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Ran (Masterworks Edition)

4.3 out of 5 stars 387 customer reviews

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(Apr 15, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Additional Features

Akira Kurosawa's 1985 masterpiece was remastered for its Masterworks release, a clear improvement over the notoriously disappointing Fox Lorber DVD. The transfer is now vividly colorful and crisply detailed, presented in anamorphic widescreen with optional yellow subtitles that are easier to read (though the earlier release probably wasn't as bad as the "old" image used in the restoration demo). The 5.1-channel sound option allows deeper immersion in Kurosawa's painstakingly crafted soundtrack, and film historian Stephen Price's superlative, feature-length commentary track provides engaging and scholarly perspective on Kurosawa's development of theme through composition, camera placement, editing, and highly stylized direction of actors. Another comparatively sparse commentary track by Japanese cultural expert Peter Grilli is worthwhile for its insider's view of Kurosawa's personality and methods. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • New high-definition transfer, digitally restored
  • Production notes
  • Restoration demo
  • Kurosawa filmography
  • European and home video trailers

Product Details

  • Actors: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryû, Mieko Harada
  • Directors: Akira Kurosawa
  • Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Masato Ide, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Hisao Kurosawa, Katsumi Furukawa, Masato Hara
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Japanese (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: Fox Lorber
  • DVD Release Date: April 15, 2003
  • Run Time: 162 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (387 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008973Q
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,280 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ran (Masterworks Edition)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Wayne Klein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 23, 2005
Format: DVD
Kurosawa's last undisputed masterpiece, "Ran" adapts "King Lear" (Shakespeare was one of Kurosawa's favorite writer) placing it during the 16th century in Japan. Like "Throne of Blood" (another Kurosawa classic that also adapts "Macbeth") "Ran" melds action with drama in a unique way that only Kurosawa was able to do. Sure there have been other directors that have made films about Japanese culture, Feudalism and the Samurai but none with the keen insight and profound glimpse into what makes a culture tick as well as Kurosawa.

Kurosawa had lost most of his collaborators prior to the shooting of "Ran". All of that informs the darkness and his identification for the main character. While Kurosawa freely borrowed from "King Lear", he also informed the film with many issues facing himself; he felt isolated from the Japanese filmmaking community and he was unappreciated in this late phase of his career having to scramble to get financing (frequently going overseas to get it). Kurosawa felt isolated and alone without his collaborators. The loss of his wife just prior to shooting meant that Kurosawa threw his raging emotions into "Ran" using the story of "Lear" as a means to examine his own personal situation.

A beautiful, rich transfer from Criterion. There's few digital artifacts and there's virtually none of the issues that dogged the "Masterworks" edition of this film. The image isn't cropped (the "Masterworks" edition had the edge of the frame cut off) and the high definition transfer looks marvelous with rich colors, remarkable clarity and depth to the image. There is noticeable grain but that's part of the original theatrical presentation of the film and not a surprise given that the film is 20 years old. The Dolby Digital 2.
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Format: DVD
The "Ran: Masterworks Edition" DVD could have been much better, but was badly botched by the producer (Wellspring Media).
By far the biggest problem is the so-called "digital restoration," which consists of two things: running the whole movie through a miscalibrated digital denoising filter, and increasing the contrast and color saturation to cartoonish levels. The latter change can at least be undone at the playback end, but the former does irreparable damage to the image. Most of the image problems mentioned here by other reviewers are due to this "restoration," not to defects in the new transfer.
The damage from the digital denoising is severe and present throughout the film. It's easily recognized with experience, or when the denoised image is shown next to the pristine original. But since I don't have that luxury here, I'll just mention some of the more easily seen symptoms. Clouds seem slightly unnatural, as if hand-painted, because their delicate wispiness is interpreted as noise and removed (see for example 0:11:45 and 2:18:00). Thin bright lines against dark backgrounds "sparkle" or "twinkle" like stars; this is caused by cross-frame denoising, which misinterprets movement of sharp edges due to frame jitter or camera movement as transient noise (see for example the sunray pattern in the Ichimonji crest beginning at around 0:04:30). Fast-moving objects shrink or disappear completely for brief intervals, again due to cross-frame denoising (see for example Kyoami's legs as he runs, at around 0:09:15).
The new _Metropolis (1927)_ DVD includes a restoration featurette which explains why computerized denoising was not used in the restoration of that film, and shows examples of some of the problems described above.
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7 Comments 155 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
That Ran is a masterpiece is not really up for debate. It's arguably the greatest film by arguably the greatest Japanese filmmaker of all-time (and thus one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time from any nation, period).

However, this gem's transition to DVD has been cringe-worthy on Region 1. The Fox Lorber edition is noted as being one of the worst transfers in existence, and while many were satisfied with the Masterworks edition, most who were familiar with the film (and many who weren't) recognized that there was an obscene amount of digital manipulation. The result is the film's colors looked utterly artificial and the film has nowhere near the serene look it normally does. The transfer is just deplorable.

But, true to their reputation, Criterion is coming to save the day. They've announced they're working on a release for late this year. Expect a deluxe edition that you WILL want to wait for, guaranteed. Let the current editions rot.
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Format: Blu-ray
To put all to rest:

I am viewing Ran from the Criterion collection on my laptop while watching the Blu-Ray on my Toshiba LCD 1080p through a PS3. I have seen the Criterion version at least 3 times on my TV prior to this viewing.

There is not much difference really. (Though my nod goes to the Criterion for the slightly ~ and I stress slightly ~ better subtitles and translations)

The picture is great on the Criterion version; but the movie is a little crisper and cleaner on the Blu-Ray (though not truly HD ~ it still retains the original look). For those purists, I don't think that the clarity of either version really changes the vision Kurosawa had when he created this masterpiece.

The subtitles work just fine on both, though there are a few slight differences in actual wording. For example Criterion: "Lady Kaede, forgive me for disrobing in front of you" ; Blu-Ray: "Lady Kaede, I'm going to be naked". (which is the more accurate translation!) The slight changes in dialogue don't really change the movie, the meanings are still the same. I have studied Japanese for a long time and it is one of those languages which doesn't translate exactly into English, so any translation will have to adjust accordingly. This doesn't happen very often, and is really only noticeable if you are playing the Criterion version right next to the Blu-Ray (as I did).

There were a few instances where the wording had to be changed (on both versions) to make sense in English but again, if it were translated exactly it would make little sense to English speakers. "This event which you refer to was not by me done" would be the literal translation for "I didn't do it". Or "there sit" is what Kaede says in Japanese but sounds better as "Please sit there".
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