Sunday, June 13, 2010
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Writers: Akira Kurosawa (Screenplay), Hideo Oguni (Screenplay), Masato Ide (Screenplay), William Shakespeare (original "King Lear" play)
Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryû, Mieko Harada, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Hisashi Igawa, Masayuki Yui
Last Wednesday (that would be June 09, 2010) I celebrated my 29th birthday. Now, by "celebrate" I mean that I took the day off work and sat at home and watched crappy movies. I'm hardcore like that. However, later in the evening Shaw Girl and I went over to E-Street Cinemas to see the new 25th anniversary print of Akira Kurosawa's Ran (1985). Personally I think it was very nice of E-Street to show one of my favorite movies on my birthday. Did I forget to mention that Shaw Girl got me an awesome Ran 25th anniversary poster as well? Because she did and she is getting it professionally framed now. How cool is that?
Now when I say that Ran is one of my favorite movies, I mean that I enjoy the movie so much that I have always had a hard time trying to review it without sounding like a rambling lunatic. I had seen Ran on the big screen once before but I was really looking forward to getting a chance to see this restored print. I am happy to be able to tell you that this print was amazing. There were still a few scratches here and there but the movie is 25 years old, you can't expect any film print to be perfect. This is probably the best looking that I have ever seen the movie though. It was simply gorgeous and I loved getting a chance to see it on the big screen again. I was also quite excited about sharing the experience with Shaw Girl. I don't think she loved the movie as much as I do but she enjoyed it... and really, who is going to love this movie as much as me?
For those that don't know, Ran is Kurosawa's adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear set in feudal Japan. It follows the story of a Lord that bequeaths his lands to his sons only to have them turn on him. Kurosawa manages to perfectly adapt the Shakespeare story into a Japanese setting. I have seen King Lear performed on stage once (with Stacy Keach as King Lear) and from what I can tell Kurosawa's adaptation is fairly faithful with just a few minor changes.
Kurosawa really manages to take the epic story and make it just as epic visually. The care and skill that went into creating sets and costumes for Ran is simply amazing. In some scenes there are hundreds of extras all fully costumed. The sets all look very realistic and while I don't know enough about history to judge their authenticity, I will say that they work very well for the story being told. There were no small set piece for this film. Kurosawa held nothing back in the design of this film and it really shows.
The whole movie is amazing but the highlight of the film is the battle for the Third Castle near the middle of the film. In my opinion, this is one of the finest battle sequences every put on film. Kurosawa manages to give the action such a large scale without ever making it confusing. Most of the battle sequence is shot in complete silence except for the background music. This allows the images of the gruesome battle to speak for themselves. There is nothing to get in the way of the audience seeing just how brutal this battle is. The way he chooses to reintroduce sound in to the sequence is just as amazing. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen the movie but it should definitely catch you off guard.
From the amazingly told story to the extremely colorful costumes and sets, Kurosawa manages to make an extremely engrossing film with Ran. There are a few parts in the last act where the story slows down a bit but because of how Kurosawa manages to pull me into the story I am not bothered by these moments. If you are a fan of Kurosawa or a fan of Shakespeare and you have not seen this movie than I highly recommend it. It is both my favorite Kurosawa film and my favorite filmed Shakespeare adaption. It is also one of those movies that just begs to be seen on the big screen, so find a theater that is playing it and get out there and see it. Of course not everyone can see it on the big screen, luckily Criterion did a great job with their DVD of the film.