius, multi-award-winning actor, writer, producer, director, and television host, Billy Crystal. We’ve seen Billy’s versatile work across all areas in the entertainment world, stand-up, improv, Broadway, behind and in front of the camera, feature films, television, live stages like SNL, and animated movies.
If you were a kid of the late 80s or early 90s then today’s guest definitely had an impact on your life. Larry Wilson is the co-creator of the cult classic Beetlejuice (directed by Tim Burton), writer of Addams Family and worked on the legendary television show Tales from the Crypt.
Larry wasn’t always a screenwriter, he worked on the studio side of things as well as an executive. In this interview, he tells the story of how he championed a young and pre-Terminator James Cameron to be the writer/director of Aliens. Great story!
Our guest today is the well-regarded screenwriting lecturer, story consultant, and eminent author, Robert McKee. Reputable for his globally-renowned ‘Story Seminars’ that cover the principles and styles of storytelling.
I read his book years ago and refer to it often. I discovered McKee after watching the brilliant film Adaptation by the remarkable Charlie Kaufman. Kaufman literally wrote him into the script as a character. McKee’s character was portrayed by the Emmy Award-winning actor Brian Cox.
If you haven’t heard of Robert McKee then you’re in for treat. Robert McKee is what is considered a “guru of gurus” in the screenwriting and storytelling world.
He has lectured on storytelling for three decades, and his book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting(FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE)is a “screenwriters’ bible“. It’s also become the bible for TV writers, and entertainment executives, and their assistants.
McKee’s former students include 67 Academy Award winners, 200+ Emmy Award winners, 100+ Writers Guild of America Award winners, and 52 Directors Guild of America Award winners.
Some of his “Story Seminar” alumnae including Oscar® Winners Peter Jackson, Julia Roberts, John Cleese, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Haggis, Akiva Goldsman, William Goldman, and Jane Capon, among many others.
John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood’s most successful films. The Anatomy of Story shares all his secrets for writing a compelling script.
Based on the lessons in his award-winning class, Great Screenwriting, The Anatomy of Story draws on a broad range of philosophy and mythology, offering fresh techniques and insightful anecdotes alongside Truby’s own unique approach to building an effective, multifaceted narrative.
His is former students’ work has earned more than $15 billion at the box office, and include the writers, directors, and producers of such film blockbusters as Ratatouille, In Treatment, Pirates of the Caribbean, X-Men I/II/III, Shrek, Mother Mary of Chris, Breaking Bad, House, Lost, Planet of the Apes, Scream, The Fantastic Four, The Negotiator, Star Wars, Sleepless in Seattle, Outbreak, African Cats (which Truby co-wrote for Disney) and more.
Today on the show we bring the legendary story analyst and best-selling author Chris Vogler. Chris wrote the game-changing book The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. I read this book over 25 years ago and it changed the way I look at “story.” Chris studied the work and principles of the late master Joseph Campbell.
His book The Hero with a Thousand Faces was the basis for Star Wars as well as almost every other Hollywood feature film in the past 60 years using what Campbell called the monomyth.
Today on the show we Pen Densham. Pen is a successful award-winning screenwriter, producer, and director, with an extensive track record in film and television. He is responsible for writing and producing some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Backdraft, Blown Awayalong with some of its longest-running television series including The Outer Limits.
I had a ball speaking to Pen about his time in Hollywood, what it was like to screenwriter/producer monster hits and his screenwriting philosophy on how to make it in Hollywood.
Our guest today is producer, director and screenwriter Marshall Herskovitz. Many of his production projects have been in partnership with his long-time filmmaking collaborator, Edward Zwick whose films, he’s produced and written half of. Their decades-long filmmaking partnership was launched as co-creators of the 1987 TV show, ThirtySomething.
Christopher Nolan is one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation. Being a writer/director really sets him apart from his contemporaries. His screenplays are a master class in the craft. We decided to put together an easy resource for screenwriters and filmmakers to be able to download Christopher Nolan Screenplays and study his unique storytelling methods.
Christopher Nolan MasterClass: How to Direct Your First Feature Film
Who isn’t familiar with the mastermind who resurrected Batman and made people watch Interstellar twice and thrice even just to find some new angle of the movie?
Being London-born, Christopher Nolan was born to an English father and an American mother, Brenden James Nolan who was an advertising executive while his mother Christina worked both as a flight attendant and English teacher. Having a childhood moving both in London and Chicago, Nolan has both American and British citizenship.
When Nolan was seven years old, he started making movies at the same age. It all began when his father took him to see the first release ofStar Wars (1977) and the theatrical re-release of “2001”. He borrowed his father’s Super 8 camera and started shooting short films with his action figures. Being a Star Wars fan since childhood, he made a stop motion animation tribute called Space Wars.
Christopher Nolan had an uncle who worked for NASA and used to build guiding systems for the Apollo rockets. He sent him some launch footage which he re-filmed off the screen and cut in. Since the age of 11, Nolan had hoped to be a professional filmmaker.
When his family relocated to Chicago, Christopher Nolan started making films with Roko and Adrien Belic and received credit for editorial assistance on the brothers’ Oscar-nominated documentary Genghis Blues (1999).
Nolan worked with Roko and future Pulitzer Prize winner, Jeffrey Gettleman for documenting a safari across four continents, organized by the late Dan Eldon in early 1990s.
Christopher Nolan attended an English boarding school Haileybury and Imperial Service College in the Hertford Heath. He studied English Literature at University College London. He chose UCL solely for film facilities which happened to include Steenbeck editing and 16 mm film cameras.
He and wife Emma Thomas started dating in their first year. They ran a film society and used to screen 35mm films to make money so that members were able to shoot 16mm film shorts.
In college years Nolan shot two short films Tarantella (1989), shown on an independent film and video showcase, Image Union. The second was named Larceny (1995), filmed over a weekend with limited equipment, cast, and crew.
It was funded by Nolan and shot using the society’s equipment and appeared at the Cambridge Film Festival in 1996 and is considered one of the best shorts of UCL.
After graduating from college, Christopher Nolan directed industrial films and corporate videos. He made another short Doodlebug (1997), which was about a guy chasing an insect around the apartment with a shoe only to find out after squashing it that it was his miniature
1998 brought Nolan’s first feature, Following which he funded himself and shot with friends. The plot depicts of a young writer (Jeremy Theobald) who follows strangers in London hoping to get material for his first novel but gets caught up in the criminal world when he failed to maintain distance.
It was based on Nolan’s own experience of living in London and getting his flat burgled.
Made on a modest budget of £3,000 it was shot only on weekends for a whole year. Nolan wrote, edited and photographed himself while Emma co-produced it with Theobald. In its festival run, Following won numerous awards and was well received by the critics as well. It was said to have echoed of Hitchcock classics.
Nolan made an incredible entry upon the film scene with Memento(2000). During a road trip to Los Angeles Nolan’s younger brother gave him the idea for Memento Moriwhich was about a man suffering from anterograde amnesia and uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the killer of his wife. This $4 million film delivered the crime thrillers feels but the twist was the way Nolan presented it.
The recurring memory of the hero was illustrated by a narratives pair. The twist was one was moving forward while the other narrated the story backward. It was premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in September of 2000 at and starred Guy Pearce and Carrie-Anne Moss earning critical acclaim.
Nolan has explored how conscious memories make up the identities in this film.
Being a huge success, it received Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for the screenplay. Moreover, it bagged Independent Spirit Award for Best Director, Best Screenplay as well as Directors Guild of America Award nomination. It was considered to be one of the best films of 2000s by many critics.
Steven Soderbergh recruited Nolan after seeing his work on Momento, to direct a psychological thriller, Insomnia (2002) which starred the Academy Award winners Robin Williams, Al Pacino and Hilary Swank. Warner Bros. wanted someone more experienced but Soderbergh and his team fought for Nolan and as well for the cinematographer and editor of his choice.
A much conventional film being a remake of 1997 Norwegian film bearing the same name, the budget of the movie was $46 million. Upon asking Al Pacino during the shooting, he said that he could tell right away that he was going to be very proud to say that he starred in a Christopher Nolan movie.
The story is about two detectives from Los Angeles who are sent to Northern Alaskan town to investigate a teenager’s murder. It received positive reviews from critics. The director of the original film was satisfied and called it a well-crafted smart film whose director handling was really good. The film grossed $113 million worldwide and showed Warners that he could definitely handle the demands and pressure of a studio movie.
Intrigued by the character and story, Nolan approached Warner Bros. in 2003 with the idea to make a Batman film which reflected a classic drama than a comic book story. The biggest project he had undertaken, Batman Begins was a massive commercial and critical success which revived the franchise. It starred Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman.
It narrates the origin story of the character from bat fear, death of his parents, becoming Batman and fight against Ra’s al Ghul to save Gotham City. It was the 8th highest grossing film in US and 9th highest worldwide. It was nominated for three BAFTA awards and Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
Before Batman, Nolan produced, directed and co-wrote the Prestige (2006) which was Christopher Priest novel’s adaptation. The plot was about two rival magicians of the 19th century. Starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in lead roles, it earned critical acclaim as well as Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography.
The sequel to Batman Beginswas announced in July 2006. Released to immense critical acclaim, The Dark Knightreleased in 2008 and cited as the best super-hero films ever.
It was nominated for eight Oscars at the 81st Academy Awards and won two: posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger) and Academy Award for Best Sound editing. Recognized by his peers, Nolan earned nominations from DGA, PGA and Writers Guild of America.
A huge commercial and critical success, Inception (2010) starred a large cast which was led by Leonardo Dicaprio. Inception was a proof that it is possible for art and blockbusters to be the same thing. Grossing over $820 million worldwide, Inception was nominated for eight Oscars and won four for Best Picture, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing an, Best Visual Effects.
Christopher Nolan was hugely appreciated and praised by being awarded a Writers Guild Award for the film and earning nominations for Golden Globe, DGA, PGA and BAFTA awards.
The third Batman film was released in 2012, The Dark Knight Rises. It was also a big success and won critical acclaim.
Nolan was to direct, write and produce a science-fiction film as announced in 2013 January, titled Interstellar. The first drafts were written by Nolan and it was to be directed by Steven Spielberg.
Based on the renowned theoretical physicist Kip Thorne’s scientific theories, the film was a journey to the farthest borders of scientific understanding. Starring Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey, Bill Irwin and Jessica Chastain it was co-distributed and co-financed by Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures.
Interstellar was released to a strong box office response and positive reviews on 5th November 2015 and grossed $670 worldwide. It won the Best Visual Effects at the 87th Academy Awards and received nominations for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score and Best Production Design.
The filmmaking process of Christopher Nolan is a combination of geometry and intuition. He gives his actors as much takes they may need of a given scene. Nolan likes to shoot on natural settings and real locations. His style is deeply influenced by film noir. He prefers to shoot on film rather than digital and use of digital cinematography and digital intermediates are opposed by him. He favors deep and haunting shadows and prefers the documentary styled lighting. According to Christopher Nolan, he is inspired by M.C Escher, the Dutch graphic artist.
His style is deeply influenced by film noir. He prefers to shoot on film rather than digital and use of digital cinematography and digital intermediates are opposed by him. He favors deep and haunting shadows and prefers the documentary styled lighting. According to Christopher Nolan, he is inspired by M.C Escher, the Dutch graphic artist.
Christopher Nolan is by far one of the greatest directors of his generation. His ability to dance between an indie film mindset and major world-wide blockbuster is extremely rare these days. I have spoken to people who work with him on the backlot of Warner Brothers and it’s known that Christopher Nolan does not read email or even has a cell phone. He says:
“I’d rather spend my time working on my films.”
That shows you the man’s dedication to his craft.
If more Hollywood directors would worry more about how to make their film projects better and actually work on their craft it would be a very different cinematic landscape.
Cinema Verite is a French film movement, which took place back in the 1960s. This film movement forced the movie industry to pay more attention to incorporating natural actions and authentic dialogue into the movies, which showed people in day to day lives. Basically, the movement was about observing and capturing life as it was or finding truth in the moving images.
Before this movement, filmmakers recorded footage, interviews, and actual conversations separately. The camera was usually handheld. Then they would review the footage and cut them altogether. However, this technique did not have the ability to give life to realistic-looking movies.
Many different factors influenced the production of documentary movies in the 20th century. Post World War II, the neorealist movement, and the British independent documentaries hold a prominent place out of them. In fact, all these reasons contributed significantly to the rise of Cinema Verite during the 1960s. However, the film industry elites heavily criticized the Cinema Verite movement at that time.
That’s because it focused more in reportage instead of showing the expressions of the artist. However, the primary objective of the Cinema Veritemovement was to direct movie industry into greater realism. The method made it possible to create a tremendous impact on the documentary filmmaking, which can even be seen today.
History of Cinema Verite
Cinema Verite was able to give life to some of the outstanding productions in the history of French Cinema. Chris Marker’s Le Joli Mai and Jean Rouch’s Chronique d’un ete, which were released during the early 1960s, are perfect examples to prove the above-mentioned fact.
A movement that is similar to Cinema Verité was originated in the United States as well. It was powered by the introduction of 16mm equipment, which had the ability to record audio and video content in a synchronous manner. This equipment was portable and relatively inexpensive when compared to the other devices that were being used in the movie industry at that time.
The movement that took place in the United States was also known as Cinema Verite, but it became popular as Direct Cinema, because of the obvious language barrier. The primary objective of this movement was to capture the movements and expressions of a person in a realistic manner. This movement was against the rearrangement of the camera.
The pioneers of this movement include the Maysles brothers, Donn Pennebaker, Frederick Wiseman, and Ricky Leacock. The immense contributions they did to the Cinema Verite movement in the United States delivers positive results even up to date.
What Ever Happens, Happens!
As mentioned earlier, Cinema Verite was able to create a significant impact on the global film industry. Those influences can even be seen today. Therefore, it is important to compare Cinema Verité with the modern documentary style and get to know about the noticeable differences that exist in between these two.
The popularity of modern documentary has significantly increased throughout the past couple of years. However, the roots of it go back to the 1960s, where Maysles brothers came into the industry. It was changed along with the generations, but the primary influences remained unchanged.
First of all, it is important to have a clear understanding of the meaning behind real documentaries. Even though movies that were based on actual stories were released back in history, the raw essence of people was not incorporated into them. In other words, real places, real events, or the interests of real people were not taken into account as a whole when creating the documentaries.
Even though the exact meaning behind true documentary has changed along with time, it is based on some fact or truth. The films that fit into it can be divided into two broad categories as Cinema Verité and modern documentary.
Check out the amazing HBO film Cinema Verité, starringDiane Lane, Tim Robbins, and James Gandolfini.
The first documentary was created back in 1922 by Robert J. Flaherty. The film’s name was Nanook of the North. This silent documentary was filmed in the frozen wilds of Canada. No historical evidence about a feature-length documentary is found before this film, and it can be considered as the first-ever documentary as a result of it. The government of the United States knew the importance of this documentary.
This is the main reason why the government selected this documentary into the first 25 films to be preserved. The Library of Congress plays a significant role in these preservation activities.
Now it is important to take a look at Cinema Verité, which took place during the 1960s. Cinema Verité movement was originated along with the French New Wave movement.
The increasing popularity of portable audio and camera equipment contributed a lot towards the origins of it. In other words, Cinema Verité gave life to a studio type style of production. Cinema Verité promoted the production of movies that captured a raw style with the help of on location, audio, video and lighting.
David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Robert Drew were prominent figures behind Cinema Verité. They took necessary measures to introduce new advancements into this conceptual style along with the help of direct cinema. These new additions emphasized direct relationships between the subjects and the film crew. As a result, they were able to give life to more realistic looking productions at the end of the day.
Before the Cinema Verité, there was a narrator in all the documentaries, who explained things to the audience. Cinema Verité eliminated the role of the narrator, and it gave life to a new revolution. In fact, it delivered more freedom to the editor. That’s because the editor got the freedom to tell the story with freedom and in an obscure manner.
The modern documentary style has some differences when compared to the Cinema Verité style. The main difference that you can find in between these two styles is the presence of a narrator. On the other hand, a lot of time, as well as effort, are being put into the post-production stage of modern documentaries. Also, the cinematography is a lot more sophisticated than the documentaries which came out as a result of Cinema Verité.
The post-production stage is associated with a variety of activities that include sound design, music design, graphic effects, and other forms of editing. More directorial control came out as a result of Cinema Verité. They looked more like the documentaries that were created by Michael Moore. Roger and Me is a perfect example to prove the fact mentioned above.
Facts about Cinema Verite
Cinema Verite is also known as observational cinema. If you pay close attention to this style, you will figure it out as more of pure direct cinema. That’s because it does not incorporate the voice-over of a narrator.
You will also be able to figure out a couple of subtle, but important changes. Cinema Verite was associated with the interaction between the subject and the filmmaker along with style setups. This interaction was there up to the point of provocation as well.
They firmly believed that it is the most convenient method available for them to express the truth behind the cinema. Cinema Verite acknowledged the camera as well. In fact, the camera plays a significant role by filming people, objects, and events related to the scene in a confrontational manner. The primary goal of the filmmaker was to represent the exact reality that he was experiencing at the time of recording.
They believed that giving life to such realistic outputs can free people from all sorts of deceptions. To achieve this, the filmmakers wanted to be the catalysts of all situations. As a result, they had to put a tremendous effort into the entire scene as well.
In the Cinema Verite style, the filmmakers set up the whole scene and then proceed to record them and capture lightning in a bottle. An excellent example of this is the 1963 film Pour La Suite Du Monde. The filmmaker asked a group of senior individuals to fish for a whale. The result of the documentary was not recording how a group of elders was whale fishing.
It was about lineage and memory. In this sense, Cinema Verite style is concerned about anthropological cinema. The political and social implications were also captured in the movies. On the other hand, it changed the way how a filmmaker shoots a film and what are the objects that are filed in it. On the contrary, Cinema Verite focused on what specific objects should be recorded on a movie and the way how it should be presented to the audiences.
LATE SHOW WITH LINDSAY ANDERSON
Whatever he thought of this country he railed against it he was never happy out of it he was very British he was Scott’s also his background very English in his concerns and institutions and was trying to create images of this country.
Clip: After they finish work the boys usually make for Albert’s one of the cafes around the garden that is open late at night.
It was quite clear to Lindsay Anderson and his friend (name) it was impossible to break into the British cinema coming straight out of the university the only way to get into cinema was to make documentaries.
We were all sort of socialist but the films weren’t at all in sense bulimic or programmatic or anything like that they were they actually took their queue from I suppose the cinema from Humphrey Jennings that is to say working from observation of unrehearsed human details.
We were very conscious of, I was very conscious of the need to be what I call ethic to fashioned the material into something and not suddenly sit down and have a lot of talking heads blathering into the camera lens pretty uninteresting I think.
It was never a school or an organization or an office or a company it was an idea and everybody went on to do other things, I mean Lindsay for instance went on to do a lot of theatre.
I was assigned to Lindsay as an assistant at the Royal Court I had never met him before and my first memory rather than even been about the play was he taking me to the transport cable rather than putting me on the mat to find out if I was going to work out alright with him and as I remember he was very anxious to kind of challenged anything he thought of as being middle class bully minded conventional, but I think everyone felt that something new and exciting was happening.
We were going to change things perhaps naïve at that point which of course excited Lindsay very much and I think he really thrived on that atmosphere and probably the court was as nearer spiritually as Lindsay has ever found.
CLIP: I don’t know in the process of this and you putting it down and then we got stuck and we don’t have any more to do.
I thought I would take it off and put it over my arm wait for Bill to finish his.
It gave him much greater experience and a very useful one of dealing with actors which he didn’t have much of before this was of course extremely valuable for him when he came to make his feature film.
CLIP: Man: I know much about you to keep you in the rubber room for the rest of your life.
Lady: You don’t know nothing about Eddie or me you don’t know nothing about Eddie.
Man: I know he put the file through his guts.
He directed in a way that there was almost non directorial every time you turn the corner he was there facing you every time you turn around he was at your shoulder, he was always under your bed when you went to bed, always with you always with you always talking about it always investigating it always planting seeds and one day you thought you were on your own you were part of his world.
He was a great free spirit Lindsay and is a great emotional Lindsay which if you ever touch it wonderfully free and embracing.
Stories book is in a tradition of a DH logs because it was about people who have great difficulty in articulating their emotions and in the way and to bring this out was to convey this stylistically in the movie.
Lindsay’s difficulty and the generosity in making it were really focused around that and trying to get inside and some very personal experience from the outside and finding his rational and being able in somewhere to understand it and not seem to objectively or too objectively so it became an objective almost an expressionistic technique.
One would have thought that after the sporting life that Lindesay would have been in great demand as it happened the film did not make a great deal of money and so he wasn’t a bankable director, the British ran in quite a lot of trouble the London cinema came out (5:26) which he greatly despise and eventually he had the opportunity to make if which came in with the revolutionary of the late sixties.
CLIP: You mustn’t think that I don’t understand it is a natural characteristic of adolescent.
Interestingly Peter Jeffers Donald in this scene was to a large extent lifted from the book called How Eating Works but I didn’t.
CLIP: I think you boys know I keep an open mind on most things and one thing I am certain short hair is no indication of (inaudible 6:08) so often I noticed hair rebels who stepped in the British whether there is a fire in the house or to sacrifice in order to give a holiday party to slum days in the country.
The country was arthritic in the sense that it was arthritic and yet it was the particular young people who were after change so the school pubic school would be a very good place to would be precisely where you set the (6:36) and that it was both traditional and yet somehow trading people who were discontent.
CLIP: You done it. like here really it comes out of documentary background you know you shoot in here it’s just a record of what it is like to being in this room and he also done a lot of theatre work so he knows how to dramatize the area but it’s still draws line in a way you know that Hollywood director would have started. He would have built all this and he wouldn’t have bothered to address the detail of it.
It is a film which conveys I think what I feel about life which is certainly a suspicion of all institutions and authorities and as for it hitting the right moment of that, it was absolutely astonishing because you could see it was transparently what everybody was interested in what went to the center of their lives and in that way it sometimes happens.
The film came at a time for Lindsay his careeralmost(8:22) from 1945 when as a young army officer he put the red flag out above the officers mess in India where he was then serving right through his disillusion with labour.
CLIP: Good morning say hello to Mr. Travis, please to meet you Mr Travis Barlo name), please to meet you at your service oh, this is Mavis be nice to Mr Travis Mavis, but not too nice, happy to greet you. Great pleasure, Come here come here. We have come to the part of the show you have all been waiting for.
I think Lindsay was some of the needed support and encouragement despite there is apparent self sufficient ironic defiant exterior and I think this starting collapsing and I think the subjects for the films really went out of fashion out of politically fashion and when once the agency came Lindsay is much too radical and to subversive about what he said about society about England.
No artist is worth much as name change the world of course no artist can be judge by his success or failure but to change the world since none of us have succeed we can only hope to change or to influenced likeminded spirits or hearts by telling the truth.
Hanson as a film critique and as a film director do these two things come together is one of the great English (10:21) he is a person who calls us as readers and …to see that film is of the utmost social importance. This is the kind of cinema he wanted to create and despite all he should not have the opportunity to stick around and making movies, but the sad thing was that his own writing his own example meant so little to the younger film makers so certainly neglected.
CLIP: Would you like standard or golden, standard or golden what the difference, well the golden service they retexture and hand finish. Okay, golden service. We are on it keep the crease in the trousers? “keep the crease yes and don’t forget I am a shareholder”. Do you ever let us forget? I certainly can’t afford to.
You can see Lindsay Anderson’s last film Is That all There Is on BBC 2 on Saturday and indeed that is all there is for the late show for Night.
CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER
Subsequent to this festival where they met each other ..claims some critical writing where they Cinema Verite or cinema of truth which often gets interpreted it is in a sense homage to the work of (name 14) the Russian film maker who claimed the term KINNO-NPBBA meaning also the truth of cinema in both cases their meaning not that the film is showing us the truth but the film provokes its own kind of truth that within the film we see a kind of truth emerging.
So very differently the that direct cinema folks in the US at the time who were like the camera will tell the truth it’s the fly on the wall that will just follow people the idea of interfering and showing people making up a film and at the same time was you know completely shocking and often the two movements are considered to be very much the same and they are not they are very much in dialogue.
So they were very interested in creating these kinds of scenario to evoke a kind of explanation of what the truth might be and the lives of parishioners at this time and just by the fact that diversity of people in the film they were already anticipating there were many ways to imagine what that might be.
Bruce believed that people in performance or in ritual or any form of dramatization people only become more of they really are so there is not a lack of truthfulness because people are performing because people are in ritual I mean he sort of extends this from his view of ritual they are just revealing another aspect of themselves.
I think that they were somewhat naively hopeful that somehow all these people would come to really love each other through the film and be comfortable with each other’s representations and that actually did not occur. It is part of what I think makes the film successful from most viewers.
If you are a fan of District 9 well you are in for a treat. Alive in Joburg is the short film that started it all. With amazing visual effects and a unique style, you can see writer/director Neill Blomkamp’s talent. Neill went on to direct Elysium and Chappie. He also launched Oats Studios where he directs high-end experimental short films.
Alive in Joburg is a 2006 Canadian science-fiction mockumentary short film written and directed by Neill Blomkamp and starring Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, and Dawie Ackermann. The film explores themes of apartheid and is noted for its visual effects as well as its documentary-style imagery.
Watch the entire short film below.
You can watch our exclusive interview with Neill Blomkamp. He discusses his creative process, how he made Alive in Joburg and District 9.
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Everyone is quite familiar with the famous RashomonEffect and those who are not, the term refers to the real world situations in which there are versions and testimonies of various eye-witnesses.
These eye-witnesses can be in your head what is described in the actual movie is what happens to us every single day.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa and released in 1950, Rashomon has won numerous international awards and introducing the world to the Japanese film scene.
Kurosawa was forty years old when he made this movie and was at the initial stages of his career which was to last for five decades giving some greatly produced movies to be ever made in the Japanese film industry. And also to leave a lasting impression on film production. Rashomon surfaced at that time of his career journey when he left Toho for some time where the studio was located which was to be the home of his many more films to come.
Apart from being incredibly directed, Rashomon became renowned for grasping the difficulties which humans come across regarding experiences and memory.
The plot of the movie is focused on a grove where an accident took place. A dead body of a samurai is found who was stabbed to death by a woodcutter. With reference to this crime a bandit is captured but the twist lies in the fact that his testament in court as well as those of the samurai’s wife and the woodcutter who came across the samurai’s body all happen to present outspokenly different realities or versions of the truth.
The various perspectives are portrayed in the movie but the most vivid and clear concept is that the stories happen to be self-serving. The bandit’s narrative shows him as a braver and a bolder character as compared to the other accounts.
The woodcutter on the other hand, leaves out a very significant detail which could have raised fingers at him and get him into jeopardy. Whereas the samurai’s wife is either a very helpless victim or rather a scheming and sinister woman.
The viewer is left in speculation though and may be even those who are telling the stories and not too sure what the truth actually is which will make them face the reality.
During the years from 1949 to 1951 Kurosawa made movies for Shintono, Shochiku and Daiei. Albeit Daiei was somewhat hesitant and showed reluctance to fund Rashomon because he was of the view that the movie was quite unconventional and exceptional from the traditional movies that are generally made. According to Daiei, the film was quite eccentric and will be difficult for the audiences to understand.
All of those fears doubts and proved to be groundless when Rashomon became one of the most worthwhile and profitable films of 1950. Daiei’s view that the film is unconventional was not all wrong, it was and even quite deep-seated in design as well and all of these added into its originality and aided in making it go sky high with international cinema at such a time when art cinema was surfacing with very strong and powerful potency on the film circuit.
With immense averseness, the film was allowed to be submitted for an overseas festival competition. Rashomon won the first prize in the prestigious 1951 Venice Film Festival. It was through Rashomon that world got to know about the expertise and talents of Kurosawa as well as the assets of Japanese cinema.
Rashomon Effect is not only about the variations in the perspective but is occurs specifically where these differences arise combined with the lack of evidence to heighten or disqualify any version of the truth including the social pressure for the closure of such situation.
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Similar to a number of movies by Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon is two-story based film and set during a time period when the society was going through a social crisis. And in this instance, Japan’s 11th century period is revealed which is chosen by Kurosawa to shed light on the farthest points and extremities of the human behaviour.
As the film is opened, the screen shows three characters who are seeking shelter from a raging rainstorm underneath the ruined gate of Rashomon. This gate is used to guard the southern entrance of the imperial capital city of Kyoto.
As this group waits for the storm to pass, the priest (Minoru Chiaki), the commoner (Kichijiro Ueda) and the woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) dicuss a scandalous crime of a noblewoman (Machiko Kyo) who was raped in the forest and her husband the dead Samurai, (Masayuki Mori) was killed by someone or himself and a thief Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune) who was arrested in this regard.
Rashomon Effect on the World
Rashomon has surpassed its own status as a film and effected the culture at large too. It symbolized the general notions about the truth and the unreliability of memory. The Rashomon Effect is usually spoken of in the legal industry by judges and lawyers when the first hand witnesses come up with conflicting testimony.
Kurosawa came to rank amongst the leading international figures of cinema with Rashomon and following movies by him. It was more than just a commercial entertainment film. It had ideas of a serious artist possessing aesthetic design.
The modernist narrative not only impressed the audience making it a classic but the massive visual skill and power which was brought to the screen with amazing shots of forest, the sun directly. It was incredibly a sensual film. Nobody has ever filmed forest like this.
The film was a conscious attempt to recreate and recover the marvel of silent filmmaking. The cinematography by the Kazuo and editing are marvellous. Many sequences of the film were purely silent in which the imagery seems to speak and carries the action.
One such sequence which was the best in the series of moving camera shots was of following of the woodcutter in the forest before he happens to find the evidence of the crime.
The brilliant designs of Kurosawa’s films which are motivated with precision makes him a great filmmaker. Like the rest of his outstanding films, Kurosawa responds and reacts to his world as a moralist as well as an artist.
Japan was devastated after the Second World War and that is why Kurosawa’s embarked on a journey with immense artistic ambition as well as moral urgency to make a series of films. Seeking via his art, to produce a legacy of hope and faith for a ruined nation.
The desire for restoration which these stories clearly exemplified had to deal with a struggle with an entirely opposite and dark too. Rooted in the cynical and distrustful reflections of human nature, Kurosawa’s films tend to have a tragic dimension.
With the aid of the common human propensity to cheat and to lie, he manifested a tale in which the ego, disloyalty and conceit of the characters make the search of truth such a tough thing to find making it too difficult. The question arises that whose account is to be believed? Whose testimony of the crime is to be relied on? Who is correct? It is a question which one cannot seem to find the answer to as all versions of the truths are distorted in such ways that only benefit their narrators.
The world faces a dark moment as the ego takes over everything. Portraying a quite dark scenario, at the last moment with utter simplicity and beauty, Kurosawa pulls back from the darkness he exposed. The woodcutter makes the decision of adopting the abandoned baby and as he walks away with the child in his arms, the rainstorm lifts.
No matter what one decides regarding the conclusion of Rashomon, it is as genuine and real as it comes making it truly a classic. The greatness that emanates from this movie is both undeniable and palpable.
The nonlinear narrative and the sensual style which formed this film and in turn reformed the face of cinema is outstanding because to expect this from someone who was still a young filmmaker is astonishing.
Transcription: Kurosawa and Rashomon
Kurosawa’s Rashomon is a particularly dramatic example of a film that understands itself to have the kind of claim on its audience that the greatest art has always imagined itself to have on its audience. So I want to begin by talking very briefly about what I call the moment of Rashomon. There’s a bit of confusion or at least historical, chronological confusion, or inconsistency in the notion that in the in the principle that we end the course with a film that was made and shown internationally before the sum of the last two films that we’ve seen in our course.
But my reasons for that, as I partly explained in an earlier lecture had to do with the fact with my desire to show a certain continuity amongst forms of European cinema, and the link between genre Anwar and the Italian Neo realists, and the French nouvelle vog is so intimate, that it seemed to me important to show you that progression in sequence.
But if we had been going by strict chronological order, we would have introduced this Kurosawa film a bit earlier, because it was made in 1950. And, and in 1951, it won an important International Prize of the Golden Lion, the highest prize available at the Venice Film Festival in 1951. And this had a seismic effect on internet on movies around the world. The dramatic and powerful subject matter of Kurosawa’s film, of course, riveted attention. But even more than that, the the freedom and imaginative energy of his stylistic innovations in the film had a profound impact on on filmmakers around the world. And the the when the film was shown in at Venice in 1951.
What another affected had been one of the prize was to introduce Japanese cinema to a wider world. It was the first significant Japanese film, Kurosawa, the first important Japanese director to gain reputation a reputation outside of Japan itself. In fact, there are many film buffs, and especially specialists in Japanese film, who are somewhat resentful of Kurosawa’s eminence, even though no one denies that he is an eminent director. Because there are other directors, the two I’ve listed under item two in our in our outline are the most dramatic examples, Mizoguchi and also who are often thought to be his superior, even greater directors than Curacao. This is a debate forth.
This is a debate of nuances. All three of these directors are major artists. But But it is true, I think. And it is widely recognized that Kurosawa was the director who, who crossed that barrier more, more immediately, at more dramatically than any other and open the world, not just to Japanese cinema in some degree, but opened the world in some longer sense to Asian cinema more generally, that the so called Western world, the European and an American cinema universes, had been fairly oblivious to Asian cinema and certainly to Japanese cinema.
Prior to this, and the appearance of Rashomon, its enormous impact in 1951, began to change that. So that was demonstrated in part in that moment in when when Rashomon won this award, won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival was a reinforcement of a principle I’ve been discussing throughout the semester, the notion of film as an international medium, the idea that the notion that that directors from different national cinemas were now being deeply influenced by directors from from other nations.
And that and that film itself was in some deep way, a global phenomenon, this even even an international form. And, and this, I think it was in the 50s and early 60s that this idea began to become more and more widely embraced by film goers in the United States and in Europe, but perhaps especially in the United States. And one mark of this of this, of this the emergence of cinema as a as a fully recognized independent art form.
Obviously, people had thought this and many directors had achieved artistic distinction before this, but I’m Talking about sort of the public understanding of movies, the way people in different cultures actually recognized implausible thought about movies. It was as if this is the moment in which movies were understood to enter the museum in a certain way to earn in public in a public sense, the status that that more traditional art forms had had. And one of the explanations for why this would have been so
why it would have had such a powerful impact. I think I mentioned last time that this insight was partial in the United States, especially That is to say, in the 50s and early 60s, it began to dawn on movie critics and scholars and of whom there were only a few at that time and and then movie audiences that European films and Asian films, especially Japanese films, might have great artistic value. But it was it was a longer time before Americans began to realize that their own native forms of films had had a similar kind of authority. And so this moment, in the in the early 1950s, was a deeply significant one.
Let’s remember, historically, what it represented in in in Europe and in the United States. It’s the moment of the emergence of Italian neorealism, which itself begins to establish a kind of very powerful claim on people’s on people’s attention. Oh, one irony of Rashomon success was that it was not very successful in Japan, when it was released in 1950. And the producers, the production company responsible for the film was very dubious about entering it in the competition, didn’t think it was a significant film.
But even though it transformed Kurosawa’s career, because of the immense recognition, it finally got, and corsola himself recognized, he’d been making films for almost a decade before that, but Rashomon was his most ambitious film to that point. And it also incorporated more innovative strategy, visual strategies than any he had tried before. established him as an international director, and I mentioned the names of two other directors, just as a from different traditions as a way of reminding you of, of another feature of this phenomenon.
Another reason, as I began to say earlier, for why this moment was such a significant one. And the term I use here is modernism modernist cinema. Remember, one of the ways to understand this idea is to recognize that a great revolution in the arts had occurred at the turn of the 20th century, the end of the 19th. And at the turn of the 20th century, and we’ve talked about this earlier, it’s the movement we call modernism, right? It’s the moment of Picasso, it’s the moment of James Joyce.
And it was a kind of revolution in both art, visual art, literature, music, took place in this period, and and what was characteristic, among the characteristics of this modernist movement was a new was it was a newly complicated and self conscious attitude toward narrative itself towards storytelling. So it was a modernism in literature and ignored, involved, among other things are kind of a continent, if not a hostility, at least a kind of a kind of, or antagonism, at least the kind of skepticism about inherited traditional categories and ways of doing things.
One form this took a narrative was to decide what to dislocate or disorient the narrative line, instead of telling a story in a chronicle chronological sequence, a lot of the great works of fiction of the modern of the modernist era of books, books by writers like Joseph Conrad, or or Proust, the great French novelist who was so preoccupied by memory and human subjectivity, or the great German novelist, Tomas, mon, number of other great figures that we could mention began to construct stories in which in which chronological order was profoundly disrupted. And they also began to connect, create stories in which there were multiple narrators, in which and the effect of multiple narrators begins.
Even in even if you do nothing more than have multiple narrators, you begin to raise questions about the about the veracity, the truthfulness of the of any single perspective. And you will understand when you look at Rashomon why this movie embodies the many of these same modernist principles. But the point is that cinema as a as a as a narrative form, lag behind these more traditional arts. And it really wasn’t until the 1950s. And partly because of films like Rashomon, that it began to be recognized that the movies too, could embrace and embody the principles of modernism.
So one way to understand what happened in the 1950s was, was to right now is to is to recognize that directors like Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman, the great Swedish director, and Fellini, the great Italian director of the the inheritor and a expander of the Neo realist tradition going far beyond a narrow realism, that directors like that began to create films that in a in a formal sense in a structural sense, in and also in terms of their content had the kind of complexity nuance and skepticism, that and even the philosophic of self awareness that would that was characteristic of high modernism at the turn of the 20th century.
So it’s as if what was going on was the movies themselves, were now asserting themselves as a modernist art, right? I don’t mean as a contemporary art, right, I’m referring specifically to the modernist movement and to the end to the end to the dislocated, and, and, and, and much more demanding kinds of narrative strategies that are characteristic of the modernist movement.
So Rashomon played a fundamental role in this sort of transformation of what we might call the cultural understanding of movies among ordinary people, as well as among scholars, critics and other filmmakers. I want to mention one other point, give you a kind of note, to clarify, from some of what I’ve been implying, what what I want some of what I implied when I talked about Mizoguchi and Mizoguchi and Ozu as directors who are often more even more highly regarded than Kurosawa.
I’ll leave that to each individual film goer. All three directors are astonishing and remarkable. But it wouldn’t it be appropriate to talk even about this single film Rashomon, without paying respects to those two great directors whose dates I’ve put on your on your outline. I won’t talk about individual films by these directors, but I urge you all to look them up in in read about them in David Cook’s history of narrative film, and think about experimenting by extending your knowledge of Japanese cinema by trying films by these two remarkable directors.
One of the things that’s characteristic of all three of these directors of Kurosawa, even more fully of Mizoguchi, and ozone, ozone most fundamentally of all, is that their films are marked by a kind of impulse towards stylization, toward fabulous, feeble like creations, that distinguish them in some ways from Western from European and American films. And I think that one reason one explanation for this has to do with the long, longer artistic traditions of Japanese society.
Japanese film grows out of theatrical traditions like kabuki theater, or no drama, and drama, both of which have profoundly stylized and fable like qualities. They’re anti narrative, in some sense, and any of you who have ever had even minimal experience with either of these two theatrical traditions will understand what I’m what I’m discussing that these are theatres of gesture, and up and up, and have very decisive sort of symbolic representation. They are
what we would think of as sort of realistic characters, or realistic stories are, are not a part of these very ancient traditions, these theatrical traditions go back hundreds, even 1000s of years. So there’s a there’s a tradition in Japan of a kind of stylized, of symbolic representation. And, and you’ll, you’ll see, I think, how of how, in Russia, how powerful this principle operate, how powerfully this principle operates in Rashomon, what even when the film even when film itself emerged in Japan in the silent era, when emerged in a slightly different way.
And one of the most interesting features of the silent film tradition in in Japan was the appearance of a character who has no counterpart in western cinema, a character called a Benji bns, a char, any of you heard of it? None. What he was essentially was a narrator and explainer, and he stood next to the movies in a way and gave explanations right, he said,
Now, we will introduce the villain now we will introduce the you know, he was like a kind of intermediary, a narrator, or, or a concierge Who, who, who mediated between the audience and the text who gave the audience information. Again, it’s a deeply in one sense, we might think of it as a as a as an anti narrative tradition as a tradition in which things are presented or spoken rather than literally acted out or, and certainly one in which in which, in which the details of a story are less important than its than its general, then its general outline.
So when we talk about stylization, one of the things we’re talking about is an impulse toward what we might think of as generalized argument instead of a specific argument, and an impulse to have one moment stand symbolically for many other moments. And what we might think As a simplification, or a, or a distillation of reality, into certain symbolic moments that are that are thought to be emblematic in certain ways, but don’t necessarily have a realistic feel.
And you’ll see almost instantly when this film begins, I mean, there’s a there’s a kind of prologue. And then when the film makes a transition into the first sequence that takes place in the forest, you’ll begin to see what I mean when I say that the film seems to enter into a kind of symbolic realm in which you’re in which your sense of reality is, in some sense of undermined, as if you’re entering into a dream or a symbolic space. Kurosawa, talking about that astonishing sequence at the beginning of Rashomon said that the the cameras, complex movements and the
movements of the of the character himself, everything is in motion in that remarkable opening sequence. Some people have called it the most visually poetic sequence in the history of movies, what you call our call, this moment, a moment in which the camera was shown to be penetrating where the into a space where the heart loses its way, as if you’re penetrating into a, into an ancestral space, into a, into a space of space that’s dreamlike, in fundamental ways.
So that very opening of the film istat were almost very opening of the film establishes this kind of complexity, this kind of I don’t want to exactly call it an ambiguity, but this, this, this complexity, about the about the nature of the reality that you’re watching, and this is even before the film proceeds to to present, essentially four different accounts of the same event, these four different accounts conflicting with each other in a variety of ways.
So these, these abstracting, or symbolizing, or stylizing narrative of add dramatic traditions lie behind and shape the movies in Japan, even movies like Kurosawa’s, which embrace the cameras freedom in a way that’s much more characteristic of Western directors than of then of Eastern ones. Although the the the second of the two directors I’ve listed on your on your outline is especially famous for holding his camera almost stationary for tremendously long time for and in fact, he sometimes he is sometimes called he sometimes called a director who tries to create a Zen aesthetic, because the camera is so quiet and so stationary.
And so in relatively inactive, it’s a it’s a style that lays tremendous emphasis on the nuances of facial expression and, and vocal tone. So that and both Mizoguchi and those who do, in some sense, have an even greater sense of stylization in many of their films than then Kurosawa does. But I don’t want to oversimplify because they are also capable of very great realistic moments.
And they have a moral realism that’s at least as powerful in their films as Kurosawa himself. Of course, I was career is a very remarkable one. And and I wish I had time to talk about it in detail. Organizational Structure of Japanese cinema was not unlike the structures that developed in in Western societies in the United States or in France, there were essentially monopolies of not not a small number, but a relatively larger number of film production companies operating at at different levels of significance.
So they were second rate, and there were second level and third level production companies as well. But all of them operated in similar way there was the director was a was a more dominant and major figure in this system. And they surround surrounding each director, what were a group of workers and a group of creative people, including usually performers who went with the director from space to space, from film to film, as well as his technical people that he would often use, they would often use the same people to write the music and the same crew to work on the film that the same if they could succeed, get the same cinematographer.
And the Kurosawa’s It was called Kurosawa’s group was called the Kurosawa Gumi, jus EMI means the group or or khadra, the chorus, our group worked with us on a series of film, I don’t mean it was always identical. There were changes, but it was a stable group unified especially by Kurosawa’s vision and, and supervision.
And I’ve listed here a few of his most famous and fundamental films besides Rashomon, ikiru maybe his greatest film I really Stick film set in the modern world, the title means to live. And it’s about a man who discovers that he has only a few months to live in it stars. The actor, techie Xu Mora who plays the woodcutter in Russia on the actor, the other actor that you’ll see in in Russia on that, that that is one of Kurosawa’s favorites and appears again and again, Kurosawa’s films, is the act of Toshiro BuffOne in Russia, and he plays the bandit, and you’ll see what a remarkable figure he is, though, so I’ve only listed a few of his films here.
But among his most important, Rashomon, ikiru, Seven Samurai, many people would say, the greatest of all Samurai movies, and probably the greatest of all western movies, because it puts most westerns, American westerns to shame. It’s influenced by American westerns, as as Kurosawa himself acknowledged, and it was itself that film and made in 1954, remade as an as an American film some years later, under the title, The Magnificent Seven.
And it was so successful that it was then there was a sequel was made something like this Magnificent Seven return. And in fact, one of the deep features of Kurosawa’s work is that many of his films have been remade by other directors, both American and European directors. Rashomon was made 14 years later or remade. 14 years later, with Kurosawa given screenplay credit in a film directed by Martin rich in the United States called the outrage and it really tells the story that’s at the heart of of Kurosawa’s film.
It starred Paul Newman, among other things, and Edward G. Robinson, among other significant American actors, Throne of blood I mentioned because many people see it as the most successful of all adaptations of Shakespeare. It’s a Japanese Kabuki eyes version of Macbeth, and many people starring to shiroma funi. And many people think of it as the greatest of all Shakespearean adaptations.
Yojimbo is a samurai film a much more straightforward Samurai film in many ways than Seven Samurai, also stars made funi and it has brilliant, brilliant sword fight sequences in it and anticipate the kind of thing that is now common in Asian cinema, but much less trivially done in Kurosawa’s, then many of these later films that merely seem to want to entertain us by their sword play and and the physical grace of their of their actors, but don’t connect nearly so powerfully as cortisol was films due to a profound and serious historical setting and story.
Yojimbo was also made into an American movie called Last Man Standing in 1966. I mentioned kagemusha, only because it’s a later film, and it’s many people, many people admire it. Because it shows that Kurosawa was working effectively, even in old age. He made another film in 1985, one of his final films called Ron ra n, which is a remake of King Lear. And these two older films. Later films kagemusha and Ron, show his v show Kurosawa’s visual sense of visual imagination to great effect.
But they feel stylized in a way that they weren’t stylized may not be the right word. They feel abstract in a way that earlier, Kurosawa’s films do not. They are extraordinary spectacles, but they don’t have the same interest in character, the same focus on character that his earlier films, despite their stylization, seem to do. I’ve saved my most of my time today to talk about Russia on itself. Because it’s such a central and significant film, and I hope when you when you will watch it, you’ll
not be impatient, and you’ll especially that you’ll watch for the ways in which from sequence to sequence, the visual style alters it’s a very, it’s a very demanding film in that sense. Let’s begin by talking a little bit about the problem of rape in cultural stories, because I think that one of the problems with responding fully to Russia man is is that we especially in in, in the in the Western world, are, are newly struggling with notions of of gender identity and, and, and and of the legacy of patriarchy.
That gives us a particularly fraught and complex, but put us in a fraught and complex position in relation to stories like that of this film, and I want to be, I want to confront it right in the beginning. As some of you may know, the story of Rashomon is the story of a rape. There are four different A rape occurs at the center of the film. And the and there are four different accounts of what happened of how the rape occurred. And the film is partly a meditation on why would What? What motives do the different tellers have for for putting this particular spin on the story? How, and and part of what’s subtle and disturbing about the movie is that when when the first testimony is given, it’s not fully clear yet to us that we should be skeptical of the testimony.
And when I think the first time, I think the first one of the test one of the people whose testimony we heard is the murderer himself, or the or is it the rapist himself, the phony character, he’s the first one to testify. And it’s, as he’s testifying, it begins to dawn on an attentive viewer, that maybe his testimony is self serving in certain ways that there are certain way things he’s saying that maybe we shouldn’t fully accept.
And, and then when the next account comes, our sense of skepticism is reinforced, and fortified, we begin to worry about what what and and then the film itself reminds us of the fact that these tales are problematic, because the film structure is so interesting. roughly every 10 minutes or so I’ve timed most of them that are a little less than 10 minutes, in some cases a little longer than some, you’ll have an extended narrative sequence, which will last about 10 minutes.
Usually, it’s the testimony of one of the one of the people appearing before the before the court. And then when that after that happens, the the film, the film sort of shifts into or shifts into another mode. And the way you can tell is that it shifts back to the scene with which the film opens with all the way through the scene. It’s marked by this, but the structure of the film is marked by this return to a scene at at Rashomon gate, and which I’ll explain in a moment.
So the point of the one point that I’m trying I’m trying to get to here is the idea that as we watch the film, and we begin to sort of weigh the accounts that different people give of this, of this rape, many of us are likely to feel uneasy and different and disturbed, because that one of the things that disturbs me in the film is the woman’s reaction to her rape, she feels terrible shame. It’s as if she had felt, and and there’s an impulse, there seems to be an impulse in the film that certainly some people have certainly gotten there, they at least they perceive an impulse in the film, or an impulse in the narrative to blame the victim. Right?
We have to get in some sense, what I’m suggesting is that, not that that response is inappropriate, but that that, that it’s a little bit off key off off center, because if you recall, the idea that the film is deeply stylized, and it’s said in an in an ancestral past in a, in a, in a, in a in a in a in a in a in a medieval Japan, in a moment of terrible social breakdown, in which vestiges or ancestral attitudes towards sexuality and gender are being are being mobilized or awakened. Right. And if we understand that, in that way, we can begin to recognize that our own discomfort with the subject matter is a discomfort that the film itself may even be aware of and may even be encouraging.
And I what as you’re watching the film, watch how in some sense it especially in in one moment, where the where the victim of rape makes an appeal to her husband right after there’s a sequence where, where we see her embracing her husband and looking into his face. Now, the problem is she’s giving this testimony.
And there’s some reason to, it’s after the fact and there’s some reason to doubt what she’s saying, especially as the film goes on. Nonetheless, it’s a it’s a moment of, of great power, and what what and and that moment at least mobilizes sympathy for the victim of rape that is very significant, because you hear so little of it elsewhere, elsewhere in the film, not that the woman is, is is treated badly or but but she’s subjected to the same suspicions as the other as the other central characters.
But there’s a larger thing to think about a larger a larger way, a larger way in which we can accommodate ourselves to the slight discomfort we might feel at turning a story of rape into a philosophic discourse as this film does. And that’s simply here’s how we might do that. Let me just remind you that stories about rape are at the heart of many cultures.
How many of you have heard of the story of the rape of Europa? It’s a Greek myth. None of you. In many ways, it’s the story of the foundation of Europe. Zeus, disguised as a white bull is to the great Greek gods, right the God of all gods and one of one of Zeus. His best habits are the most most remarkable habits in the in the, in this in the in these mythological stories is that when he gets a yen for a human female he will disguise himself as a as a creature of the earth and rape her go down and rape her right and he does this with Europa and the story of the rape of Europa is a kind of symbolic story which is which which later, Europeans actually took as a kind of one of the founding tales of how Europe itself was founded. Can you think of another story in which Zeus is a rapist? How about Lita?
How many of you know the story of Lita and the swan? About about which gates wrote So, so, such beautiful poems, again, Zeus, the God of gods disguises himself as a great Swan, and swoops down on Lena, this beautiful woman, and rapes her as it were in the, in the guise of the swan, and there’s a brilliant, almost pornographic, really powerful poem by wb Yeats, in which he describes this terrible moment of rape.
It’s one of the, it’s one of the great poems of the Western world, and it, it’s about this rape and so that what I’m what I’m reminding you of is that the massage money that you may sense there is a massage money that’s embedded in culture, it’s a massage you need that’s embedded, it’s a massage need that’s embedded in, in all the stories that human beings tell them in many of the stories that human beings tell themselves about, about the world, about the relations of men and women, and often, especially about the foundations of society.
So that so that this, so that this meditation, on on human frailty and human deceit focused on a rape it from that perspective is one of many such stories, not a unique object at all. And it seems to me that it’s that that, that that’s one of the ways in which we can recognize that what Kurosawa is doing is part of a more long and complex and in many ways, very disturbing. habit of mind that many, many cultures share the title, Russia among Western people, students are often puzzled by it, it’s a reference to the name of the gate.
But the word gate is complicated, too, because it’s not an American gate that just opens and closes. It’s a great, great massive entrance to the city of Kyoto in the southern part of Japan in the late 11th, or early 12th century, it’s a period of complete disillusion and, and, and, and destructive poverty, in political chaos. And the broken down condition of the gate, which you get long shots of, you know, you see this massive structure in, under which it’s a terrible rainstorm going on, under which certain people come to get shelter from the rain.
And that is Russia, gate, right. And, and it’s broken down condition symbolizes the broken down condition, of politically and socially of the society represent that is represented there. And again, and again, the characters gathered beneath the gate, to protect themselves from the weather engage in conversation about the about the nature of about human nature, are human beings innately evil, do they always lie can we never trust them. And one of the characters who carries on this discourse is a is a priest, who has a kind, who has an idealizing tendency, which another of the characters a commentary, he’s called the commoner, he’s an ordinary man is constantly mocking and arguing against, it’s almost a kind of argument that reminds me in some ways of the argument between spirit and flesh, in, in Cervantes Don Quixote, in which in which sansho, Pons is constantly reminding the idealizing Quixote of the miserable actuality of the world look, when you get stabbed, you bleed, when you’re, when you haven’t eaten, you’re hungry, right?
The world is real in a way that that that ideal, that ideal and miserable in some respects, in a way that idealists don’t like. And so that’s the kind of argument that runs through these interludes as the as the film goes on. So the title refers to the Russia gate and Russia gate is itself a massive symbol for the breakdown of order for the misery of India for the miserable circumstances that individuals find themselves in and what you one of the things you’ll see is that it’s it’s chilly, it’s cold, it’s raining like mad have tremendous torrential downpour, incidentally, created partly by fire trucks. In his autobiography, Kurosawa talks about how difficult it was to create this sense of an immense ongoing almost a tsunami of rain. And he talked about the technical difficulties of of doing so.
Very impressive, very impressive rain, the most impressive rainstorm in the history of movies, I think. And so these, these these people are gathered beneath the gate in order to in order To protect themselves and the gates symbolic significance is it is important, we will notice that one of the things they do when they get cold is they go over to certain parts of the of the building, it’s a wooden structure already half broken down and, and, and in decay, and they’ll break off banisters or other pieces of wood and rake them up and turn and burn them up.
And the implication is if things go on like this, pretty soon the whole gate will have will have been consumed by people who have tried to take shelter under it. So it’s so it’s a symbol of the breakdown of social order, and of an end of the society. I’ve already mentioned, the medium the name of the Japanese word is Meiko. And I mentioned it here just because I wanted to clarify, I wanted to be sure all of you understood what was going on there, the husband is dead. When the testimony begins.
He’s a samurai. So a husband, a samurai who is the husband of the of the rape victim. And as the story unfolds, you’ll see what what you’ll get the basic facts, but you’ll also find that even when the film is over, there are many fundamental things you won’t be able to have decided. And I think that’s part of certainly part of Kurosawa’s point.
So the medium is just this this clairvoyant type apparently, characters, real characters believed in and socially recognizable in late middle in late medieval Japan, a character who had claims to have access to the words and beliefs of dead people. So the dead man testifies in another way of reminding you that we’re looking at a very stylized a dream, a story that isn’t in a narrow sense realistic at all. The visual style of the film is especially remarkable, and and astounding, in some ways.
It’s almost as if each of the tested, each form of testimony has its own style. And you might want to watch the the way in which Kurosawa sort of builds his eclectic and dynamic since of the eclectic and dynamic way in which in which Kurosawa’s editing camera work use of music combined to create a kind of almost constant visual excitement.
One of the most remarkable things about the film is how many sequences in it are without dialogue with extended wordless sequences, truly, entirely cinematic, the opening sequence is almost the opening sequence, the first extended sequence in a forest, which comes after the sort of introduction, which I’ve described earlier, is a magnificently clear example of that process. And in that, one of the things that you may notice, in that sequence especially, is the way in which you become increasingly disoriented about the direction in which the woodcutter is going.
He’s apparently narrating the story in his narration sort of segues into a visual experience, as happens again and again in the field. And the visual experience we have shows him going into the woods, walking and then discovering first a woman’s hat, and then discovering other things and discovering a body and then running away in fear.
And and as he penetrates into the woods, one of the things that happens is the camera is always moving and and the camera becomes as interested in the in the forest itself in this densely wooded forest and in the play of light and dark. Because the sunlight comes through the wooded canopy in odd and profoundly, visually powerful ways.
It’s as if you begin to have a sense that that that the camera is at least as interested in the woods and in the play of sunlight, as it is in the motions of the of the woodcutter and that the whole sequence has a kind of profoundly lyrical, but also in some degree, disorienting sense that as Kurosawa said, you’re entering a space in which you’re you’re you’re entering a space that’s dreamlike, that’s dangerous, a place where the heart will lose its way, right as if you’re you as if you’re entering a symbolic space, not a realistic space, right, a stylized space and in some in some in some deep way.
And there are there are a couple of specific strategies that Kurosawa uses in in the in the film to reinforce I think our sense that he is indeed that he’s engaging every element of the of his of his cinematic palette, in order to create his effects. One thing he does violate certain rules that Beth especially at the time, which would have been tremendously shocking to professional directors, one thing he did does in the film, was he points the camera at the sun and he creates sun effects, right?
That was a no no, it was a sort of rule that directors should never do that. Of course, it doesn’t. It does and you’ll watch while he does it. It’s very it’s it’s very powerful that it also has As a disorienting effect of the effect of making us understand more deeply what it’s like to work to work our way through this incredible dense forest in which the event occurred in which the crime occurs as if the forest itself is a space. So complex, and so private, so caught off from from the outer world that almost anything could could happen there a space of dream, a space of terror, a space of symbolic fable. And, and there’s, there are a couple of other things I wanted to mention about the way his camera behaves.
One is that he, of course, I will use this here a device at certain points in the film that a very interesting device, it’s the official name for it that the fancy name for the technical term for it is, he makes what is called an axial cut a XL, it’s really a form of a jump cut. That is to say in, you know, an abrupt edit, which which you’re not fully prepared for which breaks in it, a jump cut, as you know, breaks the the action in in mid stride or in mid action and then jumps to something else in a kind of in a way, that’s slightly disorienting. that eliminates, right, it’s elliptical, it eliminates, it eliminates connection or transitions, right.
And, but, but the axial cut does this in a very dramatic way that also calls attention to the apparatus of the movies. The most dramatic places in which this occurs in the film are certain scenes in which you see the samurai husband tied up sitting on the ground, tied up like this, kneeling on the ground, and the cameras at some distance from him and moves toward him. But it doesn’t move toward him in a smooth tracking motion that is characteristic or tracking motion characteristic of most films, what it does is it moves forward and it stops and then it jumps, it moves forward. And then it and what you feel is leaps forward.
And what’s happening, of course is that he stops the cameras forward movement moves, it further makes a cut so that what you want. So the effect is the camera moves, method, the cameras jerky, but it’s it’s, it’s as if it’s, it’s as if it’s a speeded up, in some sense, we can feel that the camera is becoming elliptical. So say this fellow in the front is the person I’m focusing on, I’ll be here that you’ll see this shot, then you’ll make two minutes and then you’ll see this shot and it will. And the effect is very abrupt, and you watch what happens.
So one effect at one One consequence of this kind of a shot, is that you watching it, you can feel how mechanical it is you you begin to think to yourself, well how could that have been created, you’re aware of its mechanical qualities, that is to say, you become partly aware of the apparatus behind the making of the movie, it’s a moment of self consciousness that other elements of the film also reinforce. So the visual style is profoundly eclectic and dynamic. I’ve mentioned at the axial cut and pointing the camera at the sun.
Maybe I’ll mention one other device that he one of the other technically intricate and and at the time revolutionary thing that Kurosawa did was he violates what’s called the 180 degree rule. And the 180 degree rule essentially has to do with your sense of spatial orientation in it within the frame, right? The essentially the 180 degree rule holds that if you’re showing characters moving in this direction, right?
See, you’re showing a character moving this way, you won’t suddenly if he’s still going in the same direction, show him walking this way. Because it disorients the viewer, right? So that if but what is in our film in in Rashomon, there are certain moments and there are hints of it in that opening sequence, or that lyrical first sequence in the forest that I mentioned, in which you in which you can see that the cameras own movements.
complicate and in some sense, confuse our sense of where the woodcutter is going. And, and, and it’s in that sequence and some other places in the film as well with 180 degree rule is violated. And the effect again, is to disorient us is to feel, gee, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going this guy doesn’t know whether he’s coming over what kind of space is he in, again, violating certain conventions of traditional filmmaking in order to create new effects. So it’s, and the, the the consequence of these choices, the impact of these choices in 1951, when the film won its prize was profound.
I want to say one other thing about another aspect of the film’s structure, which I’ve described perfectly and I apologize for being so Tongue Tied about it, but as I tried to describe earlier, the basic structure of the film becomes fairly clear. What happens is you get testimony. Then there are interruptions in which you as essentially all four of the primary pieces of testimony take place in the past, right. So there, so what we have are flashbacks, but competing flash And that various points, the film returns to our scene of rain at Russia gate in which the people under the gate, the three people under the gate, two of them are actually partial participants.
The third, the commoner was just a kind of listener to the story, although a profound commentator on it, right, the Santo ponza type who’s, who says, look, the world is miserable. Why should you? Why should you believe anyone, and the priest is constantly resisting him? Well, when we return to these moments, and it was so so we returned to Russia on gate several times, many times in the film, and every time we returned to that spot, where are we we’re in the present time of the film.
So one of the things that film does, it creates what I call a drama of the telling of the story in which the conversation that’s going on in underneath Rashomon gate is a kind of meta commentary on the story that we’re watching, right? The characters inside the film, comment on Well, can we believe her? Is this credible? Why did she say this? Right?
And the effect of this meta commentary is to create essentially a separate story. What’s the separate story? It’s a philosophic topic. The topic is the telling of stories. In other words, this interruption creates a new kind of moral and thematic complexity in the film, something that’s characteristic of the great novels, and fiction works.
I’d mentioned earlier in our in the lecture that appeared at the turn of the 20th century, what we have not only are the is the principle of unreliable narration being introduced, and the principle of competing flashbacks being introduced, and the principle of dislocated chronology being introduced, all of those things are operative. But what is even more important about it is that this more these moments of conversation amongst this, those three characters, that Rashomon game also constitute a kind of philosophic meditation on the nature of storytelling and the nature of truth.
Right? And they actually say, Well, how can you believe a person or what is truth? How can we believe what anybody says? So the so the film calls attention, not only to the profound subjectivity, of human responses, and the profoundly unreliable nature of memory, right, but also the extent to which individuals themselves have reasons developing from their egos, right, to distort and tell stories that are more flattering to themselves, right. And so that by the time we come to the end of the film, it isn’t clear at all, when the film is over, whether there is a truth and whether there is any final truth that we can embrace. The issues are not finally resolved.
But what is resolved for us is the idea that human reality is immensely complex, that that human beings are endlessly deceitful, that that the stories they tell about themselves and others may not be trustworthy. So in other words, that the film opens out into a kind of philosophic profundity that’s partly a function of its structure.
So it’s another example, one of the most remarkable examples that we’ve seen in our course of what I call organic form of a film whose have a text whose whose structure helps us understand what it’s about, and whose structure is part of what it means whose structure is essential to its meaning. We couldn’t imagine this film as a straightforward chronological sequence, it wouldn’t be it wouldn’t be able to do what it does.
This so what i what i mean by the drama of the telling of the story is literally that that is to say, there’s a second story that in a second subject matter in these interlude, let’s call them interludes in these interruptions, in which we return to the present time get out of the path. And those those interludes are an extended, philosophic and moral conversation about human nature, about the nature of the human of our human capacity to understand the world.
And, and, and our capacity to talk about it, to narrate it accurately and fully. So this drama of the telling of the story, this drama of the screening, this drama of the making of the story, is as important a dimension of the film as its actual story as the actual story that it wants to tell. I have two other points to make about this remarkable film, and I’ll be done.
The first is that one of the things I think you’ll notice, as the story goes on, and as different different people give different accounts of what happened is that the actual physical conflict between the two male characters, which one would expect to be grand and heroic, is almost always clownish and on heroic, we expect this great.
He’s a samurai warrior after all, and the man he’s doing battle with is a very famous or infamous, banded, criminal, so gifted a criminal that he has that he’s famous right. And yet in there, and both what what one realizes in retrospect that we When the criminal the tissue to shiroma phony character gives his gives his testimony in the beginning of the, in the early part of the film.
He’s exaggerating his own his own martial genius, so that we don’t fully realize that at first, but it becomes clear and clear to us as the film goes on, that he has a motive to sort of exaggerate his heroic stature and his strength and so forth, not to mention a motive to exaggerate and maybe to lie about the woman’s reaction to his to his forced attentions.
All of that is, is is a is a central part of of our of our of our understanding of what of what is at this what is at stake, I guess, when when we think about the the subject that Russia among the various subject that Rashomon gestures toward. So it the clownish on heroic behavior of these fighters is something to note because there’s a deep skepticism in the film itself about about all forms of a grand of human aggrandizement, there’s a there’s a skepticism that the film shares with the commoner who said, Who, who maybe is too negative about human nature, who thinks human human beings are completely objective that this is the justification for the most selfish kind of behavior, because no one can behave well. Alright, I have hardly exhausted the film.
But I hope I’ve said some things that will be valuable and useful to you on your first viewing. But let me end by talking about the ending. Because the ending of Rashomon presents us with a problem similar to the problem that we confronted in a film like the last laugh during that sermon, in which there seems to be a kind of optimistic or, or reassuring ending. To the to this film, The film has been very dark and rain. And in fact, one of the ways you can tell that the film has changed registers is that the rain finally disappears.
Well, as you’re watching the ending, which way which is quite explicit, even heavy handed about its attempt to return us to a sort of more hopeful view of mankind, you should ask yourself, does it deserve to be deleted. All through the 40s when Kurosawa was first learning his trade, he began to direct early in the 40s. And he directed this film in 1950, his his his his first real master work, he’d become more and more confident and ambitious as a director during this period. But he hadn’t sort of displayed his full capacities as a director until this point, most accounts of his career suggest.
But during this period, in the 1940s, Kurosawa took upon himself what he regarded as a social project, which was to try to help renovate Japan after the devastation of the war. And his films of the 40s almost always tried to suggest various forms of wit, various ways in which people could behave decently and heroically, if not decent, not heroically, at least decent decently, in an effort to sort of renovate and re reconstitute a damaged society, a broken society, one of the reasons that the that the breakdown of ancient Japan is so powerful in Russia, man, is that no question that is that a corsola. and his and his cast believe that in some sense, there was a symbolic analogy to be made between conditions in Japan, in actual Japan in 19, in the 1940s, and early 50s, and the broken, terrifying conditions of society in the in the 11th and 12th centuries. In the past parable, that narrative is telling us. And so and this film continues that tradition.
I think, I think many, many viewers, I among them, have the feeling that, that this is more wish fulfillment on Kurosawa’s part than reality. And one could say, from an artistic standpoint, then one might conclude that it’s a weakness in the film, I think I might say that, that the film might be more powerful, more truthful to itself, that it may, that that the ending, that that the ending that’s tacked on May undermine its deepest energies in disturbing ways.
So it’s another example of a way in which commercial and social imperatives may be may be interfering with the artistic integrity of the text. But it’s significant, important to understand that this was a tendency that was present in Kurosawa’s work all the way through the 40s. And that therefore, it’s a kind of expression of of a of a of a Have a moral sense that the director had that that would be that begins to become less powerful after Rashomon. And although although he remains deeply moral director, so the ending is a question and you might want to ask yourself what, how you would react to how you would respond to the question of the relevance of the of the ending to the rest to the rest of the film.
Let me end with a reminder about maybe what is, in some ways, the most powerful aspect of what happens when you’re watching Rashomon, I’ve said that you feel that you’ve entered into a kind of, if not a dream, into a kind of uniquely stylized space in which what happens resembles what happens in real life, but is, but but also distills what happens in real life highlights in a way that isn’t true of actuality, right. And I think you’ll feel this, I think you’ll feel this, this mythic tendency, all the way all the way through the film.
But it’s in a in a certain in a certain sense. It’s a way one way of capturing what I’m saying is to say that there is a tension in the film between this impulse to be mythic, to tell a story that it understands to have a feeble like significance. And its sense of the complexity and, and concreteness of actuality, one, that is to say, so there’s this wonderful constant tension in the film between the enormous persuasiveness of the individual images that you see.
But your sense also that you’re in a world that’s not totally real, that so this is the tension I’m trying to get you to feel you can feel it in the dialogue, you can feel it, but especially you can feel it in the visual images, in the in the visual texture of the film, you can feel a kind of tension between an impulse to mythologize and to stabilize and an impulse to show the world in its in its in its deepest and most concrete elements in its most in its most authentic actuality.
And the tension between the two g This is so real. This is so unreal, this is so fable like, it’s part of the secret of the movie. And one way you can feel it within immensely intense power is sometimes when you see the way the film deals with human flesh. There are certain scenes for example, where a woman’s hand will be on a on a man’s body, right? Talk about what you can, how you can be erotic without, without offending anyone. There’s a moment where you can see the woman’s fingers pressing into the man’s flesh, right?
It’s an immensely erotic and powerfully concretizing moment, it reminds you of flesh, it reminds you of the film’s power to capture actuality with the vividness that goes far beyond what words can ever do, right? The visual power of movie. And that’s what I mean when I say that there’s this constant tension in the film, in the film between the mythologizing tendencies of the story.
And of course, I was imagination, and what we might call the breaking tendency, the the concretizing tendency of the of the, of the film medium, which, which has this growth pack this capacity to register the gross concrete reality of our experiences with a detail and a power that no other medium can, with this sense of tension between a story that wants to be a fable and a story that wants to persuade you of its of its concrete reality is part of what makes the film so memorable. And so and so significant.