A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)

Jinpachi Nezu and Mieko Harada in Ran
Lord Hidetora Ichimonji: Tatsuya Nakadai
Taro Takatora Ichimonji: Akira Terao
Jiro Masatora Ichimonji: Jinpachi Nezu
Saburo Naotora Ichimonji: Daisuke Ryo
Lady Kaede: Mieko Harada
Lady Sué: Yoshiko Miyazaki
Shuri Kurogane: Hisashi Igawa
Kyoami: Pîtâ
Tango Hirayama: Masayuki Yui

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Screenplay: Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Masato Ide
Based on a play by William Shakespeare
Cinematography: Asakazu Nakai, Takao Saito, Shoji Ueda
Production design: Shinobu Muraki, Yoshiro Muraki
Film editing: Akira Kurosawa
Music: Toru Takemitsu
Costume design: Emi Wada

Lavish in color and pattern, Ran may be Akira Kurosawa's most pictorial film, to the point that the images and costumes and sets sometimes threaten to overwhelm the human drama at its core. To the extent that this is Kurosawa's second effort at translating a Shakespeare play into medieval Japanese terms, I have to say that I prefer his adaptation of Macbeth, the 1957 Throne of Blood, to this reworking of King Lear. It seems to me that in Ran, Kurosawa stumbles over the analogous figures from Shakespeare in ways that he doesn't in his earlier film. Turning Lear's daughters into Hidetora's sons robs much of the delicacy and painful sadness of the Shakespeare play, especially in the final reunion of Lear and Cordelia. And King Lear is a more complex play than Macbeth, with its intricate subplot involving Gloucester and his sons, and the multiple intrigues of the households of Goneril and Regan. Kurosawa has pared down and fused some of these secondary stories, but he still loses sight at times of his central figure, the Lear analog, Lord Hidetora. Tatsuya Nakadai is unquestionably one of the world's great film actors, but he's too sturdy a figure for the enfeebled Hidetora, and the stylized old-age makeup often hides his features -- except for the great, glaring eyes. There are grand things, however, in the film, including a wonderfully villainous performance by Mieko Harada as the Lady Kaede, and a curiously effective Fool, performed by the androgynous actor-dancer known as Pîtâ.

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