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Excellent film, mediocre DVD package
Akira Kurosawa's "Ran"
|While i don't necessarily agree that this is Kurosawa's best film (for me that would be either "Seven Samurai" or "Kagemusha"), it is huge, brilliant and gripping.
As with "King's Ransome", the American "police procedural" novel by Ed McBain that he adapted to modern-day Japan, Kurosawa finds themes in Shakespeare's "King Lear" which, while arguably universal, resonate particularly well with Japanese ideas and ways.
Tragedy is set in motion when Lord Hidetori, who has spent much of his life in the saddle, amassing a large fiefdom by conquest, decides that he is too old to rule properly and steps aside in favour of his eldest son, planning to settle lands and castles on his other sons, as well.
And thus into the familiar story from Shakespeare.
The sheer size and scope of this film are amazing; the design is incredible and the battle scenes are overwhelming.
And Kurosawa's directorial bravura is always amazing -- in his next previous film, "Kagemusha", he had staged the battle that destroys a powerful clan almost totally with sound effects and reaction shots of officers and others watching from the hills above. In, on the other hand, "Ran", the battle for a castle is filmed in horrifying detail of gushing blood, dismembered wounded, fire and terror, but staged in complete silence... Until the shot from ambush that kills a Lord rings out, and then the full sound suddenly batters the viewer until the battle ends.
Brilliant, beautiful, huge and moving, this is a film for the ages.
The following is from my original review of the film:
Unfortunately, the DVD package doesn't live up to the film -- aside from a theatrical trailer, the only "extras" on the disc are text-only partial flimographies of Kurosawa and star Tatsuya Nakadai. Such a huge and special film deserves a special package, but it fails to get it here.
The link above is to the newer, two-disk set including many extra features and, reportedly, a much-superior transfer to the one i orginally reviewed.
If the film were any lesser in stature, the sparse DVD extras might lose one star for the package as a whole; but this one gets five stars in spite of its lacks.
((Luckily, i understand that a much-more-extensive package, including another feature film and extensive other material, will be out in the near future.))