ran kurosawa
World Cinema

Ran directed by Akira Kurosawa

ran01rv6 One is usually very careful when writing a review of a movie that you have heard of for years and which is generally considered a masterpiece. You are already prejudiced by what has been written and spoken of before by people who have supposed superiority on these matters…

I however, have tried to see this as objectively as possible, trying to drive out of my mind that it is a Kurosawa film i am seeing. Its not easy but i try anyway…

Its a film that is inspired by King Lear – in this case the story of the fall of a fearsome but ageing warlord (Hidetora Ichimonji) who gives up power and divides it among his sons. However he soon finds himself an outcast and at the receiving end of the ambitions of his two sons (he banishes the third, Saburo, when he opposes the plan of division). Humiliation and indignity follows…

He soon finds himself alone, defeated in treachery, his bodyguard killedcastleburnranev4 and is himself not killed because he is considered insane. Beset by horrors of the ghosts of his past actions, the fearsome warlord at the start of the movie becomes a helpless senile invalid, who regains his sanity at times only to fear the unseen ghosts around him and relapsing into the gibbering safety of insanity.

However the third son comes back to claim his father and take him back, thereby triggering a war of intrigue, which in the end results in the complete destruction of the Ichimonji family.

But what is a Kurosawa film if not constantly grey in its outlook. There are no black and white characters. The cruel becomes victims of cruelty, the betrayer is betrayed, the victim of yesterday mimics the oppressor. There is no moral absolute.

“Who is to be pitied?” is something that you wonder by the time the movie ends…the ones who are being carried to the pyre, the one who is ran2 left alone and helpless on the fort top or the one is who executed after her revenge is complete…and then you realize the answer is in the movie itself – this is the just the way it is or as the jester says – “Man is born to cry…when he has cried enough, he dies”…

There are some wonderfully complex characters – Lady Kaede, Kyoami and Hidetora himself, who gave flesh to the story, the theme of which is as old as ambition itself.

And what is a Kurosawa samurai film without the action? The film dwells on the increasing power of firearms, which in turn heralded the ran01 end of face to face combat and which foreshadowed the end of the Samurai as the  master of the field. As the climax showed, it doesn't matter who you are, as a peasant with a gun can kill you from afar. War, itself, as a force that destroys everything is something that is shown again and again – in action, in words and in parables…and the action sequences are incredible even by today’s computerized cinematic standards…

 

 

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Zatoichi-jpg
World Cinema

Zatoichi directed by Takeshi Kitano

zatoichi 2 A typical commercial samurai themed movie with expected elements – great fighters, rival gangs, revenge angle and a few dunderheads to give some comic moments…

The main draw for the movie would be Zatoichi – an enigmatic swordmaster who is blind and nearing old age, walking with a twaddle and almost looks like a person you would want to help across the street…but boy, the way he draws the sword and fights – its awe-inspiring. He fights almost as an afterthought, as if he is taking a stroll and slashing people charging at him absentmindedly. His face changes no expression other than a slight twitch, as if he is sniffing from cold. When he fights, its a treat to watch. Nothing comes close to him – even the bodyguard who can kill dozens of men without breaking a sweat. Their contest lasts one slash!!!

Other than this, there is nothing to watch in this movie. It will never be a samurai classic. There is no depth in the characters even though thezatoichi director tries his hardest to run some parallel stories in a an attempt to tweak at some hearts. The threads of the stories never come into full formation. The only thing remotely interesting is the background of Zatoichi – whom we understand is a mysterious master, a legend whom people know only by name. Other than that, there is nothing revealed, especially why he is also interested in killing off the gang of criminals. The revenge angle held promise but more or less falls flat as we move on in the movie…

A movie to be watched when one is bored and wants to see some fantastic swordplay, samurai style…especially from Zatoichi

zatoichiHattori

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