The Personal Recommendation Hall of Fame III: Foreign Language Edition

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RAN
(1985, Kurosawa)
A film from the Criterion Collection whose number includes the #3



"Men always travel the same road"

Spanish poet and philosopher George Santayana once wrote "Those that don't remember their history are cursed to repeat it". In other words, we need to learn from our mistakes as human beings and as a society, in order to not repeat them again and again. Unfortunately, we either forget, or think we're above those mistakes and that we will never trip over them again, only to find ourselves face flat next. That sentiment lies in the background of Akira Kurosawa's 1985 epic.

Set in Medieval Japan, Ran follows Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai), an aging warlord that decides to retire and hand over his empire to his three sons: Taro, Jiro, and Saburo. Unfortunately, he doesn't count on how the thirst for power will corrupt and ultimately destroy their family and the kingdom. As chaos ravages the land, Hidetora starts to lose his sanity, but still finds himself realizing that much of what's happening is a direct result of his past actions and mistakes.

This is a film that I've had on my radar for decades. Even when I was a teenager starting to get into film, I used to be drawn to its box cover which featured the iconic scene with the castle engulfed in flames. For some reason, I never got around to it, and when I started diving into Kurosawa films as an adult, some people suggested for me to start with "lighter" films and leave Ran for later. After watching four other Kurosawa films during the last decade, I thought it was about time.

There are many things that I could say about the film. It is definitely an epic in all its spectacle and scope. The setpieces are breathtaking and grandiose, the set and production design is perfect, and Kurosawa's direction is pretty much flawless. His framing and use of color and symmetry on the shots is so gorgeous that you want to take them and put them on a wall. In addition, Kurosawa uses numerous shots of nature, from the mountains and clouds to the chilling last shot, perhaps in an attempt to contrast the beauty and order of nature against the chaos ("ran") of humanity's struggles and wars.

Because Ran is a film of chaos despite all efforts. Hidetora has lived all his life building his kingdom, and for the most part has managed to avoid the consequences of the actions of his past. But as he realizes towards the middle of the film, as he finds himself in the ruins of a castle he once destroyed, men always travel the same road. Hidetora realizes that the ruthlessness with which he ruled is the same ruthlessness that he's seeing in his sons right now, and that the revenge he's being served right now is the direct effect of his own actions.

The performance from Nakadai is a spectacle in and of itself, as we see the mental and physical decay conveyed through his expressions, his makeup, and his body language. Jinpachi Nezu and Daisuke Ryu are also great as Jiro and Saburo, but Mieko Harada easily steals every scene she's in as Lady Kaede, the cunning wife of Taro. Kudos also to Peter, who plays Hidetora's fool and who probably has one of the most interesting arcs and certainl the best lines (including the above quote).

This film has certainly jumped at the top of my Kurosawa ranking, and is easily one of the most gorgeous films I've ever seen. It has surely joined the list of films I would love to see on the big screen at least once. I've only just seen it, but I would have no issues traveling this road again. A big thank you to whoever recommended this.

Grade:
__________________
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I was fortunate to have someone pick Ran for me in the last Personal Rec HoF. This time around I've got Kagemusha.
I'm at 5 Kurosawa films and I've liked/loved them all. Look forward to more of his stuff.



Allaby's Avatar
Guy who likes movies
I've seen 13 Kurosawa films now and they were all good-great. Four of them I gave a perfect 10/10 rating to and the lowest rating I gave to a Kurosawa film was a 7/10.



Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?
@edarsenal Cool that you watched The Earrings of Madame De. . . (1953), glad you liked it, and it sounds like you liked it more than I even did.
I may have.
As I've said, I was inquisitive about it when I was searching for films earlier this year. So it was your review followed by sean's positive praise that renewed my curiosity for yet another potential favorite and a serious contender for my Countdown List.
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- This is one of those films where I liked it on first viewing but I feel like watching it again might actually make me dislike it, but that's pretentious existentialism for you.



Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?
These coinciding HoFs have been a buffet for Kurosawa films for those of us that love him but are seriously missing out on those films.
Great review, BTW @Thief!



A Man Escaped



This film was pretty dry to me. I didn't feel like I really cared about what was going on, specifically no real care about the fate of Fontaine. Never really felt he was in danger of making his escape, which to me really made the film suffer as I basically knew the outcome and also didn't really have a rooting interest for it either. How could this have been rectified? Perhaps a decent backstory or maybe just more emotion for the lead character. This is something that is pretty apparent in all Bresson films although I found a few to be decent. I don't think it's a poorly constructed film but it just doesn't bring any excitement or suspense to me. Which in a film like this I would say is a pretty key point to hit. Just really not my kind of film to be honest unfortunately.




A Man Escaped

This film was pretty dry to me. I didn't feel like I really cared about what was going on, specifically no real care about the fate of Fontaine. Never really felt he was in danger of making his escape, which to me really made the film suffer as I basically knew the outcome and also didn't really have a rooting interest for it either. How could this have been rectified? Perhaps a decent backstory or maybe just more emotion for the lead character. This is something that is pretty apparent in all Bresson films although I found a few to be decent. I don't think it's a poorly constructed film but it just doesn't bring any excitement or suspense to me. Which in a film like this I would say is a pretty key point to hit. Just really not my kind of film to be honest unfortunately.
That about sums up how I feel, no emotions and no involvement in the story from me.

Hmm, how many recommendations for A Man Escaped were there?
Three. Me, Raul and Edarsenal. Perhaps Ed will be a fan?



I may check out A Man Escaped, since I have to wait forever for you all to finish.



The trick is not minding
So annoyed. Out of all the Kurosawa films my local rental had (Stray Dogs, The Hidden Fortress, Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Throne of Blood). They donít have Drunken Angel nor High and Low.
Also, no Harakiri. No The Last Emperor. No Persona!
*flips table*

Well, at least I can rent some of these on Amazon.



So annoyed. Out of all the Kurosawa films my local rental had (Stray Dogs, The Hidden Fortress, Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Throne of Blood). They donít have Drunken Angel nor High and Low.
Also, no Harakiri. No The Last Emperor. No Persona!
*flips table*

Well, at least I can rent some of these on Amazon.
I don't know what streaming services you have, but most of those are available on The Criterion Channel, with the exception of The Last Emperor, which is on HBO Max (Persona is on both)*

* at least according to JustWatch.com



The trick is not minding
I don't know what streaming services you have, but most of those are available on The Criterion Channel, with the exception of The Last Emperor, which is on HBO Max (Persona is on both)*

* at least according to JustWatch.com
I have Amazon Prime and Hulu. Someday I plan on adding Criterion



You can do what I do sometimes. Just use any email to start a free trial and see as much as you can as long as it lasts.



Hmm, how many recommendations for A Man Escaped were there?
I'm finding the tepid reactions to it pretty puzzling, to be honest. I thought it was pretty fantastic and brought to light the way that the survival of so many people who did manage to escape such circumstances hinged on so much luck and trust and bravery.



Watched A Man Escaped. Dry, like all Bresson I have seen so far. I like the methodical nature in a prison break scenario. I definitely got invested in the outcome. Best Bresson of the three I have seen so far.

I will give a star rating since itís not an official HOF watch.



I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
I liked A Man Escaped when I saw it. I didn't nominate it for anyone though.

@CitizenRules I picked The Earrings of Madame de... for you as I believe you liked Letter From an Unknown Woman.

@Thief I picked Ran for you because it is great and everyone should see it, plus I think you liked some other Kurosawa films. I really like the use of colour in Ran, which is interesting as a good deal of his films are black and white.




Gate of Hell (1953)
Dir. Teinosuke Kinugasa

Pretty much a middle of the road movie for me. No major flaws, nothing to complain about. The cinematography and sets were good but not amazing. The story was effective and probably resonated with Japanese audiences of the 1950s.

The one aspect of the film that did excel was the casting choices of the principal characters.



The actor (Isao Yamagata) who played the brutish, stalker samurai in love with a married woman, who's willing to kill to obtain her, was well cast and well performed. The actor extruded a dangerous obsession and was quite threatening in his performance.




In counter-balance the actor (Isao Yamagata ) who played the honorable husband of the pursued wife, was calm, wise and supportive of his wife. He also was well cast.



Machiko KyŰ portrays the married lady-in-waiting in the Emperor's court. She's loyal and delicate, but also very strong when needed to be. She had this unique look about her that made the actions of the evil samurai believable. Machiko KyŰ also starred in Rashomon.

Somehow I'm thinking the film might've been more effective in black and white. As an aside: I'm not sure what the samurai husband meant by saying 'if she had only trusted me'? He repeated that several times at the end of the film.

BTW: I like that font I used on the photos it's called: SF Orson Casual Shaded.
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