Title: Ran (1985)
Format: 4k Blu-ray
Release Date: Nov. 16, 2021
Price: $22.99 Best Buy
Lionsgate in association with Studio Canal released Akira Kurosawa’s epic film Ran (1985) to 4k Blu-ray in North America on Nov. 16, 2021 (the film was previously available in 4k as an import, and playable on all 4k Blu-ray players because the UHD BD format is region free). The 2-disc combo edition (first available exclusively in SteelBook packaging from Best Buy) includes a 4k Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and code to redeem a Digital Copy through Lionsgate.com/redeem. Each disc also includes the Special Feature “Ran: The Restoration” that provides viewers with an insider’s look at how Studio Canal restored this classic film. The 4k Blu-ray SteelBook edition has a list price of $22.99.
As well as renowned, Akira Kurosawa was a prolific filmmaker who made 30 movies within 57 years. His directorial debut came with Sanshiro Sugata produced by Toho was made during World War II in 1943. One of his signature films, Rashomon, won the Golden Lion at the 1951 Venice Film Festival. A few laters later he directed the most expensive film in Japan at the time, Seven Samurai (1954) which was extremely successful at the box office and won international acclaim. His last two epics, Kagemusha (1980) and Ran (1985), were both nominated for Academy Awards in the United States, as well as multiple wins internationally. Here is a review of the 4k Blu-ray presentation of Ran.
First off, this is a gorgeous-looking SteelBook edition from Lionsgate that is only available in the US from Best Buy. We mentioned above that if you ‘re willing to pay for higher shipping rates the movie is also available on UHD BD as an import. The 4k SteelBook edition has a semi-transparent plastic slipcover (most slipcovers are heavy paper stock) with gorgeous illustration of the warlord Hidetora Ichimonji. The SteelBook cover art duplicates the illustration, so when the slipcover is on there is dual-layer effect through which Ichimonji’s red eyes pass through the slipcover. This is a really nice collectible piece of physical media.
Restored by Studiocanal and Kadokawa, the 4K video streams at 24 frames per second with the HDR10 spec and BT. 2020 standard for color output. The aspect ratio is 1.85:1 (16×9) format. The HEVC video streamed in the 40 Megabit per second range.
It’s almost as if HDR was made for a movie like Ran. The colors are incredibly saturated yet realistic — separated from each other on an often gray palette of architecture or landscape. Kurosawa used many primary colors such as red, yellow and blue for the flags of the tribes in Ran, and those flags create a painterly palette (not a surprise since Kurosawa started off as a painter). The three colors are the colors of the three brothers.
Of course, you also have some deeply saturated and vibrant red from blood that is prevalent in the war scenes especially at the castle where Ichimonji’s devoted warriors make their last stand. That scene is at about one hour into the film.
There are not many of them, but one of the scenes that is a little bit flat without any true black is in Chapter 11 about two minutes two hours and 28 minutes minutes.
Ran took a huge effort to restore. Portions of the film negatives from the master negatives (although in good shape considering their age) were stuck together with tape. The technicians would put the negative through a scanner and if a splice was weak it would just break. The technicians also scanned some of the film that was scratched in an immersion method which puts the film negatives into water.
With a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Ran is not as expanded to additional channels as other 4k Blu-rays that offer Atmos/TrueHD with up to 7.1 channels, but is still very effective in delivering home theater quality.
The music by Tōru Takemitsu is like another character in the film that weaves in and out of scenes. We mentioned the attack at the castle and this is a really transformative section of the film in which a classically-inspired soundtrack contrasts the violence that is happening visually.
The final battle scene, starting at about two hours, has some really great music composition with deep beating bass drums filling the background. The horse soldiers crossing at 2 hours and 26 minutes has some really nice low frequency notes. And, during the final battle there are a lot of left-to-right audio effects that immerse you in the scenes.
Ran on 4k Blu-ray one of the best film restorations we’ve seen. Of course, the film negatives are not as old as other classics that have been restored such as Spartacus (1960), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969), but let’s give credit to the team for a quality presentation resulting in the best Ran has ever looked. It would be great to see Ran printed to film from a 4k master and presented on a real movie screen. But for now, we can enjoy Ran at home on a 4k HDR LED TV (that is hopefully set to film mode) and with a surround sound system to fully enjoy the 5.1 mix.