by HELEN GEIB
This month on Photo Play: essential Kurosawa
Last Week: High and Low (1963)
Coming Next: Throwdown (2004)
DVD of the Week – The Tragic Women of Ran (1985)
Ran: Akira Kurosawa’s greatest film and one of the most astonishing achievements in the adaption of a Shakespearean tragedy. And I’ll take that to my grave.
To my mind, the single most impressive statistic about Kurosawa is that he made five films- all of them strikingly different from the others- that have their passionate advocates for the “masterpiece” crown. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised to be told it was more than five.
Definitely more than five.
In alphabetical order, and these are al masterpieces: The Bad Sleep Well, Dersu Uzala, Drunken Angel, The Hidden Fortress, High and Low, Ikiru, Kagemusha, The Lower Depths, Ran, Rashomon, Red Beard, Sanjuro, Seven Samurai, Stray Dog, Throne of Blood, and Yojimbo.
Well, I was using “masterpiece” in the “an artist’s greatest work” meaning, although the singularity requirement of the traditional definition does seem to have fallen by the wayside (just like “unique” has been defined down to mean “different” in popular usage).
The films I’ve repeatedly seen argued as Kurosawa’s greatest film are Ran, Seven Samurai, High and Low, Ikiru, and Rashomon. With a list like that it’s splitting hairs to rank them, but I’m willing to play the game anyway because talking about Kurosawa’s movies is the next best thing to watching them. I’m in the High and Low camp by the way.
Considering the depth and variety of his filmography I can’t imagine those are the only titles that have ever garnered “masterpiece” votes either.
Kurosawa is one exceptional person to be able to depict such passion in each of his films, no matter how diverse these may be. It’s like he can make something so interesting that he could lure in even kids to watch historical films.
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