Many samurai films lean towards culture, respect, tradition, and honor. Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 masterpiece Ran has all those elements, but with many brilliant and irreparable consequences. Corruption and power are where the individuals involved with the inner conflict clash with tension and violence. Kurosawa had a reputation for being an involved director with his cast and crew. He would be working with those he had a positive relationship with around his filmmaking. Ran has a numerous amount of in-depth and stunning acting between its protagonists and antagonists, and that is because of the brilliance of Kurosawa’s directing styles and routines. Ran is a genre of action, drama, and war that had me on the edge of my seat in its 35 MM screening at Music Box Theatre of Chicago.
The film takes place in Medieval Japan. A Japanese warlord Hidetora Ichimonji (played by Tatsuya Nakadi) is about to retire and divide his fiefdom with his three sons. The eldest is Taro (played by Akira Terao), the middle one is Jiro (played by Jinpachi Nezu), and the youngest is Saburo (played by Daisuke Ryu). Taro and Jiro respect their father’s wishes going forward with his decision. For Saburo, he makes issues go awry. Saburo believes that forces his brothers and him will not be on good terms going forward. With anger, distraught, and confusion, Hidetora bans Saburo. As the time goes by though, Hidetora comes to realize that Taro and Jiro are self-centered, and it becomes obvious they will not respect their father’s wishes. With the disbelief and growing conflicts, a war begins, and Hidetora believes that Saburo is the only hope to save him from the catastrophe.
The experience in 35 MM made me feel immersed with the Medieval Japan era. With digital nowadays, the films take up a certain portion of their screens, but with 35 MM it takes up the whole screen. The mountains, and the castles, and the battles were all a vibrant and nostalgic experience through the eyes of a Kurosawa’s monumental achievement. The experience was spellbinding. I was hooked on being in curiosity of which new scenery the film would take me to.
For true Kurosawa fans (if they know him well), they can tell the film is set and directed in his artistic vision. That is because he edited his own films (including Ran). That is why many of the important moments with conversations, fights, and tension are visually enthralling. Kurosawa was a director that wanted to keep working on his films until they were done to his standards of excellence. There is excellence in all his classics.
This was an experience that was an honor to have in 35 MM. Many films like this many do not think about watching in the cinema. They may be restored on DVD or in a streaming service, but the ambience is there with it in its print from its year it was released. I loved Ran and any Kurosawa film that can be seen on the big screen is worth it. Four stars.