The Legacy Of Cobweb Castle – Throne Of Blood

31 12 2014

Throne Of Blood (Toho Co., Ltd. - 1957)

I’ll admit it; I don’t like the works of Shakespeare. I was spoon fed them at school a lot with plays such as Macbeth, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. On one occasion we had to dress up as a certain character from A Midsummer Nights Dream (either Puck or Bottom for boys) and act out one of their scenes. I chose bottom and had donkey ears attached to my glasses at the time. I remember watching a film version of Twelfth Night (which I enjoyed to a point) and couldn’t find reason in what certain characters say; like a woman pretending to be a man and saying something like “If I were a woman, I’d marry you”; or another case of a bloke agreeing to marry someone he’s only just met after washing ashore on the island. In recent history, particularly at University I did some of Romeo and Juliet. Once in Foundation, and more recently in second year when we looked up different adaptations of the story; including the Baz Luhrmann Film (which on occasion has inspired me) and an excellent Dire Straits song. So while I do have the odd moment where I like the adaptations of Shakespeare, I just don’t like the original works. So I can be glad then that Throne of Blood is an adaptation.

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Released in 1957 and Directed by Akira Kurosawa, Throne of Blood is an adaptation of Macbeth. Now this is not the first time that I have watched one of Kurosawa’s adaptations of a Shakespeare play. Back in late 2012 I watched (and reviewed) the rather brilliant film RAN which is based on King Lear. Since watching Seven Samurai in 2012 I have been collecting films by Kurosawa every now and again. One of the films I most wanted to see was Throne of Blood. So last week, while everyone else was out watching the 97th Lord of the Rings film, I decided to use the opportunity to watch Throne of Blood.

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A chorus of singers sing about Cobweb Castle, a fort that once in a now desolate land; all that now remains is a stone plinth used as a memorial. Fog covers the land and the Castle appears. Lord Tsuzuki (Takamaru Sasaki) rules there and his outer forts come under siege from a traitor. His armies fight back however. In Cobweb forest, Commanders Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) and Miki (Minoru Chiaki) are on their way to see Tsuzuki. While in the forest however they hear loud shouting before encountering a spirit (Chieko Naniwa) in a little hut. The spirit tells Washizu that today he will become head of North Mansion, and then head of Cobweb Castle. Miki meanwhile, today will become head of Fort One (Washizu’s former post), and that his son will eventually become head of Cobweb Castle. Initially they don’t believe her and on their way to the castle they stop for a break. When reaching the castle they are rewarded like the spirit told them they would be. With Washizu now in charge at North Mansion, he looks forward to a life of peace and is currently happy with his due. His wife Lady Asaji (Isuzu Yamada) meanwhile likes what the spirit has said and begins to manipulate Washizu. When Tsuzuki visits North Mansion, Asaji drugs the guards protecting Tsuzuki while he sleeps, and Washizu murders him. Upon returning in shock at what he has done, Asaji places the spear in one of the guard’s hands and calls Murder. Washizu then kills the guard.

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Tsuzuki’s son; Kunimaru (Hiroshi Tachikawa) meanwhile believes that Washizu murdered his father and along with Noriyasu (Takashi Shimura), a loyal commander to Tsuzuki try to warn Miki about Washizu. Miki however does not believe Washizu would do such a thing. Washizu is made Lord of Cobweb Castle plans to allow Miki’s son Yoshiteru (Akira Kubo) to become the next lord at Cobweb Castle, but Asaji is now Pregnant, meaning Washizu will need to eliminate Miki. At a banquet, Washizu gets drunk and begins to have hallucinations when he sees Miki’s ghost. He begins to shout and act out and unknowing reveals his betrayal. Asaji tries to pick up the pieces asking for the guests to leave. A guard then arrives with Miki’s head but says his son escaped. Asaji miscarried her baby, and a distraught Washizu heads into the forest to find the spirit again. The spirit tells him that he will not lose a battle until Cobweb Castle moves. Thinking such a thing is impossible, Washizu is confident that he is invincible.

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Noriyasu’s men begin to approach Cobweb Castle. Washizu spirits the men on by telling him what the spirit told him. They all believe him and share his confidence. During the night, the men at the castle begin hearing strange noises, and then a whole flock of birds suddenly fly into the castle. Everyone thinks it’s a bad omen. Washizu though checks on his wife who has gone catatonic and tries to wash off non-existent blood off her hands.  Washizu then hears soldiers running around and sees his soldiers fleeing from their posts. They say that the forest is moving. Washizu goes to have a look and sees to his horror that the forest is indeed moving. The army of Noriyasu is using the branches as cover. Washizu’s men then turn on him, and begin to shoot their arrows at him. He tries as hard as he can to dodge them, but to no luck and eventually gets shot through the neck and dies. The scene then changes back to the desolate landscape and back to the memorial.

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While it may have been an idea, to look and see how this film compares to Macbeth, I didn’t do any look back/research before writing this. From what I know however, I can see similarities to Macbeth. Washizu is Macbeth, the forest moving and the character of Lady Asaji is Lady Macbeth while Miki is Banquo, (however it was my dad who pointed that out to me). The spirit in the forest is the strange women from Macbeth and the story is basically the same as Macbeth rising to power. The film though as when I look at it, not as in looking for similarities, but as its own standing, is quite interesting.

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The film tells a story of a man, a great soldier and a loyal commander, who is driven to insanity through the manipulation driven by his wife and later the desire to keep hold of his kingdom. The decent of this man continues as those trustworthy around him begin to split from him which eventually leads to his demise. The part of this character is played brilliantly by the great Toshiro Mifune. This is not the first time I have seen Mifune in action, and since watching Seven Samurai have seen him as my Favourite actor. He is easily the best person for the role of Washizu as his commanding and domineering presence on-screen is well done. But he can also get mad and in Throne of Blood though we see how a person descends into madness. First through regret of actions, through to desire, lust and then insanity. To begin with he is a very respectful man, he is the epitome of a protagonist, but by the end he is very much the Antagonist, and while the story to continues to revolve around him as the central character, he is now the villain and gets what’s coming to him.

Toshiro Mifune

In the same league we have the character of Lady Asaji who from the moment you see her, you can tell she is not very nice. Much like Lady Kaede in RAN, she is a schemer. She has begun plans to make sure the spirits visions come true and begins the manipulation required to get Washizu to do what she wants. She wants these things for him as much as her, but likes the idea of being in control and wants her family to remain on the throne. From early on, she is a key figure and remains so until just before and a little bit after she miscarried. From the onset though, you have no sympathy for her.

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In an opposite fashion though there is commander Miki. He is a very likeable person and appears to be a true friend to Washizu and remains loyal to him until the end. While he does not understand the visions of the spirit, he just goes along with it until they become real. Miki from start to finish is a character you do care about as he has a very nice on-screen presence and is in no way ruthless, but it does become predictable what’s going to become of him.

Toshiro Mifune and Minoru Chiaki

I do feel like it is rather surprising though that Takashi Shimura does not get more of a prominent role. In the past particularly if you take films like in Ikiru, Rashomon and Seven Samurai, Shimura has had more prominent leading roles, but while he gets a good amount of screen time, I think it’s rather surprising that he doesn’t get more. While he is noticed at the beginning at the council, and then rides in at the end to bring down Washizu, it just feels like for most of it that he simply disappears. Other characters in the film such as Yoshiteru and Kunimaru don’t really have much of a part to talk about though, for the most part it’s not down to them to save the day, and it rests more on the shoulders of Noriyasu to save the day. On occasion there are other cast members of note, such as the lamp bearers and the guards that stand out, but really it feels like something of a let down from some of the supporting characters in terms of the story anyway. I do like the character of the Spirit. It’s quite an uncomfortable character when she is on-screen, but that’s probably what was meant to be. When she is laughing and cackling in the forest and you can hear that, it’s almost disturbing and scary. But when she is on her own in the hut spinning the wheel you think for a moment that she might be someone else, but then discover more. Alongside that you also have Lord Tsuzuki who for his brief time on-screen is very enjoyable, particularly at his counsel during the first few moments of the film.

Chieko Naniwa

The film has a terrific setting. Filmed on the slopes of Mount Fuji, the desolate landscape allowed the use of fog which is used to great extent as it allows moments of lost and confusion while also giving moments of reveal too. When Washizu and Miki first see the castle and it is slowly revealed in the background while they talk as well as when they are lost in the fog is a great scene. The first moments too allow a reveal of the shrine/memorial to the castle and are used to the effect of showing what remains as well as the chaos caused from the events, even if they haven’t happened yet; add to that the scene of the forest moving shows a real sense of mystic energy as it makes the tree look like they are actual beings and not just men using them. Other uses of weather such as rain and thunderstorms are put to good use when used in Cobweb Forest when people are running around and when the Spirit laughs in the early moments of the film. The area of North Mansion as well as the mansion itself is actually very beautiful and shows an element of peace just in its look. Effects aren’t just limited to weather though. The ending scene with Washizu being shot at with Arrows; the arrows are real. Mifune wanted the use of real arrows (choreographed) to be shot at him to give a real sense of terror in his actions. Now while I am as of yet unsure about the one through his neck, the effect works brilliantly and is one the film’s best moments.

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When it comes to the film’s soundtrack, it’s hard to say much about it as I don’t remember many scenes where it is used. The singing at the beginning is apparent, as too is the arrival of Tsuzuki at North Mansion, but the film for me anyway appears to use mostly sounds and not much in the way of actual music. The films theme though is pretty good. While it may not be as grand in its element with other Masaru Sato pieces, particularly later ones like Yojimbo and The Hidden Fortress. The theme however has the mystery/mystic element about it before it eventually feeds into the singing but while it is certainly different, and that is the best way to describe it, it’s also very enjoyable from start to finish, even if you only here the first few seconds.

The film does struggle when it comes to pacing though. The early moment of singing, through to the Lord’s counsel of the attacks and then to the scenes from the forest to the attaining of North Mansion are very enjoyable and stand out as moments I really enjoyed. However I think the story of the film begins to get stagnant from then on. There was a long pause from when Washizu and Miki first meet the spirit, and then things really do slowdown from North Mansion onwards. The film picks up at moments though, with scenes like the horse ride chase, and scenes leading up to the banquet. But then they begin to stagnate again with points of me wondering how long the film had left (or that may have been me getting a little tired) and only picking up again as the film drew closer to finishing. For most of the film, there are some really good points and the pacing remains equal, but some scenes have long pauses and gaps where almost nothing happens for a while and this sets it off. While those moments may want to show elements of peace in the chaos, when they’re too long, you begin to notice it.

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Throne of Blood does have its issues, from certain moments of lack of cast and pacing, but throughout I did enjoy it. While I don’t think it stands out from other Akira Kurosawa productions such as Seven Samurai, Hidden Fortress or RAN, I did enjoy this, even if it is based on a piece of work by Shakespeare. It features another great performance from the terrific Toshiro Mifune as well Minoru Chiaki. While it is in fact an adaptation of a play several hundreds of years old, I think it also stands out on its own two feet as something which can be enjoyed by itself (the adaptation point does allow for some clarification if it gets a little confusing). With scenes of action intermixed with scenes of drama and great weather effects; Throne of Blood is definitely worth a watch and while it may appeal more to people who prefer drama over action, there is still something for everyone, even if the title is somewhat off-putting.

GENEPOOL





Latest Blog Milestone – Two Hundred And Fifty Posts

20 03 2013

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Yes it’s true, this is my 250th post. It has been a long time since I started doing this blog and I am not going to sugar coat it by saying that it feels just like yesterday when I started, because it doesn’t. Interestingly enough, my blog technically started one year before it officially started with a me writing about the problems of Multiplayer Video Games and printing them off and sharing them around friends. Well one year later, I finally got round to starting this. the blog started off well but eventually the views would go down as  low as 7 views in one month. But then I started doing FIlm Reviews, then eventually post a week and my views began to grow and grow towards the internet sky. Many milestones have been reached and now that I have reached the amazing total of Two Hundred and Fifty Posts, I think it is time for a celebration.

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I have managed to wade through all my previous posts and chosen my personal favourite top 25 posts, and so I will present them to you. The first 20 will just have a brief overview of each but the top 5 will have an in-depth summary of sort with pictures. I will also be presenting the top 5 Highest rated posts as well as the top 5 most viewed. If you would like to read any of the posts that are to be mentioned, just click the link. So let’s get started.

25. Before The War – Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace: This is a film review of Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace, this post is the most recent one I have posted.

24. Top 5 Black Sabbath Songs: This past June on the day that was both My Birthday but also the live performance of Black Sabbath at Download I did a post of my Top 5 Personal Favourite songs from my Favourite Band (apologies for the long-winded description).

23. UNSTOPPABLE Review – The Runaway Train came down the hill and Blew Up; Unless Chris Pine and Denzel Washington can Stop it: This one as described by the title is a Film Review of the Tony Scott film Unstoppable. To date this post is the fourth most viewed Film Review I have done.

22. Sam’s Rant – Multiplayer Games: Everyone needs to start somewhere and for me, this was it. this post was published all the way back in November 2009.

21. Film Review: The Count of Monte Cristo: This was as the title suggests a film review of the 2002 film The Count Of Monte Cristo. I was getting views for this review almost every week when I originally posted it.

The Count Of Monte Cristo (Spyglass Entertainment - 2002)

20. Four Blokes From Birmingham – Black Sabbath: This post was a response to something I was reading online which stated that a line from the film Almost Famous is used by Trebuchet Magazine when new writers start, so I decided to do it as a challenge.

19. Raging Bull: This post is about the original Dodge Charger car. A Great and interesting start to The First of 2012 Challenge, It was originally a piece of work I did for University but in the end I did not submit that part, so I decided to turn it into a post.

18. The Railway Company – A History of TOHO (200th Post) : A post that I had been wanting to do for almost a year, this post talks about the history of the Japanese Film Company that made such films as Seven Samurai as well as creating Godzilla. This was also my 200th Post.

17. Maze In The Forest – Pan’s Labyrinth: Pan’s Labyrinth was a film that I was unsure of at first when I originally saw it but it was after doing this review my opinion changed. I even draw inspiration from this film for a story I am writing at the moment.

16. Attack Of The Giant Moth – Mothra vs Godzilla: This was my review of a film that is said to be one of the best films in the Godzilla series, Mothra vs Godzilla.

Mothra vs Godzilla (Toho Co., Ltd. - 1964)

It’s now time for a break in the proceedings as we now turn our heads to my Top 5 Highest rated posts. What does this mean, well at the bottom of each post there is some green stars, each named after a Different Godzilla Monster. Much like any star rating system, 5 stars is best and it goes down from there. So let us turn our gaze, quite literally to the right of the screen to see what the top 5 Highest Rated Posts to date on this FAntastic Blog are.

Stars

5. 5 Years and Still Painful – Part 4: Part 4 of the ongoing saga of how I broke my knee cap.

4. Film Review – The Muppet Christmas Carol: A film review I did of The Muppet Christmas Carol.

3. Akira Kurosawa’s Masterpiece – Seven Samurai: The film review I did of Seven Samurai.

2. My Week: 09/04/2012 – 15/04/2012: What it says, a sort of review of my week between the two dates.

1. A Brief History of Godzilla (100th Post): A Brief History of Godzilla, read it, it’s Fantastic.

Top Rated

Meanwhile the Top 25 List continues.

15. Top 5 Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Flavours: A list of my Top 5 Favourite Ben And Jerry’s Ice Cream Flavours. One of the most surprising things about this post was how quickly it shot up as one of my most viewed posts and reached the Major milestone of becoming the first post to reach the 1000 views milestone.

14. Film Review – Godzilla vs King Ghidorah: The first Godzilla review I posted, incredibly fun to write and thoroughly enjoyable. I am hoping to publish a re-review of this film in the next few months just so I can update it and put it in the format I am currently using for my Film Reviews.

13. It’s Not Who I Am Underneath, But What I Do That Defines Me – Batman Begins: My review of Batman Begins, while pretty much being in the original format, it is still a Great post and one I enjoyed writing a lot.

12. Top 5 KISS Songs: My top 5 favourite Kiss Songs. It was a lot of fun trying to work out the order as well as listen to some of the best songs by one of the Greatest Rock Bands.

11. How To Make A Tardis?  This post goes in-depth into the ideas behind the machine that is piloted by Doctor Who, it was a lot of hard work to produce but it was an incredible post to write.

Tardis

10. Top 5 SAXON Songs: As you can see by the title it is my Top 5 Favourite Saxon Songs. While not the first Top 5 List, it was the first one related to music.

9. Virgin VS FirstGroup: The Real Issue: Written back in September, this post looked into what I thought was the real issue in the Virgin/FirstGroup West Coast Main Line Fiasco, the issue being the trains. A train company is not a train company without trains.

8. Space Impression From Space – Godzilla VS SpaceGodzilla: My review of Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla. While the film in some cases was a bit weird, it was very enjoyable and writing this post was enjoyable too.

7. My Top 10 Favourite (NON-GODZILLA) Films: All my favourite films are Godzilla films (if you have not worked it out yet) and so I need two Top 10 Lists for my Favourite films. This one was tricky to write and I even edited part of it the night before it was published. I am hoping to publish my Top 10 Favourite films in the summer.

6. A Nice Film That Will Be Hard To Beat – The Hunger Games: My review of The Hunger Games. Because I enjoyed this film so much I didn’t want to just do a standard review. It was from this film that the current format for my reviews come from with Pictures between paragraphs and the movie trailer as well as going a bit more in-depth with the films. It was also the first time that I used the Black, Italic, Bold Link system. In my own personal opinion, it is one of the Best Reviews I have done to date.

The Hunger Games (Lionsgate - 2012)

Now lets take another quick break as we look at the Top 5 Most viewed posts on my Blog.

5. Godzilla News – Unveiling, Release and Giant Plants: A look into the latest news regarding the upcoming Legendary Pictures Godzilla Film as well as the news of the release of Godzilla vs Biollante on Blu-ray.

4. Dinosaurs Return To Television: A post which I did within a few hours of Planet Dinosaur’s first episode. This post had a link to it on the BBC Website and at one point was the most viewed post on my Blog.

3. A Brief History of Godzilla (100th Post): The highest rated post on my blog is also the third most viewed post on my Blog.

2. The Best Film In The World – Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack: On two occasions this post was the most viewed post on my blog and became the second post to reach the 1000 views milestone.

1. Top 5 Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Flavours: While it may not be number 1 to me, it surely is the current title holder of the most viewed post on my blog.

Views

Now we enter the final stretch. before you, you will find My Top 5 Personal Favourite Blog Posts – Enjoy.

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack (Toho Co., Ltd. - 2001)

5. The Best Film In The World – Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack: The Best Film in the world, FACT. An incredibly enjoyable post to write. When I usually write a review I watch the film before hand but I wrote this one from memory as well as getting some help from other websites. The post eventually became the most viewed post on my Blog, a title which the post has held on two separate occasions. Please head over and read this Incredible review. If you have not seen the film, I recommend you do because you are missing out. You can buy the film on Amazon (follow the link).

Seven Samurai (Toho Co., Ltd. - 1954)

4. Akira Kurosawa’s Masterpiece – Seven Samurai: My review of Akira Kurosawa’s classic film Seven Samurai. After years of wanting to watch this film, I finally got round to it and until just recently felt that it was my best review to date. I was able to write a lot about this film without making it too long. I was able to find pictures from the film itself and even included a trailer for it and one of the best clips from the film. Both an incredible film and an enjoyable experience to write, it even includes links from where you can buy the film.

RAN (Toho Co., Ltd. - 1985)

3. The Final Masterpiece – RAN: My review of the Akira Kurosawa film RAN. When I was writing this I knew that the post was something special. I posted this review in January this year and watched the film itself the day before New Years Eve. Originally I was going to watch the film the same night that my family was going to see The Hobbit, but in the end I decided to watch it sooner and make the film my first review of the year aswell as my first official blog post for this year. To me this is the Best Film Review I have done to date.

Nintendo Wii

2. 5 Years of Nintendo Wii: This post took me almost a day to write. It was published on the 5th anniversary of the Nintendo Wii being released in the UK. While it took me a long time to produce, the nostalgia that came to me when writing it, all the fantastic and happy memories that came to me of one of the Best Video Game Consoles was just so enjoyable. I was able to find fantastic videos on the subject and the simple fact that I could write a post so passionately about a subject i love was just a  Fantastic Experience, an experience i look forward to doing again.

So we have finally arrived at my Personal Favourite Post. While I have enjoyed writing almost every post I have written to date, this post stands out to me as My Best Post.

Godzilla 1954 - Present

1. A Brief History of Godzilla (100th Post): When I was fast approaching my 100th post, I wanted to do something very special for such a magnificent milestone, so I decided that I would do A Brief History of Godzilla. It was the last Tuesday of my time at Teesside University, I woke up at about lunchtime and because I had nothing to do for the rest of the day, I got stuck straight in. I watched videos on the subject from many places on the web as well as using my own personal knowledge on the subject. Over the course of about 5 hours I wrote about 3 pages of work and it was after attending the final Teesside CU of the year I got back into writing. I loaded up pictures into the post of other monsters as well as posters from the series. It is a post that I enjoyed writing every paragraph, sentence and word of. Even after all this time from me posting it to now, it is still my Favourite Post.

So we have finally reached the end of this enjoyable look back through the history of my blog. I would like to thank everyone who has supported me and the blog and all those who continue to do so on a regular basis. I both hope and invite you all and anyone new to come back soon for more Fantastic Posts. Thankyou.

GENEPOOL





The Final Masterpiece – RAN

7 01 2013

RAN (Toho Co., Ltd. - 1985)

Cinema is filled with many great films. Films that stand out above the rest. If you were to think of some of these films you would probably think of films like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, The Dark Knight, Planet Of The Apes and Independence Day. But while some are truly Great, some are greater than others. But what makes a film Great? Is it the amount of Awards it gets? Maybe. Is it the amount of money it makes? Possibly. Or is it the experience you get out of it? Yes. What I mean is the Story, the Characters, The Music, The Direction, pretty much everything. Films like Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress, Rashomon and RAN, All of whom have been directed by the same man, The Great Akira Kurosawa.

Akira Kurosawa Award

RAN is the Last Great Epic of Legendary Japanese Director Akira Kurosawa. While he would make a further 3 or 4 films this was the Last Epic he made. Once again based in feudal Japan, a genre of films that he was known for, RAN was the most expensive Japanese film to date when it was released in 1985. RAN is based on Shakespeare’s King Lear, a story that I have not read, so here is a brief summary of King Lear to compare RAN to;

“The story of King Lear, an aging monarch who is headstrong old man who is blind to his weaknesses, decides to divide his kingdom amongst his three daughters, according to which one recites the best declaration of love. Goneril and Regan who are the selfish daughters of Lear who pretend to love him but later treat him cruelly. Cordelia who is the loyal and unselfish daughter of Lear. He disowns her after confusing her honesty with insolence. Edgar is Gloucester’s loyal son and heir and Edmund is Gloucester’s evil bastard son. At first the family appear to be loving and caring but this could not be further from the truth. As the characters unfold we find greed, betrayal, lust for power, and cruelty. In other words, they are anything but normal and caring. The end of the play ends in death everywhere. Regan dies after being poisoned by Goneril. Goneril stabs herself to death. Edgar reveals his true identity to his father, but the old man dies. Mortally wounded, Edmund becomes remorseful and countermands his order to hang Cordelia. But it is too late, and Cordelia dies. Lear, now a broken man, falls upon Cordelia and also dies”. – www.william-shakespeare.info 

King Lear

The Story of RAN begins with an ageing warlord named Hidetora who is the head of the Ichimonji Clan. After he has finished hunting he has an important meeting with two rival warlords, Fujimaki and Ayabe as well as his three sons. After a horrible dream Hidetora decides now was the best time to pass his kingdom onto his three sons. He gives his first son Taro the leadership position of his country making Taro the new ruler. He gives his second son Jiro the second castle in his country and Saburo the third castle each with their own men to protect them. Hidetora decides that he will stay at the first castle with Taro but in different accommodation. However Saburo is unsure about this and voices his concerns but Hidetora takes his concerns as a threat and banishes him along with his servant Tango. Fujimaki who witnessed the event however invites Saburo to into his land and to marry his daughter.

Saburo, Tango and Fujimaki

From the get go things for the warlord do not go well. Taro’s wife Lady Keade wants revenge on Hidetora and so engineers a riff between him and Taro. After one of his sons guards try to kill his fool entertainer Kyoami, Hidetora kills him with a bow which sparks issues between him and Taro forcing Hidetora to sign a pledge that he will behave while staying with his son.  Hidetora signs the pledge but decides to leave and live with his second son Jiro. Meanwhile Jiro is jealous that he was not chosen to rule overall and so makes plans of his own. Hidetora arrives and proceeds to talk to Jiro’s wife Sue and asks her why she does not hate him after what he did to her family. Jiro meets with his dad but Hidetora does not like it when his men are not allowed into the castle, so he leaves. Taro’s men take control of the castle belonging to Saburo; the men there leave without a fuss and journey to Saburo.

Jiro and Hidetora

Hidetora and his men now find themselves homeless but are met by Tango who brings food. Tango refuses to leave his master and has been secretly following him. He suggests going to where Saburo now lives but Hidetora does not want to see his son. He discovers that Taro has decreed that anyone who helps Hidetora will be executed. They decide to leave for the third castle and take it without difficulty while Tango and Kyoami stay behind. However the building is later attacked by the combined forces of Taro and Jiro. All of Hidetora’s men are killed. During the battle Taro is killed by an arrow. Hidetora leaves his castle and wanders onto the plains.

Taro and Jiro's forces attack the third castle

Jiro heads for the first castle and takes command of the first castle and the empire. But Lady Keade accuses Jiro of having his General Kurogane kill his brother. She becomes the power behind the throne, first by accusing Jiro of having Kurogane kill his brother so that he can have the throne and then threatening him to start an affair with her. She also tells him to have his current wife Sue killed. Kurogane does not agree and refuses to do the job. Hidetora meanwhile has been found by Tango and Kyoami. They arrive at a hut occupied by a blind man disguised as a woman. His name is Tsurumaru who is the brother of Lady Sue. He had his eyes gouged out many years previously by Hidetora. Tango decides to leave to bring Saburo to his father. Hidetora and Kyoami hide in the ruins of a castle. Tsurumaru and Lady Sue are warned by Kurogane that Jiro wants Lady Sue dead and so they journey to a castle that was formerly theirs and destroyed by Hidetora, the same castle that Hidetora and Kyoami are now hiding in. Hidetora descends more and more into Madness and begins to be haunted by his past actions. It eventually becomes too much to bear and flees into the wilderness and from his fool Kyoami.

Saburo Returns

Saburo arrives (one of my favourite scenes) with his army to look for his dad. Jiro does not like this and readies his army for war but Lady Keade tells him to make a truce with him. Saburo can look for his father and then leave but when Hidetora’s location is found Jiro’s gunners can kill him. Jiro goes with this plan and offers the truce which Saburo agrees. Meanwhile the rival warlords Fujimaki and Ayabe arrive with their armies sensing a major battle. Saburo goes off to look for his dad, while Jiro against the advice of Kurogane orders an attack on Saburo’s remaining forces. Jiro’s forces are decimated however by gunfire coming from Saburo’s forces hiding in the trees. If this wasn’t bad news enough, word reaches Jiro that Ayabe’s forces are attacking the Castle. Jiro retreats.

Ayabe's forces

Saburo reunites with his father. Hidetora believes he is dead but then manages to come round and reconcile with his son. They head back to Saburo’s land but Saburo is then shot. All this becomes enough for Hidetora who then dies bringing an end to the Ichimonji Clan. Kurogane discovers that Lady Sue was murdered by an order from Jiro; he goes to Lady Keade and kills her. Jiro’s forces are decimated by Ayabe’s Forces. The film ends with Tsurumaru standing alone on the edge of what was once his castle. He drops a picture of Buddha that his sister gave to him.

Saburo Dies

Ran is an Epic film on all proportions with a Fantastic Story. When you compare it to King Lear you can see the comparison plus the changes. However Ran is built more on its characters, each one having a different story, different ideas of you will. The characters elements, key story features are also represented in the scenes that they are in too.

Hidetora

The idea for Hidetora was based on Toshiro Mifune originally but the part was given to Tatsuya Nakadai who had appeared in other Kurosawa films too including Yojimbo, Sanjuro and Kagemusha. Hidetora starts off as the wise old ruler character. A very trustworthy and honest man who wants what is best for his kingdom and his sons. But as the film progresses you begin to feel sorry for him as his sons reject him. These scenes are done brilliantly and it is through how the scene is set that we can see his downward journey. So when he is a ruler he has an army of followers and a lot of respect while taking part in one of his favorite past times. But it is the scene at the castle with Taro that things go down for him. At the castle he still lives like a ruler, but when he is thrown out he arrives at what is more like an outpost than a castle. And it is through how this scene pans out that the decent is continued. During the battle at the third castle, he has gone to his lowest point yet. The scene uses great use of color. For instance, when he is at the castle it is nice and bright but after the battle with Taro and Jiro’s forces, it has gone black which plays on the mood of the film and audience which makes you feel sorry for him but also shows what has happened to him. The fire in the scene adds to this by showing the fall in his empire as it were with one of his castles now on fire as he walks out.  Music helps by providing a sorrow note.

Hidetora Madness

But your feelings toward the character change a lot though when you begin to discover his past life. When you find out what he did during a previous war, when he destroyed a castle and when he gouged out someone’s eyes. He is no longer this peaceful ruler, you start to not feel sorry for him and in a way he becomes a secondary character in the film. It is not until the end when he manages to get a pick up from his son Saburo that he manages to get out this tricky spot. Hidetora is a great example of having something one day and not having it the next. One day he is a proud and noble ruler. The next he is a simple commoner, a peasant. He descends into madness as everything around him crumbles by his own doing. He gave the power to his selfish sons, he did not listen to his son and now he is at the bottom and dies from the mental state he created and made for himself.

Hidetora and Saburo reunite

Hidetora’s fool (Shinnosuke Ikehata) Kyoami is sort of like the film’s narrator. Much like Tahei and Matashichi from The Hidden Fortress, he is the lowest character. He tells the story of the king and all the other characters through song. While he is nothing more than an entertainer and a fool, it is through this that the audience can connect and have the story told in another way.

Kyoami and Hidetora

While the three sons are similar in several ways they are all very different. Taro (Akira Terao) is as selfish as Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu) but while he is selfish and power-hungry he is a bit more peaceful than Jiro. To be fair on his part he was being tricked by Lady Keade who wants revenge on Hidetora and it is through this that Taro has a falling out with him. Jiro on the other hand was bloodthirsty from the start. He is jealous that Taro gets the ruling position and plans to take him out. He fights his father and casts out those who while helping him have worked for the opposition and cannot trust him. It is his rashness and bloodthirstiness that Lady Keade is able to tap into and give him what he wants with ease. Jiro’s desire for power can be recognised soon after Taro is killed when he immediately wears his armour and does not show respect for him. Saburo (Daisuke Ryu) meanwhile is very loyal to his father and only gets cast out when he voices concerns about his father’s plan. His loyalty to his father can be seen even more when he enters the region to look for his father after his downfall. Saburo could be seen in many ways as the hero of the story as he rides in to sort of save the day. That could also be why his death impacts the film and audience more. He came back to save the day and now he is leaving with his father which is what he wanted but deceased.

Three Sons, Saburo (blue), Jiro (red) and Taro (yellow)

The characters of Kurogane (Hisashi Igawa) and Tango (Masayuki Yui) are sort of odd but interesting to. Tango is a loyal servant to his master Hidetora and so is Kurogane. Tango is wise and so is Kurogane. They are both very similar characters, they only thing that separates them is whose side they are on. Tango is on the side of Hidetora while Kurogane is on the side of Jiro. However Kurogane is not really evil, he is just loyal but he is wiser than Jiro by far.

Kurogane and Jiro

Lady Keade (Mieko Harada) in many ways is the primary antagonist of the film. She starts off as a simple wife but later grows into a manipulative puppet master. As the film goes on you discover that she once lived in the main castle and now that she has returned she wants to stay there. So in a small way you are sensitive to her goals but not so much towards how she achieves them. So when she dies at the end it is through revenge/assassination/murder, almost a fitting end to a manipulative tyrant. The character of Lady Keade comes at an interesting point for cinema in particular. Women in cinema are no longer the damsels in distress much like they were pre Marry Poppins and are now some of the strongest characters in Cinema. Lady Keade truly represents this as both a strong woman who will do what she can to achieve her goals justified or not as well as her place in the story. She is not getting kidnapped or receiving death threats; she is giving orders for people to be executed. The idea that love can blind the truth is evident here with Lady Keade, the truth is, she wants revenge.

Lady Keade and Taro

The character of Tsurumaru (Mansai Nomura) is an interesting one. He has almost lost everything, but the ending of the film shows two possible sides and ideas to what the story is. One way to look at it is to see it as what you have. All the other major characters have lost everything. Both Jiro and Taro got what they wanted but in the end lost everything. Saburo tried to warn his father and even though he was banished he remained loyal and loved him so much that he returned for him only to lose his life and then his father’s life. Lady Keade got the revenge she wanted but paid for it with her life. While Tsurumaru has already lost everything and there he stands on the ruins of the castle that belonged to him with his life still intact. Another way to look at it is the idea of the blind man standing on the precipice. The Human condition as it were. One false move and its death.

Tsurumaru

The film makes great use of Camera work. Using the long shots and static cameras that would jump in. so instead of moving zoom shots or close ups you can get more into the shot and see more of the film. You can tell more in a film using specific shots and this film does that well. Much like when Hidetora is coming out of the Third Castle which is on fire, it is pretty much close up but then the camera retracts to reveal more. It helps to show his downfall to as he walks out of the castle as it is burning down. There are many shots in the film too particularly when the armies of Ayabe and Fujimaki you can see them on the far off mountains. While some people may see it and think of it as a back drop, I think otherwise because of the expansive region of the area. Kurosawa has shot on location many times before much like when he did 31 years previously when he shot Seven Samurai. There are also many great shots of whole armies (this is 1985, no CGI here at all). While most films today simply use CGI, you cannot beat the real thing, a whole army of soldiers, all of them real people playing the parts of these soldiers (1400 extras were hired for this film, put to Good use in my opinion compared to hiring extras and then just using them for CGI shots and as a result less realistic). What would you prefer, CGI or Real People?  

Fujimaki's Army

Filming locations helped a lot in this film. Akira Kurosawa loved using expansive landscapes and shot some scenes around Japan’s largest volcano, Mount Aso. He was also granted special permission to shoot some scenes around two of Japan’s greatest Landmarks, the castles at Kumamoto and Himeji. The third castle however was actually built for production on the slopes of Mount Fuji. The ruined castle on the other hand belonging to Lady Sue’s family were shot at the ruins of Azusa Castle.

Kumamoto and Himeji Castle

The film’s music are mostly on sorrow notes. It is not really happy music. Evidence of this can be seen during the battle between the forces of Taro and Jiro and the forces of Hidetora as you don’t hear much in the form of a battle but more of a sombre music piece. Music is more or less used as an effect to help a scene and not really as a theme. But do remember that RAN is based on a Tragedy and so happy music is not really well placed for this film and as such it is more about what happens than what you hear. But all together it is a major triumph for composer Toru Takemitsu.

It is interesting to see how much colour is used. Not just in specific scenes but also in decrypting who is good and bad. The flags that appear in the armies of the clans show it all. The clans of Fujimaki and Ayabe are white and Black and so act as a neutral colour while the colours for Jiro and Taro are red and Yellow. Red being a normal colour representation of the villains. Saburo’s colour is blue and as such becomes the colour for good. It is through these uses of colours that help to identify to the audience who is good and who is bad.

Jiro vs Saburo

Overall Ran is an impressive film and one of the finest examples of cinema in history. With a Great cast that play exciting as well as believable characters and relying on more than just the ordinary, RAN is an incredible film. It was really interesting to see how a colour format would compare for his films. Previous films I have seen from Akira Kurosawa like Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress were in black and white. However colour film does not take away any of the quality from his films as shown with RAN, once again it all comes down to the story. It is a definite must see. It is a film of love, kindness, disruption, corruption, death, war and the lust for power. A truly Great Film and a Great high note for Akira Kurosawa and his last Epic.

Taro and Jiro's forces with Hidetora

I suppose in a way that is another reason for the blind man at the end. It is the end of the road, the journey, the magnificent career of the Legendary Director. While this was not his last film, it was his last epic and the perfect note to end his epics on. A man who would inspire many people including Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Francis Ford Copolla and Me. While this is not the last time I will review an Akira Kurosawa film (still a lot more to go) I would like to end this review on one final and special note.

Thank You Akira Kurosawa

GENEPOOL





Big Film News – Catching Fire, X-Men First Class Sequel, Elysium And The Host 2

29 12 2012

Ran (Toho Co., Ltd. - 1985)

My more regular readers may have noticed that I have not put up a film review this month. There is a very good reason for this and it is because I have been so busy that I have been unable to do one. However on a lighter note I am hoping to watch Ran within the next few days and so I will try to do a review of that for January.It has been a long time since I have done a piece of film news and so here is some Very Big News for you. The next couple of years are going to be a massive 2 years for films. I will not say too much about 2013 as I  am planning to do another Top 10 Most Exciting Films thing but here is a brief summary.

Catching Fire (Lionsgate - 2013)

Catching Fire (Sequel to The Hunger Games) is currently filming with all the major cast from the first (FANTASTIC) Film returning. There is a new director this time though as Gary Ross has dropped out due to schedule problems. Francis Lawrence will be directing Catching Fire as well as both Mockingjay films. Catching fire is expected to be released November 2013.

X-Men First Class (20th Century Fox - 2011)

Once production on Catching Fire is completed, Main star Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) will be heading from Lionsgate to 20th Century Fox to film the sequel to X-Men First Class which has been named Days Of Future Past. All the other main cast members will be returning for that. Hugh Jackman will reprise his role as Wolverine. There is also the possibilities that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen may return to reprise their roles as Charles Xavier and Magneto. That is expected to be released July 2014.

District 9 (TriStar Pictures - 2009)

2013 will also see the long-awaited return of film director Neill Blomkamp. The man behind District 9 will be releasing his new film Elysium. The film will star Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley. According to Wikipedia:

“In the year 2159, two classes of people exist. The first are the very wealthy who live on Elysium, a pristine man-made space station similar in appearance to a Stanford torus built by the Armadyne Corporation. The rest live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster), a hard-nosed government official, will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium. That does not stop the people of Earth from trying to get in, by any means they can. When unlucky ex-con Max (Matt Damon) is backed into a corner, he agrees to take on a daunting mission that if successful will not only save his life, but could bring equality to these polarized worlds”.

All this coming from the Master Mind behind District 9, should be Fantastic. Elysium is expected to be release August 2013.

The Host (Showbox - 2006)

Finally, we turn our gaze to South Korea as there has finally been news on the sequel to The Host. The Host being the South Korean Monster Movie (not to be confused with the upcoming film of the same name), one of the Best Monster Movies in Cinema History. Well it has been reported for years that there was going to be a sequel but to date there has been no sign. that is until this past week when I found a clip on YouTube from the upcoming film. This is major news and could be one of the years biggest film releases. No idea on a release date I am afraid but hopefully it should be sometime in 2013.

GENEPOOL (Check back soon as I go through my blogging moments of the year)








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