DVD Title
Ran
International Title
Ran
DVD Length Original Length
160 Minutes 160 Minutes
Company Year of Manufacture
Criterion 2005
Language Subtitles
Japanese English
Region Number of Discs
1 2
Aspect Ratio Sound
1.85:1 (Anamorphic) 2.0 Stereo
Extras
. Menus (English)
. Chapters (24)
. Trailers: Ran (#1, #2, #3, #4)
. Sidney Lumet on Ran (12 minutes)
. A.K. Documentary (74 minutes)
. Toho Masterworks: Ran (30 minutes)
. Image: Kurosawa's Continuity (36 minutes)
. Interview with Tatsuya Nakadai (10 minutes)
. Audio Commentary with Stephen Prince (English)
. 28 page booklet with interviews from Akira Kurosawa and Toru Takemitsu
Captures
Review

Criterion's long awaited two disc release of Ran, one of Akira Kurosawa's most beloved endeavors, marks up another good outing for the company. On the downside, the video presentation isn't quite as flawless as some might have hoped for, but the audio is faithful and the set boasts almost three hours of extra material to keep fans of the movie more than satisfied.


 Video: Star Rating

While flawed in some respects, the video presentation found on this disc is still the best one can find for a DVD release of Ran (barring possibly Toho's region 2 disc that I'm not familiar with). On the downside, there is some extensive grain present, although it only becomes problematic during scenes of superimposition like the opening titles. To the source's credit, this video presentation is devoid of scratches or other more severe signs of film damage. The movie also looks sharper than it has on previous releases, although it appears that this was partially achieved through some minor edge enhancement being utilized.

In terms of colors, they are slightly over saturated at points, but as mentioned by some Kurosawa scholars this was actually intentional on the director's part. Sadly, the colors aren't quite as vibrant as they could have been, although the color scheme is more or less dead on without inconsistencies. Some other reviewers have noted a red tone to the film not apparent on other DVD releases, and this is true; however, this is a natural tint that was added to the movie, and appears mostly during dusk scenes. What this means is that previous DVDs likely went through extensive color restoration, and likely removed the original color tint that had been intended for these sequences.

Ran is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is Anamorphic for widescreen TVs.


 Audio: Star Rating

Criterion has packed Ran with a no thrills audio presentation, which most will still likely be happy about. In terms of quality, there are no real complaints. Speaker distinction, while not incredibly rich, is good for the two channel format with a nice amount of depth. Some scenes, like the guards arguing around the 30 minute mark, are rather exceptional in this regard, as there is an excellent sense of space with a nice distant echo added to their speech in the confined quarters. The track is also devoid of inconsistencies, while the dialogue heavy portions of the movie all come through crystal clear with good clarity.

On the downside, there aren't really any audio options to play with, which is why it wasn't given a full score. For example, there are other releases out there with a 5.1 mix added (although however terrible that might be) and some with dub tracks, although the prospect might seem like blasphemy for such a high profile Kurosawa film. In other words, if one is satisfied with just the excellent stereo track then there are really no quarrels to be had.

The movie is accompanied by, removable, English subtitles.


 Extras:

Well aware of the umpteen versions of this film on DVD, Criterion has set to separate themselves from the flock by tagging on one of the most robust selection of extras ever found on a two disc set. In fact, there is a near daunting amount of supplemental content here to look over, something which is sure to impress fans of Kurosawa's work.

The extras are spread out amongst two discs, with the bulk of the added content found on the second disc in the set. The first disc features the four trailers for the movie (all of them in lackluster quality, sadly), and a 12 minute interview on the film with director Sidney Lumet, most famous for his 12 Angry Men and Network pictures. Surprisingly, Lumet's comments are very thoughtful while at the same time very honed in on the movie itself and Kurosawa's style, in stark contrast to the much more reserved reflections from other directors such as George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola found on other Kurosawa releases. The other feature on the first DVD is a commentary by Stephen Prince, who also did one of the commentary tracks on the Ran - The Masterworks Edition. Fortunately, this is not the same commentary done for Wellspring's release, and has no notable incorrect facts or cumbersome dead spaces as was found on the 2003 DVD.

The second disc boasts most of the extras for this release, and has a number of notable features. One of which is the interview conducted with Tatsuya Nakadai specifically for this DVD. The interview runs for 12 minutes as the 72 year old actor, who looks amazingly good for his age, discusses aspects of his performance in the movie, with the notable highlight being his reminiscing of the part in Ran where he was inside the burning castle. This segment is conducted in Japanese with removable English subtitles.

Next up is the second disc's star attraction in the form of Toho's Masterworks video. For those unfamiliar with the Masterworks, they are lengthy and in-depth documentaries on the film that done by Toho for their own region 2 releases. The Ran "episode" is particularly good in this series, starting off with a reflection from director Martin Scorsese that was done at a press conference relating. It then gets into the meat of the feature with extensive interviews with the production staff, some cast comments from actors like Nakadai and Mieko Harada, while also including some early takes and behind the scenes footage, such as the production of the massive castle that is burned to the ground. There is also some nice coverage of the amount of work that went into the giant array of costumes, something which netted the movie an academy award. This feature has seven chapters to it, for easier access, and is complete with removable English subtitles.

Following this is another documentary done Chris Marker in English. This feature runs an astounding 1 hour and 14 minutes as Marker provides commentary through out while the Japanese language portions are subtitled. Unfortunately this feature is rather dry in terms of flow and the style of presentation in the English dialogue. The feature also has attracted some controversy for Marker's overzealous approach of trying to make nearly every segment poetic, the ending result being that very little insight into the director's methods is garnished on account of it. Regardless, this documentary does present a wealth of behind the scenes material which should interest fans of the movie a great deal.

Finally, rounding out the disc is a feature on Kurosawa's storyboards for the movie, which the director constructed in full painting form. This short, dubbed Image: Kurosawa's Continuity, recreates several sequences from the movie using concept art, rough storyboards, and the wonderful paintings also done in preparation for the production. This half hour feature is complete with removable English subtitles.


 Overview:

Bottom line, while this release isn't flawless, it still manages to be the best region 1 DVD of the film without much contest. The sheer wealth of extras is sure to attract enthusiasts of the movie, even those who purchased previous releases. Unfortunately, this set is fairly pricey at the $40 range, although I was able to pick mine up for $29 at Best Buy back when it was first released, so buyers might be well merited to shop around for this one.

- Anthony Romero  
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