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Ran (The Masterworks Edition)

Tatsuya Nakadai , Akira Terao , Akira Kurosawa    R (Restricted)   DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
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As critic Roger Ebert observed in his original review of Ran, this epic tragedy might have been attempted by a younger director, but only the Japanese master Akira Kurosawa, who made the film at age 75, could bring the requisite experience and maturity to this stunning interpretation of Shakespeare's King Lear. It's a film for the ages--one of the few genuine screen masterpieces--and arguably serves as an artistic summation of the great director's career. In this version of the Shakespeare tragedy, the king is a 16th-century warlord (Tatsuya Nakadai as Lord Hidetora) who decides to retire and divide his kingdom evenly among his three sons. When one son defiantly objects out of loyalty to his father and warns of inevitable sibling rivalry, he is banished and the kingdom is awarded to his compliant siblings. The loyal son's fears are valid: a duplicitous power struggle ensues and the aging warlord witnesses a maelstrom of horrifying death and destruction. Although the film is slow to establish its story, it's clear that Kurosawa, who planned and painstakingly designed the production for 10 years before filming began, was charting a meticulous and tightly formalized dramatic strategy. As familial tensions rise and betrayal sends Lord Hidetora into the throes of escalating madness, Ran (the title is the Japanese character for "chaos" or "rebellion") reaches a fever pitch through epic battles and a fortress assault that is simply one of the most amazing sequences on film. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

Akira Kurosawa's 1985 masterpiece was remastered for its Masterworks release, a clear improvement over the notoriously disappointing Fox Lorber DVD. The transfer is now vividly colorful and crisply detailed, presented in anamorphic widescreen with optional yellow subtitles that are easier to read (though the earlier release probably wasn't as bad as the "old" image used in the restoration demo). The 5.1-channel sound option allows deeper immersion in Kurosawa's painstakingly crafted soundtrack, and film historian Stephen Price's superlative, feature-length commentary track provides engaging and scholarly perspective on Kurosawa's development of theme through composition, camera placement, editing, and highly stylized direction of actors. Another comparatively sparse commentary track by Japanese cultural expert Peter Grilli is worthwhile for its insider's view of Kurosawa's personality and methods. --Jeff Shannon

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Most helpful customer reviews
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 5 Star Film, 2 Star DVD Aug. 20 2004
By A Customer
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I am reviewing the Masterworks Edition of Akira Kurosawa's "Ran". First, "Ran" is obviously an epic masterpiece and it is a must own item for any serious collector of world cinema. As a collector, I don't mind paying top prices for an excellent transfer or restoration of a classic film. However, I do mind paying a premium price and receiving a DVD that has the aspect ratio incorrect. The Masterworks Edition costs about the same as many Criterion Collection releases, yet they have delivered a butchered version of the film. In the opening credits, most of the cast and crew's last names have 3 or 4 letters chopped right off the end. In other words, the entire 160 minute movie is presented to the viewer with sections on both sides of the screen sliced off. It is a crying shame to see a film as historically important an "Ran" given such amateur treatment. However, the colour transfer is a vast improvement over the cheaper Fox Lorber DVD of "Ran". But, at least Fox Lorber got the aspect ration correct! So you have two inferior choices of this classic film to currently select from: (1) the cheaper Fox Lorber with the poor colour transfer but correct widescreen presentation or the (2) the more expensive Masterworks edition with excellent colour tranfer but incorrect widescreen presentation. I wish Criterion would get the rights to "Ran" and release a 2 disc edition with proper restoration of the film and plenty of additonal features - "Ran" deserves to be treated with respect and Criterion wouldn't mess the job up like Fox Lorber or Masterworks.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kurosawa does David Lean March 21 2004
I read "King Lear" several years ago and I confess that I got lost from time to time in the play. I believe that I understand it a lot better now that I have seen "Ran". This is one of those film epics ala "Dr. Zhivago" or "Lawrence of Arabia" with the added bonus that Shakespeare helped with the screenplay. I might get into trouble with that last comment. After all, the language was a little more down to earth but still on a level well above your typical epic. This foreign film won an Academy Award for best costume design and it's not hard to see why. The only problem is, nobody ever seems to get theirs dirty except when they're killed. There are a number of battle scenes that bring to mind the old film trailer line..A CAST OF THOUSANDS. The color and quality of the film are superb on this version at least until the last part where it darkened rather noticeably. Although it's 160 minutes in length, I have no complaints about that fact. I do have to admit that I had to take a break a time or two to run some errands but the story line was well developed so I had no trouble picking up where I left off. This would have been an impressive movie to see on the big screen. Like the play, this is a tragedy in which many characters are killed but the motivation behind it all is the heart of it's story.
As I always do with foreign language DVD's, I watched this initially in its' original language with English subtitles. The acting was so good, I believe I will continue to watch it that way. I would recommend this movie to anyone has something of an appreciation for Shakespeare and an appreciation for good movies. I came away with the impression that I had just seen a cinema classic for the ages. You may just get the same reaction.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Jan. 10 2004
This movie has a mythological aspect to it, which I suppose comes from the experiences of the Great Lord Hidetora wandering the volcanic countryside in his varying levels of madness. This to me is the main part of the story, while in the background the destruction wrought by Taro's former wife brings down everything that Hidetora had built. This shows how quickly an empire built upon the bodies of one's enemies can come crashing down, especially if you leave vengeful people alive. Hidetora's early ruthlessness as a conquering Daiymo comes back to haunt him at every turn, now that he has been abandoned by most of his sons and peers. (Which Hidetora set in motion himself by relinquishing power to his eldest son) It is only the honest love of his youngest son Saburo that brings Hidetora back from madness, and even this is temporary, as once again his legacy of blood comes back to seek final revenge in the form of an assasin's bullet that kills Saburo. Hidetora then dies of a heart attack caused by the ultimate suffering he has endured for weeks without end. It is perhaps a deserved fate for Hidetora, but Saburo is the real tragic figure here, having done nothing but honor his father even when shunned by him early in the story.
The film itself shows excellent and breathtaking examples of the Senkogu(sp?) period of war in Japan, with castle assaults and a small field-battle towards the end of the film. (curiously absent is the lack of actual sword-to-spear combat scenes, most depicted combat in the film involves arquebus troops and cavalry) The costumes and sets are excellent, no cgi here, just live actors in suits of armor and hundreds of horses.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie To Listen To The Words.Not Like Someone Here. Who Only...
"Director Akira Kurosawa,"Ran" the movie that people are calling a masterpiece of work,
for world cinema and beyond,this is the sort of movie that would make you go,okay hold... Read more
Published 9 months ago by trek fan
5.0 out of 5 stars This could've been a miniseries
Well I have to confess that I have seen many Shakespeare plays but not King Lear; so this is not a comparison review. Read more
Published 10 months ago by bernie
4.0 out of 5 stars Ran - Studio Canal Blu Ray review
I'm not going to talk about how great the film is - in short, it's one of my all-time favourite movies; movie - 5/5. Read more
Published 18 months ago by T. Stamatis
4.0 out of 5 stars 'RAN' and 'KAGEMUSHA'
I just wonder if you have DVD's for the movies: 'RAN' and 'KAGEMUSHA' other than Blue Ray. I'm pretty sure these movies are good based on the comments from my friends who watched... Read more
Published on April 27 2012 by Hugh
5.0 out of 5 stars Kurosawa's best film
In my Opinion RAN is Akira Kurosawa's best film, the pomp and majesty of fuedal Japan, the battle scenes and excellant acting make this a spectacular event, well worth watching... Read more
Published on April 22 2012 by tottenham46
5.0 out of 5 stars Kurosawa's gorgeous epic on blu-ray
I always loved Kurosawa's epic interpretation of King Lear set in Feudal Japan, and now this vivid imagery is more gorgeous than ever on blu-ray. Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2010 by Cheryl
5.0 out of 5 stars Now I see why my friends love this so much
"Ran" is the first film I've watched by Akira Kurosawa. Now I'm a huge fan of his work thanks to my Amazonian friends who had already seen it. Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2007 by Jenny J.J.I.
5.0 out of 5 stars Lust for Power and Madness
The story line is superb ... the scenery is stunning and gorgeous, vast mountains and green valleys, walled castles and fortresses. Read more
Published on June 15 2006 by Erika Borsos
People who care about grandiloquent visuals yet a controlled palette accentuated by the immemorable use of sound -- or, in one major battle scene, the absence of the sounds of the... Read more
Published on July 4 2004 by Shashank Tripathi
1.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as all you people are making it out to be
This movie is terrible. I bought it expecting a good action epic with lots of battles and sword fights. Read more
Published on June 30 2004 by Sean
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