This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
JoaquinAround’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Akira Kurosawa Ranked
(I forgot to log this yesterday, I apologize, but my thoughts have simmered so maybe my review is more developed, either way, enjoy!) Ran truly is a treat. This is my first Kurosawa film in color, and the stark contrast from the bright colors to this than let's say the murky black and whites in Yojimbo is night and day, but both work so well on their own. As for this film, I think visually, especially in the first few sequences, are insurmountably beautiful. The garb worn by the characters, most strikingly the sons, all pop so well. The almost fixed landscape shots are all beautiful in their own right, and have similar vibes to feudal art of the samurai era being portrayed. This is one of a handful of Kurosawa's Shakespeare adaptations (he funnily enough has a writing credit on Letterboxd), and I think it's my first?? I'm not too knowledgeable on King Lear, but the story was still fantastic.
The family dynamic makes me inclined to consider this more of a family drama than a war/samurai film, despite there being a boatload of action. Tatsuya Nakadai's character, the father (Hidetora) might be the most interesting in a Kurosawa film to date. His legacy is one of infamy and ruthlessness, but coming to terms with his sins tied so well with the Buddhist themes, specifically with Lady Sue and those he's personally affected. Unfortunately, his evildoings rubbed off on his sons, and it showed the most in Jiro, who was essentially the heir by the end of the film. It was so compelling to see Saburo, the son Hidetora resented the most, to come around and protect him when Jiro was in pursuit of him (planning to kill him). To round up my character analysis per se, Lady Kaede is almost or as badass as Princess Yuki in The Hidden Fortress. Her deceitful nature to ultimately have the Ichimonji clan eat itself alive to avenge her family was the perfect victory for her and us as viewers. Absolutely genius work from Kurosawa.
To conclude, Ran is in a weird spot in my ranking of Kurosawa's filmography. It could be number 1 a day, or down to number 4. There is so much to love, and the use of color elevates the experience so much. Since Kurosawa was making films primarily from the 40s-60s, he only made a handful of color productions, but this is his most acclaimed, and deservedly so. If you like any of his other work, I'd build up to watching this like I did personally, or this could even be a nice starting point for those who aren't familiar with his movies. I could write a whole paper on this (I basically did in this review, albeit much more informal), and I won't waste any more of your time, but check out Ran. Samurai perfection at its finest.