Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kurosawa at War

ImageKagemusha (Criterion Blu-ray)

Akira Kurosawa’s 1980 samurai epic has always been considered a mere run-through for 1985’s Ran, an audacious adaptation of King Lear. It’s true that Kagemusha drags during its three-hour length and that its lead characters—the leader and his impersonator—are hazily-defined (despite the intensity with which that magnificent actor Tatsuya Nakadai plays both roles). But Kurosawa’s always-impressive visual majesty and artistic control are in evidence throughout. What distinguishes Criterion’s Blu-ray from the original DVD—aside from sequences of marching armies and of bleeding sunsets where the colors burst from of the frame and spill out from your TV screen—is the amount of film grain, which makes Kagemusha look closer to Kurosawa’s intentions than ever. The extras (also from the original DVD) include another episode of the wonderful documentary series about Kurosawa’s films, It Is Wonderful to Create, a video piece about Kurosawa’s sketches and an interview with George Lucas and Francis Coppola, who presented the film in America.

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