You’ve got to hand it to the Studio Canal collection–they’ve brought some very interesting film so far to the game, and we’ve got one more particularly nifty entrant here. The folks out at Lions Gate sent over a copy of Ran for us to review, and if you’re into Shakespeare, samurai movies, or just the kind of thing you don’t see all that often, then this is one you’ll definitely want to see.
Ran is, essentially, Akira Kurosawa’s retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear (but in samurai form), in which the aging Great Lord of the Ichimonji clan, Hidetora, passes on control to his eldest son, Taro. His second and third sons are given supplementary positions, along with lands and castles of their own. But it doesn’t go nearly as smoothly as Hidetora envisions, and a bitter power struggle ensues in which each of the brothers schemes for control. When the two eldest force out the youngest, Hidetora goes mad, launching his own force in the power struggle in a bid to topple his own sons on behalf of the betrayed.
Words like “grand” and “epic” might be the best descriptors here; it’s hard not to describe a movie whose run time skates merrily up to the three hour mark as anything but “epic”. But this is something of an oddity–this was filmed in 1985. This is Japan’s version of, say, Dallas, or Knots Landing, or even Falcon Crest.
It’s a very deep and involved story, but it really will surprise you with how well it’s put together. It’s actually credible, besides, drawing heavily (though not without a bit of artistic license, as should only be expected from something like this) from history as we know it.
Plus you’ll be able to tell it’s from an earlier time, too, with the appearance of garish, orange-red blood effects.
Still though, it’s plain that this is a really impressive piece of work in most every sense. It’s a huge, sweeping epic that will take hours to tell, and still manages to hold the attention at every point along the way. It’s a beautiful, if bloody, piece that’s very well done.
The Screenhead Ten Scale gives Ran an eight out of ten–it may be a bit on the long side, but it still does a fair job of holding interest throughout. For a three hour movie that’s no small feat, and for those of you who like their samurai movies to have a little history and a little literary thrown in, then Ran will be especially welcome.