Jack Phillips’s review published on Letterboxd:
Somehow my third attempt at watching Ran (the first I was too young and got bored; the second I was with a bunch of uni friends, and they got bored) which goes to show just how important time and place are to the cinematic experience.
This time around (on my own, Sunday evening, in the mood for a masterpiece) I was fully primed to witness what is - and as a philosophy graduate I do not use this word lightly - objectively one of the finest achievements in filmmaking history. Now, I know I literally just stated how time and place are essential to appreciating this work of art. Equally, however, I wish to maintain the timeless nature of this masterpiece from legendary director Akira Kurosawa (so much so that Ran easily makes my top 3 ‘films to show to recently contacted extraterrestrials’ list!). Am I wilfully contradicting myself here by stressing both the contingent and universal appeal of Ran? Like a good Hegelian, you bet.
When I speak to the “objective” artistic merit of Ran, I am of course being somewhat intentionally provocative / pretentious. I do not mean Kurosawa has realised the Platonic form - or whatever the Japanese equivalent is - of the cinematic medium and you must all bow to my #verified opinion. What I am trying to get at is that after watching Ran, I felt compelled by something beyond my mere subjective whim to give it the full 5 stars.
Normally, I approach the whole rating system from an intensely personal perspective: if I am to give something 5 stars it has to have resonated with me emotionally, or provoked a visceral response of some kind. But with Ran it was different: I didn’t exactly react to it on a personal level. Instead, watching, I simply stood back and marvelled - finding that sometimes one must bow to dramatic and aesthetic forces that transcend personal whim or individual will. This isn’t to say I didn’t feel anything for Ran - how can one respond with anything but intense pathos towards its tragic protagonist figure? But rather, my main reaction, of awe and appreciation towards the sheer scope of human effort, and the sublime finished product that emerged from said effort, was one considerably removed from the usual, personalised (ie subjective) reaction that tends to move me into giving a film 5 stars. Simply put, Ran exists as a triumph of human artistic achievement (and there’s not much more I, or anyone else, can really say).
I hope this has made a semblance of sense. This review was largely crafted for me to try to think through my own reaction to this film (so much for objectivity) and bring out what continues to be a rather vague, and possibly vapid, dialectic between the subjective and objective elements involved in the cinematic experience.
Perhaps I should have begun and ended with this simple fact: it’s Kurosawa doing Shakespeare - what more is there to say?