Reprinted from the Indpendent Weekly

In my tender elementary school days, I found myself oddly troubled by an episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Titled “Every Chipmunk Tells a Story,” it involved Alvin, Simon and Theodore telling a series of conflicting flashbacks about how Dave’s piano came to be destroyed and filled with rice pudding.

What bothered me about it was there was no one flashback explaining what really happened; we were only presented with the various self-serving flashbacks. I was perhaps 7 or 8, and this was my first exposure to the legacy of Akira Kurosawa, specifically his classic tale of conflicting stories, Rashmon, which is unfortunately absent from the series but should be added to your must-watch list at home. (According to the Carolina Theatre, Rashmon wasn’t included in the program only because the film was recently screened elsewhere in this area.)

Its plot has been recycled in various media over the last six decades. Fourteen years after it was first released, it was remade as a 1964 Paul Newman Western, The Outrage, for which Kurosawa was credited in the script. It may rank as one of the few opportunities to see Newman, Edward G. Robinson, Laurence Harvey and William Shatner all in the same place.

There are, of course, dozens upon dozens of other films that have used the Rashomon structure, ranging from war drama (Courage Under Fire), crime (The Usual Suspects), animation (Hoodwinked) and lame comedy (One Night at McCool’s).

And there have been plenty of TV shows that have referenced it, from a Diff’rent Strokes episode called “Rashomon II” to a CSI called “Rashomama.” Even Marge Simpson once reminded Homer that he enjoyed Rashmon, though Homer retorted, “That’s not how I remember it.”

My favorite may be one that doesn’t really exist; a background poster in an Evan Dorkin cartoon for a film called “Rashomonster,” which featured the tagline, “Who really destroyed Tokyo?” Of all Kurosawa’s films, Rashmon may be the most purely influential, simply because its idea that there is no one truth, that everyone’s perception of reality is ultimately self-serving, only becomes more relevant as media and networking become a great part of people’s daily lives. —Zack Smith