Between 1981 and 1989, Akira Kurosawa made exactly one film: Ran. Set in feudal Japan, the 1985 masterpiece is a retelling of King Lear—only with war-waging brothers instead of conniving sisters. At the time, it was the most expensive Japanese movie ever produced, and the joy of watching it is in the large-scale compositions: spacious vistas that armies, carrying flags of red and yellow and other hues, move across like streams of blood and bile. There’s a pensiveness to the film’s extreme brutality, no doubt due to the wide shots and Toru Takemitsu’s brooding, often ambient score. It’s Kurosawa’s most ambitious statement and possibly his best, and it shares at least one trait with each of his films: a shot of a central character staring down the lens with crazed, bulging eyes.
THE FILM SCREENS AT 3:30 P.M. AT THE AFI SILVER THEATRE, 8633 COLESVILLE ROAD, SILVER SPRING. $6-$7.50. (301) 495-6700.