Monday, February 16, 2009

Ran (1985)

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai

More Info: IMDB

Plot: Kurosawa's adaptation of King Lear. An elderly lord abdicates to his three sons, and the two corrupt ones turn against him.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Would I watch it again? Oh, yeah

I haven't seen a Kurosawa flick in probably eight years and I think it was DREAMS (1990). Other than that I've only seen two others, SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) and THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (1958). But even though it may have been many years that separate me from those viewings, his films have stuck with me.

Nice touch with the muzzle flash color. Very effective.

He's an artist that paints with a camera. Kurosawa has patience. He expects his audience to have patience and he doesn't take the audience as idiots by holding their hands, explaining everything like so many of today's film makers do. With RAN, I was struck by how much we learn in the first half hour without it being "talky" and with very little movement. And it's done with such fascination and depth that you don't feel time moving. His films are longer than most. Kurosawa isn't about to leave out any detail to sacrifice his story for the sake of a lean, audience-friendly run time. Kurosawa is not fast food. The experiences he shows us are fine meals that you savor with each bite, with the taste lingering long afterwards.

The world he creates is inviting, rich and complex. His characters behave genuinely and their actions are true. With RAN I found myself torn from one character to another with my invested emotions traveling with them and away from them. It felt strange. I was truly concerned for some and despised others. I wanted to reach into their world and knock some sense into one in particular because you could feel the sensation of dread that was going to befall them. And the ending? It's a heart breaker. Devastating.

I'd love to go into more detail but I can't seem to do that without throwing out spoilers and that wouldn't be fair.

OK, there's a battle scene, a siege of a castle, that lasts for about seven minutes. There's no sound but for the music by Toru Takemitsu. It's been imitated many time by Hollywood, mostly in war films but not nearly to as great an effect. And it's played dramatically, not tragically and sappy like what we're used to. It's only at the moment of a single gunshot, killing someone that we know, that the music stops and everything else is heard. WOW! It's such a powerful scene.

This scene is a guaranteed to bring cheers.

It's been so long that I had all but forgotten how much of a master storyteller he was. The sad thing is, I have many of his films sitting on my shelf but I've never delved into them, waiting for that "right moment" that doesn't seem to happen. I watch what many would call "trash" or "just plain stupid, waste of time, bonehead" movies. Yeah, I agree. Sometimes, though, I come across some of those that is a genuinely overlooked mindless masterpieces but, by and large, it's hit and miss with emphasis on miss. With Kurosawa, I know what I'm going to get. Watching RAN last night reminded me of that. I won't wait so long next time.

1 comment:

  1. Visually stunning. Nearly 3 hours long, but worth every minute.

    I could have done without the jester, but *shrug*