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Archive for April 15th, 2008

Ran

I happened to watch Ran yesterday again. And after watching it, I still maintain my previous viewpoint that it is one of the best adaptations of King Lear I’ve seen.

While Akira Kurusawa brings an oriental touch to the proceedings but more or less adheres faithfully to the original. So, set in medieval Japan, Ran is the story of Hidetora an ageing Samurai lord who decides to pass on his fiefdom to his three sons while still retaining his title and a small retinue.

Of the three sons – Taro, Jiro and Saburo, the former two flatter their father while the third, the outspoken Saburo derides his father’s folly. For his candour he warns his father’s wrath who banishes him.

Of course, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, Hidetora is soon made to feel unwelcome in his two elder sons’ homes. The old man now realizes his folly but is too ashamed to face Saburo. The two evil sons not only throw him out but plot to assassinate him as well. The old man’s mind cannot bear the shock and he loses it.

The rest of the story meanders along at a leisurely pace with sub plots and finally leads to Hidetora’s long awaited but brief reconciliation with Saburo.

Kurusawa faithfully adapts the original but enriches it with oriental nuances. So there is a very strong (and not subtle) allusion to filial duty and karma. To accommodate the ‘as you sow so shall you reap’ philosophy Hidetora is made a great Samurai Lord who’s done his fair share of murdering and pillaging in his time. So much so that he hasn’t even spared his two daughters-in-law’s (Kaede, Taro’s wife and Sue, Jiro’s wife) families.

Ironically, later on Hidetora is forced to take refuge in Sue’s brother’s house whose eyes the former had cruelly gouged out earlier.

This tragic story is captured stunningly on film (Kurusawa’s first film I’ve seen in colour).

As always, Kurusawa’s staging and shot-taking is exceptional. There are breathtakingly long trolley shots and sweeping battle scenes. Each frame is perfectly balanced and a thing of beauty. And in Hidetora’s attempted assassination scene, he must have actually burned the place down! I will have to see the film with commentary to know for sure but it looks too realistic to be otherwise.

Tatsuya Nakadai plays Hidetora with perfection. Hidetora’s earlier arrogance, his disappointment in his sons, his gradual relinquishment of all vestiges of arrogance and descent into madness all are supremely conveyed by Nakadai. Above all Nakadai’s pathos is convincing.

Ran is supposed to be Kurusawa’s best efforts.  I don’t know about that as my favourite remains Roshomon. Nevertheless, a must watch.

For more detailed reviews you can check out:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19851225/REVIEWS/512250301/1023

http://www.popmatters.com/film/reviews/r/ran.shtml

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