SHERDOG MOVIE CLUB: Week 34 Discussion - Ran

Discussion in 'Mayberry Lounge' started by Guestx, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

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    It's William Shakespeare by way of Japan this week as we discuss none other than Akira Kurosawa's. . .


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    Our Director


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    There's just so much info on this guy it's hard to put it all together into something short, so I'm going to cheat and let Wiki do the work for me:

    Akira Kurosawa was a Japanese filmmaker. Regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema, Kurosawa directed 30 films in a career spanning 57 years.

    Kurosawa entered the Japanese film industry in 1936, following a brief stint as a painter. After years of working on numerous films as an assistant director and scriptwriter, he made his debut as a director in 1943, during World War II, with the popular action film Sanshiro Sugata (a.k.a. Judo Saga). After the war, the critically acclaimed Drunken Angel (1948), in which Kurosawa cast then-unknown actor Toshiro Mifune in a starring role, cemented the director's reputation as one of the most important young filmmakers in Japan. The two men would go on to collaborate on another 15 films. His wife Yōko Yaguchi was also an actress in one of his films.

    Rashomon, which premiered in Tokyo in August 1950, and which also starred Mifune, became, on September 10, 1951, the surprise winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was subsequently released in Europe and North America. The commercial and critical success of this film opened up Western film markets for the first time to the products of the Japanese film industry, which in turn led to international recognition for other Japanese filmmakers. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Kurosawa directed approximately a film a year, including a number of highly regarded films such as Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954) and Yojimbo (1961). After the mid-1960s, he became much less prolific, but his later work—including his final two epics, Kagemusha (1980) and Ran (1985)—continued to win awards, including the Palme d'Or for Kagemusha, though more often abroad than in Japan.

    In 1990, he accepted the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Posthumously, he was named "Asian of the Century" in the "Arts, Literature, and Culture" category by AsianWeek magazine and CNN, cited as "one of the [five] people who contributed most to the betterment of Asia in the past 100 years".



    Our Star


    It's hard to nail down only two or three players for a film like this, so I'm just going to focus on this guy:


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    Lord Hidetora is played by TATSUYA NAKADAI.

    More cheating, this time from IMDB:

    Japanese leading man, an important star and one of the handful of Japanese actors well known outside Japan. Nakadai was a tall handsome clerk in a Tokyo shop when director Masaki Kobayashi encountered him and cast him in The Thick-Walled Room (1956). Nakadai was subsequently cast in the lead role in Kobayashi's monumental trilogy 'Ningen no joken' and became a star whose international acclaim rivaled that of countryman Toshirô Mifune. Like Mifune, Nakadai worked frequently with director Akira Kurosawa and indeed more or less replaced Mifune as Kurosawa's principal leading man after the well-known falling out between Mifune and Kurosawa. His appearances for Kurosawa in Kagemusha (1980) and Ran (1985) are among the most indelible in the director's oeuvre.



    Film Overview and YouTube Videos


    Premise: In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.

    Budget: $11.5 Million
    Box Office: ~$16 Million (worldwide)











    Trivia
    (courtesy of IMDB)​


    * "Ran," generally translated from the Japanese, means "chaos" or "revolt."

    * Several hundred costumes were all created by hand, a process taking two years to complete.

    * Akira Kurosawa referred to his previous film, Kagemusha (1980), as a "dress rehearsal" for this film. He spent ten years storyboarding every shot in the film as paintings. The resulting collection of images was published with the screenplay.

    * The film used approximately 1400 extras and 200 horses. 1400 suits of armor (designed by Akira Kurosawa himself) were fabricated and a number of the horses had to be imported from the United States. Kurosawa used the extras and horses so efficiently that when the film was ready for premiere, newspapers in Japan were reporting that thousands of extras and horses were used to stage the battles.

    * Akira Kurosawa's eyesight had deteriorated almost completely by the time principal photography began. He could only frame shots with the help of assistants, who used his storyboard paintings as guidelines.

    * The castle destroyed in the middle of the movie was specially constructed on the slopes of Mount Fuji for the film and then burned down. No miniatures were used for that segment, although an optical of another castle being burned at the end was used.

    * Akira Kurosawa began writing the film 10 years before its release and said that it wasn't originally meant to be based on Shakespeare's "King Lear" but came to that during the writing process.

    * Unlike most other characters in the film, the character of the fool, Kyoami (Pîtâ), has no basis in historic Japan. The most similar position in relation to a historic Japanese warlord would be a page, but would be quite different in responsibilities. Rather Kyoami is based on the fool or jester of European medieval times and, of course, William Shakespeare's character of the Fool from "King Lear".

    * Because actor Tatsuya Nakadai was decades younger than Hidetora, he wore full-face makeup that took about four hours to apply.

    * Director Akira Kurosawa was 76 years old when he directed the film.

    * Criterion was set to release the film on Blu-Ray in Region 1 territories which would have made this the first Akira Kurosawa film released on Blu-Ray in America. But Criterion lost the rights to the film at the last minute and was unable to release it and all of their earlier releases of the film on DVD were out of print. As a result, Criterion's release of Kagemusha (1980) became the first Kurosawa film released in the USA. However, Ran has since been released in America as a part of the Studio Canal Collection, distributed by Lionsgate.



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    Members: @shadow_priest_x @europe1 @EL CORINTHIAN @HUNTERMANIA @iThrillhouse @DaDamn @chickenluver @jeicex @MusterX @BeardotheWeirdo @Caveat @melvinj0 @Joseph Budden @In The Name Of @Coolthulu @CryptKeeper @Werdun @AndersonsFoot
     
  2. Zer

    Zer Gold Belt

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    I think this is the GOAT movie, it ticks all the boxes for me. It seems like Mieko Harada is always overlooked when people talk about this flick. For me, Lady Kaede is one of the best executed (*SPOILERS* No pun intended */SPOILERS*) female characters I've seen, and every scene of hers is compelling. These sly, manipulative characters are gold and I always think if we gotta fudge strong females into every movie these days, make them like Lady Kaede instead of bulldykes
     
  3. europe1

    europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    Ran is a masterpiece. I mean, it's Zer's favorite movie. What other proof do you need that a film is made out of serious quality? Kurosawa just channeling dat craft. Nakadai giving this haunting performance, the second best of his career after Sword of Doom (dude just excelled at playing people who were a bit "off"). Lady Kaede being such an awesomely realized character.


    I guess I'll hold back on slovenly praising this movie for now. Instead I will try, vainly and futilely, to try and encapsulate it's theme.

    Personally, I'd say that thematically Ran is about the cyclical nature of violence. Because of our prior actions, mankind is trapped in a history of repeatedly profligating violence. Violence is therefore so engrained in the structure of out world that we cannot escape from it. It's ubiquitousness touches everyone, and pulls us into it's destructive force. It tears down structures, states and personalities, anything that resembles order. It makes sure that nothing lasts forever -- and that everything ends in more violence.

    The movie begins with Lord Hidetora announcing that he's going to try and break this cycle. For his entire life he's been a bloodthirsty Warlord, avariciously expanding his domains through deceit and conquest. Yet, now, in the winter of his life, he wants to turn this around. He wants to create a lasting state, ruled over by his progeny. There is going to be no more War. There is going to be order. Yet since the film is called Ran (Chaos), this is not to be.

    The movie is about undoing everything that Lord Hidetora has accomplished in his life. Every structure, every semblance of order he imposed, is destroyed. He thrusts in the power of kinship to keep his state togheter. Yet this proves futile. His son betrays him quickly. And his sons betray themselves almost as equally quickly. Family and kindship are nothing next to the power of greed and ambition. The middle son voices this himself, "why should I be second-in-line just because I was born 12 months later?".

    Plus, shadows from Out of the Past come back to haunt him. Lady Kaede orchestrates her revenge (and you can't really argue with her motivations). Just as Lord Hidetora destroyed her family and fiefdoom in order to construct his own state, she destroys his state to get back on him. Lord Hidetora constructed his might on the bones of her dynasty, and now she returns the favour. Violence begets violence.

    And the neigboring Feudal Lords -- whom in the beginning swore him friendship -- turn on him the moment they spot weakness in the state he's assembled. The moment weakness is shown, they move in for the kill.


    Ran shows the futility of trying to impose order on the world. The world is filled with such rapacious people (because the violent world formed them so) that as soon as any weakness is shown, this order will crumble. Since order is always created and maintained through violence, said order will always be responded to with violence from others.



    An interesting note on this pessemistic worldview. There are good people in Ran. Lord Saburo is wise enough to see this cycle. He warns his father, than since violence-begets-violence, it is foolish of him to assume that his sons will act in any disimilar manner. His wisdom allows him to see this. Lady Sué, likewise, is good and avoids the cycle of violence. Yet she does it through religion, through extreme devotion to fate, only by thoroughly rejecting wordly matters can she escape the violent inclinations that are so engrained in the world.

    But, notice, that the film really doesn't focus on Saburo or Sue. This is a film about evil characters. Since, according to Ran, evil is nearly ubiquitous among the movers-and-shakers of the world. The explain why the cycle of violence exists, Kurosawa focuses on violent people. And, their goodness is in vain. Saburo dies through pure chance, robbed away by the callous indifference the world shows to goodness. He's not rewarded for his purity of heart. Lady Sue's religion and world-denial, likewise, makes her defenseless against it. She is killed, easily.

    So, there are good characters in the world of Ran... but they are powerless to stop the cyclical nature of violence. The tide of history is simply to strong for them to resist it. If there are higher-powers in the world, then they are not going to intervene on behalf of a good-man like Saburo and give him a chance to heal all this killing. The world is cruel enough on its own to snuff-out any such ambitions.


    This is a markedly departure from Kurosawa's earlier work, btw. Where hero's often could perform heroic deeds. There, they could change things, save people, make the world a better place through their actions. In Ran, individual men's attempts to stop this progress of violence is moot, because the world itself has been so shaped by violence that violence permeates its very existence and stops any such attempt.



    Damn... I really wish I had some pictures in this.:p But yeah, that's my attempt to try and encapsulate Ran's theme. There are obvious many more examples on can give of this theme plays out in the movie and all that.
     
  4. MusterX

    MusterX Titanium Belt

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    I'll get around to posting on this giant Asian deuce of a movie in a little while.

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  5. europe1

    europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    Our mega-posts have become so monstrously large that now we need to advertise them in advance fist.
    :D

    What has the SMC done to us!?:p
     
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  6. MusterX

    MusterX Titanium Belt

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    Maybe you don't understand, I was calling Ran shit. I'm just kidding though, its an epic film. I'll weigh in later.
     
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  7. europe1

    europe1 It´s a nice peninsula to Asia

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    I blame Shadow_Priest_x for posting these threads so late Swedish-time. It's clearly an underhanded attempt on his part to try and make me look foolish by having me read-and-post shit while suffering from sleep deprivation. That's the purpose behind this entire club, in fact!
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2016
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  8. Coolthulu

    Coolthulu Green Belt

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    Ran is simply a masterpiece. In. Every. Single. Way.

    The colours, score, visuals, story, dialogue, acting, and directing = absurdly fabulous.

    It's a sweeping, soaring and ambitious gem that I relished every second of.

    Kurosawa is the fucking truth.

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  9. MusterX

    MusterX Titanium Belt

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    I could tell early in the film that the Father, Lord Hidetora, has a difficult time letting go of his power. He is angered by "his women" bowing to his eldest son Taro and then the fool makes fun of him for giving all his shit away, basically calling him a fool. The fool is great too because he doesn't just amuse the "king" he trolls the shit out of him then runs. Meanwhile Taro gets rid of his father's banner and armor in Castle #1 and we can begin to see early on that not only does he want to be out of the shadow of his father but he doesn't have loyalty to his father once he takes over. He wants it to he his.

    This film, to me, at its root is about corruption, its about much more but thematically its about power and corruption, and betrayal. I'm also always struck by the orderly way in which Asian society conducts itself so any slight of disloyalty or dishonor is a BIG fuckin deal. Fools get capped for that sort of thing. I also wonder how much credit actually goes to William Shakespeare. Yes the movie is fantastic, yes the cinematography is excellent, the acting, the story telling, it is extremely well done but how much is Kurosawa riding on the coat tails of one of the most famous stories of all time?

    Just a question, no need to get worked up. I am quite aware of Kurosawa's expertise in the area of film making. Still though, he had a good base script to work from. Anyway, I prefer to keep my movie posts in more bite sized portions. So that will be it for post #1.
     
  10. MusterX

    MusterX Titanium Belt

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    What up, nobody has anything to say about this epic film?

    How about the character of Tango? He is like Lord Friendzone from GoT in the sense that he is loyal to a tee. The old father Samurai conquered all the lands like King Arthur then ceded his power to his piece of shit sons but Tango was loyal even when banished. Also, the fool is one of the best fools I've ever seen in a movie. As the movie progressed I found myself wanting to see the father tear the shit out of his sons.
     
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  11. MusterX

    MusterX Titanium Belt

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    The guilt that Hidetora felt for the things he had done in his past was difficult to process. On the one hand I understood the impact of his sons turning on him like wild dogs and felt sympathetic for him but he had done many terrible things to rise to such power. He saw the girl at castle #2 and he yelled at her to be angry at him and to hate him but she wanted to let hate go or at the least recognized that the "die was cast" in a previous life.

    Later Hidetora encounters what I guess was her brother who survived when Hidetora burned down his families castle and gouged out his eyes. He also in the Buddhist way wanted to let hate go but he admitted he was miserable every day of his life and Hidetora was just left to sponge up the personal guilt he felt for all the bad things he had done in his past.

    Even his eldest son Taro's wife told the story of how Hidetora took her families castle and her mother had committed suicide in the room where Hidetora signed over his power to Taro.

    The sins of the father really is a big part of this families implosion.
     
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  12. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    Working on a post right now. . .
     
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  13. A.A. Riggs

    A.A. Riggs SAXOPHONE

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    Not a lot of running tbh
     
  14. MusterX

    MusterX Titanium Belt

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    Interesting to me how well done the score was and how it was used for certain scenes. For example, when lord fucktwit #1, Taro, and his brother were raiding castle #3 to kill their father, an intensely sad score played while the sounds of the battle were muted. You were watching to battle unfold but without the sound for the battle. Then the score was muted about half way through the scene and the sounds of battle came into focus. So, really, every aspect of this film is so well done.
     
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  15. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    Thanks to @MusterX's persistence I saw my first Kurosawa film a few months ago when I watched Rashomon. And now I can add Ran to the list, something that I am happy to do.

    Going into this film I admit I had some apprehension, mostly due to its nearly three hour runtime. The thing is, even with good movies, once we've passed the two hour mark I tend to start getting restless. It's just a long time to sit and do one thing.

    However, I have to say, despite its length I felt like this movie moved along at a fairly brisk pace. That is to say, I was never really bored and the time passed by in an acceptable way. It reminds me of Lawrence of Arabia in that sense. Lawrence is another movie that is quite long but it doesn't FEEL nearly as long as it is. It's interesting because just a couple of weeks ago we watched Enter the Void, which is just about as long as Ran, but that movie really feels much longer.

    King Lear spun as a Samurai epic. Now that is an interesting idea, but I could see how it could work. And it opens up the question of what other grand tales are out there in other lands that could be recast in Western settings.

    First off, I have to say that the movie is beautiful with some really striking shots. It's interesting to note from the trivia that Kurosawa's eyesight was failing him so badly at this time that he didn't even really know exactly what he was shooting. That's a rough position for a director to get into. But thankfully the storyboards combined with good assistants were able to pull this thing together in a way that conveyed enormous artistry.

    Second, the story . . . man, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I tend to prefer stories that end on something of a high note. This one clearly did not, but I nonetheless was pretty locked in all the way through. It touches on some interesting themes.

    An interesting thing is that as soon as the Great Lord abdicates--like literally in the very same conversation--his sons acting like assholes commences. I would expect there to be some delay, some brief period of rest before things grow out of control, but here, no, shit goes badly IMMEDIATELY. Like at the very moment that power is being handed over shit is already out of control and it just continues to grow ever more so.

    And as this begins, and as our Great Lord is put out to pasture and treated like shit by his sons, the question hangs in the air: Does he deserve it? After all, the film makes clear that he's not actually a very good dude. He's murdered innocent people, burned down family homes, blinded young boys, and so on. However, now as he nears the end of his life he is beginning to re-think things and is beginning to realize that he made some mistakes. And this makes the viewer sympathize with him, and of course just as we begin to do that, THAT'S when shit goes south for him.

    I was hoping for something resembling a positive ending. When Saburo and Hidetora were on the horse talking about all the things they will discuss together, I was really hoping that we would make it to that discussion. But of course that didn't happen. And the final image with the blind young Lord standing on the edge of the cliff is just fucking haunting. HAUNTING! He lost nearly everything at the beginning of his life, and now he has in fact lost everything. There is nothing left for him.

    Lastly I just need to talk about Lady Kaede.

    WHAT. A. CUNT.

    And I'm saying that while recognizing, on some level, that there's some justification for her actions. After all, everything was taken from her when she was young and now she wants to return the favor. Okay, got it. But ordering the execution of innocents is a pretty shitty way to go about it and it's pretty obvious that she is nothing but a bundle of manipulation. She is the kind of character you see on screen and then say, "Fuck it, I am never getting married!"

    All in, I thought this was quite a good movie. Did I enjoy it as much as Rashomon, which is almost its opposite in the sense that that is a very small, confined tale? I probably did. They are both great films, but great in different ways. And enjoyable in different ways.

    8.5/10
     
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  16. Guestx

    Guestx Guest

    I'll also mention a certain religious element to the film. Especially near the end, the idea of doubt is introduced.

    Do the gods even hear us? Is there some Buddha who cares?

    It's interesting to think that, much as members of the Judeo-Christian faith sometimes do, Buddhists sit around going, "Is this all bullshit? Is this whole thing something someone made up?"

    It's an interesting thought.
     
  17. Coolthulu

    Coolthulu Green Belt

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    That battle scene & the way it was scored was a marvel to behold.

    Oh & the 4K restored version makes everything on screen look so vivid and breathtaking. Kurosawa's feel for color tone and composition are simply astonishing.......I mean.....

    [​IMG]
     
  18. MusterX

    MusterX Titanium Belt

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    It was a nice touch to see all the different colored banners and flags. It was like a giant game of paintball or something. Makes me wonder if the armies of that time and location actually wore colored flags on their back or if that was just done for the movie. It basically made it so you could identify each faction in a large crowd.
     
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  19. Coolthulu

    Coolthulu Green Belt

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    [​IMG]
     
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  20. Zer

    Zer Gold Belt

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    There's a series of PC games dealing with Shogun-era battles where the different clans are associated with different colours, like in Ran



    We got a film and a video game doing it so it must be accurate
     
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