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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Ran (The Studio Canal Collection) [Blu-ray]
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 August 2015
Brilliant film by the great director akira kurosawa based on king Lear the story is powerful the scenery beautiful the caracters played brilliantly highly recommended.
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on 29 March 2017
King Lear, very good.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 June 2011
I saw this when it was released and have wanted to own it ever since. This is Kurosawa's great late masterpiece, a summing up of the themes in his entire oeuvre - war, power, self destruction, history - in an unforgettable retelling of Lear, but with deep references to Japanese culture. I watched this with my son (12), both in a state of utter fascination at the panorama of life and death in this long film. (He was full of questions!) It was an utter delight.

***spoiler alert*** I assume the reader knows the story already.

The story takes place in the 16C or so, a time of upheaval and disorder worldwide. An old war lord has spent his life ruthlessly crushing enemies nearby, stopping at nothing in his striving to dominate. Perhaps as a result of his deteriorating mind, perhaps out of guilt at the terrible things he has done, he makes a catastrophically stupid decision - to divide the power of his armies between his sons in order to retire. Only one son opposes this course of action, which his father finds violently offensive. The son is banished, along with a faithful aide.

Almost immediately, the two remaining sons begin to flex their muscles, first by humiliating their father - denying him access to their castles with his reduced entourage - and then by besieging him. This is one of the most horribly graphic war scenes I have ever seen, hiding nothing of the blood and meaningless deaths. The father begins to lose his mind, paralyzed in despair and appearing like a popular demon with his ashen face. Once his forces are annihilated and his concubines have committed suicide, he stumbles out of the burning palace. Having been rejoined by the faithful servant and the eunuch court jester, the only refuge he finds is in a filthy shack that houses a boy he blinded years before. This is just one of the past crimes that revisits the war lord, who sees the irony through his psychotic despair.

As soon as the sons are rid of him, they turn on eachother. Here, there is a scheming wife, whose family we learn was murdered by war lord soon after his son married her for the purposes of alliance. She is a Shakespearean character, waiting years for revenge and then executing it at exactly the right time to perfection. She sows destruction on an unimaginable scale. As the war lord his last son, the faithful one, the tragedy is complete.

This is one of the best films I have ever seen, by far the most intense war film. Its psychology is also realistic, with the self-destructive decision of a father full of guilt. Recommended with the greatest enthusiasm.
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on 2 January 2017
Great film - if you speak French. My own fault for not checking the product description more thoroughly. I have since ordered the English version. I love Kurosawa's films and will review that version of RAN.
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on 12 May 2006
The story line is superb ... the scenery is stunning and gorgeous, vast mountains and green valleys, walled castles and fortresses. Hidetora, the aging warlord, holds a conference with his three sons and local chieftains on a mountainside. He announces his decision to relinquish the leadership of his kingdom to the eldest of his three sons. Only one son, the youngest, dares to speak up and state that during his lifetime he has known only war and fighting, he predicts the same after the transfer of power. He believes there will be power struggles between his two older brothers due to jealousy. The youngest brother personally has no desire to be warlord. Hidetora planned to leave one castle to each of his three sons. He has each son hold an arrow and asks them to break it in half, which they easily do. He gives them in succession, three arrows bundled together, representing the unity of the family, none can break the bundle. This is Hidetora's example of how the family will remain strong if they remain unified. He envisions the House of Ichimanji to be powerful and his eldest son to be overlord of the kingdoms attained during Hidetora's own reign of power. In his anger, Hidetora banishes the youngest son accusing him of defying his wishes ... Yet Subarua, the youngest, holds his father in esteem and respect throughout the predicted battles which come to pass.

Hidetora visits Taro's castle after the power transfer and finds his concubines have to bow and kneel to Taro's wife, Sue'. They are forced to move out. Hidetora discovers after the transfer of power, he is no longer respected. Sue' married into the family to consolidate land holdings and property attained as the spoils of war, a war in which her parents were murdered. She harbored revenge in her heart ever since and now urges her husband to fight his brother, Jiro. Hidetora's court jester creates a mocking song about Taro being like a gourd, spinning this way and spinning that way, implying he can not make a sound decision and stick with it. At a family gathering Taro hears the song and is outraged ... In a surprise move, Hidetora and his guards leave to visit Jiro. Hidetora discovers he is not welcome there either, not at all what he expected. He left abruptly ...

The treachery to gain power and control over the lands and castles by the two older brothers consumes them. As predicted by Subaru, the younger brother, war is inevitable. Local chieftains must decide where their loyalties lie, which brother to support. Hidetora goes into hiding. Eventually he goes mad. His only guard and caregiver, the jester, does not leave his side. This film contains very strong battle scenes. The desire for control and power is the true motivator for both older brothers. Loosely based on Shakespeare's King Lear, this Japanese version is astonishing in scope and grandeur. The costumes and scenery are fabulous. In the film, there are tender moments between the jester and Hidetora. There are moving scenes where Jiro's wife escapes to find her brother who was blinded in a past conquest and lives alone in a cottage ... The producers and directors create a phenomenal ending and conclusion. At some point, Hidetora reawakens from his madness long enough to recognize the impact of his decision on his family and the near destruction of the kingdom he once ruled. The ending is climactic and leaves a major impression on the viewer. The film is amazing!
Erika Borsos (bakonyvilla)
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on 23 October 2009
Like other reviewers I was disappointed with this Blu-ray. It's never a good sign when you immediately think to check the Blu-ray against the DVD version because you can barely tell the difference. I also suspect some poor digital effects have been added throughout, as some of the details and edges look a bit off in the wider shots. The packaging is nice but doesn't make up for the average picture and audio quality (plus it has the same problem as the Deer Hunter Blu-ray in that it lacks a clasp or closing mechanism). I agree with another reviewer that this kind of release certainly makes you think twice about pre-ordering old remasters on Blu-ray. Still it's a good film and this probably is the best version of it at present. A missed opportunity though, I feel. (Edit: Just compared the Blu-ray to the 2004 Warner/Studio Canal 2-disc DVD upscaled to 1080p. The Blu-ray is only marginally better. There are less compression artefacts around the actors and in land and sky areas, plus slightly more finer detail is visible, e.g. eyes of characters in wider shots. I didn't notice much difference in colour richness however and overall the minimal difference remains disappointing.)
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on 2 June 2007
Akira Kurasawa is a monolithic figure in world cinema and this film is in my view his very best work. The story, as is well known, is simply a reworking of Shakespeare's King Lear. The Great Lord decides to abdicate and divide his empire between his three sons, one of whom says this is madness as greed will destroy the family and is promptly exiled. Kurasawa brilliantly captures the melodrama at the centre of Shakespeare's play and lays it on thick. There is no subtly to the acting or the plot, as this is not faithful to the material, but the spirit is well realised.

It is the quite simply breathtaking cinematography that really makes this stand out. From shots of mounted samurai on the green and otherworldly slopes of mount Fuji to the beautiful castle interiors Kurasawa paints a wonderful picture. The colours are vibrant and the shot composition is extremely clever. I am personally most impressed by the first lavish battle scene which conveys the horror of war and its brutality so vividly with blood running from the castle walls and storms of arrows. This however, is no simple battle as you would find in a hollywood film. Eerie music plays over the top and troops are portrayed running backwards and forwards in such a way as to give the impression of the noise and activity of the battle without actually showing it.

Ran is also a wonderful advert for the extreme folly of war. King Lear is quite bleak, but Kurasawa's imagining of this element is heart wrenching. The way that the film reaches its conclusion and each character is killed off is deeply moving, and perhaps the final shot of the one character who survives is the worst of all.

If you are looking for a clever innovative plot then this is not the sort of film to look out for. However if you wish to see a master film maker at the very peak of his powers, with full mastery of his actors, his shots and his colour palette then check out Ran. It is a must see film as a vision of how cinema can be at its very best. Suffer thorough the subtitles if you don't normally like them and enjoy a true work of genius.
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on 10 May 2008
I just want to praise the outstanding quality of this Optimum Releasing DVD. There is a comparison on dvdbeaver - this version has better sound and comparable picture quality (or even slightly superior) to the Criterion version!!! Also, Chris Marker's film "A.K.", an excellent feature length documentary about the making of Ran, is included on a second disc (71mins, 1.66:1). OK, the Criterion version has extra bonus material, but this version seems better to me as I'm most interested in the video/audio quality of the main film. Usually low price releases like this have terrible quality (i.e. the Fox Kagemusha - avoid at all costs...), but Optimum Releasing have done an amazing job doing justice to this Kurosawa masterpiece.
I first saw Ran about 12 years ago, it completely redefined my perceptions of what is possible with the medium of film. It is a spectacular, powerful, moving drama with real depth. Kurosawa explores themes of mortality and spirituality with a mature, understated sophistication; He manages to inspire philosophical contemplation while avoiding any pretentiousness. I consider this to be the best film I have ever seen, and I'm glad to finally have a great quality DVD.
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on 16 August 2007
"Ran" is the first film I've watched by Akira Kurosawa. Now I'm a huge fan of his work thanks to my Amazonian friends who had already seen it. When a legend like Kurosawa, does a King Lear adaptation at the tender age of 75, one would expect a small-scale film concentrating on the human elements of the story. That he produced an epic of such proportions makes a further evaluation of the great man's contribution to cinema necessary.

"Ran" is set in medieval Japan and follows the basic King Lear narrative closely. Lord Hidetora is an aging warlord and, wanting a peaceful retirement, decides to divide his kingdom up amongst his three sons. After banishing the youngest, Saburo, for pouring scorn on the idea, Hidetora finds himself an unwanted obstacle to the older two. After repeated humiliations, pride forces Hidetora into vain wanderings on the open plain, his state of mind declining as rapidly as his entourage.

The film sets itself the unenviable task of trying to explain the precarious position man holds within the universe. Man is seen to be elevating himself to such a level that he dreams of challenging the very laws of nature. Hidetora has achieved his status through deception, callousness and violence; his notion to wash away the blood he has spilt in happy retirement is scornfully thrown back by the elements. The speed and manner in which he is forced to lie in the bed he has made for himself should serve as a warning to all.

The films large set pieces, particularly two quite stunning battle sequences, are staged magnificently, but 'Ran' is no empty epic. The characters and their motivations are fully explored and the tension built up by the dialogue fully compliments the action. With an ending which offers no redemption 'Ran' paints a bleak picture - the colors and brushstrokes it employs however, turn it into a dazzling masterpiece. The battle scenes are some of the best I have seen. One point - the second main battle reminds me of 'Zulu' with the soldiers lined up on the skyline shouting down. The makeup used on Hidetora to mimick the Noh theatre makes this film that much more dramatic.

Don't expect to be uplifted with a standard samurai flick. This is one of the most historic beautiful films I've ever seen. Before you watch this try placing this on big screen with good color registration and good sound because Kurosawa uses as much of the screen as he can.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 August 2016
I often find that revisiting 'cinematic epics’ can be quite a daunting prospect. I had not rewatched Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 interpretation of Shakespeare’s King Lear since its release, but I really needn’t have worried since the Japanese master was just that, able to bring out moments of touching humanity in amongst the most sweepingly majestic of cinematics spectacles, thereby allowing the film’s 160 or so minutes to slip easily by. Here, it is Tatsuya Nakadai’s performance as the ageing warlord and father of three sons, Hidetora Ichimonji, that provides Ran’s most memorable moments for me, the actor’s face a picture of alternately regret, astonishment, sadness, fear and defiance as Ichimonji is betrayed by his 'loyal’ offspring on whom he has conferred his legacy, Akira Terao’s Taro and Jinpachi Nezu’s Jiro, and is only 'saved’ by Daisuke Ryu’s returning, banished third son, Saburo.

Of course, Kurosawa was equally a master at managing available resources to deliver memorable mise-en-scène and here the film-maker uses the film’s $12m budget to deliver a stunning visual mix of the epic and the intimate, ably assisted by Emi Wada’s Oscar-winning costume design and the Oscar-nominated cinematography of Takao Saito, Masaharu Ueda and Asakazu Nakai. The film’s chaotic and nihilistic trajectory is also memorably accentuated by the symbolic depiction of clouds, billowing and turning ominously dark, a visual trope that recurs right through to the film’s sombre denouement. Use of sound is also key, whether in the form of Toru Takemitsu’s sparse, Mahler-esque soundtrack or in the film’s use of diegetic sound, particularly the recurring use of birdsong (and crickets?) at key, usually reflective, moments in the drama.

In addition to Nakadai other particularly memorable performances and characterisations are Mieko Harada’s depiction of the scheming seductress, Kaede, Yoshiko Miyazaki’s tender depiction of Jiro’s wife, Sué – whose hypnotic confrontation with the remorseful Hidetora, who slaughtered Sué’s parents, is one of the film’s highlights – and the androgynous Shinnosuke ('Peter’) Ikehata’s 'eccentric moralist’ to Hidetora, Kyoami. Memorable sequences come thick and fast and include the flaming siege of Hidetora’s citadel (calling to my mind Lang’s Die Nibelungen), the amazingly edited, bloody aftermath to battle (Takemitsu’s score here particularly impressive) and the film’s final shot of Takeshi Nomura’s isolated, blind man, Tsurumaru.

Of course, the other useful, educational by-product of films such as Ran is the additional 'route to market’ that cinema can provide for the Bard’s works. In addition to King Lear, Kurosawa also used Hamlet as the inspiration for his 1960 film The Bad Sleep Well and Macbeth as the basis of his 1957 film (and my personal favourite of the three) Throne of Blood.
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