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Akira Kurosawa Centennial

Saturday, August 21, 2010
5:30 p.m. Ran
Akira Kurosawa (Japan, 1985)

New Print

The incomparable Tatsuya Nakadai anchors Kurosawa’s lavish adaptation of King Lear, a combination of chamber drama and brutal war epic that is simultaneously visceral and contemplative. Nakadai is a sixteenth-century lord who makes the mistake of first dividing his kingdom among his three sons, then banishing the only one who actually loves him. As in Shakespeare’s tale, such decisions prove fatal, but Kurosawa pointedly concentrates on not only the effects on father and sons but also much larger societal ones, as entire armies are dispatched, brutalized, and destroyed due to one man’s inability to understand human nature. As in Kagemusha, Kurosawa turns battle scenes into expressionist brushstrokes of vibrant, utterly unnatural hues, setting not armies but colors and shapes against one another, the better to achieve pure art on the cinematic canvas. Nakadai’s gothic portrayal of the mad king gives the film a further splash of color, and rage.

—Jason Sanders

Ran is repeated on Sunday, August 22.

• Written by Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Masato Ide, based on King Lear by William Shakespeare. Photographed by Takao Saito, Masaharu Ueda. With Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu. (160 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Rialto Pictures)