Akira Kurosawa's 1985 film is slightly marred by some too obvious straining toward masterpiece status, yet it's a stunning achievement in epic cinema. Working on a large scale seems to bring out the best in Kurosawa's essentially formal talents; Kagemusha seems only a rough draft for the effects he achieves here through a massive deployment of movement and color. Both landscape and weather seem to bend to his will as he constructs an imaginary 16th-century Japan out of various locations throughout the islands, which seems to re-form itself to reflect the characters' surging passions as the violent tale progresses. It's loosely adapted from King Lear: an aging warlord (Tatsuya Nakadai, in a performance that approaches a Kabuki stylization) decides to step down as the head of his clan, which unleashes a power struggle among his three sons. As in Kagemusha, Kurosawa envisions the only alternative to rigid oppression as apocalyptic chaos, yet the bleak proposal is put with infinitely more immediacy and personal involvement. In Japanese with subtitles.
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Writer: Masato Ide, Akira Kurosawa and Hideo Oguni
Producer: Katsumi Furukawa, Masato Hara, Hisao Kurosawa and Serge Silberman
Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Mieko Harada, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Kazuko Kato, Masayuki Yui, Hitoshi Ueki, Hisashi Igawa, Takeshi Nomura, Jun Tazaki, Norio Matsui, Kenji Kodama, Toshiya Ito and Takeshi Kato