Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu,
The incomparable Tatsuya Nakadai anchors Akira Kurosawa’s lavish adaptation of King Lear, a combination of chamber drama and brutal war epic that is simultaneously visceral and contemplative. Nakadai is a sixteenth-century lord who makes the mistake of first dividing his kingdom among his three sons, then banishing the only one who actually loves him. As in William Shakespeare’s tale, such decisions prove fatal, but Kurosawa pointedly concentrates on not only the effects on father and sons but also the much larger societal impact, as entire armies are dispatched, brutalized, and destroyed due to one man’s inability to understand human nature. Kurosawa and director of photography Takao Saito turn battle scenes into expressionist brushstrokes of vibrant, utterly unnatural hues, setting not armies but colors and shapes against one another, the better to achieve pure art on the cinematic canvas. Nakadai’s gothic portrayal of the mad king gives the film a further splash of color—and rage.