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Rashomon as Famous Japanese Film

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Rashomon is a famous Japanese film from the 1950’s about a man who dies after his wife was raped by a bandit (Module-7, Rashomon Lecture, 5:41). Point of view in the film is where the scenes are made so that the audience can view a situation the way that particular character sees it. In Rashomon, there are multiple points of view present. This film is not a traditional film where there’s a beginning, middle, and end present. Instead this film is considered non-linear. 

Multiple characters in the film present their version of how the crime occurred. One can say that this film is about point of view because the film consists of multiple characters and their flashbacks of how the crime occurred. In the opening scene this is where the director first shows his stylistic choices through cinematography and editing. It first shows a big shot of the gate and the stormy and rainy weather. This opening shot sets the mood for the entire film. The shots get closer as the viewer can see up close to the faces of the priest and the woodcutter. After the woodcutter presents his story first, the priest goes next, then the woodcutter presents a second story from when he is in the courtroom, after that was the policeman, and lastly the woman (Module 7, Rashomon Lecture, 9:22). 

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At the end of the bandit’s, woman’s, and “dead” man’s story they each claim to say they were each responsible for the death of the man (Module 7. Rashomon Lecture). The first character to present their version of the situation is the woodcutter. An example where the director uses cinematography to make point of view to construct the narrative is in the woodcutter’s flashback where he is walking through the woods, the camera sort of follows him as he finds the woman’s hat and then continuing to walk to then find a rope (Kurosawa, 1979). This scene also shows stylistic choices in editing as well as the woodcutter is walking through the woods the shots seem to zoom in closer and this allows the viewers to focus on his reaction. 

This choice in cinematography allows the audience to go along with his point of view and react to things the way he did as well. With this film not being considered a classic, as the movie resolves, the viewers still don’t know the truth. The goal of the movie is that the viewer is able to come up with their own truth of what may have actually happened in the woods. If the film was shot with only one point of view, then this would be a completely different film and the audience would believe the story from that one point of view. 

Overall the director is trying to say that at this time in Japanese society, morality and righteousness were the most important things to the people and if they can’t be found in reality then they can be found in fiction (module 7, rashomon lecture, 55:01). Everyone is happier with the fictional version than they are with reality because that makes them seem like a better people. Neorealist films are films that tell stories in the present day (Module 9, Neorealism Background, 16:50). They focus on common, everyday events in the lives of the poor and the working class and these end without giving the audience closure (Module 9, Neorealism Background, 16:50). 

The director of Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett was influenced by Italian Neorealism. Killer of Sheep is a film from the 1970’s about what life was like for African Americans, essentially the working class and the struggles that they went through at this time in Watts, Los Angeles. The main character, Stan, works in a slaughterhouse where he kills sheep. There he is constantly overworked, and it starts to negatively impact his home life as all he is trying to do is support his family but somehow life keeps taking a negative turn for him. This film displays traits of realist Neorealist film and realist film that make it a successful and famous film. 

As Burnett was influenced by Neorealist films like Bicycle Thieves, he presents many neorealist traits throughout this film. The first example of a neorealist trait in this film is that there are scenes that are shot on location. Burnett took shots as if it were a documentary to portray reality in his film. This genre helped to shape and communicate a political message about life in America by giving people an insight into the difficulties that poor and working-class, specifically African Americans. Films like these are made in hopes that changes can be made in American society with the poor and working class. 

In the film, there’s a scene that takes place in the slaughterhouse and the audience should notice that there are long takes and long-distance shots in this scene so that the audience can grasp the details (module 9, killer of sheep lecture, 25:38). There is another scene where the children are playing outside with rocks and throwing them (Burnett 1978). Another scene shows Stan’s little daughter sitting in a small corner singing and playing with her toys (Burnett, 1978). This shows that given the unfair circumstances that happen in their life they have to try and enjoy and make the best of it. As the movie goes on the audience notices that Stan is becoming more depressed about the life that him and his family are living in. 

As the movie ends, the viewers don’t get any closure with this movie, it just ends. This is an important trait of neorealism and what sets it apart from a classic Hollywood film. In classic Hollywood films, there’s a linear plot and usually, they usually consist of a problem that occurs, and it gets resolved in the end. With Burnett’s take, there can’t be a happy ending because society at that time was still the same and there was no change. There are also some realist traits present in this film as well as. There is a lot of emotion present in this film which is also present in films that are realistic. 

An example of emotion in Killer of Sheep is when Stan and his wife are dancing together, and his wife is trying to connect with him, but Stan keeps pushing away as he seems sad (module 9, killer of sheep lecture, 39:09). The most important realist trait in this film is that this story is related to reality. Although Burnett’s intention of this film may not have been to be as successful as it was, he brought something different to the film industry. Neorealist films were made to help people understand that there needs to be a change in society.       

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