Home Page  
 
 

SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Japanese PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by Japanese-film historian Donald Richie
  • Video introduction by director Robert Altman
  • Excerpts from The World of Kazuo Miyagawa, a documentary on Rashomon's cinematographer
  • A Testimony as an Image, a sixty-eight-minute documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
  • Archival audio interview with actor Takashi Shimura
  • Original and rerelease trailers
  • New English subtitle translation

Rashomon

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Kichijiro Ueda, Fumiko Honma, Daisuke Kato
1950 | 88 Minutes | Licensor: Kadokawa Herald Pictures

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #138
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: November 6, 2012
Review Date: November 4, 2012

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

Share:

SYNOPSIS

A riveting psychological thriller that investigates the nature of truth and the meaning of justice, Rashomon is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. Four people recount different versions of the story of a man's murder and the rape of his wife, which director Akira Kurosawa presents with striking imagery and an ingenious use of flashbacks. This eloquent masterwork and international sensation revolutionized film language and introduced Japanese cinema-and a commanding new star by the name of Toshiro Mifune-to the Western world.

Forum members rate this film 9/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon gets a Blu-ray upgrade from Criterion, who present the film in its original aspect ratio of about 1.37:1 on this dual-layer disc. This new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer was made from the 2008 restoration of the film.

The film has had a rough history and this has always shown on all previous home video versions I’ve seen, including Criterion’s original 2002 DVD edition. The booklet’s notes about the restoration used for this transfer state it was made from a 35mm print made in 1962 from the original camera negative. The print itself is said to be in pristine shape but by the point the print had been made the negative itself had been handled so often and mistreated over the years that scratches and marks were heavy, and certain frames had begun to warp. All of this damage would have of course been copied to this print.

I read this before throwing the disc in so I suspected there were going to be some signs of warping still and that we were still going to get plenty of scratches and frame jumps, similar to Criterion’s DVD. Amazingly this is not the case with the film now looking almost pristine. Scratches, though faint, were a constant problem with Criterion’s DVD edition and here they’re now pretty much all gone, as are frame jumps and pulsating. There isn’t even a sign of the warping the booklet notes allude to being in the source print.

The digital transfer itself is also stellar, offering a vast improvement over the DVD. Much cleaner and less noisy it renders film grain nicely and doesn’t present any artifacts of note. The image has a very slight haze to it, so finer details rarely jump out, but I have a feeling this is just a condition of the print and nothing to do with the transfer itself. Contrast looks a bit better with some rich blacks and distinguishable gray levels. No details seem to get lost in the shadows as well.

As a whole this presentation is a treat. After a vigorous restoration and a stunning digital transfer this is easily the best the film has ever looked, at least on video.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

AUDIO

The Japanese lossless linear PCM 1.0 mono also offers a noticeable improvement. There’s still some background noise, including a hiss, present at times but it’s mostly gone now. I noticed an audio drop as well but otherwise dialogue and music are clear, and there’s a little bit of range and depth.

Criterion also again includes the English dub, presented here in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. It sounds the same as the DVD’s, hollow, tinny, and never really like it is part of the film. It’s still an interesting inclusion but I would stick with the original Japanese track, even if the only reason to do so is because the quality is better.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion ports all of their supplements over from their previous DVD edition starting with an audio commentary by film scholar Donald Richie. It can be a little dry and very “scholarly” but it’s actually an entertaining and informative track. Richie can carry on a bit in places but he seems to be a bit excited to be talking about the film and this stops the track from falling victim to being dull. It has a lot of analysis of the technical aspects of the film, including effects, sets, and framing, while he also analyzes the characters, situations and overall story of the film. He also offers stories about the shoot and the issues that arose in trying to get the film made. It’s a standard historian track and I don’t think it offers many surprises but it’s worth listening to as it covers the film’s history, style, and impact thoroughly.

Also from the original DVD is a 6-minute interview/introduction from director Robert Altman who discusses Kurosawa's techniques and its influence on his films, and how the film made him immediately go out and try to replicate how Kurosawa filmed the sun. Disappointingly brief but getting the director to participate on this release is a great addition.

Next up is 12-minutes worth of excerpts from a documentary called The World of Kazuo Miyagawa. The excerpts focus on the cinematographer's collaboration with Kurosawa on Rashomon and offers some engaging material. It includes interview footage and archival footage, and as a bonus, not only is there an interview with Miyagawa but you also get an interview with Kurosawa himself. It is also a bit of a treat to know Miyagawa kept a lot of the props from the film, including the actual Rashomon sign. I would have loved to get the whole piece but the material we do get is fine enough.

Criterion then adds some new content, starting with a 2008 documentary on the making of the film called A Testimony as an Image. Running 68-minutes and divided into 8 chapters, it starts with script supervisor Teruyo Nogami talking with screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto about the development of the script and how it eventually fell into Kurosawa’s hands. From here it moves to a discussion between surviving members of the cast and crew talking about the production, from the development of the massive Rashomon gate set (complete with photos), the various effects, the planning of scenes and the photography, to general stories from the set and what it was like working with the director. The set-up is admittedly a bit stale, composed primarily of static camera shots of participants, but the stories shared make it worthwhile.

And finally we get an audio interview with actor Takashi Shimura, recorded during the 1961 Berlin Film Festival for radio. Running 16-minutes and more-or-less in English it features the actor talking about how Kurosawa develops his characters and chooses the actors. Donald Richie is there to act as translator, so you first hear Shimura answer questions in Japanese and then hear Richie translate. I think there’s a few moments where things are getting “lost in translation” so to speak as I don’t think Shimura may be entirely sure what the questions, asked in English, are, the primary one being how Kurosawa develops his characters and chooses the actors to play them. But because of this Shimura covers various aspects about how the director works, including more technical aspects, while also sharing how the director worked with his actors. A nice find and inclusion on Criterion’s part. The audio plays over a picture of the actor from Rashomon.

The disc then closes with the original theatrical trailer and a re-release trailer.

The included booklet also seems to replicate the original DVD’s exactly. It features the same essay by Stephen Prince and is followed by the same excerpt from Kurosawa’s Something Like an Autobiography where the director recalls the production of Rashomon, which shockingly sounds like it almost never got made. Again we then get the reprints of the short stories that inspired the film, Rashomon and In a Grove, both written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. The translations look to be the same.

Criterion again delivers the same solid supplements they did before and they add on some great new material including a documentary on the making of the film and an interview with actor Takashi Shimura.

8/10

CLOSING

The supplements get a bit of an upgrade but were pretty solid to begin with. But what makes this new edition of Rashomon worth picking up, even if you own the original Criterion DVD, are the new video and audio transfers, which offer striking improvements with the film looking the cleanest I’ve ever seen it on home video. It comes with a very high recommendation.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

Share: 



Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca  




Join our Facebook Group (requires Facebook account)

This site is not affiliated with The Criterion Collection