Watching Kurosawa

29 October, 2018

A couple of nights back, I was battling jet lag after a recent trip oversears and was feeling like a sloth. So what did I decide to do? Watch a movie, of course.

I dug into my collection of DVDs (you remember what those are, don’t you?) and, lo and behold, what did I find? A copy of Ran. I slipped the DVD into the player and my eyes were glued to the screen.

I was as rapt with Ran those couple of nights ago as I was when I first saw it at the Roxy Theatre on Danforth Avenue in Toronto back in the 1980s.

Ran, if you don’t know, is a film by Akira Kurosawa that’s based on Shakespeare’s King Lear. It’s a powerful film, and I consider it to be Kurosawa’s last great one.

I’ve been a fan of Kurosawa’s since I was a teen and Ran is one of the reasons why. If you watch the film closely, you’ll see all of Kurosawa’s signature elements: the influence of kabuki, the framing and composition of shots, the lack of use of panning and zoom. It’s not that the old master was feeding off his previous work. It was more of a recapitulation, a demonstration of technique and storytelling.

Each time I watch Ran, I feel like I’m right there. A silent witness to the fracture and implosion of the House of Ichimonji. There are scenes that still tear at my heart. There are scenes that still shock me. There is cinematography that just amazes me.

Most of all, Ran makes me grateful that a director like Kurosawa was able to bring stories like this to the screen and to the world

Scott Nesbitt