Rashomon: Restoration in 2008 of Kurosawa’s Masterpiece

It has been ten years since the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa (March 23, 1910-September 6, 1998) passed away. Kadokawa Pictures has begun the task of digitally restoring Kurosawa’s Rashomon with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Considering Rashomon’s arts and cultural values, Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation, The Academy Motion Pictures Arts and Science, and The Film Foundation decided to support the restoration project. Rashomon is the first Japanese film to be restored by the Academy and the Film Foundation. For this project, the digital restoration will be done at 4K for the first trial in Japanese film history.

Released in Japan on August 26, 1950 and exported soon thereafter, Rashomon was immediately recognized as signal achievement in cinema. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1951 and received an honorary Oscar Award (Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film) in the following year.

The project is supervised by Michael Pogorzelski, the director of the Academy Film Archive and a renowned film archivist. From Japan, the National Film Center joins the project to provide technical and academic advice.

The restored film will be shown on September 18th at the Samuel Goldwin Theater as a special event of KUROSAWA retrospective “Akira Kurosawa: Film Artist”.

The Restoration Process involves scanning Rashomon at 4K to digitize the film; restoring damaged film as digital data; recording out the restored film at 4K on a new film stock(producing a new negative).

The picture restoration is handled by Lowry Digital and YCM laboratory. The audio restoration is done by DJ Audio and Audio Mechanics (All the vendors are in Burbank, CA)

Digitally restored Japanese feature films to date: Shin Heike Monogatari (Kadokawa Pictures/Kenji Mizoguchi/1955), 24 Eyes (Shochiku/Keisuke Kinoshita/1954), Vessel of Sand (Shochiku/Yoshitaro Nomura/1974).

“I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the support of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The National Film Center, and The Film Foundation, in the restoration of Rashomon. This has been a significant cultural collaboration between Japan and the United States. Six years ago I stepped into the vaults of Daiei Studios for the first time with Mr. Yoji Yamada, one of the most esteemed Japanese directors. Upon seeing the shelves filled with film cans, the director praised the quality of Daiei pictures and the people who worked for the studio. He said the films were a national treasure. Soon after that, Kadokawa Pictures consigned the collection to the National Film Center. Having inspected the collection, we found out that quite a few of the negatives had been damaged over time. We recognized this as a crisis of our cultural heritage, and took decisive action. The Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation instituted a preservation program, and from the collection, we selected 1600 key films for our earliest attention. Rashomon is one of the most important of these. I deeply hope that the presentation of Kurosawa’s digitally restored masterpiece on the 10th anniversary of his death will contribute to a deeper understanding of the importance of film preservation as the key to our rich cultural heritage, and to a renewed appreciation of the Japanese cinema on the part of future generations.”

Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, chair of The Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation

“Kadokawa Pictures’ archive consists of films made by Daiei Studios, Kadokawa Pictures, and Nippon Herald Pictures. Thanks to the help of the National Film Center, in 2004 we started the preservation and restoration of this important heritage with the support of the Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation. I believe that the digitally restored Rashomon will become a touchstone for cinema preservation. Combining adept use of digital tools with the meticulous curatorship at the heart of traditional archival work, the restoration has preserved the authenticity of the original artistic achievement by making use of the most advanced technologies. Now, Kurosawa’s Rashomon, more than 50 years old, will appear on the screen with the same power and beauty as when it was first released. It is most appropriate that this restoration was the result of an international partnership between public and private institutions in Japan and America, because it underscores our common heritage – the cinema – and our commitment to preserve it.

Taiichi Inoue, president of Kadokawa Pictures

Rashomon

Cast

Toshiro Mifune … Tajomaru
Machiko Kyo … Masago Kanazawa
Takashi Shimura … Woodcutter
Masayuki Mori … Takehiro Kanazawa
Minoru Chiaki … Priest
Kichijiro Ueda … Commoner
Noriko Honma … Medium
Daisuke Kato … Policeman

Credits

Director… Akira Kurosawa
Scenario… Akira Kurosawa / Shinobu Hashimoto
Based on two stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
Photography … Kazuo Miyagawa
Recording…Iwao Otani
Art director … Takashi Matsuyama
Music… Fumio Hayasaka
Lighting … Kenichi Okamoto

Release Date: August 26, 1950

The Story

One rainy day in 12th century Japan, a monk and a woodcutter sat deep in thought under the half broken city gate of Rashomon. A man rushed into the gate, seeking shelter from the pouring rain. After being asked, the monk and the woodcutter began to tell the newcomer their mysterious story. A famous robber named Tajyomaru attacked a samurai and his wife in a forest. The robber was captured and put on trial, however the accounts of the three participants were significantly different each other.

Awards

Venice Film Festival (1951) – Golden Lion: Akira Kurosawa and Italian Film Critics Award: Akira Kurosawa
Honorary Award (Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film) (1952)- 25th Academy Awards, USA (1953) – Won: Academy Honorary Award, Nominated: Academy
Mainichi Film Concours (1951) – Best Actress: Machiko Kyo (Japan)

The film took the number five spot on Kinema Junpo’s top ten list for 1950

Aspect ratio 1.37 : 1 / B&W / MONO / Nine reels / 2046m / 88minutes

Production of Daiei Kyoto Studio

Kadokawa Pictures’ Genban-hozon (Film Preservation) Project

Kadokawa Pictures owns the combined libraries of Daiei, Kadokawa Pictures, and Nippon Herald Films, a collection of more than 1600 feature motion pictures that includes many Japanese favorites and also internationally renowned classics of cinema.

Kadokawa believes that preservation of these precious cultural assets is an obligation of the highest order. We believe that these films represent an important facet of Japanese culture, and that there is significant public benefit in their preservation. The restoration of these films is motivated by cultural and educational imperatives. Kadokawa’s negatives are conserved in the National Film Center’s temperature-controlled vault in Sagamihara City. This storage minimizes deterioration and helps to preserve the integrity of the original negatives. Unfortunately, like all celluloid, all of the film negatives will eventually suffer chemical decomposition. Therefore, supported by Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation, we began preservation and restoration of our collection in 2004. We organized the “Genban Hozon (Film Preservation) Project ” to inspect, restore and duplicate the fragile original negatives for archival purposes.

Following Shin Heike Monogatari, Rashomon is the second film to be digitally restored.