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Template:Nihongo3 is a 1985 jidaigeki epic tragedy directed, edited and co-written by Akira Kurosawa. It is a Japanese-French venture[1] produced by Herald Ace, Nippon Herald Films and Greenwich Film Productions. The film stars Tatsuya Nakadai as Hidetora Ichimonji, an aging Sengoku-era warlord who decides to abdicate as ruler in favor of his three sons. The film is an adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy King Lear, and includes segments based on legends of the daimyō Mōri Motonari.

Ran was Kurosawa's last epic, and has often been cited as amongst his finest achievements. With a budget of $11 million, it was the most expensive Japanese film ever produced up to that time.[3] Ran was previewed on May 31, 1985 at the Tokyo International Film Festival before its release on June 1, 1985 in Japan. The film was hailed for its powerful images and use of color—costume designer Emi Wada won an Academy Award for Costume Design for her work on Ran. The distinctive Gustav Mahler–inspired film score was composed by Toru Takemitsu.


Great Lord Hidetora Ichimonji, a powerful though now elderly warlord, decides to divide his territory among his three sons. Taro, the eldest, receives the First Castle and leadership of the Ichimonji clan, while Jiro and Saburo, as second and third sons, will be given the Second and Third Castles respectively; Hidetora is to retain the title of Great Lord. Two other visiting warlords, Lords Ayabe and Fujimaki, bear witness to the decision. Saburo objects, saying that it is foolish to rely on his brothers' loyalty. A faithful servant, Tango, also agrees. However, Hidetora takes Saburo's protests as an insult, and he exiles both men. However, Fujimaki, appreciating Saburo's frankness, takes him in.

Following the division of Hidetora's lands amongst the two remaining sons, Taro's wife Lady Kaede, resentful of Hidetora's ruthless killing of her family, urges Taro to oust Hidetora. Taro makes a pretext of a conflict arising from an insulting song sung by Kyoami, Hidetora's fool, demanding Hidetora renounce his title. His son's disrespect shames Hidetora, causing him to storm out of the castle in anger. Hidetora travels to Jiro's castle, meeting with meeting with him and his wife, Sué, only to discover that like Taro, Jiro too openly disrespects him. Hidetora leaves Jiro's castle in disgust, and eventually Tango appears, bringing further news of Taro's betrayal. Against Tango's advice, Hidetora listens to his advisor Ikuro, taking refuge in the abandoned Third Castle.

Shortly thereafter, the castle is besieged by Taro and Jiro's combined forces, and virtually all Hidetora's followers are slaughtered. In the confusion, Taro is also killed from behind by Jiro's general, Kurogane. Alone and unable to commit seppuku, Hidetora succumbs to madness and wanders away from the burning castle, in full view of the astonished enemy. Hidetora is joined by Tango and Kyoami, who remain loyal, and seeking refuge in the wilderness, the three encounter Tsurumaru, the brother of Lady Sué, blinded and left destitute by Hidetora. Horrified by Tsurumaru's haunting flute song, Hidetora flees with his two followers.

As Taro is dead, Jiro moves into the First Castle as Great Lord. Suspicious, Lady Kaede threatens him into admitting his part in her husband's fall in battle, before herself stating that she cares only for her own future, and seduces him. Falling under Kaede's control, Jiro orders Kurogane to obtain Lady Sué's head. In defiance, Kurogane brings back the head of a kitsune statue instead, attempting to warn Jiro of Kaede's dangerous influence.

Tango encounters and kills two spies for Jiro, who have since been abandoned by him. One of them is Ikuro, who before dying warns him that Jiro is sure to send assassins after Hidetora, causing Tango to ride off to alert Saburo. Meanwhile, Tsurumaru and Sué, fleeing from Jiro, arrive at the ruins of a castle, encountering a wandering Hidetora; in guilt, he becomes even more insane, losing Kyoami as he runs into a nearby plain.

Roused by Tango to seek his father, Saburo, Ayabe, Fujimaki, and their armies cross back into Jiro's territory. Goaded by Kaede to attack, and against the advice of his generals, Jiro hastily mobilizes his army for war. Notified by Kyoami of the situation, Saburo takes a small unit from the battlefield, successfully finding Hidetora, who has collapsed in the plain. Hidetora recovers his sanity, and he mournfully apologizes to Saburo for his foolishness, which Saburo accepts tearfully.

At the battlefield, Jiro attacks Saburo's force in Saburo's absence, but is forced to hastily retreat by the news that Ayabe, having deployed a decoy force, is in actuality marching on First Castle. While Saburo and Hidetora are returning together, a marksman in a unit of snipers sent by Jiro, shoots and kills Saburo. Overcome with grief, Hidetora also dies, and Tango and Kyoami mourn their deaths as Fujimaki and his army arrive bearing news of victory.

Sué, having given a picture of Amida Buddha to Tsurumaru to watch over him while he stays at the ruins, leaves to retrieve Tsurumaru's flute and is murdered by Jiro's vassal. As First Castle is attacked, Kurogane sees proof of Sué's death and confronts Kaede. She admits to her manipulation, having completed her plot for revenge now that the castle is doomed. Enraged, Kurogane decapitates Kaede in front of Jiro, before both Jiro and Kurogane go to their deaths in the subsequent battle.

A solemn funeral procession is held for Saburo and Hidetora. Meanwhile, alone in the castle ruins, Tsurumaru stumbles, dropping the Amida Buddha image into the gorge below.


  • Tatsuya Nakadai as Great Lord Hidetora Ichimonji: The main character of the film. A feared and respected elderly warlord who has pillaged and conquered many lands throughout his long life. He begins to have a mental breakdown after making the rash decision to give authority to his sons, leading to his downfall. This character is the equivalent of King Lear.
  • Akira Terao as Lord Taro: Hidetora's oldest of three sons. Heir to Hidetora's power, the rather weak and unfit Taro has a difficult time establishing his authority over his father's empire. This character is the equivalent of Goneril.
  • Jinpachi Nezu as Lord Jiro: Hidetora's middle son, who is only a year younger than Taro and is by far the most ambitious, ruthless and reckless of the three brothers. Persuaded by Lady Kaede, he attempts to wipe out any threat to his bid for power- including his younger brother Saburo. This character is the equivalent of Regan.
  • Daisuke Ryu as Lord Saburo: Hidetora's youngest son, and the only non-corrupt son. After warning his father against so quickly dividing authority amongst his sons, he is banished, only to later search for his father after Hidetora succumbs to madness. This character is the equivalent of Cordelia.
  • Masayuki Yui as Tango: Hidetora's main advisor. Tango is also banished by Hidetora after siding with Saburo and publicly disagreeing with the Great Lord's decision. He and Saburo attempt to rescue Hidetora.
  • Shinnosuke "Peter" Ikehata as Kyoami: Hidetora's comic fool, who makes jokes as entertainment for Hidetora and his retinue. At Tango's request, he stays with Hidetora during his lowest moments.
  • Mieko Harada as Lady Kaede: Taro's wife, Hidetora's daughter-in-law and Jiro and Saburo's sister-in-law. Years ago, Hidetora massacred her entire family, and forced her to marry Taro. During the current events, the rage-filled and vengeful Kaede plots her revenge to destroy the House of Ichimonji and turn its members against each other. She seduces Jiro and becomes an insidious influence to his actions.
Character Equivalent in King Lear Actor
Hidetora Ichimonji King Lear Tatsuya Nakadai
Taro Goneril Akira Terao
Jiro Regan Jinpachi Nezu
Saburo Cordelia Daisuke Ryu
Tango Kent Masayuki Yui
Kyoami Fool Shinnosuke "Peter" Ikehata
Tsurumaru Gloucester Takeshi Nomura
Lady Sué Edgar Yoshiko Miyazaki
Lady Kaede Edmund Mieko Harada
Kurogane Albany Hisashi Igawa
Nobuhiro Fujimaki King of France Hitoshi Ueki


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When I read that three arrows together are invincible, that's not true. I started doubting, and that's when I started thinking: the house was prosperous and the sons were courageous. What if this fascinating man had bad sons?

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Kurosawa first conceived of the idea that would become Ran in the mid-1970s, when he read a parable about the Sengoku-era warlord Mōri Motonari. Motonari was famous for having three sons, all incredibly loyal and talented in their own right. Kurosawa began imagining what would have happened had they been bad.[4] Although the film eventually became heavily inspired by Shakespeare's play King Lear, Kurosawa only became aware of the play after he had started pre-planning. According to him, the stories of Mōri Motonari and Lear merged in a way he was never fully able to explain. He wrote the script shortly after filming Dersu Uzala in 1975, and then "let it sleep" for seven years.[5] During this time, he painted storyboards of every shot in the film (later included with the screenplay and available on the Criterion Collection DVD release of the film) and then continued searching for funding. Following his success with 1980's Kagemusha, which he sometimes called a "dress rehearsal" for Ran, Kurosawa was finally able to secure backing from French producer Serge Silberman.

Kurosawa once said "Hidetora is me," and there is evidence in the film that Hidetora serves as a stand-in for Kurosawa.[6] Roger Ebert agrees, arguing that Ran "may be as much about Kurosawa's life as Shakespeare's play."[7] Ran was the final film of Kurosawa's "third period" (1965–1985), a time where he had difficulty securing support for his pictures, and was frequently forced to seek foreign financial backing. While he had directed over twenty films in the first two decades of his career, he directed just four in these two decades. After directing Red Beard (1965), Kurosawa discovered that he was considered old-fashioned and did not work again for almost five years. He also found himself competing against television, which had reduced Japanese film audiences from a high of 1.1 billion in 1958 to under 200 million by 1975. In 1968 he was fired from the 20th Century Fox epic Tora! Tora! Tora! over what he described as creative differences, but others said was a perfectionism that bordered on insanity. Kurosawa tried to start an independent production group with three other directors, but his 1970 film Dodesukaden was a box-office flop and bankrupted the company.[8] Many of his younger rivals boasted that he was finished. A year later, unable to secure any domestic funding and plagued by ill-health, Kurosawa attempted suicide by slashing his wrists. Though he survived, his misfortune would continue to plague him until the late 1980s.

File:William Dyce - King Lear and the Fool in the Storm.jpg

King Lear and the Fool in the Storm by William Dyce.

Kurosawa was influenced by the William Shakespeare play King Lear and borrowed elements from it. Both depict an aging warlord who decides to divide up his kingdom among his offspring. Hidetora has three sons — Taro, Jiro, and Saburo who correspond to Lear's daughters Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. In both, the warlord foolishly banishes anyone who disagrees with him as a matter of pride — in Lear it is the Earl of Kent and Cordelia; in Ran it is Tango and Saburo. The conflict in both is that two of the lord's children ultimately turn against him, while the third supports him, though Hidetora's sons are far more ruthless than Goneril and Regan. Both King Lear and Ran end with the death of the entire family, including the lord.

However, there are some crucial differences between the two. King Lear is a play about undeserved suffering, and Lear himself is at his worst a fool. Hidetora, by contrast, has been a cruel warrior for most of his life: a man who ruthlessly murdered men, women, and children to achieve his goals.[9] In Ran, Lady Kaede, Lady Sué, and Tsurumaru were all victims of Hidetora. Whereas in King Lear the character of Gloucester had his eyes gouged out by Lear's enemies, in Ran it was Hidetora himself who gave the order to blind Tsurumaru. The role of the Fool has been expanded into a major character (Kyoami), and Lady Kaede serves as the equivalent of Goneril, but is given a more complex and important character.[10] Kurosawa was concerned that Shakespeare gave his characters no past, and he wanted to give King Lear a history.[11]

The complex and variant etiology for the word Ran used as the title has been variously translated as "chaos", "rebellion", or "revolt"; or to mean "disturbed" or "confused".


File:Ran storyboards.jpg

Prior to filming, Kurosawa spent ten years storyboarding every shot in the film as paintings. This is the Third Castle upon Hidetora's arrival.

Ran was Kurosawa's last epic film and by far his most expensive. At the time, its budget of $12 million made it the most expensive Japanese film in history.[12] Filming of Ran started in 1983.[13] The 1,400 uniforms and suits of armor used for the extras were designed by costume designer Emi Wada and Kurosawa, and were handmade by master tailors over more than two years. The film also used 200 horses. Kurosawa loved filming in lush and expansive locations, and most of Ran was shot amidst the mountains and plains of Mount Aso, Japan's largest active volcano. Kurosawa was also granted permission to shoot at two of the country's most famous landmarks, the ancient castles at Kumamoto and Himeji. For the castle of Lady Sué's family, he used the ruins of the Azusa castle Template:Dubious.[5] Hidetora's third castle, which was burned to the ground, was actually a real building which Kurosawa built on the slopes of Mount Fuji. No miniatures were used for that segment, and Tatsuya Nakadai had to do the scene where Hidetora flees the castle in one take.[5] Apparently, Kurosawa also wanted to include a scene that required an entire field to be sprayed gold; it was filmed but Kurosawa cut it out of the final film during editing. The filming of this scene can be seen in the documentary A.K..

Kurosawa would often shoot a scene with three cameras simultaneously, each using different lenses and angles. Many long-shots were employed throughout the film and very few close-ups. On several occasions he used static cameras and suddenly brought the action into frame, rather than using the camera to track the action. He also used jump cuts to progress certain scenes, changing the pace of the action for filmic effect.[10]

Akira Kurosawa's wife of 39 years, Yōko Yaguchi, died during the production of this film. He halted filming for one day to mourn before resuming work on the picture. His regular recording engineer Fumio Yanoguchi also died late in production in January 1985.[14]

Acting style

While most of the characters in Ran are portrayed by conventional acting techniques, two performances are reminiscent of Japanese Noh theater. The heavy, ghost-like makeup worn by Tatsuya Nakadai's character, Hidetora, resembles the emotive masks worn by traditional Noh performers. The body language exhibited by the same character is also typical of Noh theater: long periods of static motion and silence, followed by an abrupt, sometimes violent, change in stance. The character of Lady Kaede is also Noh-influenced. The Noh treatment emphasizes the ruthless, passionate, and single-minded natures of these two characters.


The description of Hidetora in the first script was originally based on Toshiro Mifune.[11] However, the role was cast to Tatsuya Nakadai, an actor who had played several supporting and major characters in previous Kurosawa films, as well as Shingen and his "kagemusha", "double", in Kagemusha. Other Kurosawa veterans in Ran were Masayuki Yui (Tango), Jinpachi Nezu (Jiro) and Daisuke Ryu (Saburo), all of whom were in Kagemusha. Others had not, but would go on to work with Kurosawa again, such as Akira Terao (Taro) and Mieko Harada (Lady Kaede) in Dreams. Hisashi Igawa (Kurogane) would be in Rhapsody in August, and later, in Dreams, where Yui would also appear. Kurosawa also hired two comedians for lighter moments: Shinnosuke "Peter" Ikehata as Hidetora's fool Kyoami and Hitoshi Ueki as rival warlord Nobuhiro Fujimaki. Kurosawa hired approximately 1,400 extras.


Composer Toru Takemitsu originally wanted to use human voices as music for Ran. However, Kurosawa decided to have Takemitsu write a score influenced by the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler.[15]

Kurosawa wanted the London Symphony Orchestra to perform the score for Ran. Upon meeting conductor Hiroyuki Iwaki of the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra, he engaged Iwaki and the orchestra to record the score.[16] Kurosawa made the orchestra play up to 40 takes of the music.[16]



File:Ran (film) castle massacre.jpg

The murder of Hidetora's concubines during the castle massacre.

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A terrible scroll of Hell is shown depicting the fall of the castle. There are no real sounds as the scroll unfolds like a daytime nightmare. It is a scene of human evildoing, the way of the demonic Ashura, as seen by a Buddha in tears. The music superimposed on these pictures is, like the Buddha's heart, measured in beats of profound anguish, the chanting of a melody full of sorrow that begins like sobbing and rises gradually as it is repeated, like karmic cycles, then finally sounds like the wailing of countless Buddhas.

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One central theme in the film is chaos; in many scenes Kurosawa foreshadows it by filming approaching cumulonimbus clouds, which finally break into a raging storm during the castle massacre. Hidetora is an autocrat whose powerful presence keeps the countryside unified and at peace. His abdication frees up other characters, such as Jiro and Lady Kaede, to pursue their own agendas, which they do with absolute ruthlessness. While the title is almost certainly an allusion to Hidetora's decision to abdicate (and the resulting mayhem that follows), there are other examples of the disorder of life, what Michael Sragow calls a "trickle-down theory of anarchy."[18] The death of Taro ultimately elevates Lady Kaede to power and turns Jiro into an unwilling pawn in her schemes. Saburo's decision to rescue Hidetora ultimately draws in two rival warlords and leads to an unwanted battle between Jiro and Saburo, culminating in the destruction of the Ichimonji clan.

The ultimate example of chaos is the absence of gods. When Hidetora sees Lady Sué, a devout Buddhist and the most religious character in the film, he tells her, "Buddha is gone from this miserable world." Sué, despite her belief in love and forgiveness, eventually has her head cut off. When Kyoami claims that the gods either do not exist or are the cause of human suffering, Tango responds, "[The gods] can't save us from ourselves." Kurosawa has repeated the point, saying "humanity must face life without relying on God or Buddha."[4] The last shot of the film shows Tsurumaru standing on top of the ruins of his family castle. Unable to see, he stumbles towards the edge until he almost falls over. He drops the scroll of the Buddha his sister had given him and just stands there, "a blind man at the edge of a precipice, bereft of his god, in a darkening world."[19] This may symbolize the modern concept of the death of God, as Kurosawa also claimed "Man is perfectly alone... [Tsurumaru] represents modern humanity."[5]


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What I was trying to get at in Ran, and this was there from the script stage, was that the gods or God or whoever it is observing human events is feeling sadness about how human beings destroy each other, and powerlessness to affect human beings' behavior.

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In addition to its chaotic elements, Ran also contains a strong element of nihilism, which is present from the opening sequence, where Hidetora mercilessly hunts down a boar only to refrain from eating it, to the last scene with Tsurumaru. Roger Ebert describes Ran as "a 20th-century film set in medieval times, in which an old man can arrive at the end of his life having won all his battles, and foolishly think he still has the power to settle things for a new generation. But life hurries ahead without any respect for historical continuity; his children have their own lusts and furies. His will is irrelevant, and they will divide his spoils like dogs tearing at a carcass."[7]

This marked a radical departure from Kurosawa's earlier films, many of which balanced pessimism with hopefulness. Only Throne of Blood, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, had as bleak an outlook. Even Kagemusha, though it chronicled the fall of the Takeda clan and their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Nagashino, had ended on a note of regret rather than despair. By contrast, the world of Ran is a Hobbesian world, where life is an endless cycle of suffering and everybody is a villain or a victim, and in many cases both. Heroes like Saburo may do the right thing, but in the end they are doomed as well. Unlike other Kurosawa heroes, like Kikuchiyo in Seven Samurai or Watanabe from Ikiru, who die performing great acts, Saburo dies pointlessly. Gentle characters like Lady Sué are doomed to fall victim to the evil and violence around them, and conniving characters like Jiro or Lady Kaede are never given a chance to atone and are predestined to a life of wickedness culminating in violent death.[20]


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All the technological progress of these last years has only taught human beings how to kill more of each other faster. It's very difficult for me to retain a sanguine outlook on life under such circumstances.

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According to Michael Wilmington, Kurosawa told him that much of the film was a metaphor for nuclear warfare and the anxiety of the post-Hiroshima age.[22] He believed that, despite all of the technological progress of the 20th century, all people had learned was how to kill each other more efficiently.[21] In Ran, the vehicle for apocalyptic destruction is the arquebus, an early firearm that was introduced to Japan in the 16th century. Arquebuses revolutionized samurai warfare, and the age of swords and single-combat warriors fell rapidly by the wayside. Now, samurai warfare would be characterized by massive faceless armies engaging each other at a distance. Kurosawa had already dealt with this theme in his previous film Kagemusha, in which the Takeda cavalry is destroyed by the arquebuses of the Oda and Tokugawa clans.

In Ran, the battle of Hachiman Field is a perfect illustration of this new kind of warfare. Saburo's arquebusiers annihilate Jiro's cavalry and drive off his infantry by engaging them from the woods, where the cavalry are unable to venture. Similarly, Saburo's assassination by a sniper also shows how individual heroes can be easily disposed of on a modern battlefield. Kurosawa also illustrates this new warfare with his camera. Instead of focusing on the warring armies, he frequently sets the focal plane beyond the action, so that in the film they appear as abstract entities.[23]


Though Ran was critically acclaimed upon its premiere[24] on June 1, 1985 in Japan, it was only modestly successful financially, earning only ¥2,510,000,000 ($12 million), just enough to break even.[25] Its U.S. release six months later earned another $2–3 million, and a re-release in 2000 accumulated $337,112.[26]

Ran had similar luck in the awards categories: it was completed too late to be entered at Cannes and had its premiere at Japan's first Tokyo International Film Festival.[27] Kurosawa skipped the film's premiere, angering many in the Japanese film industry. As a result, Ran was not submitted as Japan's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Oscars. Serge Silberman subsequently tried to get it nominated as a French co-production but failed. However, American director Sidney Lumet helped organize a successful campaign to have Kurosawa nominated as Best Director.[11]

Roger Ebert awarded the film four out of four stars, writing, "'Ran' is a great, glorious achievement. Kurosawa often must have associated himself with the old lord as he tried to put this film together, but in the end he has triumphed, and the image I have of him, at 75, is of three arrows bundled together." In 2000, it was inducted into Ebert's Great Movies list.


Ran was also nominated for Academy Awards for art direction, cinematography, costume design (which it won), and Kurosawa's direction. It was also successfully nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. In Japan, Ran was conspicuously not nominated for "Best Picture" at the Awards of the Japanese Academy. However, it won two prizes, for best art direction and best music score, and received four other nominations, for best cinematography, best lighting, best sound and best supporting actor (Hitoshi Ueki, who played Saburo's patron, Lord Fujimaki). Ran also won two awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, for best foreign-language film and best make-up artist, and was nominated for best cinematography, best costume design, best production design, and best screenplay—adapted. Despite its limited commercial success at the time of its release, the film's accolades have improved greatly, and it is now regarded as one of Kurosawa's masterpieces.[7]

Ran also won Best Director and Best Foreign Film awards from the National Board of Review, a Best Film award and a Best Cinematography award (Takao Saitô, Shôji Ueda, and Asakazu Nakai) from the National Society of Film Critics, a Best Foreign Language Film award from the New York Film Critics Circle, a Best Music award (Tôru Takemitsu) and a Best Foreign Film award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, a Best Film award and a Best Cinematography award from the Boston Society of Film Critics, a Best Foreign Feature award from the Amanda Awards from Norway, a Blue Ribbon Award for Best Film, a Best European Film award from the Bodil Awards, a Best Foreign Director award from the David di Donatello Awards, a Joseph Plateau Award for Best Artistic Contribution, a Director of the Year award and a Foreign Language Film of the Year award from the London Critics Circle Film Awards, a Best Film, a Best Supporting Actor (Hisashi Igawa) and a Best Director from the Mainichi Film Concours, and an OCIC award from the San Sebastian Film Festival.[28][29]

See also


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  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Ebert, Roger. "Ran (1985)." Roger Ebert's Great Movies, October 1, 2000.
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  10. 10.0 10.1 Kurosawa's RAN. Jim's Reviews.
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  14. Akira Kurosawa, Akira Kurosawa: Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 2008, p. 128, ISBN 1578069971.
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  24. Script error: No such module "citation/CS1". "towering critical success of Ran, [...] welcomed as a magisterial return to form"
  25. Ran - Box Office Report
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  28. Ran, IMDb, Awards & Nominations,
  29. Nick Newman, The Film Stage, Kurosawa’s ‘Ran’ and Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ Get Restored In New Trailers,

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External links

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