Frank Ritz’s review published on Letterboxd:
I think seeing this in a theater enhanced the experience. Though I definitely felt the three hour runtime bogging down my enjoyment, when the end finally came, I was shocked it was over. Kurosawa’s critically acclaimed color masterpiece, is a sight to behold, but it’s still lacking in spots that hold it back from being a masterpiece in my mind. I think I was surprised at how many similar themes, and concepts, are repeated from previous films of Kurosawa’s, along with the it being extra heavy in the front half, leaving a lot more to be desired in the second.
Kurosawa seems like no stranger to color. He uses some beautiful texterization to give his world some zest that only enhance the story. Even the simplicity of assigning a color to each of the son’s houses was a great touch. It’s not overly flashy and in your face, but there’s a vibrancy present that gives it a new layer to appreciate. And also the blood. Kurosawa has always used blood to an extremely effective degree, and with color, it adds a new shock value that had been missing.
The story, like I said previously, is very front heavy. Watching the setup was engaging beyond belief. Seeing the dynamics simply laid between the sons and father, and only to watch those relationships turn and develop, had a grip on me. The clear Shakespearean influence was a nice touch; the dramatics were fitting to the classic tale. Then the first half climax of the intense siege/battle sequence, is certainly top 3 scenes in all of Kurosawa’s career, if not number 1. When all the sound cuts away and just the intense music swelling, it’s something that film lovers can only dream of seeing. To then be snapped back to reality by the sound of a gun - chills. But unfortunately after that mounting cinematic achievement, the second half turns into a run-of-the-mill morality tale, that hasn’t just been done better by others, but even by Kurosawa himself. I felt myself bored for most of the second half, patiently waiting for an end to arise.
When it did finally end though, it felt appropriate, like the tale had gone full circle. It’s just an engagement thing. There’s no technical faults throughout the whole picture, and it was definitely worth the watch. I will revisit this I’m sure some day. I’m honestly shocked I don’t have more to say. There were certainly moments that wowed me, but overall I think it’s one that won’t linger in my thoughts too long, like many of his other films have. It does have me excited for Kagemusha, that much I can tell you.