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Ran: The Criterion Collection

For his last masterpiece, 1985's epic Ran, septuagenarian auteur Akira Kurosawa fused William Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear with Japanese folklore. Tatsuya Nakadai stars as Hidetora, Great Lord of the Ichimonji clan, a ruthless warrior who imperiously ruled his lands through battle for 50 years. Now in his 70s and visibly tiring, Hidetora precipitously announces that, while he plans to retain his title and status until his death, he is transferring his rule into the hands of his eldest son, Taro (Akira Terao). Expecting the cooperation of his two younger sons, Jiro and Saburo, in supporting and strengthening Taro's command, Hidetora is outraged when Saburo, the youngest, impertinently derides his father's decision as foolish. Hidetora banishes both Saburo and the soldier (Masayuki Yui) who defends him. Saburo's warning, however, turns out prophetic, as Hidetora quickly finds himself cast as little more than a pawn and/or nuisance in Taro's assertion of his new power, and worse as Jiro's hawkish advisors spur the second son to subvert his older brother's rule. All the discord (or, rather, Chaos, as the film's title translates), weighs heavy on Hidetora's ailing mind, and the former Great Lord begins to slip into a Alzheimer's-like fog of sorrow and shame. As Kurosawa aged his films became more didactic, and the earnest emphasizing of rather obvious messages and symbols mars key scenes in Ran. Above all, however, Ran is an object of great beauty, both in form and performance. From panoramic vistas speckled with warriors on the march, to the recurring motif of gathering cloud formations, nearly every frame of Ran is a gallery-worthy work of visual art. The Criterion Collection's two-disc release of Ran is the third Region One DVD release of this film and the most definitive to date. Criterion presents the movie in an all-new, restored anamorphic high-definition digital transfer (1.85:1) with more natural colors, and cleaner, sharper images. Disc One includes the feature with a restored Dolby 2.0 Surround audio track and new subtitle translation. Also available is a commentary by Stephen Prince, a 12-minute appreciation by Sidney Lumet, and four theatrical trailers. Disc Two includes Chris Marker's 1985 AK (74 min.), a chapter from Toho Masterworks' Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create (30 min.), a reconstruction of the movie from Kurosawa's painted storyboards (35 min.), plus a new interview with Nakadai. The collection also includes a 28-page booklet including interviews with Kurosawa and composer Takemitsu and an essay by film critic Michael Wilmington. Dual-DVD keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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