Ran Review

The average movie enthusiast has probably heard the name Akira Kurosawa mentioned with reverence in pretentious film-snob circles or in almost any film school, but chances are the average movie enthusiast probably hasn't bothered to ever really watch any of Kurosawa's films, which is a real shame. For in these films lies the expression of unbelievable talent - a poetry of motion and color - created and painted by a true master of the art of modern cinema. Now in theatrical reissue, casual moviegoers once again have the chance to see Ran, Kurosawa's masterpiece, on the big screen.

Kurosawa's closest colleagues addressed him as "sensei," a respectful and affectionate term meaning "teacher" or "master," and for good reason: He is without question, the master of Japanese cinema and an artist whose film legacy spanned 50 years of moviemaking. He influenced filmmakers such as Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese and countless others. For example, the movie A Fistful of Dollars was really nothing more than Western remake of the Kurosawa film Yojimbo, and The Magnificent Seven was a remake of The Seven Samurai. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Kurosawa four times in his career, and Ran has won countless awards, including Best Film from the esteemed National Society of Film Critics. The film was Kurosawa's obsession for more than 10 years and he feared that the movie would never be made. When it finally did get financing, it became Japan's most expensive film ever made at the time.

Ran, which translates as "chaos" or "turmoil," is Kurosawa's meditation on Shakespeare's King Lear, mixed with the history of Japan's 16th century Civil Wars, and the Japanese legend of Mori.

At the age of 70, after years of consolidating his empire, the Great Lord Hidetora Ichimonji (played brilliantly by Tatsuya Nadakai) decides to abdicate the throne and divide his domain among his three sons. To illustrate his demand for family unity, Hidetora shows that a single arrow can be easily broken, but three arrows held together are strong. But the loyalty the Great Lord dreams of doesn't happen and his empire falls to family bickering and civil war, with the old lord traveling from son to son in a futile attempt to keep empire and family together.

The film is beautifully well made, with subtle changes in color and texture as the story progresses. The characters makeup resembling an early form of Japanese theater. Epic battles, requiring the use of 1,400 extras and hundreds of horses are shot using a multi-camera technique that Kurosawa himself developed. All of these elements combine to create a feeling of immersion in the story. And while some of the battle scenes seem a bit campy by today's standards - with an overuse of blood that looks more like paint - the overall picture is dramatic, impressive, and visually stunning.

At 2 hours and 40 minutes the film is a bit on the long side for most people but it does not deter from the fact that Ran is an incredible picture worth seeing and talking about. Whether you really are a pretentious film snob or just someone who appreciates seeing something well made, this film is a must-see.

The new DVD features a remastered print along with two commentary tracks from Japanese culture and Kurosawa scholars.


Facts and Figures

Run time: 162 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 1st June 1985

Box Office Worldwide: $313.8 thousand

Distributed by: Rialto Pictures

Production compaines: Greenwich Film Productions, Herald Ace, Nippon Herald Films


Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 62 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 8.3 / 10

Cast & Crew


Starring: as Taro Takatora Ichimonji, as Jiro Masatora Ichimonji, as Saburo Naotora Ichimonji, as Lord Hidetora Ichimonji