Film Review: Ran – 6/10

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

I’m up and down with the work of legendary director Akira Kurosawa. While I loved Seven Samurai and admired the craft of Rashomon, I found High and Low quite hard-going, and so it was with Ran – the film that many consider to be Kurosawa’s masterpiece and his final meaningful contribution to the world of cinema. Sure, it looks beautiful, but boy is it a slog…

When Japanese warlord Hidetori Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai) decides it’s time to hang up his erm… whatever Japanese warlords use, he lives his dynasty to his three sons. Unfortunately, they all immediately declare war on each other resulting in years of bloodshed. Apparently, this is all based on Shakespeare’s King Lear. Now, I could have read the plot of that play and then pretended to know enough about it to discuss the parallels between play and film, but I’ve never read a word of King Lear (an astonishing admission for an English teacher, I know), and I’m not going to start reading it anytime soon. Not while there are cartoons to be watched. Anyway, I digress.

A fairly straightforward plot on paper then, but as ever with Kurosawa, I found it difficult to keep up with the action and who was betraying who. There was definitely some betrayal knocking about, but as to who was the betrayed and who was the betrayer, it’s difficult to say with any authority. What isn’t in doubt is that Nakadai does a great job as the Lear stand-in (he really does look mad as a box of frogs throughout) and Mieko Harada also does a great job as the irrepressible Lady Kaede.

Now, I’m glad that I’ve watched Ran, it does rank highly on the old IMDB #250 after all, but did I enjoy it? Dear reader, it would be remiss of me to say that I did. Some of the battle sequences were certainly impressive, Kurosawa’s use of colour and lighting is masterful, but honestly? Large passages of Ran passed me by with me feeling absolutely nothing. Never a great sign.

It’s done now at least. Now, let’s get a cartoon on sharpish.