Saturday, January 3, 2015

722. RAN (1985)

Running Time: 160 minutes
Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Written By: Masato Ide, Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, from the play King Lear by William Shakespeare
Main Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu, Mikeo Harada
Click here to view the trailer


I should note that the trailer I linked to is actually a fan made trailer, but a damn fine one to be precise and one that captures the movie pretty perfectly. The movie in question is Akira Kurosawa's Ran, one that THE BOOK calls one of the ten best from THE BOOK and that's a bold statement. I wouldn't go that far, but it's definitely a good one. Read on...

Hidetora Ichimonji (Nakadai), a patriarch and great lord, has a dream one day while nodding off in the middle of the day. Upon his awakening, he decides that his time is through and that he must abdicate to his three sons: Taro (the eldest), Jiro and Saburo. Taro will be in charge of the first castle, Jiro in charge of castle #2 and Saburo will head up the third castle. Of course, since he's in charge of the first castle, Taro will have the most power. All that Hidetora requests is that he keep the title of great lord. Upon hearing this, Saburo is outraged and refuses to accept the changing of the guard, wanting his father to stay in power. In response to his defiance, Hidetora banishes Saburo, along with a servant named Tango, who agrees with Saburo. Taro and Jiro, however, are all for the idea. Later, at Taro's first castle, his wife Lady Kaede (Harada) coaxes Taro to be more aggressive, taking more power and even revoking Hidetora's title of Great Lord. During a visit from Hidetora to Taro's, he learns that the power has almost immediately gone to Taro's head and when Taro won't allow Hidetora's guards to enter the castle walls, Hidetora storms out. He arrives later at Jiro's, who is also showing his true colors. Jiro announces that he'd love to help his father, but that Taro has handed down a decree promising death to anyone who aids Hidetora. Now, Hidetora is forced to wander the countryside, nearly starving to death with only the company of his guards and his fool Kyoami. Things come to a head when Hidetora is forced to take refuge in the third castle, where Saburo's guards have decided to follow him into exile. Once there, Hidetora and his guards are attacked by the combined forces of Taro and Jiro, where Taro is shot and killed, leaving Jiro as the new Great Lord. I'll stop there, even though there's plenty more to round out the nearly three hour running time, which flies by.


I don't say this often, in fact the only other time I can remember stating it is during my Jaws review, but I'll say it here, again: I can't imagine anyone not liking this. And I mean flat out disliking it. Sure, even I wasn't totally blown away (as my rating will suggest), but I definitely LIKED IT and quite a lot. There's absolutely no reason to dislike this movie. It has something for everyone. If you're someone who is only concerned with a strong plot, check. This film has a fantastic plot and hey, it's based on King Lear, which means ignorant guys like me who wouldn't know King Lear from King Friday can now somewhat have a point of reference when any snob brings up the classic Shakespeare play. The whole movie is a complete chaos & anarchy and literally nothing good happens to these characters. The whole thing is one big downer, complete with death, destruction, backstabbing, revenge and one wicked decapitation. Everything goes to hell, pretty much everyone dies and our final image is of a blind man, wandering on a mountaintop, wondering what has become of his sister, who has also been decapitated (make that two decapitations!). I'm left wondering if this is Kurosawa's vision of the end of the world, because the whole thing goes right down the tubes and fast for his characters. I love these stories that start out as something teeny tiny and snowball until their are wars and arrows hanging out of bodies. One man nods off during a gathering with his sons and guards, has a dream that he's all alone in the world and wakes up ready to abdicate his throne to his three pride & joy. He thinks they'll happily accept the power and gives them a speech about how it will be harder for their enemies to penetrate three separate forces, rather than one big one, but something goes wrong. The sons (save for Saburo, who seems like he's going to be the dick in the beginning, but actually ends up being the good son) act completely backwards though, abusing their power and through the series of events that is this movie, kill their father! WOW!

So you're not all about plot, you like snobby movie things too like cinematography and score? Fine - got you covered. The cinematography is top notch. I was forced to hunt this one down online since Netflix doesn't offer it anymore for "at home" delivery and so the copy I watched was pretty crappy quality. I'm sure if I watched it on restored Criterion disc, my mind would be doubly blown and the thing would look two or three times better. The score is subtle: some white noise or the gong of a drum meaning the world, meaning goosebumps on your arms or perhaps, in my case, leaning up in your computer chair, trying not to blink for fear you might miss the big, gong inducing moment. The performances are also top notch, with THE BOOK noting they range anywhere from brilliant to utter perfection. Not sure I'd go that far, but everyone is a pro here and knows their role. This is a two and a half hour movie that deserves every second of it's running time and honestly, they probably could've dragged this out to the four hour mark and justified it. There's not a minute of screen time that goes by wasted, as something is always happening, people are always dying, characters are always progressing. The other thing that really pleased me is that despite the film being so foreign (it's almost otherworldly at times) and set in such a distant time period, Kurosawa never alienated his audience. I think we've established that I'm not one for period pieces, as I tend to lose interest, but I was all in here and being thoroughly entertained.

Not much else to say other than SEE THIS MOVIE. I can't go whole hog on it or anything, because it's not really a movie that completely represents my palate, but I have no problem admitting that this is a '10' movie that just won't be getting a '10' from me, as I just didn't feel it 100%. There's literally nothing wrong with this movie, yet something kept me from really going that extra mile and giving this one all ten piggies. I will say this though, as I said when I started ranting: there are no reasons to dislike Ran. I was unsure of Kurosawa before this, thinking Rashomon overrated and Ikiru on the dull side. Next season (the final season) will see reviews for three more Kurosawa features and I can now say that I'm really looking forward to them.

RATING: 8/10  That's as high as I can get it and honestly, I don't even have a good reason why, other than that's just the rating I feel is right for me. '8.5' feels too high, anything less would be short changing it, that's that.


January 3, 2015  5:49pm


  1. Pretty much in agreement here..
    Big, spectacular, bold, colourful.. sure..
    But to be honest.. I was never really caught up in it. Whilst being a long way from 'one to get through'...I was not all that interested in who the next person to be studded with arrows, become blood splattered or decapitated.
    A superb film, no doubt.. One I'm glad to have seen but not one I came away from relishing I'm afraid.
    7, maybe 7.5

    1. The question I have is what keeps us from giving it a '10'? I wouldn't give it a '10' either, but I have no good reason why.


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