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It took Akira Kurosawa a long time to get a Best Director nomination. He finally did it with Ran, his 1985 adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The film is a visual masterpiece and is rich in detail and storytelling. It is the height of Kurosawa as a filmmaker.
Here are 9 things about the film you may not have known…
1. The majority of the elaborate costumes in the film were hand stitched, and it took over two years to complete.
2. Almost the entire film is done in long-shot and there is only one close-up when The Lady Kaede is presented with the head of a fox statue.
3. The castle destroyed in the middle of the movie was specially constructed on the slopes of Mount Fuji for the film and then burned down. No miniatures were used for that segment, although an optical of another castle being burned at the end was used.
4. Akira Kurosawa referred to his previous film, Kagemusha, as a “dress rehearsal” for this film. He spent ten years storyboarding every shot in the film as paintings. The resulting collection of images was published with the screenplay.
5. Akira Kurosawa’s wife of 39 years, Yôko Yaguchi, died during the production of this film. Kurosawa halted filming for just one day to mourn before resuming work on the picture.
6. Akira Kurosawa began writing the film 10 years before its release and said that it wasn’t originally meant to be based on King Lear, but came to that during the writing process.
7. The sky in the film gradually becomes more and more cloudy the more plot progressed. It finally culminates after the first half, when heavy gusts of wind appear.
8. Akira Kurosawa’s eyesight had deteriorated almost completely by the time principal photography began. He could only frame shots with the help of assistants, who used his storyboard paintings as guidelines.
9. Criterion was set to release the film on Blu-Ray in Region 1 territories, which would have made this the first Akira Kurosawa film released on Blu-Ray in America. But Criterion lost the rights to the film at the last minute and was left unable to release it, plus all of their earlier releases of the film on DVD went out of print. As a result, Criterion’s release of Kagemusha became the first Kurosawa film released in the USA. However, Ran has since been released in American as a part of the Studio Canal Collection, distributed by Lionsgate.