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Ran remade: Kurosawa rights up for grabs


Will they call it 'Also-Ran'?

Akira Kurosawa's 'Ran' (1985) is among many of his films which could be remade

It seems to be the nature of the Hollywood beast: classic films will eventually get remade, under the guise of 'introducing them to a new audience'. Not only the fun, cheesy remakes like Fright Night, or Conan the Barbarian: the rights to several classic Akira Kurosawa films are now on the market.

According to Variety, Splendent Media will represent worldwide rights (outside of Japan) for 69 Kurosawa titles, including films directed by Kurosawa (26 titles), films written by Kurosawa (24 titles) and unproduced screenplays (19 titles). For a full list you can check out Splendent's website: suffice it to say that the list includes Yojimbo, Rashomon, Idiot, and my personal favorite Ran, Kurosawa's 1985 adaptation of King Lear.

For some fans, this news is disheartening. Why not just let a classic film stand, as-is? There are plenty of ways of introducing a classic film to a new audience without remaking it entirely. Theaters have special showings of classic films, there's cable tv, satellite, DVD and Blu-Ray releases, Netflix and other on-demand services - there have never been so many options for film viewing in history. And yet, even prior to the current Splendent Media deal, there were already four classic Kurosawa titles in various stages of development in Hollywood: Seven Samurai, Ikiru, Drunken Angel, and High and Low.

Then again, if audiences can accept that classic films will be remade, this could be seen in a positive light: Splendent Media seems to be a fairly reputable company; and nobody wants to see a crappy remake, right? So hopefully the studios that gain the rights will pull together their best teams to do an homage to Kurosawa rather than a butchering of his work. Plus, some Kurosawa remakes have come through okay - The Seven Samurai became The Magnificent Seven in 1960, and Rashomon became The Outrage in 1964. There's also evidence that Star Wars: Episode IV was greatly inspired by Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress: the princess must escape through hostile territory in both - but her assistants are transposed from two Japanese peasants to two oddly-shaped robots.

It's also interesting to note that while the current concern is with the Western world drawing from Kurosawa's genius (a legitimate concern), some of Kurosawa's classics were drawn from Western source material. High and Low was an adaptation of an American crime novel by Ed McBain; and Yojimbo draws heavily from one of Dashiell Hammett's novels, The Red Harvest (1927). Yojimbo was already remade as Sergio Leone's spaghetti western classic, A Fistful of Dollars (1964); and again as Last Man Standing (1996).

Most tellingly, Akira Kurosawa drew from Shakespeare, and Shakespeare's plays are universal - they can be told in any place or time, because they are universally appealing human drama. Maybe Kurosawa captured that as well. I'm not arguing that a crappy remake won't come of this development deal, it almost assuredly will; but maybe Kurosawa taps into the archetype of human characters well enough that translations can stand up to being transposed to different times and place. It's possible that some good may come of this. And if not, maybe audiences will be inspired to revisit the originals - I'm looking for my copy of Ran right now.

See also:

Early Kurosawa Boxset Review

13 Assassins Review

Can Woo Remake His Classic 'Killer' ?

7 foreign-language films that are worth the subtitles

Top 7 Hollywood excuses for the next remake


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#1 Darn you, Hollywood!!! Caleb Leland 2011-08-25 00:06
I totally agree. Maybe remakes are a fact of life, but I don't have to like it!! But maybe something great will come from the 19 unproduced screenplays, and people will start thinking about original material. Wouldn't that be a welcome change?

The Seven Jedi would be amazing! Excellent idea!

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