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(aka 'The Only Son' or 'Hitori musuko')

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/ozu.htm
Japan 1936

 

Yasujiro Ozu’s first talkie, the uncommonly poignant The Only Son is among the Japanese director’s greatest works, a simple story about a good-natured mother who gives up everything to ensure her son’s education and future.

***

Ozu's first talkie has, for me, a few other identity markers; I found it possibly the most melodramatic of all his films that I have seen and it contains the least dialogue (for a sound film). Certainly it is easily identifiable with Ozu's signature style of gentle dramatic moments, introspective static shots of surrounding geography and a simplistic narrative. The social interaction is between a mother and son and the subtle pressure exerted to achieve a life of relative success. The widowed mother unselfishly gives her all (factory work income, sells her house and land etc.) so that her son can be educated and find gainful employment. Once established in a meager night school teaching position in Tokyo the mother visits to find her son married with a young baby... her grandson. His family obligations and the poor economy where he resides have lead to disappointment in any ambitious endeavors. In the climatic spark of the film we are briefly lead to the conclusion that his perceived appearance as 'a great man' is not his monetary standing but his unselfish and noble behavior. In an almost bittersweet climax we are left with a hopeful future but seemingly dejected mother. This is a beautiful story that touches upon many of Ozu's quintessential themes. I would easily put this in my top 5 favorites of all his films.

Gary W. Tooze

  Theatrical Release: September 12th, 1936 - Tokyo

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Comparison:

Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC vs. Criterion (Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

1) Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC LEFT

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) BFI Region 'B' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

DVD Box Cover

 

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Distribution Panorama Entertainment - Region 3 - NTSC Criterion Collection - Spine # 525 - Region 1 - NTSC

BFI

Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:22:21  1:22:42 1:22:30.946
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.78 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 
1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.96 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

1.33:1 - 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 43,251,913,412 bytes

Feature: 18,687,141,888 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.49 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate: Panorama

Bitrate: Criterion

Bitrate: BFI Blu-ray

Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0)  Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0) LPCM Audio Japanese 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English, Chinese, None English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Panorama Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Directors Biography (text screens)
• Director's filmography (text screens)

• Collectable handbill with production notes (in English and Chinese)

DVD Release Date: July 12th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• New video interviews with film scholars Tadao Sato, David Bordwell, and Kristin Thompson
• 18-page liner notes booklets featuring essays by critic and historian Tony Rayns, an appreciation of actor Chishu Ryu by Japanese film scholar Donald Richie, and comments by Ryu on director Yasujiro Ozu

DVD Release Date: July 13th, 2010

Transparent Keep Case (package has 2 individual keep cases inside a cardboard box)
Chapters: 1
6

Release Information:
Studio: BFI

 

1.33:1 - 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 43,251,913,412 bytes

Feature: 18,687,141,888 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.49 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• Extensive illustrated booklet featuring essays and film notes

• Contains full length feature Late Spring in 1080P

Blu-ray Release Date: June 21st, 2010
Custom Blu-ray Case

Chapters 12

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: BFI Dual-format package - July 2010: The Only Son is a Blu-ray extra in the region 'B' Late Spring package from the BFI. It is one of Ozu's best films and adds further value to the boxset. Improvement over the existing DVDs is not as dominant as in the case of Late Spring. However, having so recently watched the Criterion The Only Son/There Was a Father: Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu I could see the superiority of the high resolution. It may not have been apparent in the contrast but the film-like qualities all lean to the 1080P transfer. Grain, texture, depth - all advance but it may be more apparent in motion than in the static captures below. There is also slightly more information in the Blu-ray frame.

Like Late Spring - BFI have the Japanese soundtrack in a lossless linear PCM 2.0 at 2304 kbps. It is still weak - due in part to production standards as well as the inherent quality of the surviving elements. Criterion supplied the graded master materials so improvement may directly lie in the more robust nature of the lossless transfer. I prefer the, less intrusive, BFI subtitle font.

Included in this package are SD transfers of both film (Late Spring and The Only Son) and a liner notes booklet with an essay by James Bell (Sight and Sound) and Ozu biographer Tony Rayns. This is a fabulous, heart-wrenching film and I can appreciate that, despite the weaknesses, it's the best this film has ever looked for digital home theater enjoyment.

 - Gary Tooze

****

 

 

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 1- NTSC - June 2010: Well, it didn't come in 2006 - but

Criterion have released these two Ozu masterpieces (There Was a Father  and The Only Son) in digitally restored, superior, editions in a package obviously entitled - The Only Son / There Was a Father: Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu. Criterion have performed their magic with the occasionally severe damage lessened to a noticeable extent. Contrast has been manipulated for specific scenes (no blanketed) and even the hollow, tinny, audio (1.0 channel mono on the Criterions) seems much better. Most apparent is the improved subtitles (always a failing on Panorama DVDs) in the areas of grammar, spelling and absentee dialogue. The Criterions are dual layered (on separate discs) and progressive while the Panorama's are single-layered with combing present. The Panorama There Was a Father is notably horizontally stretched out of ratio.

NOTE: Audio still has issues and, digitally speaking, can only be improved so much. I was resigned to live with the weaknesses on both Panorama editions but I could identify some improvement in the new Criterions. However, purchasers should not expect miracles. This is one area that extensive work is still required. Thankfully there is minimal dialogue and the newly rendered subtitles are excellent.

From the tabled screen captures below you can see that the Criterion transfer is indeed pictureboxed - with a black border circumventing the frame - marginally limiting the resolution. For a detailed description of picture-boxing see our Kind Heart and Coronets review HERE. Overall the Criterion seems to show a shade more in the frame - but it is mostly negligible.

Supplements include newly recorded video interviews with film scholars David Bordwell, and Kristin Thompson (2 x 20 minutes for both features) and some time with Tadao Sato on The Only Son disc. What's super are the liner notes for each film - amounting to almost 50 pages in the two booklets featuring essays by critic and historian Tony Rayns, an appreciation of actor Chishu Ryu by Japanese film scholar Donald Richie, and comments by Ryu on director Yasujiro Ozu - as well as images from the films. Treasured keepsakes.

To get these any further along it appear both titles require restoration at the film level which could be a very expensive proposition. I won't complain about Criterion's level of commitment here. These represent two of my favorite films of all time, let alone the director, and while not pristine a/v - it was like a brand new viewing with the improved detail, grain, contrast and subtitles.

***

 

NOTE from 2005 (Thanks Brian!): In November 2003 Donald Richie said in a Japan Times interview that the next Ozu film Criterion would be releasing (after Early Summer) was THE ONLY SON. So perhaps we'll see a definitive version in '06.

****

ON THE PANORAMA: Like "There Was a Father " produced a few years later this print is severely damaged. Noticeable moments of extensive damage occur in both the beginning and near the end (last reel?). As my expectations were very limited in seeing Ozu's first talkie (Japanese were very late in adapting this cinematic feature) I was not deterred in my viewing. Subtitles, although not perfect, gave me the gist of the story. Perhaps because this film has very limited dialogue. This film translated very well in terms of expression and I truly cherish owning it. It has so much damage that I doubt a Criterion or the like will ever touch it unless there is a superior print around. We recommend this DVD based on the film, but simply be prepared that you will see an imperfect print. A very thoughtful, melodramatic and touching expose.      

Gary W. Tooze

 



DVD Menus

 

Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT

 
 

 

BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

 


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

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) BFI Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

Screen Captures

 

1) Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) BFI Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) BFI Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) BFI Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

1) Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) BFI Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

1) Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) BFI Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) BFI Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 
Damage...
 

 

DVD Box Cover

 

Thinking of buying from YesAsia? CLICK HERE and use THIS UPDATED BEAVER PAGE to source their very best...   

Distribution Panorama Entertainment - Region 3 - NTSC Criterion Collection - Spine # 525 - Region 1 - NTSC

BFI

Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 





 

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Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,

   CANADA

Thank You!!