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Friday, 02 July 2010 16:04

Akira Kurosawa's Ran

Akira Kurosawa's Ran NY Public Library Digital Gallery
Written by Diane Carson
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To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's birth, Webster University will screen 17 of his films during July and into early August. All of these are new 35-millimeter prints, and some of them newly restored titles. The series commences with the 1985 Ran, Kurosawa's brilliant classics and the only one Webster will play for six nights. The other 16 titles each play for one night only. I must confess that I'm in awe of Kurosawa's entire oeuvre. He always amazes me with his technical perfectionism and his complex thematic commentary.
For Ran, he transposes the King Lear tragedy to 16th century Japan and feudal warfare. The title Ran translates literally as "turmoil" or "chaos," though it can also mean "rebellion" when used as a suffix in Japanese. All of these connotations apply as warlord Hidetora Ichimonji divides his empire among his three sons. Distrust and betrayal, greed and ego, power plays and revenge all influence the disastrous events that follow. Madness beckons, and religious principles become factors in the conflict.

Kurosawa, 73-years-old when he directed Ran, spent a year achieving the film he desired and spent $12 million, a hefty sum for the mid-80s. Kurosawa repeatedly said his best film would be his next one, but after making Ran, that title became his answer. I would never quarrel with such a sensei.

Ran
is exhilarating in its riot of color and movement, its alternation of energy and stasis. The battle scenes are compositionally magnificent and thrillingly staged. The art direction surpasses superlatives. As the wonderful Japanese film critic Donald Richie has explained, Noh drama influences Kurosawa's choices. Richie cites the ostentatious, gorgeous costumes; their long sleeves that gracefully sway and swirl to punctuate assertions; the hats and mask-like faces. Similarly, the music and sound reinforce the heightened, stylized drama that is also powerfully personal and painful. Kurosawa said that Ran was "a series of human events viewed from heaven."

There is not a dull moment in Ran's 160 minutes. In Japanese with English subtitles. At Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 2nd through Tuesday, July 6th and then again on Thursday, July 8th. For information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or you may go to the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries .

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