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“Ran” - {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Taylor Carlson
Studio: Lionsgate/StudioCanal
Genre:
Action
Release Date:
2/16/10
Special Features:

SK, Epic and the Intimate, Samurai, Art of the Samurai

Review:

Ran is directed by Akira Kurosawa and was originally released in 1985. The film stars Tatsuya Nakadai, Daisuke Ryu, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Peter, and Mieko Harada. Toru Takemitsu composed the film's score. ***

Ran is the tale of Hidetora, an aging Japanese warlord. He spent his younger years diving and conquering kingdoms, making many friends and enemies in the process. In his old age, Hidetora steps down as ruler of the castles he has taken over, deciding to give an equal share of his domain to his 3 sons. His youngest son warns him that this is a foolhardy decision that will only bring chaos - but he banishes said son for speaking his mind. It isn't long before those words come back to haunt Hidetora - as his two remaining sons quickly find themselves at war with one another, due in no small part to the manipulation of a woman whose family and domain were conquered by Hidetora. ***

Ran was not the final film made by Kurosawa, however it was the last big-budget Feudal Japan epic he would ever direct. Even at age 75, Kurosawa proved he could still direct a massive-scale masterpiece of a film. ***

Ran is a film about the evil of men, and how even men who aim to rid their lives of an unfavorable past are unable to escape it. Hidetora is a man who, in his advanced age, sees the horrors of what he has done so many years before. But even stepping down from his position of rule doesn't get him away from these horrors. History repeats itself through his sons, who were no doubt raised in a life where conquering and leading on the battlefield meant everything, who couldn't lead any other kind of life. It is a film that looks at mankind's dark side like no other. ***

The film has a run time of 162 minutes, and I won't deny that it feels excessive at times. But despite this, the movie will hold your attention throughout. You will care about the plight that is unleashed on these characters, and the inevitable tragedies that result from Hidetora's old life. This was Kurosawa's swan song, and a beautiful song it is. ***

Criterion had previously released Ran as an SD disc a few years back. They were set to release a Blu-Ray version of the film in May of 2009. But they lost the rights back to StudioCanal, who have since released this Blu-Ray version of the movie. ---

Image And Sound:

Disappointingly, the transfer here leaves a lot to be desired. Throughout, the image is blurry and lacks detail. It is clear that StudioCanal has used enhancements on the transfer, and while it is an upgrade from SD discs, it won't be the upgrade die-hard fans of the film are likely looking for. If you're asking me if you should upgrade based on the quality of the transfer alone, my answer is a simple “no.” It makes me wonder if, had Criterion been allowed to release the movie, would it have looked any better? But alas, we shall never know. ***

The new lossless audio track holds together better than the picture quality on this release, but even it tends to leave something to be desired. Don't come in here expecting a track that can compete with the best of vintage films on Blu-Ray; you won't be getting it. But it is a good track and I don't imagine it could have sounded much better.

Special Features:

The bad news is that the essays and a few minor featurette from the Criterion disc aren't included on here. The good news? The most important extras are retained. These include lengthy interviews and behind-the-scenes looks at what went into the creation of this classic Kurosawa epic. You may want to hold onto your Critierion disc for the sake of the few omitted extras and booklet/essays, but you'll be happy to know that this discs has retained the most important bonus features.

Final Words:

Ran is Kurosawa at his finest, directing a drama that shows the evils of men as no other movie does. Disappointingly, StudioCanal's disc is not an upgrade from SD offerings. My advice is to hold on to your Criterion SD disc if you already have it. This is one of my all-time favorite movies, but it deserves better treatment than this. Avoid this disc unless you can get it for a bargain.

 

 
 
 
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