239 The Lower Depths

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Martha
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239 The Lower Depths

#1 Post by Martha » Sat Feb 12, 2005 9:09 pm

The Lower Depths

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Jean Renoir and Akira Kurosawa, two of cinema's greatest directors, transform Maxim Gorky's classic proletariat play The Lower Depths in their own ways for their own times. Renoir, working amidst the rise of Hitler and the Popular front in France, had need to take license with the dark nature of Gorky's source material, softening its bleak outlook. Kurosawa, firmly situated in the postwar world, found little reason for hope. He remained faithful to the original with its focus on the conflict between illusion and reality—a theme he would return to over and over again. Working with their most celebrated actors (Gabin with Renoir; Mifune with Kurosawa), each film offers a unique look at cinematic adaptation—where social conditions and filmmaking styles converge to create unique masterpieces.

SPECIAL EDITION DOUBLE-DISC SET FEATURES:

• New high-definition digital transfers of both films, with restored image and sound
• Audio commentary on Kurosawa's The Lower Depths featuring Japanese-film expert Donald Richie (A Hundred Years of Japanese Film)
• A 33-minute documentary on Kurosawa's The Lower Depths from the series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create, including interviews with Kurosawa, actress Kyoko kagawa, art director Yoshiro Muraki, and others
• Introduction to Jean Renoir's The Lower Depths by the director
• Cast biographies for Kurosawa's The Lower Depths by Stephen Prince, author of The Warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa
• Original theatrical trailer for Kurosawa's The Lower Depths
• New essay by Keiko McDonald (From Book to Screen: Modern Japanese Literature in Films) and Thomas Rimer (A Reader's Guide to Japanese Literature) for the Kurosawa film; new essay by film scholar Alexander Sesonske, author of Jean Renoir: The French Films 1924-1939, for the Renoir
• New and improved subtitle translations
• Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer editions

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jcelwin
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#2 Post by jcelwin » Thu Mar 24, 2005 4:59 pm

I really love this release. Both movies are excellent, but I especially enjoyed the Kurosawa version.

However, the subtitles on the Kurosawa version are horrible. I really don't know what they were thinking when they approved it. The Ikiru subtitle translation is also very bad. Trying to bring the translation 'up to date', just ruins it.

Oh, and they should have had a reversible cover instead of those stick-on ones (same with killers). Just annoys me that they didn't. :wink:

BWilson
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#3 Post by BWilson » Sun Aug 14, 2005 3:03 pm

I recently got around to watching the Renoir version and I noticed a lot of shaking image. Some scenes looked excellent and some scenes had this noticeable shaking throughout. Was this the result of a bad camera at the time of filming, age deterioration, or a bad DVD transfer?

Narshty
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#4 Post by Narshty » Sun Aug 14, 2005 3:23 pm

Linda Hoaglund is an absolute menace. I recoiled in horror when one character screamed "I'll sick the cops on you!" at Toshiro Mifune in Stray Dog. It's like a dubbing script.

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#5 Post by analoguezombie » Sun Aug 14, 2005 8:47 pm

Narshty wrote:Linda Hoaglund is an absolute menace. I recoiled in horror when one character screamed "I'll sick the cops on you!" at Toshiro Mifune in Stray Dog. It's like a dubbing script.
I don't speak Japanese so what would have been a more accurate American English version of what was originally said?

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#6 Post by Narshty » Sun Aug 14, 2005 9:19 pm

It's the deliberate, very anachronistic Americanisation of the dialogue that's so awkward. See also, The Last Temptation of Christ.

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Michael Kerpan
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#7 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Aug 14, 2005 10:09 pm

I'll sic' the dogs (police, my lawyer, whatever) is an expression that existed in American English in the 40s (and considerably earlier). I don't see anything wrong with its use in the subtitles here.

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#8 Post by Narshty » Sun Aug 14, 2005 10:18 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:I'll sic' the dogs (police, my lawyer, whatever) is an expression that existed in American English in the 40s (and considerably earlier). I don't see anything wrong with its use in the subtitles here.
It was just an example of Hoaglund's irritating tendency to make Japanese characters speak with American dialogue.

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#9 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Aug 14, 2005 10:25 pm

I think she typically has Kurosawa's characters speak "inelegantly" right where Kurosawa has them speak this way. Prior translations' tendency to over-elevate characters' coarse dialog was surely far from ideal. I think Hoaglund largely gets a bum rap. Her choices may not all be perfect, but she does her best to convey the feel (and not just the general meaning) of the original dialog.

jcelwin
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#10 Post by jcelwin » Mon Aug 15, 2005 2:48 am

While she tries to convey the original feelings by bringing the dialog 'up to date' it just doesn't work. She tries too hard, the audience can get enough visual cues from the images (as opposed to other mediums), they don't need her to push so hard to get the 'feeling' across. And, it is annoying to watch a Japanese movie made half a decade ago where they are saying things that sound contemporary and/or American.

I'm not saying that this can't be done. But, Hoaglund's translations do tend to be very noticeable and annoying. Her translations take your attention away from the film and make it less 'absorbing'.

When watching a movie with subtitles it's better when they subtitles become unnoticeable and you just feel like you are watching a movie (not watching a movie with subtitles). Hoaglund's translations just don't do this for me, they do the opposite.

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ando
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#11 Post by ando » Wed Sep 28, 2005 3:58 pm

I just saw the Kurosawa version the other night and I must admit that I was impressed with Jeck's commentary (especially after being turned off by his commentary on Seven Samurai - that seemed full of irrelevant details about Kurosawa's personal life and observations which are patently obvious to the casual observer). Jeck actually shed light on the process, here. And he needed to (for me, anyway) because I found this production a bit slow at times. I didn't mind the theatricality of the piece (after all, it's an adapted play), but caught within the confines of such a small set, without much variation in the many of the long-held shots, the film slows down to a virtual standstill at times. Kurosawa is masterful when he alternates camera angles within the same scene (when the men are gambling, for instance). But those long shots of the "common area" within the tenement are tough to take at long clips (it's often when I went to the commentary track).

I have a fairly long attention span, but not knowing the language (Japanese) intimately prevented me from appreciating the film's subtlties. So I'm sure I missed much of the character nuances that usually make a "theater piece" or "performance" so compelling. Subtitles, no matter how well captured, can't replace an actor's full expression. Can you imagine, for instance, a compelling A Streetcar Named Desire (the Kazan version) if you only understood English through the subtitles? Brando, Leigh and the rest give great performances, but you'd miss an entire universe if that exquiste language actually prevented you from appreciating the depths of such a character, for instance, as Blanche DuBois. A great tragedy would be reduced to mere melodrama without a full comprehension of the language, which is integral to any performance.

The Kurosawa version is one that really needs repeated viewings for full appreciation, imo. I'll have to revisit it before I can make any additional comments.

BWilson
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#12 Post by BWilson » Wed Sep 28, 2005 8:25 pm

I agree with your assessment of native language and comparison with Streetcar. That's very well put.

However the commentary on Lower Depths is by Donal Ritchie. Jeck did the commentary on SS and Throne of Blood.
Last edited by BWilson on Sun Oct 02, 2005 12:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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ando
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#13 Post by ando » Thu Sep 29, 2005 5:18 pm

:D Yep. Had one of those "did I say Jeck?" moments late last night, but I see someone caught it before I had a chance to edit. Of course, it was the Ritchie commentary that I found especially helpful. (Michael) Jeck provides the virtually useless commentary on Andrei Rublev. I suppose I could forgive him if Rublev was not my favorite film of all time. But it is so Jeck's rather academic reading is unfortunately stuck in my skull.

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#14 Post by blindside8zao » Thu Sep 29, 2005 5:47 pm

:( rublev has a bad commentary? That just stinks. While Solaris is a great disc, I think Tarkovsky fans are getting the shaft. We need more Tarkvosky films and an updated Rublev with both versions and more extras.

BWilson
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#15 Post by BWilson » Thu Sep 29, 2005 5:55 pm

ando wrote::D Yep. Had one of those "did I say Jeck?" moments late last night, but I see someone caught it before I had a chance to edit. Of course, it was the Ritchie commentary that I found especially helpful. (Michael) Jeck provides the virtually useless commentary on Andrei Rublev. I suppose I could forgive him if Rublev was not my favorite film of all time. But it is so Jeck's rather academic reading is unfortunately stuck in my skull.
Are you trying to screw with me? Jeck doesn't do the commentary for Andrea Rublev. I already told you which ones he has done.

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#16 Post by Andre Jurieu » Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:10 pm

BWilson wrote:
ando wrote:(Michael) Jeck provides the virtually useless commentary on Andrei Rublev. I suppose I could forgive him if Rublev was not my favorite film of all time. But it is so Jeck's rather academic reading is unfortunately stuck in my skull.
Are you trying to screw with me? Jeck doesn't do the commentary for Andrea Rublev...
What's with assigning blame to Jeck for any commentary track you don't like? I thought it was fairly obvious that some Russian dude does the commentary on the Rublev disc. Straight from the Criterion website:

Screen-specific audio essay by Harvard film professor Vlada Petric

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ando
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#17 Post by ando » Fri Sep 30, 2005 12:34 pm

Vlada Petric on Andrei Rublev
Michael Jeck on Seven Samurai
Donald Ritchie on The Lower Depths

Wooden
Random
Astute

Respectively.

Most critics should be lined up. :)

On a serious note, The Lower Depths has (probably) the funniest ending of any Kurosawa film (or any number of films, for matter) that I've ever seen. If you recall, the remaining tennants begin a kind of dervish near the conclusion of the film but are interrupted with the message that Tomekichi, The Tinker, has just committed suicide. All celebrating ends and one of them comments (paraphrasing): Just as we were having a good time, Tomekichi has to go and ruin it. The Bastard.

END

Pity the rest of the film was not filled this kind of sardonic humor. There were humorous moments, to be sure, but none that elicited the laughter that followed that one. We aren't really privvy to information which would provide deeper insights into the emotional states of many of the characters. Therefore, there's not much to play off of; after all, part of the humor that we get from that last line in the film comes from a knowledge of the character referred to (juxtaposed with events that have just occured). For most of film, Kahei, the priest, is the primary source of humor. It's through his perspective that we see the humor inherent in the behavior of the characters around him. Without him, however, the pathos on the screen isn't presented with the levity (or the levity that comes from a perspective) which would lift it from a kind of general lugubriousness or affected sorrowfulness.

It is a comedy (and is considered as such), but I think much more in the classic tradition than in the manner of contemporary comedy.
Last edited by ando on Fri Sep 30, 2005 12:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#18 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Sep 30, 2005 12:45 pm

I don't really think this was supposed to be a comedy. It is supposed to be generally pretty grim -- and any incidental humor is never light-hearted.

One of my favorite Kurosawa films.

;~}[/i]

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ando
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#19 Post by ando » Fri Sep 30, 2005 12:48 pm

No, it really is considered a comedy. Certainly, Ritchie (DONALD RITCHIE :) ) admits as much on the commentary track.

And the humor (not to make a huge deal of this), like the moment cited, is not incidental. I don't think any humor that comes out of human suffering (and I think the case can certainly be made that these people are suffering) is incidental. It's the stuff of great tragedy - or at least, perceived tragedy, that makes for the greatest comic moments. No?

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nick
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#20 Post by nick » Sun Feb 12, 2006 9:48 am

I recently got around to watching the Renoir version and I noticed a lot of shaking image. Some scenes looked excellent and some scenes had this noticeable shaking throughout. Was this the result of a bad camera at the time of filming, age deterioration, or a bad DVD transfer?
I just got around to buy/watch this and I was wonder the same thing. This "jitter" was very distracting at times. One other thing, and this is minor, doe anyone elses disc not allow you to hit the stop button to shut the disc off from any of the menus, including the main root menu. Like I said minor, but this is the only DVD I own where this occured (on two players and my computer).

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#21 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Feb 26, 2006 7:57 am

ando wrote:On a serious note, The Lower Depths has (probably) the funniest ending of any Kurosawa film (or any number of films, for matter) that I've ever seen. If you recall, the remaining tennants begin a kind of dervish near the conclusion of the film but are interrupted with the message that Tomekichi, The Tinker, has just committed suicide. All celebrating ends and one of them comments (paraphrasing): Just as we were having a good time, Tomekichi has to go and ruin it. The Bastard..
This is just a hilarious string of postings! After getting every fact all wrong on virtually everything targeted for ridicule (including the commentary on what is supposedly his/her favorite film/disc of all time) I just love, as an ending flourish, the unconscious ease with which the ending of the film is just blasted away without warning or writing in a white font .

On a more serious note-- the frame jitter mentioned on this thread for the Renoir print gives me a serious headache. That is a major QC-easing on Criterion's part, letting this through. And, what's even more (not) surprising, is-- jitter aside-- a 1936 French (Renoir's LD) film is in better shape than a 1957 Japanese (Kuro's LD) film, even after the latter has been given the full "hi-def digital transfer, w fully restored image & sound".

Yet the MYSTERIANS (which is good fun, dont get me wrong) from the same year is immaculate!

"Yeahhh To-hoooooo! To-ho d'oh, #-o To-Ho D'oh #-o"
(Dwarf Burmese cheerleaders w unshaved legs & knee-warts do a lazy twirl then spell out "D'oh" w their bodies while taking a bang of junk & fall out on the nod)

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#22 Post by justeleblanc » Thu Mar 30, 2006 1:16 pm

BWilson wrote:I recently got around to watching the Renoir version and I noticed a lot of shaking image. Some scenes looked excellent and some scenes had this noticeable shaking throughout. Was this the result of a bad camera at the time of filming, age deterioration, or a bad DVD transfer?
I just watched it for the first time and I noticed the exact same thing. This is really annoying. Is this a defective DVD or does everyone's copy shake like this?

BWilson
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#23 Post by BWilson » Thu Mar 30, 2006 2:19 pm

Well my disc and HerrSchreck's disc obviously have the shakes.

However it only occurs in certain scenes.

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Michael Kerpan
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#24 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Mar 30, 2006 2:24 pm

I always assume that phenomena like this are due to "telecine jiggle" caused by shrinkage/strething of the film due to severe effects of aging.

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nick
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#25 Post by nick » Thu Mar 30, 2006 2:24 pm

BWilson wrote:
Well my disc and HerrSchreck's disc obviously have the shakes.

However it only occurs in certain scenes.
I emailed Criterion with this problem and they replaced my disc saying they were unaware of any such shake. The new one they sent me still has the same problem so I guess that it's the transfer itself.

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