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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka 'Дерсу Узала' or "Dersu Uzala")

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/kurosawa.htm
Japanese/Russian 197
5

A few months after his notorious suicide attempt, Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa was regenerated by the notion of helming the first Russian/Japanese co-production. Co-scripted and directed by Kurosawa, Dersu Uzala is the story of an elderly guide and Goldi hunter (Maxim Munzuk), who, at the turn of the century, agrees to shepherd a Russian explorer (Yuri Solomin) and a troop of soldiers through the most treacherous passages of the Far East. The guide has been "one" with the land almost from birth, and is thus able to save his party from perishing. Four years in the making, Dersu Uzala won the 1976 Best Foreign Film Oscar and restored the flagging Akira Kurosawa to the top ranks of the Japanese film industry.

***

Dersu Uzala is told through the eyes of a Russian topographer, Captain Arseniev (Yuri Solomin), who leads a military expedition in 1902 to map the Ussuri region of Siberia, near the border of China. One night, their camp is stumbled upon by a squat, comical hunter, Dersu Uzala (Maksim Munzuk), a superstitious member of the Goldi people, a vestige of the region's more primitive inhabitants. At first, the soldiers scoff at Dersu's peculiar habits: conversing with a crackling fire, reading footprints in uncanny detail, insisting they leave a store of supplies behind when they depart from a vacant shack (so the next inhabitant will have food and fire).

But there is much practical wisdom in the gnomish hunter's eccentricities. When the soldiers take target practice on a bottle swinging from a rope, Dersu chides them for the waste of resources. After proving his superior aim by shooting the rope, he pockets the unbroken glass bottle, explaining that it is a rare commodity so far from civilization.

In the film's justly celebrated centerpiece, Dersu and Arseniev are isolated and disoriented on a frozen tundra without camping gear. As the sun begins to set (bringing with it certain death in the bitter cold), Dersu commands Arseniev to begin cutting stalks of grass, and struggles to construct a makeshift shelter as they are buffeted by freezing winds. It is a sequence of riveting tension and extraordinary beauty (in one shot, you can actually watch the sun disappear from the sky as the characters struggle with the bullrushes in the foreground).

***

Dersu Uzala is the enthralling tale of an eccentric Mongolian frontiersman (Maxim Munzuk) who is taken on as a guide by a Soviet surveying crew. While the soldiers at first perceive Dersu as a naive and comical relic of an uncivilized age, he quickly proves himself otherwise with displays of ingenuity and bravery unmatched by any member of the inexperienced mapping team, on more than one occasion becoming their unlikely saviour. An amazing true story based on the memoir by Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev.
 

Posters  

Release Date: July 1975 (Moscow Film Festival)

 Image Entertainment NTSC  Region 0 vs. Spectrum Region 3 (3 Discs) vs. Imprint - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Film Reviews                           DVD Reviews

NOTE: R3 details and screen caps courtesy of Kevin Parent

Box Covers

 

 

BONUS CAPTURES:

Distribution Image Entertainment - Kino
Region 0 NTSC 
Spectrum - 3 Discs 
Region 3/6 encoded  
Imprint - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:23:30 min 2:15:30 / American Version - 2:21min 2:21:45.708
Video Original Aspect Ratio, 2.35:1 Letterboxed WideScreen 
Average Bitrate: 6.43 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s
2.20:1 widescreen Anamorphic versions on Disc 1 + 2 ,  a 2.35:1 Letterboxed  WideScreen version on Disc 3.
Average Bitrate: 6.33 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

2.35:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,200,854,952 bytes bytes

Feature: 42,458,861,568 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Audio Russian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

Russian Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1

DTS-HD Master Audio Russian 3583 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3583 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DUB:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3919 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3919 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -31dB

Subtitles English or none Korean, Russian, English or none English or none
Features

Edition Details:

• All Regions
• Color, Widescreen
• Widescreen letterbox format

  • Specs and Features
  • 140 mins
  • NR,
  • letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1)
  • single-sided
  • RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 1:16:54, in chapter 14)
  • Snapper case packaging
  • American theatrical release trailer
  • film-themed menu screens
  • scene access (27 chapters)

________________________

Disc 1: Movie (original version), part one 
Special features:
  • Vladimir Arseniev Archive Two pages of text, all in English.
  • Making the film: with ENGLISH SUBTITLES! (You’ll have to access them from your remote, though, not from a menu.) It clocks in as under 5 minutes.
  •  Photo Gallery
Disc 2: Movie, part two
(same audio and subtitle options)
Special Features
  • About the Writer Vladimir Arseniev (again, just under 5 minutes, but again, with English subtitles!)
  •  About the director Akira Kurosawa (this time 9 minutes and still with English subtitles)
  • About the movie (just under 7 minutes, with English subs.)
  • Cast & Crew (text screen bios and filmographies, but all in English)
Length of movie (Part 1 - Disc 1 ): 1 hour, 7.5 minutes

Length of movie (Part 2 - Disc 2 ): 1 hour, 8 minutes

_____________________________

 

Disc 3: American Version of the Film - Widescreen 2.35:1
  • Widescreen 2.35;1

  •  Audio: Russian mono, English Mono

  • Subtitles: Korean, English, none

                  (no special features)
Length of movie: 2 hours, 21 minutes
Release Information:
Studio:
Imprint

 

2.35:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,200,854,952 bytes bytes

Feature: 42,458,861,568 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

NEW Audio commentary by Japanese film expert Stuart Galbraith IV
NEW Mapping Kurosawa: A History of Dersu Uzala with film writer and historian Michael Brooke (23:16)
NEW Sound of the Taiga video essay by music historian David Schecter on the score (17:59)
Actor Yuri Solomin on writer Vladimir Arseniev (3:54)
Actor Yuri Solomin on director Akira Kurosawa (9:05)
Actor Yuri Solomin discusses the film (6:56)
Making the Film short documentary (5:02)
Archive footage of the real Vladimir Arseniev (0:53)
US Trailer (2:26)r


Blu-ray Release Date: October 7th, 2022

Transparent Blu-ray Case inside slipcase (see below)

Chapters 28

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Imprint Blu-ray (October 2022): Firstly, this is a 20-year old comparisons and, I guess, we did a few DVD comparisons this way back then - with small captures. It was acceptable because there was such a strident difference in the transfers. In fact there are many very weak SD renderings of Dersu Uzala. So, we are not altering our methodology, we are simply following the way this comparison was initially done 20 years ago.

Imprint have transferred Akira Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala to Blu-ray. This was the director's only non-Japanese-language film and his only 70mm film. It is on a dual-layered disc with a high bitrate. The 1080P image has inconsistencies - notably in the shifting of colors from brown, to blue and some inordinately warm skin tones. This is not the fault of the transfer as the production used Soviet film stock, "Svema" - the major photographic film manufacturer in the USSR, not at the same level as, Kurosawa's preferred choices, Kodak or Fuji. The hues, and flesh tones, can fluctuate but this still a massive upgrade from the many inferior, compression ridden, boosted or flawed SD transfer found on many DVDs of the past couple of decades. This less-than-ideal, HD presentation is in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio and provides a decent, if not consistent, viewing. There is softness and a lack of grain which is bothersome. While it can look waxy / smeary, it is the best I have seen - quite demonstratively - and this highly visual film still comes through with a sense of awe in a few striking scenes in 1080P. I was so grateful to see it on Blu-ray, even with the imperfect source material and lack of pleasing texture that I would expect it to have.  

NOTE: We have added 38 more large resolution Blu-ray captures (in lossless PNG format) for DVDBeaver Patrons HERE

 

On their Blu-ray, Imprint offer the choice of a lossy Dolby 5.1 surround track (24-bit) in the original Russian language or a surround English DUB. It did have a 70 mm 6-Track in the Russian print with it being reduced to 35mm and mono in the West. Dersu Uzala has a subtle score credited to Isaac Schwarts, a prominent Soviet and Russian composer of Jewish descent. It suits the Russian Far East wilderness environment of Dersu Uzala. There is not a lot of music in the film (about 1/2 hour). There are some notable separations involving the weather (howling wind, birds animals, rivers etc.) and it sounds quite effective in the lossless. Imprint offer optional English subtitles on their Region FREE Blu-ray.

 

The Imprint Blu-ray offers a new commentary by Japanese film expert Stuart Galbraith IV (author of The Japanese Filmography: A Complete Reference to 209 Filmmakers and the over 1250 Films Released in the United States, 1900 Through 1994.) He talks about the film's origins, including historical background on its real-life counterparts, the production and release putting it all in to historical, cultural and industrial context. We also here from Jonathan C. Slat a biologist who explored much of the same territory covered in the film and who translated the first unabridged version of Vladimir Arsenev's writings. Also in the commentary we hear from Sergey Glebov who is a historian of the Russian Empire / USSR specializing in political, intellectual and cultural history at both Smith and Amherst Colleges. Stuart also talks with Barbara Boyle, the attorney who represented Roger Corman's New World Films to discuss Dersu Uzala's acquisition and release in the United States. It's quite a full commentary for the two hour 20-minute film. So much is covered. Great job Stuart! We also get Michael Brooke's new 23-minute Mapping Kurosawa: A History of Dersu Uzala and he likewise documents much of the film's history and the fact that Kurosawa had long known of Arsenyev's book and had planned to make a film version very early in his career, Kurosawa's attempted suicide etc. It is another excellent piece by Michael full of factual details. Imprint also include Sound of the Taiga an 18-minute video essay by music historian David Schecter discussing Isaac Schwarts' score, how it co-ordinates with the film, a history of the composer's career as well as Kurosawa's other film music. There are three separate video pieces with actor Yuri Solomin discussing writer Arsenev, director Akira Kurosawa and Dersu Uzala. Lastly are a short 'Making the Film' piece, archive footage of the real Vladimir Arsenev and a US Trailer.

 

Dersu Uzala is based on a 1923 memoir by Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenev. The title refers to the name of a native trapper. It shows a deep friendship of two men from totally different backgrounds. Dersu Uzala was filmed over two years in the far reaches of Siberia and won the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar in 1976. It's a masterpiece and it's very gratifying to see a label fearlessly tackle the prevalent issue of the ineffectual film stock and boldly put it on a stacked Blu-ray with commentary, video essay and much more. This should garner some votes in our year-end poll for the film if not the image. For Kurosawa fans, and beyond, though this is a must-own. Thanks for the effort Imprint!    

 

***

On the DVDs (Dec 2002): Image and Spectrum 3rd disc ( American version) are just about identical.  Disc 1 is cropped slightly (2.35 to 2.20), although I think it may be the brightest image quality.

 

Look at the clipping in the white snow ( captures #3, #4) in the Korean Disc 1 image (bottom pictures)!  They nuked all detail in their effort to make the snow appear more white. For shame.

 

I would buy the Image disc although the Spectrum has better extras, it has correct aspect ratio, colors and framing to my eye. Unfortunately all image discs are video-sourced.

 

Note: The Spectrum Disc One has an extremely bad shimmering problem.

 

 

Package - Imprint - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 


Recommended Reading for Japanese Film Fans (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

Check out more in "The Library"

 
DVD Menus

(Image Entertainment - Kino left, Spectrum  right)

Imprint - Region FREE - Blu-ray


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

Subtitle Sample - Imprint - Region FREE - Blu-ray


1) Image Entertainment - Kino TOP LEFT

2) Spectrum Disc 3 TOP RIGHT

3) Spectrum - Disc 1 MIDDLE

4) Imprint - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Kino TOP LEFT

2) Spectrum Disc 3 TOP RIGHT

3) Spectrum - Disc 1 MIDDLE

4) Imprint - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Kino TOP LEFT

2) Spectrum Disc 3 TOP RIGHT

3) Spectrum - Disc 1 MIDDLE

4) Imprint - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Kino TOP LEFT

2) Spectrum Disc 3 TOP RIGHT

3) Spectrum - Disc 1 MIDDLE

4) Imprint - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Kino TOP LEFT

2) Spectrum Disc 3 TOP RIGHT

3) Spectrum - Disc 1 MIDDLE

4) Imprint - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


 

More full resolution (1920 X 1080) Blu-ray Captures for DVDBeaver Patreon Supporters HERE

 


Box Covers

 

 

BONUS CAPTURES:

Distribution Image Entertainment - Kino
Region 0 NTSC 
Spectrum - 3 Discs 
Region 3/6 encoded  
Imprint - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Alternate Version NOTE: there is also another DVD version of this film from RusCiCo, The Russian Cinema Council:

 

Click to access

 

Audio: Russian, English, French

Subtitles: Russian, English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portugese, Japanese, Herbew, Swedish, Chinese, Arabic

Special Features: 

  • Interview with actor Yuri Solomin.
  • Behind the scenes.
  • Biography of writer V.K. Arsenyev.
  • Cast and Crew Filmographies.
  • Photo Album.

NOTE: the first two discs are exactly the same as the Korean, except added subtitles.

DVD Release Date: May 23, 2002
Keep Case
Chapters: 27
DVD Release Date: September 3, 2002
Keep Case
Disc 1 + 2 - 22 Chapters: Disc 3 - 10 Chapters



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