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Length:2 Hours 40 Minutes
Cast:Akira Kurosawa, Tatsuya Nakadai, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu

Akira Kurosawa's last great period film may also be his grandest. While not as innovative as Rashomon or The Seven Samurai and not as lean as Yojimbo or Throne of Blood, 1985's Ran (literally translated, "Chaos") is a film utterly colossal in both conception and execution. Loosely based on Shakespeare's King Lear, the story follows the tragic chain of events set in motion after the aging warlord Hidetora (Tatsuya Nakadai) divides his hard-won kingdom among his sons. Warfare and treachery follow -- the latter instigated by the vengeful Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada) -- as the exiled and hunted Hidetora confronts the ghosts of his bloody past. Kurosawa injects the Western source material with Buddhist perspectives on redemption and forgiveness while capturing the proceedings with dazzling visuals that are both beautiful and horrific. No less attention has gone into the performances: Nakadai's haunted Hidetora and Harada's spiderlike Kaede rank as some of the most unforgettable creations in the director's oeuvre. With enough gripping human drama to match the colossal size of its battle scenes, Ran is not merely one of Kurosawa's grandest accomplishments but one of cinema's as well. Volk Lindsay

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