Ran ★★★★

DirectorQuest: 70/100
Akira Kurosawa: 5/5

Man is born crying. When he has cried enough, he dies.

I know I say something along these lines maybe a little too often about movies I like, but I really mean it this time when I say the first look we get of Lord Ichimonji's face as he walks out of that burning castle is going to haunt me for as long as I live. Ran as a feature is not one I connect as much to as something like Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood or even Rashomon when it comes to the works of Akira Kurosawa. But, if you desire to engage with it as a piece of art purely from its visual aesthetics, it without question has to be the most astounding in its intricacies. Every costume, every shot of grass, fire, blood, it's a movie that looks like a moving painting in the best way. Looking even further into the types of characters and concepts within the film, it also makes to me for a stellar cinematic rendition of the scale and intense emotions a good theater production of Shakespeare should have. (It shows the universality of his stories when two of the best works based on his material are from the same director translating his words to the history of Japan.) I was reminded of Apocalypse Now in its portrayal of war and conflict being something that not only brings death and destruction wherever soldiers may go, it's also something that just brings such great, often unexplainable sadness that you can't do much but stay silent and move like a ghost. That's of course apparent mainly in the performance from Tatsuya Nakadai as the aforementioned Lord Ichimonji. Nakadai is an actor who, when I have seen in various samurai films in particular, has always astounded me in his talent to captivate. (The Sword of Doom is a feature I cannot recommend enough if you have seen Ran but haven't seen that.) In one of his best performances, Nakadai shows sadness and anger in equal measure, eventually then morphing his character into little more than an unconscious meat husk for a broken spirit. (I also loved the inserted jester character into this story, his ambiguous gender and floaty presence adding a lot to whatever scenes, light or intense, he would appear in.) Ran shows what chaos, greed, and unchecked selfish desire does to your family and your home. It's not always a constant, where as you get older you understand the need for peace and unity better, but there is tragedy that comes from being able to understand that, and you try to share it with the people who are soon to take your place of control, only for them to spit in your face and repeat the same mistakes you wish you knew better about. The extended sequence of carnage at the castle, with arrows, gunfire, and knives leading to immense bloodshed, smoke, and anguish, all of its diegetic sound washed away by an overwhelming orchestral score, is about as unsettling and cinematic of a portrayal of slaughter as you could find.


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