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Critics reviews
Ran
Akira Kurosawa Japan, 1985
Legacies can be extinguished in an instant, but respect must be paid. RAN certainly has a homicidal stateliness about it; the film feels exquisitely brooded over, drained of all spontaneity, as if even the grey clouds had no choice in the matter. It plays closer to the operatic insularity of Tarkovsky’s THE SACRIFICE than the CGI epics that would follow in its wake. It’s definitely the last of its species.
April 01, 2016
Ran represents the color/widescreen zenith of Kurosawa’s genius for spectacle. Each of Hidetora’s sons is color-coded and every frame looks uncommonly vivid, creating tension even during moments of stillness. There are also remarkably few close-ups for such a dialogue-heavy drama, with most scenes playing out in carefully composed masters judiciously intercut with alternate angles, the latter usually still having been shot at some distance from the actors.
February 25, 2016
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By means of personal disclaimer: I first saw it on a remastered 35mm print in 2000, and left the theater convinced I had just witnessed the greatest film of all time. While this mode of list-making is less of a personal prerogative with each passing year, Kurosawa’s film continues to embody a rigor (evidenced hardest by A.K.), of light, sound and color, that to me remains unmatched, disquieting in its superhuman totality.
February 17, 2016
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Ran roughly translates to “confusion” or “chaos” — the chaos, critics have long understood, of the film’s erratic, turbulent war. But it isn’t difficult to imagine the production itself overwhelmed by disorder and turmoil. Thousands of costumed extras, hundreds of trained horses, a small army of technicians and assistants on call: A more ambitious film had never been made in Japan, and as a logistical feat alone it staggers. You can hardly mount a project like this without havoc.
February 16, 2016
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Due to his failing eyesight, Kurosawa used his paintings to help him frame the film’s often symmetrical compositions, yet any threat of static ornamentation is dispelled by the annihilating fury that throbs through them, by the awareness of a very tenuous balance between order and tumult. From its opening tableau to the cosmic closing image of sightless humanity at the edge of the abyss, Ran is a work of cold anger and stark splendor.
June 14, 2013
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The subject immediately evokes not only Kurosawa’s career-long fascination with attempting to meld Eastern and Western cultural styles, themes, and epic traditions, but also the man’s own travails in the previous 20 years, as the dazed and crushed former Lord wanders about a cruel landscape owned by the young upstarts. The result was possibly the greatest film of the 1980s.
August 01, 2011
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Akira Kurosawa’s great autumnal Mount Fuji of a film… Time simply won’t take the shine off its battle shield — here is a stylized re-creation of 16th-century warfare and feudal dramatics manufactured not by programming wonks and hard drives but out of real space, real chaos (the title’s literal translation) and very real will, and we watch it roll out like the catastrophic folly of an actual war.
March 06, 2010
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Ran is the late masterpiece and testament of a great director contemplating his own twilight—and the world’s as well. It’s a tragedy fed by Shakespeare, Noh, and the samurai epic, full of metaphors and grand themes, a film that shows human brutality, warfare, and suffering as if from the eye of a dispassionate God, seated far above the world’s terror.
November 21, 2005
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This film stands in Kurosawa’s work as Otello stands in Verdi’s – a final, magnificent statement of his philosophy and one of the most stirringly grand films in recent memory.
July 01, 2002
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A decade—and arguably an entire career—in the making, Akira Kurosawa’s last great masterpiece, 1985’s Ran(“chaos”), is one of the rare spectacles that’s more than mere spectacle, a prismatic work containing riches beyond its justly celebrated battle sequences.
March 29, 2002
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A film of brilliantly composed panoramas and intricately choreographed battles, it lacks, however, the psychological depth and dark poetry of Kurosawa’s greatest Shakespeare adaptation, the Macbeth-based Throne of Blood—a claustrophobic, nearly first-person film that plunges you into the roiling psyche of a power-hungry, guilt-ridden, paranoid warlord. Ran operates in exactly the opposite way. It deliberately keeps you at a distance, all the better to meditate on the horror of human relations.
August 16, 2000
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Through the use of suffusive colors to delineate opposing armies, Akira Kurosawa figuratively taints the serene landscape with the artificial, surreal hues of human tragedy and senseless destruction.
January 01, 2000
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The greatest nihilistic film in the history of movies. No other director of Kurosawa’s age has ever released a statement of such magisterial, uncompromising bleakness, and no other director has made destruction seem so inevitable, so esthetic, so seductive… Kurosawa is seventy-five years old and is working at the peak of his considerable powers; his age and his stature impart to Ran an authority that may be possible to argue with, but is impossible to dismiss.
December 20, 1985
Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 film is slightly marred by some too obvious straining toward masterpiece status, yet it’s a stunning achievement in epic cinema. Working on a large scale seems to bring out the best in Kurosawa’s essentially formal talents; Kagemusha seems only a rough draft for the effects he achieves here through a massive deployment of movement and color.
December 19, 1985
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Deliberately nonemphathetic (albeit occasionally sentimental), Ran is quieter and more controlled than Kagemusha. What’s striking is how close to silent cinema it is, an impression Kurosawa fosters by brilliantly withholding the sound in one key battle sequence. With its epic Eisensteinian compositions and mist-shrouded, color-coded armies, spectacularly flaming carnage, and juicy court intrigues, Ran holds its 160-minute length well.
July 23, 1985