Video Picks Archive
Reviews by Matt Heffernan <email@example.com>
This week my picks are Topsy-Turvy (1999 - ) and Ran (1985 - ).
Mike Leigh goes the Shakespeare in Love route in the first
film by telling a backstage story about the first production of Gilbert and
Sullivan's The Mikado. Jim Broadbent makes a brilliant starring turn as
lyricist William Gilbert, whose sudden fascination with Japanese culture spawns
a masterpiece that revives his career with composer Arthur Sullivan (James Corduner).
Leigh is credited for the screenplay, but the dialogue was actually developed through
improvisation with the actors. With this remarkable cast, the result is a wonderfully
entertaining film. Topsy-Turvy also won
Academy Awards for Best Costume Design and Best Makeup.
For the second film, the tables are turned. Kurosawa loved Shakespeare, and his last
great samurai epic was based on King Lear. Lord Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai)
is getting old, so he splits his territory up between his three sons. The two older
sons, whom he trusted most, declare war against each other. Only his youngest son,
who was once disrespectful, stands by his father. Kurosawa was in his mid-70s when
he directed Ran (Japanese for Chaos), but it is just as vibrant and
exciting as his films from thirty years before. This film also had the benefit of
gorgeous color photography (by Asakazu Nakai, who also photographed Kurosawa's other
Shakespeare adaptation -- Throne of Blood).
Ran also happened to win a Best Costume Design Oscar in 1986.
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Capsule Reviews © 2000 Matt Heffernan