by Donald Melanson
| Ran was Akira Kurosawa’s second and final
Shakespeare adaptation, transposing King Lear to sixteenth-century
Japan almost thirty years after the director reimagined Macbeth
with his masterful Throne
Both films are purely cinematic visions, which is something
that can’t be said for many Shakespeare adaptations. They also
provide an interesting counterpoint to one another; Throne
of Blood existing in a world of fog and stark black-and-white
imagery, and Ran filled with color and stunning, often sparse
landscapes. Both films, however, feature some spectacular set
pieces, which still rival and even surpass almost anything seen
in the big budget epics of the past few years (just take a look
at that still above for a case in point).
The Criterion Collection’s new two-disc set surely ranks among
the best they have done. In addition to picture and sound that
put the previous releases of Ran to shame, the set includes
enough supplemental material to please even the most demanding
To start with, the first disc features a video introduction by
Sidney Lumet, an audio commentary by film scholar Stephen Prince,
and some theatrical trailers. The second disc has the bulk of
the extras, with a 30-minute documentary on the making of Ran
(taken from the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It
Is Wonderful To Create), a 35-minute video piece from the
series Image: Kurosawa’s Continuity, which reconstructs
Ran through Kurosawa’s paintings and sketches, as well
as a new video interview with actor Tatsuya Nakadai.
But the best supplement really isn’t really a "supplement" at
all -- it is Chris Marker’s feature-length documentary A.K.,
which was filmed during the making of Ran. Criterion could
have released it on its own and plenty of people likely would
have paid full price for it.
Also worth noting is the wonderful 28-page booklet included
with the DVD, which is something often treated as an afterthought
by most studios, if they include one at all. This one features
an essay by film critic Michael Wilmington and interviews with
Kurosawa and composer Toru Takemitsu.
The hefty Criterion price tag may seem a bit high for some,
but this is essential cinema, presented as it should be, and deserves
a place in as many film enthusiasts' collections as possible.
Donald Melanson is the
editor-in-chief of Mindjack and a freelance writer and journalist.
In addition to Mindjack, his work has appeared in The
Globe & Mail, Engadget,
and MovieMaker Magazine,
among other publications.