Be Careful What You Kill For
Let’s not have any preamble about Akira Kurosawa’s creation ‘Ran’ (1985), it’s a straight up work of genius and one of the greatest movies EVER made! It’s the sort of creation all artists or story tellers aspire too, but few ever reach in their life time, never mind being 75 when making it, nor having previously created a swathe of other works of brilliance, but that’s to be expected from one (if not the best) of the greatest directors in the history of cinema. Basically it’s the sort of movie a 10/10 scale exists for.
We could just end the review there as realistically to write about the work is a slight injustice to the piece, it just has to be absorbed. Even just for the magnificent almost living colours of the stunning costumes (which it won an Oscar for) which seem to actually breath before your very eyes, to the stunning landscapes that expose the abject frailties of man as he wanders with bloodlust, arrogance and stupidity amongst the majesty of nature. We may be dealing the folly of man as he is convinced of his superiority and as such control over everything including destiny, but being that ‘Ran’ means chaos, such trite concepts of order that Man likes to present upon the melee that is life are blown away with the most gentle of poetic breezes.
It also helps that the story is based on Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’, re-purposed and mixed with Japan’s 16th century Civil Wars and the legend of the warlord Morikawa and all filmed in Kurosawa’s homeland Japan, where at the time was the most expensive movie ever made, and you can see where every Yen was spent. At times the sets and extras count is so high, it would make you think the entire population of Japan have turned up.
That enormous scale is a beautiful contrast to what is effectively a simple tale. The ageing very successful and ruthless warlord Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai on amazing form) is winding down in his final Autumn years. Where once he welded honed swords, now he strikes with words. Politics and diplomacy are his weapons of choice as he wishes to settle into retirement. Opening in beautiful isolation, we see the tired war ‘hero’ trying to do a good deed regarding his three sons of vastly different temperaments, abilities and loyalties. Handing over the reign of the kingdom to the first born isn’t always the best choice. Clearly a lifetime of murdering and kingdom building doesn’t necessarily bring wisdom.
What is meant as a kind gesture immediately and extremely rapidly blossoms into full blown civil war on the most epic of scales. Of course there’s a huge levels of male stupidity and masculinity that contribute to the mayhem and carnage, and an added wee drop of female wiliness. If anyone involved in the tale had the thought to swallow their pride and sight down and talk it would have all been sorted in moments, but that not how people are, nor will be any time soon. They are stupid, arrogant, petulant, greedy, scared, lustful, vengeful and jealous, which all leads for a far more interesting story.
From the smallest of intimate gatherings it escalates into what seems millions of feet and hooves on the ground, the idiocy of Man has no parameters. Just look around at modern politics and foreign policies. This tiny moment slowly grows to absolute epic-ness. To match that scale we have stunning costumes, cinematography, score and acting prowess form everyone involved. The entire movie was created by folk at the top of their game. It’s a mixture of blood and ballet.
Rekindling the appreciation, devotion and respect for the movie we have STUDIOCANAL lovingly restoring the film to a digital 4K format from an original print under supervision from the original creators. And it looks glorious. There is so much in take in on the beauty of the movie that there is something new to see and enjoy every time it is viewed. It is an absolute essential for any individual who has even the mildest of interest in the history of story telling or cinema even without all the vast amount of blu-ray extras. It’s one of the greatest movies of all time, and if this is your first venture into the work of Kurosawa it’s like Christmas time for the soul, being that he sorta changed cinema forever.
‘Ran’ is out on blu-ray now.