Monday, October 05, 2009

what remains

grand daddy cedar


This is the image that remains with me after watching Kurosawa’s Rashômon (yeah for only the first time -- I'm catching up on my greats): A woodsman walking alone through the forest, the camera moving fluidly, magically, through the treetops at a distance, and everywhere the strength of the soaring cedar.

We learn later, watching the DVD special bits, that the dolly is rooted on a rail on the ground and so it must be that we’re looking down and long across a slope, but that reasoning comes later. Just now there is pure magic in how the camera glides through the trees, and I’m reminded of the airy distance that breathed between the oaks of the savanna at dusk, when walking I heard the sonorous hoot of an owl just a little bit distant, stopped and held still to see (after a beat, then three) the giant bird break his bluff and wing his massive bulk through the trees.

It’s all around us in this masterpiece of a movie, the cedar. The manic thief knows his one calm moment as he naps in the lap of one fragrant giant, warmed by the sun, the celluloid nearly redolent with the perfume of its baking wood. He peers skyward under the influence of the breeze and captures a glimpse of the woman he will blame for his motives (whom he blames, pardon me, for his woody) and she too is stalwart and cedar like. Miyagawa’s masterful camera pans her heel to head just as he panned the stewards of the forest, from burl to overstory.

The cedars will be witness to the crimes the camera spares us -- the assault on the wife; the murder (the suicide?) of the husband. This none-of-us-knowing is what, of course, provides Rashomon with its potency as each player unwinds the narrative of the grove’s events in his or her own telling in which he or she is (as it always is) the hero of the story.

What remains with me are the trees.

2 comments:

Swanksalot said...

This is one of my favorite films of all, and certainly my most-frequently viewed Kurosawa movie. Watching the tracking scene after seeing the explanation of how it was set up even increases the sense of wonderment, at least for me.

suttonhoo said...

oh and wasn't that a marvelous clip -- the way it cut back and forth between Kurosawa and Miyagawa and hearing not only how the film came together but how their friendship took root? you could see the love they have for each other.

loved too the story of the mirrors and the light and the branches.

didn't destroy any of the magic; made me adore them each even more.

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