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Japan 1985
Directed by
Akira Kurosawa
167 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemiongway
4.5 stars


Brilliant staging and cinematography make this reworking of King Lear transposed to the setting of feudal Japan one of the finest cinema spectacles that you are ever likely to see The battle scenes are marvels of mass choreography and there is a judicious interplay between the clangour of battle and the loneliness of the isolated characters in the empty landscape or empty interiors as we follow the tragic story of Grand Lord Hidetora (Tatsuya Nakadai) and the chaos (the meaning of the film's Japanese title) that comes to pass when he cedes his power to his two selfish ambitious sons and banishes his third son, the only on who is actually concerned for his welfare. Although evincing sympathy for him, Kurosawa also adopts a Buddhistic tone, suggesting that not only is his lot the bitter fruit of the cruel ruthlessness that brought him to power in the first place but that he has blindly followed the primitive, seeminglynever-ending human tendency to violence. .

Whilst the film is in many ways a re-visitation of Throne Of Blood, Kurosawa's 1957 reworking of 'Macbeth', the stunning use of colour (often set against the ashen slopes of Mount Fuji) gives it a spectacular dimension that the earlier film did not have and it needs to be seen on the big screen to be appreciated fully. The only things one could hold against the film is that it is a tad too long and that in places some of the prosthetic work looks a little amateurish (had these been pruned both issues would have been improved) but this is a small flaw in what is arguably Kurosawa's finest achievement in the samourai film category




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