A film by Akira Kurosawa
Country : Japan
Runtime: 162 minutes
Japanese with English subtitles
13thMay 2012; 5.45pm
Perks Mini Theater
RAN can be mentioned as the single greatest Shakespeare adaptation ever. This epic retelling of Shakespeare's ``King Lear'' is set in feudal Japan, with the overlord Hidetora as the Lear figure, who starts with everything and ends with nothing. In place of the king's three daughters in Shakespeare, Kurosawa has substituted three warlord sons. It is the one faithful son who defies the old man, by refusing to go along with a false sense of family unity, and is banished. The reconciliation of father and son, when it comes, will be brief.
Ran is an epic story of ambition, hubris, and aging. In contrast to the muted battle scenes of Seven Samurai, Ran is a graphic, sensoral depiction of the violence innate in the human soul. Through the use of suffusive colors to delineate opposing armies, Akira Kurosawa figuratively taints the serene landscape with the artificial, surreal hues of human tragedy and senseless destruction.
As the conflict intensifies, the sweeping images fuse into a mesmerizing, heartbreaking chronicle of Hidetora's personal revelation and fall from grace. In the end, cast away by his family and humiliated by the consequences of his misguided actions, Hidetora returns to a state of nascent innocence and wanders the land - away from the madness of violence - and in the process, finds his own fleeting inner peace.
Emi Wada's costumes, which won an Academy Award, carry most of the film's color. The 1,400 costumes were handmade in Kyoto, traditional seat of Japanese tapestries.
The film is visually magnificent. Kurosawa refined everything he learned about battle scenes in "Kagemusha" and the earlier samurai epics. He uses several static cameras to film the action, cutting between them; because his cameras don't dart and whirl, we are not encouraged to think of ourselves as participants but as gods, observing, taking the long view here and then a closeup look.
Akira Kurosawa was the youngest of seven children, born in Tokyo on 23 March 1910. A talented painter, he enrolled in an art school that emphasized Western styles. Around this time he also joined an artists' group with a great enthusiasm for nineteenth-century Russian literature, with Dostoevsky a particular favourite. Another influence was Heigo, one of his brothers, who loved film and worked as a benshi, a film narrator/commentator for foreign silent films. His suicide deeply affected the director's sensibilities.In 1930 he responded to a newspaper advertisement for assistant directors at a film studio and began assisting Kajiro Yamamoto, who liked the fact he knew 'a lot about things other than movies'. Within five years he was writing scripts and directing whole sequences for Yamamoto films. In 1943 he made his debut as a director with Judo Saga (Sanshiro Sugata), with a magnificent martial-arts sequence.
His early films were produced during the Second World War, so had to comply to themes prescribed by official state propaganda policy. It was Drunken Angel which was Kurosawa's first personally expressive work, made in 1948 and featuring Toshiro Mifune who became Kurosawa's favourite leading man.
For those who discover Kurosawa, they will find a master technician and stylist, with a deep humanism and compassion for his characters and an awe of the enormity of nature. He awakened the West to Japanese cinema with Rashomon, which won the top prize in the Venice Film Festival of 1951, and also a special Oscar for best foreign film. A golden period followed, with the West enthralled by his work. Seven Samurai, Yojimbo etc.
Following Red Beard (Akahige) in 1965 he entered a frustrating period of aborted projects and forced inactivity and when in 1970 his first film in five years (Dodeska-den) failed at the box office, he attempted suicide. Directing a Soviet-Japanese production, Dersu Uzala helped him to recover and took four years to make. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1975 and a gold medal at the Moscow Film Festival.
A true auteur, he supervised the editing of nearly all his films and wrote or collaborated on the scripts of most. His memoirs were published in 1982, titled Something like an Autobiography. In 1989 he won an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. Kurosawa died in 1998.