(aka 'Yoidore tenshi' or 'Drunken Angel')

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/kurosawa.htm
Japan 1948

 

In this powerful early noir from the great Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune bursts onto the screen as a volatile, tubercular criminal who strikes up an unlikely relationship with Takashi Shimura's jaded physician. Set in and around the muddy swamps and back alleys of postwar Tokyo, Drunken Angel is an evocative, moody snapshot of a treacherous time and place, featuring one of the director's most memorably violent climaxes.

***

Dr Sanada (Takashi Shimura), the drunken angel of the title, runs a clinic in the slums of Tokyo. When small-time hood Matsunaga (Toshiro Mifune) comes to his surgery after a gunfight, Sanada diagnoses him with tuberculosis and convinces him to begin treatment. The disillusioned doctor feels that, by saving this young yakuza, he can retrieve a sense of his own lost youth and idealism. Thus they embark on a troubled friendship which is tested by the prejudices of the two and the release from prison of Matsunaga's mobster boss.

 

Despite being Kurosawa's eighth feature, Drunken Angel was the director's first critical success and the first film where he finally 'discovered himself'. The 'existential humanism' which made him famous is at the root of this extraordinary tale with a correlation between strength of spirit and physical well-being representing the two forces at work in post-war Japan.

Gary W. Tooze

Poster

Theatrical Release: April 27th, 1948 - Tokyo

Reviews    More Reviews    DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

BFI - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)

 

DVD Box Cover

   

Distribution BFI Home Video - Region 2 - PAL Criterion Collection - Spine # 413 - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:34:03  1:38:12
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.83 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.9 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

BFI

Bitrate:

Criterion

Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0)  Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Biographies
• Also Available
• Acknowledgements
• 12-page liner notes booklet with essays and photos

DVD Release Date: July 25th, 2005

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary featuring Japanese-film scholar Donald Richie
•  A 30-minute documentary on the making of Drunken Angel, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create
• Kurosawa and the Censors, a new, 25-minute video piece that looks at the challenges Kurosawa faced in making Drunken Angel
• Liner notes booklet with essay by cultural historian Ian Buruma and excerpts from Kurosawa’s Something Like an Autobiography

DVD Release Date: November 27th, 200
7
Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 16

 

Comments:

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 1- NTSC - Nov 07': The Criterion transfer is pictureboxed (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). NOTE: The Criterion captures below have been put in their own table to indicate the amount of the pictureboxing (indicated by the black border circumventing the edge). Where this may benefit systems that produce overscan (ex. production made cathode ray tubes) - it detracts from systems that do not requite it (ex. HTPC). I'm crazy enough to have measured... and the black border is smaller in Drunken Angel than in other recent Criterion DVDs (like Sawdust and Tinsel).

Criterion have done some restoration work to this Kurosawa title and it is improved over the older BFI. What you may notice most in the screen caps is that the occasional first frames of certain scenes in the BFI that exhibits extensive damage is corrected in the Criterion - it's possible that they simply removed the frame - I don't know. It's not something you wouldn't probably perceptively notice but it does show the detail level put into the restoration. Notably, also, the Criterion does show more information in the frame. At times the Criterion is brighter, but in some scenes it is darker.

NOTE (from Email): 'The "damage" that you presented two examples of are splices in the print. The first one looks like it was made with transparent tape, the second one looks like it might be a physical splice, but it also just might be a very sloppy tape splice. I am going to vote for a tape splice because the distortions within the splice are more indicative of tape than acetone.

Why the splice? The U.S. has had a nominal "standard" reel length of 1,000 feet. (Actual reel length varies widely -- I will not bore you with a treatise on the history of reel lengths and the editorial reason for selecting the point that a reel breaks.) The U.K. also used the 1000' standard. Japan, however, was metric and their "standard" reel was 500 meters or 1,640 feet.

When Japanese prints were used in the US (outside of the Japanese studios' own theaters), they were broken down to 1000' lengths in order to fit on our reels (spools). Or actually, they were "rebalanced" to 2,000 foot lengths to fit onto standard release reels and into standard shipping cases.

I am going to posit that the BFI print was so rebalanced and those splices were already in the print. Criterion's master probably came from Japan as a digital master (not a physical print) and that master was made from a source that had not been mucked with and was still in its original reel makeup. Since you have determined that the two versions were made from different source prints, that would make sense to me. Criterion did not have to do anything to remove that "damage" because it wasn't there.
'

Actually these appear to be from different prints as they show different damage marks - namely in the form of scratches and speckles. Without getting overly anal - the Criterion image is superior in my eyes - I like that it shows more information but the flickering contrast present in the BFI is also there in the Criterion especially in the beginning of the film. Original elements of this film are obviously in very poor condition.

My weak ears didn't notice too much difference in the mono audio between the two (I also didn't notice the 4% speedup on the BFI). Both have it clear enough to enjoy the film but Criterion's subtitle translation seems to be much more complete and therefore superior.

Supplement-wise Criterion are obviously far ahead with a less formal commentary from Donald Ritchie who has some personal anecdotes about the film which make for further interesting listening. I quite enjoyed listening to him and he sounded a shade different than I recall in the past (older? - as are we all). There are hardly any gaps but he does tend to narrate/explain a bit - which is fine. Overall though excellent. We are given two extra featurettes - a 30-minute documentary on the making of Drunken Angel, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create. Plus the highly interesting Kurosawa and the Censors, a new, 25-minute video piece that looks at the challenges Kurosawa faced in making Drunken Angel. Those keen on the issue of censorship will get a lot of out this. There are some wonderful liner notes - a booklet with an essay by cultural historian Ian Buruma and excerpts from Kurosawa’s Something Like an Autobiography (available HERE).

I don't know why but I think I enjoyed the film much more watching it now after about 2 years since I had last seen it. I do definitely feel some Noir in it and recommend to fans of the style, Kurosawa lovers and everyone else too. Super enjoyable cinema.  

****

On the BFI: Many of these DVD production houses must succumb to the mercy of Toho for their masters. This would be considered to be a very good offering.

I had never seen this Kurosawa film before but am very pleasantly surprised as I had heard some horrific tales about this print. It is understandably worn and there is consistent contrast flickering, but it is progressive and much sharper than I expected. It is fairly dark, and I'm confident that there has been no digital boosting. It seems the first frames of certain scenes show severe damage. Unless Criterion takes their hand to it it is probably as good s this 60 years old film is going to look.

Subtitles are strong and I always love BFI's menus. Although digital extras are pretty much filler the liner notes booklet is gorgeous with some good reading and beautiful photos. I am happy with this package. out of         

Gary W. Tooze


 

DVD Menus


(BFI - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)


 
 

 


Subtitle Sample

 

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

NOTE: Not exact frame...

 

 


 

Screen Captures

 

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 

 


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

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DVD Box Cover

   

Distribution BFI Home Video - Region 2 - PAL Criterion Collection - Spine # 413 - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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