|NEW - Ran (StudioCanal Collection) [Blu-ray]|
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While there were many great films released during the decade of the 1980s that still remain brilliant cinematic achievements, perhaps no other single film from this period is any better than the 1985 masterpiece "RAN", a stunning epic motion picture from the legendary director Akira Kurosawa. For his 27th film, the "sensei" of Japanese cinema, Akira Kurosawa, transposes Shakespeare's KING LEAR to feudal Japan. "RAN", which translates as "chaos" or "turmoil," is the tragic tale of Lord Hidetora, a warlord who decides to divide his empire among his three sons on the eve of his 70th birthday. However, Hidetora's youngest and most compassionate son, Saburo, defiantly objects to this hasty decision and is disowned by the proud, stubborn ruler. Once the two eldest sons take control of the empire, they quickly turn on their father and begin vying for total control over the land. As Hidetora is banished from his own kingdom in a bloody battle, he must confront the consequences of his violent, ruthless past. Ten years in the making, "RAN" represents the culmination of Kurosawa's career by revisiting his skill at adapting Shakespeare, as evidenced in THRONE OF BLOOD, and displaying the cinematic splendor of his other landmark films such as SEVEN SAMURAI and RASHOMON. With its magnificent costumes, breathtaking settings, and amazingly photographed battle sequences, the film is truly stunning. Worth noting is Mieko Harada as Lady Kaede. An epic on the grandest of scales, "RAN" is not only one of Kurosawa's finest films, it is a glorious masterpiece of Japanese cinema. It is also the very best movie of the entire decade of the 1980s!
A masterpiece from one of the world's great directors, the Criterion release finally gives us a worthy transfer to DVD. Earlier DVD releases were muddy, with sometimes difficult subtitles, and inferior sound. If you take nothing else from this review, let it be my recommendation to check that you are purchasing the Criterion release.
Now on to the movie...
"Ran" is Akiro Kurosawa's fusion of Shakespear's "King Lear," a sprinkling of "MacBeth," his own viewpoint on the lessons of aging, and material drawn from Japanese history.
Like "King Lear," "Ran" gets off to a slow start. The plot gathers force as Kurosawa draws you into the story, building to some of the most incredible action-filled battles ever filmed, and on to a profound, thought-provoking ending. In Japanese, "Ran" means "Chaos" - and there is chaos aplenty in this story - but this is chaos with a purpose.
I don't propose to tell the plot - it would be pointless. For those who know Shakespeare's Lear, the first viewing will be filled with moments of recognition. For those who don't know "King Lear," then the story will stand on its own, and perhaps encourage some to seek out Shakespeare's plays. Kurosawa's works are experiences which are visually told, not narrated.
By the time "Ran" was ready to be filmed, Akiro Kurosawa was regarded as something of a has-been in Japan. Many of those who worked with him during his glory days in the 1950's and early 1960's had gone on to other directors and projects. He had developed a reputation for being "difficult" in Hollywood (where he had been fired from "Tora! Tora! Tora!"). And this new project, which ended up being the most expensive movie in Japanese film history, was seen as a risky investment in a passÃ© director doing a commercially unpopular costume drama. With little support in Japan, Kurosawa ended up going to overseas investors to secure financing (hence the credits to the French backers). Added to all this, the death of his wife during early production meant that "Ran" was a hugely difficult enterprise for a seventy-four year old to pull off - and it is a masterpiece.
The Criterion package also includes some worthy extras. Full-length documentaries on the filming by Chris Marker and Sidney Lumet make one wonder at the sheer logistics of putting the director's sweeping vision onto film. There are also gorgeous paintings and sketches by Kurosawa, which he had created to storyboard the film years prior to the actual filming. These are overlaid onto the soundtrack so that you can see how close he came to implementing his ideas. Finally there is an interview with the actor, Tatsuya Nakadai, who plays the lead (a shock to see out of makeup and character).
Suffice to say that "Ran" has something in it for nearly any viewer - stunning scenery, betrayal, romance, lust, some of the best battles on film, intrigue, plot twists, comedy, pathos, and a facinating insight into Japan's cultural heritage. It is not suitable for pre-teens due to graphic violence. It is a must-see for everyone else.
This is a magnificent movie. It is visually beautiful - the colors and the way the shots are framed are stunning. The visuals are controlled in ways that add to the poetic power of the story. I do not speak Japanese, but the sound of the language combined with the musical score also adds to the intensity of this movie. The subtitles are good, but I am sure that those who understand Japanese get even more from this story.
This is not a film of Shakespeare's "King Lear". Rather, it is an adaptation and is based on the underlying themes of the play. It is not important for me to list the differences between the play and the movie, it is just important that a first time viewer not expect the Shakespearian story. If you know the play you will recognize aspects of the movie and enjoy the ways in which Kurosawa adapted the story to his own and Japanese sensibilities. It may nod to Shakespeare, but Kurosawa makes this his story.
The costumes, music, and acting are superlative. For me, the trademark Kurosawa battle scenes are more wonderful here than usual. This is a masterpiece by a filmmaking virtuoso who is also a sensitive enough artist to make a spectacular movie that is also poetic, humorous and heart breaking, tender and brutal as well images that are beautiful and others that are hideous.
This isn't light viewing or mind candy, but it has so much to offer that it is worth watching and learning from over and over again.
I've been told this is a Japanese retelling of Shakespeare's "King Lear". Although I haven't personally read Shakespeare, this film is nontheless a gorgeously photograhed story of vanity, suspicion, and deceit, and the subsequent warfare and vengeance caused thereby. The portrayal of medieval Japan's Samauri mindset is astonishingly unsettling. Courtly politeness is required in conversation, as the faintest slights lead to insult and war. The web of insanity spins ever downward, ending in a stunning visual image portraying the hopelessness of the path poorly chosen. Although subtitled, the quick reader will find that the story moves smoothly and understandably.
A tragic tale very well told -- one of Akira Kurasawa's best films.
Fantastic plot (borrows from King Lear), though Kurosawa has made this his own. This work is only second to The Seven Samurai, only because that is a tough movie to top. If for no other reason, watch it for the magnificent cinematography! The acting is superb. I rate this among my top 10 all time favorites. This is a great study in human nature with a film score that is absolutely sublime and complements the movie's scenes perfectly. The scene near the end at the first castle is absolutely stunning. I have seen this movie repeatedly and never get tired of watching it, even though it runs 160 minutes! It was, I believe, the first Kurosawa movie I watched and I have been a Kurosawa fan since. This film will not disappoint!