Ran ★★★★★

TSPDT 213, Highest Ranking 116 in 2011; Director: Akira Kurosawa; Writer: Akira Kurosawa, Masato Ide, Hideo Oguni, William Shakespeare (play); Watched it September 9th on the Kurosawa masterworks edition limited edition

160 minutes. Loyalty, and then perhaps a more general glimpse into inevitability.

We have been socialized to believe loyalty is a good thing. Loyalty to one’s parents, siblings, spouse, side piece, co-workers and employees. Loyalty wins the day. We have also, simultaneously, been taught the legendary stories of the deception and betrayal that went into building corporate empires. The CEOs that would stab anyone in the back in order to get ahead are hated all the way to the top until they reach the pinnacle when they are then revered for their perseverance and fearlessness.

So, which is it?

My impression of Ran is that Director Kurosawa would argue that it doesn’t matter. There is inevitability to success that is beyond our ability to control. Sometimes the good guys win, sometimes the mean girls. Even the act of “winning” needs to be re-evaluated with the added component of time. The brothers one by one are elevated to a position of leadership and respect only to meet their demise. The father, ultimately dying of grief after seeing his most loyal son unfairly shot down after the fighting is over, does not get his final chance at redemption.

This is a cynical f***in movie. This is the book of Ecclesiastes minus any attempted hope. It is an Emil Ciorans’ level of despair as originally penned by Shakespeare. The pervasive feeling for the majority of this 2 ½ hour film is that it just doesn’t matter if you’re good or evil. We all die.

Not to confuse the message with the delivery, I do have to say that this is a well made film. I’m fine with it being called a masterpiece even. There is a particular battle scene in which one of the brothers is surprised and the battle is just a slaughter. There are bodies everywhere and each scene is laid out and framed like a beautifully macabre painting. Kurosawa does what he does so well in choosing a source material that covers universal themes of humanity and crafting a visual and emotional journey that is worth watching.

I am not sure how people can rate Ran in their Top 3 of Kurosawa’s movies, but it is certainly a great film and an easy recommendation.

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