316 Ran

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)

#201 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Aug 19, 2015 9:45 pm

Ran has long been "marketed" as a masterful adaptation of Lear. Did Kurosawa intend this marketing? I don't know, but it had (and has) an impact on (at least) my reception of the film. In any event, it covers somewhat similar territory -- and is far less effective in doing so. Throne of Blood, on the other hand, strikes me as a very interesting gloss on Macbeth (and the themes underlying Macbeth). And I also enjoy AK's (very loose) variation on a theme of Hamlet.

The "story" in Ran -- insofar as I can assess it on its own -- strikes me as pretty uninteresting in its own right (but perhaps I just have little interest in this sort of historical epic in general). In terms of Japanese (VERY loose) adaptations of Lear, I will take Shimazu's (modern business world setting) 1931 version -- Ai yo jinrui to tomo ni are (sorry, not aware of any remotely adequate English title translation). Interestingly, this also gives its protagonist male progeny.

(Also kudos to sloper)

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Re: Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)

#202 Post by Sloper » Sun Aug 23, 2015 12:14 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:There is a constant theme in the movie: those who try to create order out of chaos fall victim to chaos: Hidetora, Sue, Saburo, Kurogane, ect. I think this pattern is too large to be explained by Hidetora's hinted-at past cruelties. Nor does it conform to the morality of choice since we are not privy to his bad choices (and his good choices are meaningless). I find it makes more sense if you agree with Kyaomi and understand the cruelty and chaos of the characters to be the natural state of the world, a state that has been true long before Hidetora existed and will continue long afterwards. All human attempts to repair such a broken world are doomed to failure.
I think this is a very persuasive reading of the film, and agree that it's too straightforward to simply attribute all the tragic events to Hidetora's past cruelties.

I'm not sure I agree that these cruelties are as 'taken for granted' as you suggest, as it seems to me they are spelt out quite clearly at various times by Hidetora himself, by Saburo, Kyoami, Kaede, Tsurumaru, and implicitly by Tsurumaru's burnt-out castle, which is perhaps the most symbolically important location in the film. Those past events are mentioned sufficiently often to make the Third Castle massacre come across (to me) as an illustration of the kind of thing Hidetora has inflicted on the world in the past, but to which he is now a horrified spectator.

And I do think that Saburo's death has a moral significance, in a way that Cordelia's doesn't. The death of an innocent son (or daughter) as punishment for the parent's crimes is a trope that is familiar from Greek tragedy: Creon's cruelty towards Antigone, Jason's towards Medea, or Theseus' to his own son (under the influence of Phaedra) are good examples. In those contexts, the punishment-via-offspring often comes across as divine vengeance upon sinful humanity, but in the case of Ran, I think Kurosawa makes it very clear that these events result directly from willed human action, and that no higher forces are involved. The senselessness of Cordelia's death is thrown into relief by Edmund's attempt to countermand his own order; in Ran, it's clear that Jiro has no such capacity for repentance, and in any case his whole enterprise is essentially dictated by Kaede. The death of Saburo isn't fate, it's just the fulfilment of a very human revenge plot, and one that Hidetora had unwittingly set in motion.

So while I agree with you that the 'chaos' we see unleashed in this film stems from something more generalised and pervasive than the crimes of a single war-lord, I disagree that it represents 'the natural state of the world'. It is, as Tango says, the natural (or at least current) state of humanity. Colin mentioned the moment when the sun-emblem on the back of Taro's shirt is exploded by a gunshot, and this is a very significant image: Taro is dressed in resplendent yellow because, as the head of the clan, he represents the golden 'sun'; but then that sun erupts with red blood (red being the colour of the more brutal Jiro). Jiro's emblem is a crescent moon, hinting at the transience of the other emblem's glory. Earlier I suggested an equivalence between the Ichimonji sun-emblem and the real sun, beating mercilessly down on the characters, but in fact I think the natural world itself is represented in a slightly more benign, or at least neutral, way in this film. In the massacre sequence, the sun appears to be looking down in sorrow on human cruelty, peering from behind the clouds as if it can hardly bear to look (reminds me of Lady Macbeth: 'nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark to cry "Hold, hold!"').

Hidetora is indeed just a symptom of a larger tendency, deeply embedded in human nature - but he isn't nature itself. When he first finds himself out in the wilderness, there is an almost comical distinction between the blazing sun that fills the frame in one shot, and the now rather tacky-looking golden emblem we see beside him in the one following. I think this suggests that the grand claims made by his emblem - 'the Ichimonji clan = the sun' - are exposed as the empty boasts of a merely human war-monger, who turns out to be just one among many (actual and potential) war-mongers.

(Incidentally, I wonder what we should make of Saburo's emblem, which I think is a half-moon. Perhaps a development of Jiro's crescent moon, a suggestion of renewal - the waxing after the waning? I know such sun / star / moon symbols and combinations are common, so perhaps Kurosawa was drawing on historical emblems here.)

I can understand why you see the film as nihilistic, and much of the time it does seem to suggest that even attempts at goodness are futile in a world like this one. But because I see it as focused on human cruelty, I also think it holds out a hope for redemption, if only implicitly. Perhaps the survival of Kyoami and Tango doesn't count for much... However, I do feel that in showing us this bleak portrait of human atrocities, the film is exhorting us (in quite a preachy way) to behave otherwise in our own time. It's saying that by committing to the path of violence and cruelty, as we so often do, we unleash a form of chaos so unstoppable that it will forestall any possibility of redemption.
colinr0380 wrote:Kagemusha feels like the key companion piece here in the way that in the journey of the thief chosen to double for the dead lord we experience a narrative from both the inside and the outside. We see the thief growing into his role and in some ways losing himself to the fantasy of belonging to a clan, especially in the relationship with the grandson. Then when the deception is uncovered he is ejected from that world and has to look on with the rest of the peasants at the final apocalyptic events of the play, shown in no uncertain terms that he was never a true part of the world despite his belated suicidal charge into battle waving the banner in the final scene of the film before being gunned down, his body pushed along with the flow of the river while the banner remains...
Kagemusha feels as if it deals with this aspect of advisors even more pointedly, to the extent of suggesting simultaneously that the Lord is both more than human, in that he holds all of the fates of his people in his hands, and relatively interchangeable! Ensuring the stability of the figurehead is more important than any particularly pro-active leader!
Mr Sausage wrote:I think the nihilism of Kagemusha comes from the way it's revealed that these vast, ordering structures that give meaning and purpose to all the lives within them are built on fabrications. So long as one believes in the fabrication, ie. kingship (whether in a family member to whom it was passed down or a beggar posing as one), the whole structure can continue to function. But ultimately the structure, with all its attendant meaning, cannot be reduced down to some stable, inherent idea or principle. At the centre is a shadow; meanings and values are built on a shadow.
I just re-watched Kagemusha, and I have to say I find it much harder to interpret than Ran. Shingen seems infinitely more self-aware than Hidetora, and his confession at the start (when he admits that he banished his own father and murdered his own son) indicates that his cruelties have been cold-blooded and calculating, but designed to maintain stability and order, rather than the actions of a power-hungry megalomaniac. In other words, he's staving off the pervasive chaos that Mr Sausage emphasised above, though again here I think it's a very human-centred understanding of such chaos.

Indeed, Shingen's own cruelties are not only less appalling than Hidetora's (if Katsuyori is representative of the rest of the family, perhaps Shingen's treatment of his father and son were politically necessary actions...), but in fact seem designed to prevent further suffering and conflict. There's a similarly cold-blooded rationality at work in the killing of any witnesses to the death of Shingen in the palanquin, and the way the thief moves from railing at the lord's injustices to promoting his cause, even at the cost of his own life, suggests a valorisation of these methods, and a much less sentimental, much more hard-nosed point of view than we get in Ran.

The thief does turn out to be just as good a leader as the real Shingen was; I don't think this indicates that the leaders are interchangeable, but rather that Shingen's artful management techniques (adopted by his replacement) are effective. The thief makes a good 'mountain' because, like Shingen, he has something in him that enables him to embody that kind of strength; Katsuyori, occupying the same role, does a horrible job. As in Ran, we have a world that is always teetering on the edge of chaos. Such chaos can be withheld temporarily by a sensible ruler, but there will always be a Katsuyori waiting to step in and undo all that good work. Unlike in the later film, the problem here seems to be a lack of political wisdom, rather than a lack of compassion. But as I say, I find it quite a confusing film, and feel I may be missing some crucial part of its message, or over-simplifying that message.

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Re: Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)

#203 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Aug 23, 2015 1:16 pm

Unlike Ran, I have mixed feelings on Kagemusha. Especially in the first half or so, there was a lot I liked about it. As it got more and more into battle scenes, however, I lost interest.

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Re: 316 Ran

#204 Post by Drucker » Mon Aug 24, 2015 9:06 am

I know this could get lost in the fray, since we are discussing it this week for Film Club, but a new restoration of Ran was announced for this year's New York Film Festival. The restoration is listed as: Restoration by StudioCanal with the participation of Kadokawa Pictures. A Rialto Pictures release. I asked on Twitter, and they seem to indicate that this is a new restoration. Perhaps this is being re-released with an improved restoration, a la The Third Man, which would be splendid.

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Re: 316 Ran

#205 Post by FrauBlucher » Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:21 am


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Re: 316 Ran

#206 Post by Drucker » Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:21 am

Wow, that screenshot alone looks fantastic.

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Re: 316 Ran

#207 Post by FrauBlucher » Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:23 am

I really hope Criterion and Studio Canal can work something out for CC to release it.

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Re: 316 Ran

#208 Post by criterionsnob » Tue Jan 05, 2016 7:07 pm

There's a Janus logo in this blu-ray.com story, but no Janus logo on the 4K Ran re-release poster. Maybe just a mistake by blu-ray.com?

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Re: 316 Ran

#209 Post by RyanGallagher » Tue Jan 05, 2016 7:34 pm

criterionsnob wrote:There's a Janus logo in this blu-ray.com story, but no Janus logo on the 4K Ran re-release poster. Maybe just a mistake by blu-ray.com?
I think it was a mistake on their part. There's nothing to indicate in the trailer or on the Rialto page that they're working with Janus on this tour.

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Re: 316 Ran

#210 Post by FrauBlucher » Tue Jan 05, 2016 8:20 pm

Sad to say that the Janus logo has been removed from the bluray.com story.

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Re: 316 Ran

#211 Post by Emilio » Wed Jan 06, 2016 12:16 pm

Recently I've attended a screening of the 4K restauration: best presentation I have ever seen, and heard. It is awesome.

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Re: 316 Ran

#212 Post by der_Artur » Thu Jul 21, 2016 8:40 am

I couldn't find a thread where the new print is discussed in more detail so I'll ask here what the boards opinion regarding the new 4K transfer on the Studio Canal Blu from May 2016 is. It once again looks quite different than previous releases but that look rather pleasant. On the other hand, reading the comments in the Muriel thread, a pleasant picture quality does not mean it also is accurate.

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Re: 316 Ran

#213 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jul 21, 2016 8:54 am

der_Artur wrote:I couldn't find a thread where the new print is discussed in more detail so I'll ask here what the boards opinion regarding the new 4K transfer on the Studio Canal Blu from May 2016 is. It once again looks quite different than previous releases but that look rather pleasant. On the other hand, reading the comments in the Muriel thread, a pleasant picture quality does not mean it also is accurate.
One of the people who signed off on the restoration was one of the original cinematographers. His colleagues and Kurosawa are all dead, so there's no better living authority on what the film should look like.

Granted, that doesn't necessarily mean that it looks the same as it did in 1985, but who's to say that that was necessarily "correct"? There are plenty of cases of films not turning out the way that their directors/cinematographers intended due to last-minute budgetary/deadline/filmstock issues.

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Re: 316 Ran

#214 Post by der_Artur » Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:33 am

MichaelB wrote:Granted, that doesn't necessarily mean that it looks the same as it did in 1985, but who's to say that that was necessarily "correct"?
Thank you, Michael! You are totally right, often the first result does not represent the original vision - and sometimes we have to realize that the original vision is not as good as the first result, as happened (top of my head) with Storaro's re-framing decisions on "Apocalypse Now". But I think here the result is fully satisfying.
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Re: 316 Ran

#215 Post by tenia » Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:49 am

The main reason behind the discussion over Ran's "new" color-grading is that it follows a certain number of movies which weren't expected suddenly to all have the same kind of "yellowish with dull blacks" photography. The movies concerned range from so many different countries, DoP, directors and year of shooting that it's rather counter-intuitive to expect them to all look the same, especially when they never did for at least 15 years.

On the other end, there are some restoration houses that looks like whichever movies are restored there, they all end up with this similar "yellowish with dull blacks" photography.

Not saying it's wrong or unfaithful. Just that it's... weird.

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Re: 316 Ran

#216 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:54 am

MichaelB wrote:One of the people who signed off on the restoration was one of the original cinematographers. His colleagues and Kurosawa are all dead, so there's no better living authority on what the film should look like.

Granted, that doesn't necessarily mean that it looks the same as it did in 1985, but who's to say that that was necessarily "correct"? There are plenty of cases of films not turning out the way that their directors/cinematographers intended due to last-minute budgetary/deadline/filmstock issues.
Michael, did he sit in on the color timing (in which case, he was able to see a straight transfer of the film and then either dictate decisions or see what choices the colorist made each step of the way), or did he just see the finished result and sign off on it?

Anyway, for a film of this vintage, if the director or DP is still around, any reissue producer will want them to approve the final result, that's a given, and you are absolutely right, if something was compromised in the original timing due to, say, budget issues, they will welcome the chance to correct that, but I really think it's different from a case-by-case basis.

I mentioned on this forum how Mark Lee Ping Bing remarked that the 35mm prints for two of his films were too bright or light - he wasn't the only one believed this, I absolutely concurred in one case and the other was probably a bit faded from age, just as he guessed, since it was indeed an old print. So he comes across as someone who really knows and remembers his work - he even made these comments on his own, no one asked or prompted him for his input about the look of the prints.

On the other hand, Univeral's BD for Do the Right Thing was very controversial for its cold color timing, and it was bizarre because it had been approved by the DP...and years earlier he had also approved of the timing on Criterion's DVD, which reflected the warm color timing of the actual film prints (something everyone mentioned vividly in their memories of the film, and something I even confirmed when I went to see an archival print at MoMA and screened the DVD straight afterwards). The reviewer for Universal's BD at the Home Theater Forum was able to ask Dickerson about this:
I had the opportunity to meet Ernest Dickerson today at Sunset Gower Studios, and was able to speak with him about the Universal Blu-ray and the Criterion laserdisc of this title. Ernest confirmed to me that he supervised the color timing of both the Criterion disc and the 2009 Universal Blu-ray. He acknowledged that the original theatrical run of the film and the Criterion disc were timed with a distinctly warm filter. He said that when he timed the Universal Blu-ray, he did not do that. He feels the movie still looks very hot, and that the colors are quite saturated. But this is a matter of him revisiting a movie he had not seen in many years and approaching it with his perspective today. In response to what he heard about the complaints, he said that if there was a mistake made here, he was the one who made it. But he didn't feel this was a bad transfer or that Universal did a bad job with the release. He also confirmed that Spike Lee saw and approved of the release.
And apparently the DP for The Silence of Lambs, Tak Fujimoto, approved both Criterion's timing and the first MGM DVD timing too, and once again both are quite different, with the MGM DVD being noticeably brighter, cooler and higher in contrast. Then of course there's William Friedkin's involvement with The French Connection, which his DP vehemently trashed on someone's podcast. The list goes on...

The reasons for getting a DP and the director's involvement are still sound and valid, but I think people should also realize that in the end they can still make the same human mistakes and choices that anyone would make themselves if they had to re-evaluate the color on something of theirs years or even decades down the road. This is why some reissue producers are sticklers for preserving "the original" look or sound of something when it was originally released - there's a philosophical argument behind it to be sure, but from a practical perspective, it's easy in the sense that it is a specific, existing standard with little room for misinterpretation.

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Re: 316 Ran

#217 Post by tenia » Thu Jul 21, 2016 12:41 pm

Rotunno approved both the older restorations subsequently released on BD by Criterion and the newer restoration made around 2014 for Pathé. Both are vastly different, even down to the aspect ratio.

As for Mark Lee Ping Bing, he said in an interview he gave to Positif about The Assassin that they were looking to have very deep blacks, but all the BDs I've seen (or have seen screenshots of) have blacks rather washed-out, almost as if they were encoded in improper color settings. And that's a movie which is only 1 year old.

Again, the specific issue of the "yellowish with dull blacks" restorations is that it seems to touch so many different movies, making them look so close to each other that they've never been before that it just seems to indicate some restoration houses having color-grading preferences, no matter who approves what. I'm notably very suspicious when it comes to L'immagine Ritrovata Bologna when they are not working with external guidance (being people from Colorworks or Lee Kline for Criterion or James White for Arrow).

And it won't stop : their newly-opened Chinese branch recently restored John Woo's A Better Tomorrow which has just been released on BD in HK and, well, it’s yellowish with dull blacks...

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Re: 316 Ran

#218 Post by movielocke » Thu Jul 21, 2016 1:01 pm

I saw the 4k at the Egyptian theatre two weeks ago, it did not look like the studio canal bluray in those shots.

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Re: 316 Ran

#219 Post by manicsounds » Thu Jul 21, 2016 7:11 pm

Besides the color timing, the image is far ahead of the Criterion DVD which came from an interneg source, while the 4K resto came from the original negative. A lot sharper, cleaner, and the image is much more stable in static shots.

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Re: 316 Ran

#220 Post by der_Artur » Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:48 am

movielocke wrote:I saw the 4k at the Egyptian theatre two weeks ago, it did not look like the studio canal bluray in those shots.
That's yet an other issue: The cinema is something completely different than the monitor we use to look at the screengrabs and something different than the setup we use to watch the movie at home. So comparisons get even more complicated.

I can completely see the arguments against this transfer. While I have no problem with the dull blacks (these remind me of many Japanese prints I have seen) I too find it quite curious that pure whites seem completely absent. They look very dirty (yellow at times, but also blueish to me) and somehow worse than in the other transfers. But if you look at the screengrabs from that transfer individually, they seem to me rather balanced. Despite the strange trend that tenia described (which clearly is visible in Muriel and Touch of Zen) I'll console myself here with the DOP's approval.

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Re: 316 Ran

#221 Post by tenia » Fri Jul 22, 2016 1:09 pm

I saw Ran's new 4K restoration in theaters last September and to be fair, it wasn't far away from what is on SC's BD though I definitely recall whites being purer than what I saw on the disc. But it might simply be my setup VS the theater's one.

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Re: 316 Ran

#222 Post by connor » Tue Jul 26, 2016 4:16 pm

Dumb question that I can't find the answer to:

Has there been an official announcement on a Region-A release for the new restored RAN? Or is it just the Region-B blu ray for the near future?

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Re: 316 Ran

#223 Post by manicsounds » Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:36 pm

connor wrote:Dumb question that I can't find the answer to:

Has there been an official announcement on a Region-A release for the new restored RAN? Or is it just the Region-B blu ray for the near future?
The Japanese release is the only one so far.

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Re: 316 Ran

#224 Post by andyli » Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:27 am

The Japanese release has an exclusive andio commentary, in Japanese without sub though.

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Re: 316 Ran

#225 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Apr 22, 2017 2:39 pm

I just got the Blu-Ray of the new 4k restoration. The screen caps are spot on, as soon as I popped it in, it felt wrong to me - the whole thing has a milky teal wash. Even when portions of the frame fall into shadow, there's no inkiness to the black, you can still see the teal in the darkest parts of every frame. A damn shame because the detail and grain here is wonderful. This could have been a hands down definitive transfer, but they sabotaged it with their revisionist color timing because, why, they can? It looks very wrong. They even have a second disc packed with top-drawer extras (like Chris Marker's documentary), which makes this even more frustrating.

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