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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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's not the movie April 19 2004
Format:DVD
I'll repeat the title of the review. It's not the movie. I think Kurosawa is just amazing, and I feel this film is fantastic. I already owned the other DVD release of this film and I ordered this one because honestly, the picture quality of the other is harsh to watch. And it's true this version is much cleaner, but they changed the aspect ratio. Ran was shot originally in a 1:85:1 ratio. For this new DVD they scanned it into the computer using an HD system, and chopped the frame from 1:85:1 to 16:9. It's hard to really compare the two ratios, but being a film geek when I started the film immediately I knew something was wrong when the image was bigger and the end of Kurosawa's name was chopped off. I pulled out my old version of Ran, and threw it on my computer and played the opening titles side by side. Sure enough, the edges of the film have been chopped off. Now, this won't bother most people. But for a film student like myself, it bothers me to see people mess with someone else's art in this manner. It's worse than Lucas butchering Star Wars or Speilberg and ET (albeit not by much) becasue it isn't even their film! Other films have been cleaned up and placed on to DVD without distorting the image, many Kurosawa films in fact. It bothered me to see it, and I was pretty let down, this is just a fair warning to anyone else like me.
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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 WHO WILL ENJOY THIS SENSATIONAL MASTERPIECE: July 4 2004
Format:DVD
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 battle, the horrors of war somehow magnified by the silent screams and the unheard bullets, only the quietly mournful dissonance of the haunting background score to be heard.
Castle gates close with resounding, hollow booms, shutting people out, shutting people in. A crescendo of cicadas. And the final anguished shriek of a flute lending a much more effective voice to the great tragedy that has been played out than closing words might have done.
If you're expecting flaming Gladiator-type fight scenes or Samurai action, you may be disappointed. That said, the battle scenes are magnum opus if you know how to appreciate visual splendor. The screenplay may be relaxed overall, sure, it takes a while to unfold a tale of filial destruction ("King Lear" adaptation) but when the forts crumble and arrows fly asunder, the pace of the film is unbridled.
Whether you're a film philistine or a major Kurosawa buff or simply someone who relishes tastefully done cinema, this is absolutely worth the ride. I highly recommend this as a rental, but the discerning types may also want to add it to their collections. It's among Kurosawa's best.
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5.0 out of 5 stars William Akira Shakespeare Kurosawa April 27 2004
Format:DVD
This film is undeniable the most notable adaptation of any work of William Shakespeare to the movie. The insights in every detail, the superb cast, the overwheelming photography, the camera's handle makes us inevitably to remind that happy sentence of Orson Welles who said once:
"One film is really extraordinary , when the camera is an eye in the mind of a poet".
Casually this film is made in 1985, the same year of Welles'death.
Kurosawa was a truly master. Once upon a time a critical compared to Kenji Mizoguchi with Bach. If this methaphor is assumed valid, then Kurosawa would have his musical image in Ludwig van Beethoven.
The amazing scene of the castle in flames, with a remarkable red that invites us to reflect about the human condition, his hunger for power, the horror generated by that unthirsty ambition. The multiple readings that concern with the violence and the passion carrying the devasting facts that appear all along this film.
The opening sequences in which the three brothers are together with their father is filmed with such kind of perfection that I wouldn't wonder to know that this an obligated reference for all those students of direction. In this sense, this multiple exchange of points of view reveal us without affections of any kind,the essencial nature of the human being inmersed in the purest spirit shakesperian.
Kurosawa, like the great giants of th cinema handles the camera like Gods, includes the color and the nature's elements like adittional actors (Dreams). Just remember that Akira was the first filma maker who dared film against the sun in that glorius film Rashoman from 1950. His achievements all along his brilliant career are too many and certainly, would be beyond the reach of this shorts analysis.
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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 8 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 9 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 17 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
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
5.0 out of 5 stars The best telling of King Lear I have ever seen.
Kurosawa has tackled Shakespear before, like in the brilliant Throne Of Blood, but in this film he shows why he is one of the greatest directors of all time. Read more
Published on April 27 2004 by scott belba
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