Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni and Masato Ide based on King Lear by William Shakespeare
First of all let me say the costumes in this are off the hook awesome.
I watched it with Ellen on a partially foggy, partially sunny Saturday afternoon after we’d failed to find a copy of La Maman et Le Putain with English subtitles. Realising this is one the based on Lear we agreed to watch this instead. I had for some reason, imagined this was a much older film than the 80s so I was surprised by the lush colours of it. It’s gorgeous, the long shots of people on horseback at the top of a hill, or the interiors lit up by the bright kimono of one of the wives.
Lord Ichimoji wakes up and looks out the window to see his third castle is under siege, many warriors and horses and things burning.
Ellen: uh oh!
Jenni: yeah, that’s no good, I wouldn’t want to look out the window and see that.
E: If I woke up and saw that out my window I’d be more surprised than anything.
It’s a fantastic battle sequence though, beautiful music and fantastic staging. The burning castle was a real castle they build on the slopes of Mt Fuji and the fleeing had to be done in one take since they’d really burned their set. Full on. I can see how this movie was Kurosawa’s most expensive.
Does it make me love the people? Sure. Right at the start when the elderly Lord Ichimonji falls asleep, Saburo cuts the branches of a tree to set up a little shade for him, it’s very sweet. Much like with Lear, you feel sympathy for the old man while knowing he basically brought it all upon himself. The fool is awesome too, love a fool.
Ellen wondered where this was filmed and I found out some astounding stuff on the wikipedia page. An $11 million budget in 1984, all the uniforms and armour handmade over two years, Kurosawa’s wife died during the filming and they paused for one day to mourn her and then he just kept on filming. I’m pretty inspired to read up more on Kurosawa after this movie.
Bechdel test: There are named women, but they’re just wives of the sons and never in the same scene. Sue does talk to an older lady over who should go get the flute but the older lady isn’t named I think, and they’re talking about getting a flute to make a man happy so… I don’t think it counts.
“all we did, was speak the truth”
Fool: must be nice, having no idea what’s going on.
“Lady Sue must have been a fox in disguise!” – this whole sequence was golden, remind me if anyone ever charges me with bringing them a head that I have to use the fox head trick and then be as surprised by it as the recipient.
State of Mind: Very impressed, not just in the elegant translation of Lear to medieval Japan but with the production and the way it managed to keep my attention even though it’s not the shortest movie. Stunning stuff, Ellen was also impressed. Highly recommend and may well watch again at some point.