Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ran (1985)


After retiring Lord Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai) falls into despair when two of his three sons turn against him, and each other, trying to take over the kingdom he built.

Hidetoroa: "I am lost...."
Kyoami: "Such is the human condition."

Widely considered to be the final masterpiece of Akira Kurosawa, Ran is as true of a work of art as any film I've seen. Its beautiful scenery, and shot composition, is near unmatched, and the costume designs and period setups are absolutely breathtaking. Add to that the combined narrative genius of Shakespeare and Kurosawa and you've got one heck of an amazing film, right? Well, almost.

Throughout Kurosawa's career, from time to time, he moved into a brand of performance I can only describe as extensively theatrical. Here Kurosawa would fixate the camera, and his actors, to take their emotional presence to the nth degree of exaggeration. Another prime example of this can be found in Rahomon, but more on that when we get there. In Ran it's both a blessing and a curse. For those who love the exaggerated expressions of early film actors, and those of the Olivier sort, it'll be a welcomed addition. While those who prefer their acting more mundane, down to earth, and simplistic, it may very well be a crack separating you from the film's depth.

For me, it was a little bit of both. In most cases I found Kurosawa's Ran to be a bit exaggerated, but amazingly well shot. It's safe to say the 10 years Kurosawa spent breaking this film down shot by shot, painting the film with his mind (literally). Complimented well by Kyoami (Peter - stage name, not real one :P) as both the comic relief, moral center, and only loyal servant, Kurosawa has pieced together Samurai lore and Shakespearean tragedy to create something quite marvelous. It's visual feast is only matched by its depth, and while it is a tad long, it's impeccably well paced, and an absolute must see for any Kurosawa fan.

While I don't think it's absolutely Kurosawa's masterpiece, and it's acting did leave me feeling a bit iffy, Ran is a movie that only gets better with repeat viewings. An absolute visual masterpiece.

Alternate Perspectives:

"It is an immense feeling and that is definitely the mark of a great film, when it can evoke emotion from you without you feeling like it is trying at all to force the issue but rather embeds it into the story." - Gmanreviews

"If his previous work could shock because the audience felt like participants and thus learned the truth only when the characters did, Ran unsettles and disturbs because we know how this will turn out long before its characters do." - Not Just Movies

"Ran is a visual treat in its entirety as is its subdued but effective musical score. Not on the highest caliber of his career but still worth a view." - Japan Cinema

8 better thoughts:

Castor said...

I need to see this!!!

Alex said...

I actually get to watch this for a class I'm taking on Modern and Contemporary Japanese Art (along with Rashomon and Akira). I didn't know much about it before reading this review but now I'm looking forward to it!

Univarn said...

@Castor Most definitely :).

@Alex Awesome. Wish I had taken a class like that *doh*. But remember this is only the beginning ;)

Rick "The Hat" Bman said...

This is actually my favorite Kurosawa and possibly even my favorite movie. I know the acting style is a bit over the top but I think it works well for the story being told. It is closer to the style of stage acting than it is film acting but I think that serves a Shakespeare story well. I think some of the battles scenes in the movie are some of the best ever put on film. I remember seeing this on the big screen a couple years back and I was simply entranced by it. I actually wrote an essay on Ran for a film class a few years back. One of these days I am going to edit down that essay and turn it into a blog post.

Michaël Parent said...

This probably is Kurosawa's most grandiose film. Visually it's a perfect film! Excellent essay Ryan! This is a film I highly recommend!

Univarn said...

@Rick I would love to read that!

@Michael thanks for the compliment. I totally agree about it. I have yet to see a film put together so perfectly visually.

Rick "The Hat" Bman said...

one of these days I will get my Ran essay edited into a blog post. Last time I tried to read it I found it to be far to poorly written. I don't understand how I got a passing grade on it at all.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

What makes Ran so great (among many things) is it's bleakness, and it's not afraid to be. It doesn't go pat, it's even more daring than Shakespeare (truthfully, I consider King Lear as one of his lesser works) and it's just so visually striking.

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