Fox Lorber/1985/160/WS 1.70

The good news is a new widescreen release of Ran is coming from Winstar Cinema. Details have not yet been announced, but hopefully, struck from new film elements, it will be a definitive anamorphic widescreen release.

     Glorious. Mesmerizing. Colossal. Spectacular. Breathtaking. All these adjectives belong to any description of Akira Kurosawa's Ran, the culminating vision of a stellar career of making film art.  The parallels between Ran and Kagemusha (Still awaiting a DVD release),  filmed five years earlier,  are numerous. Both share a bleak, fatalistic view of the forces of human nature. Heroic deeds are performed with no hope of altering the path of preordained fate.  Each deals with the breakdown of feudal leadership coinciding with the death or dotage of a powerful and ruthless leader. With Ran, Kurosawa traces the path of Shakespeare's King Lear. Ran  paints the greater individual character portraits.

Lord Hidetora confers with his leaders. ©Fox Lorber

     The performances in Ran are devastating. Tatsuya Nakadai's shell of the great Lord Hidetora is one of the most powerfully pathetic screen creations ever filmed. Hidetora's past filled with evil deeds is miraculously reflected in the glowing orbs of Nakadai. The elements lash out at the once great lord, wrenching from him the accumulated guilt of a lifetime of relentless ambition.  Mieko Harada plays Lady Kaede with insane determination. The loyal vassal Tango is given a sense of honesty as portrayed by Masayuki Yui. Lord Kurogane is imbued with integrity by Isashi Ikawa. Kurosawa distinguishes Ran with masterly direction of his actors.
      Kurosawa's use of color and screen composition is astounding in Ran. Bright powerful splashes of color heighten and intensify  feelings. The widescreen is filled edge to edge by the magnificent sense of space ordered  in Kurosawa's universe. The battle for youngest son Saburo's castle depicts the violence and bloodshed in a montage of unforgettable images. Thousands of extras stretch across the screen in colorful samurai armor, defiled by blood and enveloped by the dust of pounding horses. Surely no one has ever created a series of images near to  the perfection accomplished in Ran.
     Ran on DVD is an improvement over the laser disc transfer only because DVD offers better resolution and greater color saturation.  Far too may scenes are soft, almost like the transfer was rolled off to mask some of the straight edge jitter. Not a bad idea since there are plenty of edge details that tend to twitter.  The DVD aspect ratio measures approximately 1.70, cropping off some of the theatrical presentation 1.85 composition. Fortunately, Kurosawas impeccable composition does not seem overly cramped. . The color is often intense with satisfying saturation. The white subtitles appear in the bottom black letterbox band and the picture portion is located near the top of the 4 x 3 frame. Some dirt speckles are sprinkled throughout the elements. The powerful score is cleanly presented in Dolby 2.0 Digital. 
     Ran is a film to be savored over and over again. The virtues of compelling narrative and  uncompromised visual realization combine in the creation of a screen classic which belongs in the collection of all film lovers.

For more about Ran read The Epic Images of Kurosawa

Want more details on the upcoming theatrical release of Ran. Click the poster image.




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