After securing a major victory on the battlefield, Taketoti Washizu and one of his commanders, Yoshiaki Miki, find themselves lost in the maze-like Spider's Web forest. They come across a spirit-like seer who tells them of their future: both have been promoted because of their victory that day; Washizu will someday be the Great Lord of the Spider's Web castle while Miki's son will someday rule as Great Lord as well. When they arrive at the castle, they learn that the first part of the prophecy is correct. Washizu has no desire to become Great Lord but his ambitious wife urges him to reconsider. When the current Great Lord makes a surprise visit to his garrison outpost, Washizu is again promoted to commander of his vanguard but his wife reminds him of the danger that comes with the position. As pressure mounts, Wahizu takes action leading to its inevitable conclusion. Written by
Round 2 being "Ran", an adaptation of King Lear. This first adaptation sets the bard's play "McBeth" in medieval Japan. Kurosowa decided to use a technique halfway between nô theater and adventure cinema and succeeds as always to deliver something cool, exciting and involving (not to mention time-withstanding!). Many of this movie's detractors insist that the acting is exaggerated and that Kurosowa's directing method is cold and impersonal... for your information, nô theater is about exaggerated mannerism and expression (and the script is theatrical without piling up trite dialogue]) but one look at Mifune and you realize that this is in fact astonishing acting pushed a little further (his character is cool while occasionally veering towards a state of superstitious alertness, then slowly descends into madness), and he plays a villain. Your appreciation of this film depends on whether or not you can sympathize with a flawed and ultimately insane person. As for the directing, it isn't cold at all (quite visceral in fact when Mifune's character gives in to his fits and his final scene is astoundingly gripping). Never will Kurosowa be confused with the overly intellectual and distant (and inferior) Kubrick. So to all you detractors, please grant this film the following: even though it makes for an unsettling show of human corruption and deals with dark themes, it does so in a very masterful way. Not Kurosowa's best, but still a very worthy and refreshing addition to his work.
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