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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 2:43 pm 
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ECLIPSE SERIES 7: POSTWAR KUROSAWA

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Akira Kurosawa came into his own as a filmmaker directly following World War II, delving into the state of his devastated nation with a series of pensive, topical dramas. Amid Japan's economic collapse and U.S. occupation, Kurosawa managed to find humor and redemption existing alongside despair and anxiety. In these five early films, which range from political epic to Capraesque whimsy to courtroom potboiler, Kurosawa revealed the artistic range and social acuity that would mark his career and make him the most popular Japanese director in the world.

I Live in Fear

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Both the final film in which Kurosawa would so directly wrestle with the demons of the second world war and his most literal representation of living in an atomic age, Akira Kurosawa's galvanizing I Live in Fear presents Toshiro Mifune as an elderly, stubborn businessman so fearful of a nuclear attack that he vows to move his reluctant family to South America. With this mournful film, the director depicts a society emerging from the shadows but still terrorized by memories of the past and anxieties of the future.

The Idiot

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After finishing what would become his international phenomenon Rashomon, Akira Kurosawa immediately turned to one of the most daring and problem-plagued productions of his career. The Idiot, adapted faithfully from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's nineteenth-century masterpiece about a wayward, pure soul's reintegration into society, yet updated to capture Japan's postwar aimlessness, was a victim of studio interference and, finally, public indifference. Today, Kurosawa's onetime "folly" looks ever more fascinating, a stylish, otherworldly evocation of one man's wintry mindscape.

No Regrets for Our Youth

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In Akira Kurosawa's first film after the end of World War II, Japanese film star (and eventual Ozu regular) Setsuko Hara gives an astonishing performance as Yukie, Kurosawa's only female protagonist and one of his strongest heroes. Transforming herself from genteel bourgeois daughter to independent social activist, Yukie journeys across a decade of tumultuous Japanese history.

One Wonderful Sunday

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Akira Kurosawa examined the harsh economic truths of postwar Japan with this affectionate tribute to young love. Trying to make their meager thirty-five yen last during a Sunday trip into a war-ravaged Tokyo, Yuzo and Masako look for work and lodging, as well as affordable entertainments to pass the time. Reminiscent of Frank Capra's social realist comedies as well as contemporaneous Italian neorealist films, One Wonderful Sunday touchingly offers a bit of hope amidst misery.

Scandal

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A handsome, suave Toshiro Mifune lights up the screen as painter Ichiro, whose circumstantial meeting with a famous singer (Yoshiko Yamaguchi) is construed by the tabloid press as a torrid affair. When Ichiro files a lawsuit against the incriminating gossip magazine, he hires the ethically dubious lawyer Hiruta (Kurosawa stalwart Takashi Shimura) who's playing both sides. A portrait of moral decline during Japan's postwar reparations, Scandal is also a compelling courtroom drama and a tale of human redemption.


Last edited by kinjitsu on Tue Jan 22, 2008 4:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:33 pm 

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What a great year for Japanese film fans! I was hoping the box-set would include Sanshiro Sugata 1 & 2 + The Most Beautiful. I live in Fear and Scandal could also be released by CC. MoC release of The Idiot is good enough for me.


Last edited by Tomas on Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:36 pm 
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I Live in Fear (aka Record of a Living Being) is perhaps the best of the films here; indeed, it easily deserves its own Criterion release (note that I am not complaining). The film is hampered a bit by a palpable moral design, but it overcomes its flaws with an astonishing cameleon-like performance by Mifune as an old man, and a focussed emotional honesty.

What I've noticed routinely saves Kurosawa's more socially conscious films from their moral designs is his attention to character. Here we have a nuanced depiction of a traditional family trying to cope with their increasingly unconventional (and by the end, quite mad) patriarch. Much like Kurosawa's other films of the period, despite the apparent moralism, no one character is exempt in some way from the bleakness of the finale. Mifune's family at first seems disrespectful and cold to the the very honest love and concern of the Mifune character. Yet at the end Kurosawa also supplies the notion that there was a kind of short-sighted selfishness in the Mifune character's familial concern, and that his family's own concerns with his behaviour, given the social context, were reasonable and even by the end sympathetic. So by the close of the movie the clear moral message of the evils of the atomic age are layered over by the complex and ambiguous relationship between the various family members. The final pathetic hopelessness of its rambling, visionary ending is well earned and lacks none of its intended power. A gem of a movie.

No Regrets For Our Youth is a solid enough film, but it's clearly an apprentice work, even if it is often subtly complex. As well, one shouldn't expect much from One Wonderful Sunday; it's a cute melodrama whose post-war atmosphere might have been more interesting if Kurosawa hadn't gone on to do much, much more with it in his early masterpieces Drunken Angel and Stray Dog. It's a sentimental movie, easily dismissed but far from unwatchable.

I've been waiting for something like this out of Eclipse, and the news has me all giddy.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:43 pm 
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Probably my most anticipated Eclipse release to date. Even though I already own Scandal and The Idiot from MoC.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:45 pm 
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Fantastic! (although I just bought Masters of Cinema's version of "The Idiot"...)


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:50 pm 
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Looks awesome. Unlike the above, I myself am a little disappointed that I Live In Fear won't be getting its own spine number. But what the hell, this set is packed to the max. I honestly wasn't expecting as many films as there are in it.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:57 pm 

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So happy to see this even if I already have three of them on DVD and the other two from tape. No Regrets is my Guilty Pleasure fave Kurosawa and I even find the goofy One Sunday a charming view every once in a while. Then there's the ending of I Live In Fear, one of the most powerful endings of A.K.'s career.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 4:45 pm 
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glaswegian tome wrote:
Looks awesome. Unlike the above, I myself am a little disappointed that I Live In Fear won't be getting its own spine number...

In one of the early articles about Eclipse Peter Becker mentioned that the one doesn't preclude the other. It likely wouldn't appear until Criterion has release all or most of his remaining films but it's still a possibility.

I haven't seen any of these. I've tended to wait for the Criterion releases just so I always have a new Kurosawa to look forward to but, right here, to quote Ikiru, this is some good shit right here.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 5:13 pm 
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Nuno wrote:
Fantastic! (although I just bought Masters of Cinema's version of "The Idiot"...)

Haha, me too. No problems there, though. That's still bound to be a better edition than this upcoming Eclipse one. I can't wait for this one. Definitely my first Eclipse purchase. I don't have any! When is the release date?


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 5:17 pm 
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teddyleevin wrote:
When is the release date?

15th of January! My first Eclipse purchase was Ozu, this one will be the 2nd. Can't wait! :)


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 5:24 pm 
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Excellent, I plan on pre-ordering. Gotta handle paying for Berlin Alexanderplatz, first. November in general is going to kill my wallet.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 6:51 pm 
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At first I thought I'd be really angry that this was coming before the Imamura set, but this looks good enough that I don't mind at all. It helps that I don't own any of the prior releases. It would've been nice to get some harder to see titles like Sanshiro Sugata 1 and 2 and other earlier stuff, but this'll do just fine for now.


Last edited by Cronenfly on Tue Oct 16, 2007 7:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 7:16 pm 
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I will certainly get this, though I find it a bit strange that The Most Beautiful is not included. Perhaps we will get another Eclipse set next year called Early Kurosawa including Sanshiro Sugata 1 and 2, The Most Beautfiful, and Those Who Make Tomorrow?

By the way, does anyone have any info on Those Who Make Tomorrow? Is it a lost film? I have never read anything about it.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 9:01 pm 
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Did Toho create any of the Akira Kurosawa: It is Wonderful to Create? episodes for these titles? It's too bad they won't be included (just like Bergman introductions to his early films).


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 11:49 pm 

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RobertAltman wrote:
does anyone have any info on Those Who Make Tomorrow? Is it a lost film? I have never read anything about it.

Those Who Make Tomorrow was an anti-capitalist film produced by the Toho labor union (shortly before the major Toho strike) and jointly directed by Kurosawa, Kajiro Yamamoto, and Hideo Sekigawa. Yamamoto was one of the most prominent Japanese Communist filmmakers and apparently supported the film, but Kurosawa repeatedly disowned it and claims the project was forced on him. The negative is in existence, but there aren't any circulating prints and it is almost always excluded from Kurosawa retrospectives, so I wouldn't expect to see it anytime soon.

Anyways, I'm very glad to see these films being released, but I'm a bit annoyed that I have to rebuy Scandal, The Idiot, and I Live in Fear just to get the excellent No Regrets for Our Youth and the very mediocre One Wonderful Sunday.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 11:52 pm 
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ptmd wrote:
I'm very glad to see these films being released, but I'm a bit annoyed that I have to rebuy Scandal, The Idiot, and I Live in Fear just to get the excellent No Regrets for Our Youth and the very mediocre One Wonderful Sunday.

If the Teshigahara transfers are any indication, Criterion's versions of the MoC titles may be superior in image quality. If that's any consolation.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 1:24 am 
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Ashirg wrote:
Did Toho create any of the Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create? episodes for these titles? It's too bad they won't be included (just like Bergman introductions to his early films).

The Toho features had them created for the Japanese DVDs. Here's a disappointment for me that they won't be included on there. Unless we hope Eclipse makes a small exception.....


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 5:11 am 
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denti alligator wrote:
If the Teshigahara transfers are any indication, Criterion's versions of the MoC titles may be superior in image quality. If that's any consolation.

I would agree if these were normal CC releases, but with Eclipse? They will surely not clean up the remaining scratches and tramlines that are evident on the MoCs, and image-wise the only thing that they perhaps might do is some black-level boosting, which I personally am not exactly happy with. In other words: I don't think the MoCs will be bettered even image-wise, and of course you will miss the excellent booklets and the Alex Cox intros (the one for "The Idiot" is great, the one for "Scandal" is not, but that's beside the point here).

Then there's the BFI disc of "I Live in Fear", which would have deserved some cleaning up as well, but generally speaking, is one of their better Kurosawa discs, although it also has no extras to speak of (though there's a small booklet apparently which my copy is missing for some reason).

Which brings me to the point of wondering why Eclipse decided to put THESE five films together. Apart from the need for double-dipping for many here, and even if you argue that Eclipse is for US buyers primarily, it's not explicable to me why "The Idiot" and "I Live in Fear" are not released as full CCs. If someone approaches "The Idiot" without any background knowledge, he will certainly be disappointed because of the uneven character of what remains of the film (100 minutes are missing from Kurosawa's original cut, destroyed by the studio), and will blame it on Kurosawa. But even what remains is outstanding if you approach it in the right frame of mind, being aware that what we have is a badly mutilated film. So much room for extras as well: the Dostoyevsky connection, the references to Cocteau, and probably indeed another installment from the Toho TV series. Same with "I Live in Fear": you definitely need some background about Japan after the war, the fears of atomic extinction and so on. Not providing these to region/NTSC-locked US audiences seems somewhat unfair to me.

Both "The Idiot" and "I Live in Fear" are pretty major films in my view, certainly more important than "Tiger's Tail", which apparently will be released as a full CC soon (and I'm happy about this). So putting them out in THIS combination on Eclipse with the much-desired "No regrets" and "One wonderful Sunday" seems to me the worst possible alternative. To have "Scandal" in the set is far more justified of course.
Still, at the moment I feel like missing out on this set, even if I really want to have the first two films here in a good transfer. I carry on hoping for a box set of all the early films (including "Sanshiro Sugata"!!) from the BFI. I remember there were rumours about some such set quite a while ago, though nothing seems to materialize.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 5:21 am 
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Well, I'll definitely be getting this for No Regrets For Our Youth and One Wonderful Sunday - hopefully when Criterion itself tackles another Kurosawa they might do a Fanny And Alexander and make a gift set available that just features extra material on these films (I live in hope that the recently announced extra standalone disc of Chasing Amy may bode well for standalone releases of discs only of extra features for the nerds amongst us who don't want to buy the film again!) :D

I love The Idiot so much I'd be proud to have another copy in my collection - I'm glad it is finally getting a US release.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 7:36 am 
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Astonished to see so many Kurosawa fans on the board. I will buy the box set for Hara (No Regrets for Our Youth, Idiot). Do own 3 of the films on DVD but the transfers were all subpar.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 12:26 pm 
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Great news about the Kurosawa. I'll be very glad to have a nice copy of No Regrets for Our Youth, and One Wonderful Sunday is an underseen gem with a very memorable soundtrack. I like how this set seems ideologically connected. Its smart and very "film school" of Criterion, and that their interested in this kind of thing could lead to a lot of interesting combinations of films.

I can't see Scandal looking all that much better than the MoC. It seems like one of those films where the elements are in trouble no matter where you turn (though all Criterion has to do is turn an in house digitial dollar dial and night turns into day). The Idiot needs some contextualization for sure, though, since it should almost be categorized as a "lost film" in a similar way to Ambersons.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 12:42 pm 
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kieslowski_67 wrote:
Astonished to see so many Kurosawa fans on the board.

Really? He's one of Criterion's most popular directors (indeed, one of foreign cinema's most popular directors), so it seems reasonable that there would be a good number of fans on a forum dedicated to Criterion.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 1:46 pm 
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Those Who Tread On the Tiger's Tail is coming from Criterion with a Donald Richie commentary, extras.

So what's the deal with The Most Beautiful. Criterion couldn't get the rights or just no interest in the film. I wonder.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 1:53 pm 
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Those Who Make Tomorrow is a film that Kurosawa apparently did not want to make -- and pretty much disowned afterwards. IMDB credits this as also directed by Hideo Sekigawa and Kajiro Yamamoto. (IMDB also lists three cinematographers and three lighting directors).

Those Who Tread On the Tiger's Tail is certainly a more significant film -- but I seem to recall this being mentioned as a possible Criterion release (with a Donald Richie commentary). Am I hallucinating? (cinephrenic has already cleared this up -- while I was drafting this)

Assuming Tiger is already spoken for by Criterion, better additions to a second Eclipse set (than Tomorrow) might be (1) Taniguchi's Ginrei no hate / Snow Trail (1947), which Kurosawa wrote and features Mifune's first film role and (2) Yamamoto's Uma / Horse (1941), parts of which were supposedly directed by Kurosawa.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:13 pm 
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Mr_sausage wrote:
kieslowski_67 wrote:
Astonished to see so many Kurosawa fans on the board.

Really? He's one of Criterion's most popular directors (indeed, one of foreign cinema's most popular directors), so it seems reasonable that there would be a good number of fans on a forum dedicated to Criterion.

Indeed. I was more astonished to read that comment... I mean he only made a little arthouse classic called THE SEVEN SAMURAI.

I mean its not like we're talking Gerhard Lamprecht.

Or Rootie Tootie..


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