Luke Thorne’s review published on Letterboxd:
Akira Kurosawa’s Oscar-winning epic period drama is a reworking of William Shakespeare’s King Lear set in medieval Japan. Starring Akira Terao and Mieko Harada. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Even though Ran, based on William Shakespeare’s King Lear, was critically-acclaimed when it was released, it was only moderately successful at the box office. Today, Ran is regarded as one of the masterpieces of the great director Akira Kurosawa – and it is very easy to understand why.
At the age of seventy, after eons of combining his empire, the Great Lord Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai) chooses to relinquish and rift his field amongst his three sons. Taro (Akira Terao), the oldest, will be in charge. Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu), his second son, and Saburo (Daisuke Ryu) will take facility of the Second and Third Castles but are anticipated to observe and give assistance to their elder brother. Saburo confronts the recruit of compliance and is thrown out.
Tatsuya Nakadai gives a good performance in his role as Hidetora Ichimonji, the ruler of the empire who is, at last, going to divide his kingdom to his three sons. He suits his role well.
Elsewhere, there are decent performances to be had from Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu and Daisuke Ryu in their respective roles as Taro, Jiro and Saburo, Hidetora’s three sons, with Saburo refusing to stick to the instructions he has been given.
Also giving fine performances are Mieko Harada and Yoshiko Miyazaki in their respective roles as Lady Kaede and Lady Sué, Taro and Jiro’s respective wives, with Kaede being up with no good with Jiro, but she certainly makes her feelings quite clear.
The direction from Kurosawa is excellent because he allows the facial expressions to be seen to a strong effect throughout, while also keeping a tense atmosphere happening as well and the script is written to a terrific standard by the director, Masato Ide and Hideo Oguni as he makes the movie really easy to follow.
The set, camera, costume and makeup stand out best in terms of the technical aspects, because the set is terrific to look at; the camera makes very good use of the locations and also captures the tense and dramatic moments well, which deservedly get the edge-of-the-seat status; the costumes are excellently designed; the makeup is outstanding.
The movie managed to win the Academy Award for Best Costume Design (Emi Wada), while it also got nominated for Best Director (Akira Kurosawa), Best Production Design (Yoshirô Muraki and Shinobu Muraki), Best Cinematography (Takao Saitô, Shôji Ueda and Asakazu Nakai).
I am really surprised to find out that Japan did not submit this film as their entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, because if they did, it probably would have been nominated, but we will never know the answer to this theory.
On the other hand, BAFTA and the Golden Globes did nominate Ran for Best Foreign Language Film, winning the BAFTA in that category and the British Academy also awarded the film the prize for Best Make Up Artist (Tameyuki Aimi and Chihako Naito).
It also got recognised for Best Adapted Screenplay (Akira Kurosawa, Masato Ide and Hideo Oguni), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.
Even though this film runs for 2 hours and 40 minutes, the pace is never slow and the action sequences are a positive.
Overall, Ran is an excellent epic adaptation of King Lear, due to the good performances, direction, script, tense atmosphere and technical aspects. One of the best foreign language films to have been made in the year of this release and one of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces.