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Genre: Samurai Period Action War Drama (Japan, France)
Overview: In The Emperor's final medieval epic, Kurosawa interprets King Lear, the story of a feudal lord who, in his old age, hands over his rulership to his sons, only to watch his world crumble in around him.
Ran is one of those films of Kurosawa's oeuvre that is considered one of his best, although it merely broke even in theatres, sporting a budget of $12 million, the highest film production cost that Japan had ever seen.
Ran is the tale of an old man with three sons. In his old age, he has decided to make his eldest son Lord of the first castle. The old man, Hidetora, will still retain the title of Great Lord while staying there with him. His youngest son vehemently objects. Thinking this to be a threat from a spoiled child, Hidetora disowns and banishes his youngest for speaking against him.
Men prefer sorrow over joy... suffering over peace! -Tango
All too quickly do his youngest son's warnings come to fruition. His eldest son soon gives his father an ultimatum: deny the title of Great Lord and do my bidding in all things or leave.
Well, as you can guess from the pictures above and below, not all goes well once that offer is made. The rest of this bleak tale is really an exploration of "how bad is this going to get?"
Given my penchant for original tales of woe, I very much approve of the delivery of this tale, and all the wonderful various ways of suffering our characters endure - be it watching their loved ones betray them or slipping into babbling madness.
Man is born crying. When he has cried enough, he dies. -Kyoami
Shot in a very similar fashion as Kagemusha, Kurosawa uses his experience of the epic and delivers Ran in his tried and true methods to make a visual spectacle as grand as any of his other masterpieces. With 1400 fully-armoured extras, plenty of combat and gigantic sets like the one above, you certainly won't be disappointed in what you're watching.
Of course, what else would you expect from a tale that was storyboarded as paintings?
Performance: 9 Cinematography: 10 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 9
Overall Rating: 88% (As Fast As You Can!)
When I rented this from my favourite place, one of the owners told me I had to watch the making of bonus feature on the second disk of the Criterion Collection's Ran. And I'm glad I did. At just a little over an hour, those of you who want to get into the production methods and style of Kurosawa's filmmaking, well this is the sort of documentary that delved just a little into the psyche and the mood of more than merely 'how one film was made'.