Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 183: Ran (1985) - Rank 4.5/5


Shakespeare and Kurosawa - if it sounds like a match made in heaven, it certainly is. The Japanese director's adaptation of "King Lear" never comes off as a stage-to-screen script. Sprawling landscapes and bloody battles make the play into an epic that's utterly gorgeous to behold. Kurosawa is so pragmatic about every shot in his film, saturating them with beautiful colors or symmetry so perfect that photography students would kill to take a snapshot of the setups.

Set in early Japan, the saga follows the plight of the Ichimonji clan - the proud rulers of an entire kingdom that quickly fall into civil dispute after Hidetora, the father of the clan, decides to pass his rule on to his sons. Taro, Hidetora's eldest and the prime owner of power in the restructured kingdom, soon turns his father into a pariah at the behest of his scheming wife, Lady Kaede. Kaede would like nothing better than to see the Ichimonji clan destoryed, for it was Hidetora who conquered her kingdom, stole her family castle, killed her family and forced her to marry his son. Jiro follows the order established by Taro, while Saburo, the youngest son, rejects his father's ideas for a new kingdom and becomes an outcast. As the dilemma unfolds, armies battle, castles are destroyed and when the smoke clears, we're left with a resolution about as merry as that of any classical tragedy.

Mieko Harada succeeds in sowing hatred in the viewer for Lady Kaede (as well as generating terror as the snow fairy in Kurosawa's "Dreams"). She makes the term "bitch" seem like an understatement. The only performance I've seen that's commensurate would be Jessica Lange as Tamora in "Titus" (to be fair, I'll stick with Shakespeare characters). Both women are capable of manipulating any man they know and both have no interest in love, but rather the downfall of their husband and his empire. Kurosawa's direction and witting for the character (as well as the rest of the cast) is flawless. All around, it's just a fabulous spectacle to behold on screen.

Watch the Trailer

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