As critic Roger Ebert observed in his original review of Ran, this epic tragedy might have been attempted by a younger director, but only the Japanese master Akira Kurosawa, who made the film at age 75, could bring the req... more »uisite experience and maturity to this stunning interpretation of Shakespeare's King Lear. It's a film for the ages--one of the few genuine screen masterpieces--and arguably serves as an artistic summation of the great director's career. In this version of the Shakespeare tragedy, the king is a 16th-century warlord (Tatsuya Nakadai as Lord Hidetora) who decides to retire and divide his kingdom evenly among his three sons. When one son defiantly objects out of loyalty to his father and warns of inevitable sibling rivalry, he is banished and the kingdom is awarded to his compliant siblings. The loyal son's fears are valid: a duplicitous power struggle ensues and the aging warlord witnesses a maelstrom of horrifying death and destruction. Although the film is slow to establish its story, it's clear that Kurosawa, who planned and painstakingly designed the production for 10 years before filming began, was charting a meticulous and tightly formalized dramatic strategy. As familial tensions rise and betrayal sends Lord Hidetora into the throes of escalating madness, Ran (the title is the Japanese character for "chaos" or "rebellion") reaches a fever pitch through epic battles and a fortress assault that is simply one of the most amazing sequences on film. Although this awesome epic is best viewed on a big theatrical screen, the DVD presents the widescreen film with a higher quality of image and sound than was ever previously available in any home-video format. --Jeff Shannon« less
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 12/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kurosawa's last undisputed masterpiece, "Ran" adapts "King Lear" (Shakespeare was one of Kurosawa's favorite writer) placing it during the 16th century in Japan. Like "Throne of Blood" (another Kurosawa classic that also adapts "Macbeth") "Ran" melds action with drama in a unique way that only Kurosawa was able to do. Sure there have been other directors that have made films about Japanese culture, Feudalism and the Samurai but none with the keen insight and profound glimpse into what makes a culture tick as well as Kurosawa.
Kurosawa had lost most of his collaborators prior to the shooting of "Ran". All of that informs the darkness and his identification for the main character. While Kurosawa freely borrowed from "King Lear", he also informed the film with many issues facing himself; he felt isolated from the Japanese filmmaking community and he was unappreciated in this late phase of his career having to scramble to get financing (frequently going overseas to get it). Kurosawa felt isolated and alone without his collaborators. The loss of his wife just prior to shooting meant that Kurosawa threw his raging emotions into "Ran" using the story of "Lear" as a means to examine his own personal situation.
A beautiful, rich transfer from Criterion. There's few digital artifacts and there's virtually none of the issues that dogged the "Masterworks" edition of this film. The image isn't cropped (the "Masterworks" edition had the edge of the frame cut off) and the high definition transfer looks marvelous with rich colors, remarkable clarity and depth to the image. There is noticeable grain but that's part of the original theatrical presentation of the film and not a surprise given that the film is 20 years old. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack has no noticeable distortion with nice depth and clarity for both the dialogue and the music.
Chris Marker's marvelous documentary "AK" is included as part of the package on the second disc. That by itself would also make this worth repurchasing if you're in doubt about it. However, coupled with the terrific restoration and transfer done by Criterion here it makes this an essential purchase for fans of Kurosawa's films. We also get an appreciation by director Sidney Lumet, an episode of Toho Masterworks on Kurosawa that's also quite good (although I prefer Marker's 74 minute documentary). "It is Wonderful to Create" focuses exclusively on "Ran" while Marker's documentary is a better overview of the director. Criterion has also used Kurosawa's original sketches and paintings to create sections of "Ran" as Kurosawa original saw it prior to actual production. Finally there's a new interview with lead actor Tasuya Kakadai. As usual Criterion has included an excellent booklet that includes a very good essay by film critic Michael Wilmington, a 1985 interview with Kurosawa about the making of the movie and a new interview with "Ran" composer Toru Takemitsu. This deluxe 2 disc edition makes the nonanamorphic previous edition look almost like a videotape by comparison in terms of the overall quality.
Stephen Prince provides interesting background about Japanese culture and Kurosawa's film style. Prince's commentary is a bit dry coming across as a lecture that one might sit through at UCLA or USC and isn't all that entertaining but it is quite informative. Personally, I would have preferred an interactive commentary with Prince discussing the film with, say, Lumet, Francis Ford Coppola or another well known film director.
This is an essential purchase for fans of Kurosawa. Kurosawa's last epic is, perhaps, his darkest and one of his most accomplished. The extras would make this worth purchasing by themselves but the beautiful, rich high definition transfer makes this the best version of "Ran" that has ever appeared on home video. I highly recommend this film. "
"Masterworks Edition" DVD is badly botched
Ben Rudiak-Gould | Berkeley, CA USA | 10/23/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The "Ran: Masterworks Edition" DVD could have been much better, but was badly botched by the producer (Wellspring Media).By far the biggest problem is the so-called "digital restoration," which consists of two things: running the whole movie through a miscalibrated digital denoising filter, and increasing the contrast and color saturation to cartoonish levels. The latter change can at least be undone at the playback end, but the former does irreparable damage to the image. Most of the image problems mentioned here by other reviewers are due to this "restoration," not to defects in the new transfer.The damage from the digital denoising is severe and present throughout the film. It's easily recognized with experience, or when the denoised image is shown next to the pristine original. But since I don't have that luxury here, I'll just mention some of the more easily seen symptoms. Clouds seem slightly unnatural, as if hand-painted, because their delicate wispiness is interpreted as noise and removed (see for example 0:11:45 and 2:18:00). Thin bright lines against dark backgrounds "sparkle" or "twinkle" like stars; this is caused by cross-frame denoising, which misinterprets movement of sharp edges due to frame jitter or camera movement as transient noise (see for example the sunray pattern in the Ichimonji crest beginning at around 0:04:30). Fast-moving objects shrink or disappear completely for brief intervals, again due to cross-frame denoising (see for example Kyoami's legs as he runs, at around 0:09:15).The new _Metropolis (1927)_ DVD includes a restoration featurette which explains why computerized denoising was not used in the restoration of that film, and shows examples of some of the problems described above. And denoising was only considered for that film because the available prints were badly in need of restoration. _Ran_ does not need restoration, which makes this unnecessary damage all the more tragic.Many DVDs released by Central Park Media have also been defaced in this way, notably the new two-disc edition of Takahata's _Grave of the Fireflies_. I think the same company is responsible for all of these botched "restorations," since the modus operandi is always the same: moderate to severe denoising artifacts, grossly oversaturated colors, and a "restoration demo" comparing the restored version to a previous video release in a distinctive splitscreen format.There are many other problems with this DVD, though they are minor in comparison to the above:The new transfer was apparently made from a theatrical print rather than a higher-fidelity interpositive, since it contains reel change marks (flashing black circles at the upper right corner of the frame). Surely such a beautiful film deserves better than this.There are several embarrassing mistakes in the subtitles which would have been caught by a human being, but not by a software spelling checker. Apparently the producers of this DVD labor under the delusion that proofreading, like restoration, can be done by computer.The MPEG-2 encoding was done improperly, with the result that the image switches randomly between progressive (film) and interlaced (video) encodings, instead of remaining film throughout. This causes annoying random blurring and sharpening during playback on many DVD players, noticeable mainly in still scenes. (See for example the long shots of Hidetora starting around 0:50:00; please note that this problem is not visible on all players.) Some players can be reconfigured to mask this problem (on software players choose "bob" rather than "weave" or "automatic"), but this will reduce the playback quality of properly-encoded DVDs.Technical incompetence aside, this is not a bad disc. The subtitle translation is problematic, but I've seen much worse; I can't complain too much here. What's lost in the translation is probably insignificant compared to cultural details which no translation could hope to explain. A short "production notes" extra fills in a few of those details but neglects others. Two uninteresting trailers for the film are included. The "restoration demo" is good for seething at in impotent anger, and also for seeing how Kurosawa probably intended the film to appear, colorwise, before it was "enhanced" for this DVD.There are two commentary tracks. One, by Stephen Prince, focuses on narrative technique and is clearly intended for students. It's quite good. The other is by Peter Grilli, who was present on the set during part of the shooting of _Ran_; he talks about his experiences there and his opinions of Kurosawa and his work. Though sometimes interesting, Grilli's comments make no sense as a commentary track since they're wholly unconnected to the action on screen. They should have been printed in a companion booklet.The film itself is a masterpiece, of course; even the shoddiest technical treatment can't mask its emotional impact. I would have given it five stars but for the problems with the DVD.This is the first non-Central Park Media DVD that I've seen to use this "digital restoration" process. I'm frightened that it will spread further. I urge anyone concerned by this to write to Wellspring Media and tell them that they could have produced a much better DVD, with less effort, by simply omitting the "restoration" step. If you decide not to buy the disc for this reason, tell them that too."
Criterion on the way....
Pamela J. Burzinski | 04/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"That Ran is a masterpiece is not really up for debate. It's arguably the greatest film by arguably the greatest Japanese filmmaker of all-time (and thus one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time from any nation, period).
However, this gem's transition to DVD has been cringe-worthy on Region 1. The Fox Lorber edition is noted as being one of the worst transfers in existence, and while many were satisfied with the Masterworks edition, most who were familiar with the film (and many who weren't) recognized that there was an obscene amount of digital manipulation. The result is the film's colors looked utterly artificial and the film has nowhere near the serene look it normally does. The transfer is just deplorable.
But, true to their reputation, Criterion is coming to save the day. They've announced they're working on a release for late this year. Expect a deluxe edition that you WILL want to wait for, guaranteed. Let the current editions rot."
Be Very Careful
Bruce Kendall | Southern Pines, NC | 05/25/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"My star rating has nothing to do with the mertis of the film. It has only to do with the total hatchet job Fox Lorber did in their infamous DVD transfer. By no means buy this version of the film, even though you think you're saving a couple bucks. I agree entirely with the reviewer who said the only thing to do with the DVD and it's case is to use it for a coaster.
The images are muddy and dark. The sound is old 78s quality. It really is a shameful, shoddy piece of work. By all means, order the movie. It's Kurosawa's magnum opus, great in every detail. Just make sure you shell out a few bucks more for the Masterworks edition, or splurge and go for the Kurosawa multi DVD collection.This review is meant solely for the Fox Lorber 1985 DVD release.
Kurosawa classic arrives from Lionsgate with Subtitle error
Lao Che | Central New York | 02/21/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I love this movie/film/whatever. It floors me every time I experience it. The blu-ray sound & image was a revelation of possibilities for me! The extra features are pretty good. I even loved their package design. I think they took some queues from Criterion Collection. The issue here is with the English subtitles:
There are some grammatical/translation errors sprinkled throughout the movie that are distracting. One example is in the first scene, where Lord Fujimaki declares that he also wanted to offer his daughter as Saburo's wife; the "Studiocanal Collection" subtitle has him saying it was also his INVENTION instead of INTENTION. Yikes! The subtitles were downhill from there. Not sure if they rushed to get this released or they cut corners, and had the English subtitles imported from China. I've sent several polite e-mails to Lionsgate regarding the various English subtitle errors, but they never responded back. Customer service would mean corrected subtitles and disc exchange.
The devil's in the details, my friends. I'm sure someone at Lionsgate had a great idea that ended with a big "$" digitally projected onto the wall at a quarterly R&D meeting. But it takes real commitment and a sincere love of film to do what the Criterion Collection does. Will I ever hear back from Lionsgate or a "Studiocanal Collection" representative? Probably not. They already have my money so the relationship between company and consumer ends there. Not reassuring. In the end, I wish "Ran - Criterion Collection" could have STAYED with the Criterion Collection. I get the impression a few others out there feel the same way."