This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Alex Case’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Kurosawa's adaptation of King Lear is undoubtedly one of the best adaptations of Shakespeare's works I've seen on the screen. In a way, the film expands on Shakespeare's work and manages to improve on it in some respects - giving the Fool an even larger role in the film, for example.
The film also manages to put the lie to François Truffaut's quote about the inability of making war films, because war films inherently make war exciting and glamorous. The storming of the Third Fortress is absolutely horrific. Much of the attack is shown in silence, with the score somberly playing over the brutal deaths of the retainers of Lord Hidetora (the Lear analogue). This is an horrific act, and there is no glory or honor in it. Further, when, at the conclusion of the film, we see the assault on the First Fortress, we get no catharsis from Lord Jiro's fate, not only because Saburo and Hidetora have both died, but also because the attack is a clear callback to the assault on the Third Fortress from earlier in the film. We, as the audience, know what's to come, and while it's happening to characters we dislike, knowing the brutality of what's to come puts a bad taste in our mouth.
The film's one problem is that the female characters exist solely in the broad strokes. There is Lady Kaede, who is murderous and treacherous, and basically exists to manipulate Lord Tora and later Lord Jiro into self destructing. There is Lady Sue, who is basically a pollyanna who holds no ill will for anyone, even Lord Hidetora, who betrayed her family and had them killed. Sue is even somewhat naive of the danger that Kaede presents to her, seeking to go back and retrieve her blind brother's flute, while knowing assassins are coming after her. She's also oddly insensitive - giving her brother, who has been blind since the betrayal of her family in childhood, a *painting* of the Buddha, in addition to frequently referencing *sight*, while not understanding why her brother can't look at what she's pointing at.
There's no reason not to see this movie. Even if you aren't able to read subtitles, the latest release of the film by Studio Canal features a dub track, so you can enjoy the film as well.