Deciphering the Invisible, Vol. 1: Ran

I’ve decided to create a series revolving around Invisible Cinema (because I love it so much). Invisible Cinema is any voyeur’s dream come true since it’s an independent DVD/Video rental store that specializes in Art House, International, Hollywood, Independent, Classical Cinema, Criterion Collection, Documentaries, Cult Cinema and Cinema Erotika (everything). Their collection is quite impressive and every time I visit it, I drool. So I wouldn’t be suprised if a film novice became overwhelmed by the collection; thus I’ve decided to create this series to make my and your life easier. Welcome to Deciphering the Invisible where a film rented from Invisible Cinema get’s reviewed!

This week’s review was taken off their newly released shelf. I tend to stalk film critics on twitter and as soon as this film was released on the Blue-Ray criterion collection, twitter exploded. Every critic was raving about how amazing this recently restored film was to your eyesight. I had held off from watching it, since back home I, a) lacked a blue-ray player and b), well no b, I just lacked a blue-ray player. So imagine my excitement when I walked into Invisible Cinema a couple of weeks ago and found Ran on their shelf (and now having access to a Blue-Ray player). The time had come.

Ran, a film by Akira Kurosawa, tells the story of the fall of the Ichimonji clan. The film has everything from betrayal, murder, vicious women, epic battle scenes to tender moments between father and son. Ran does run a bit on the long side (162 mins) but I promise you it is worth it. So make yourself a lovely dinner, enjoy it before hand, because the only thing that can distract you during this film is the nice bottle of wine left over from your nice meal. The wine will be a great companion to the beautiful images that Kurosawa has constructed, just wait until you get to the first battle scene!

Knowlege is never a terrible thing so here are a couple of pointers before viewing Ran:

1. It is a reinterpretation of King Lear but devoid of Shaskespear’s tragic cathartis. The two follow the story of an aging warlord; who suffers the consequences of dividing up his kingdom to his offspring before his own death.

2. It has elements of Noh theater within the character of Hidetora. Both  Tatsuya Nakadai’s (Hidetora) make-up and acting style are derived from elements of Noh theatre. Nakadai’s heavy make-up parallels that of an emotive Noh mask. His acting style of long static movements of silence juxtaposed with violent, feverish movements is also indicative of Noh.

3. Ran is unlike the Seven Samurai where instead of showing love Kurosawa treats his characters mercilessly and produces a more pessimistic outlook on human nature. Kurosawa has been known to say that one of the subjects within Ran is the threat of nuclear war. Although, this viewer couldn’t really see that, the film does have a feel of high anxiety (will Hidetora ever come out of his madness?). The film does depict the darker side of humanity, considering that most of its characters are corrupt, greedy and vengeful. The film is a tad on the dark side….

4. The battle scenes are mostly composed of long shots and have very few close-ups. The director’s signature of using three cameras simultaneously is erased and editing becomings invisible. The battle scenes are composed to remove the viewer from them. Unlike other Kurosawa battle scenes, like in Seven Samurai, you are not in the thick of it. Ran’s  battle scenes are shot from a distance and in a continuous take so the viewer becomes spectator; which is nice, considering this allows you to remove yourself from the madness.

5. Kyoami will become your favorite character. You’ll see why within the first five minutes of the film.

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