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Silent Ozu

 

Tokyo no kôrasu (1931) ... aka Tokyo Chorus


Otona no miru ehon - Umarete wa mita keredo (1932) ... aka I Was Born, But...


Dekigokoro (1933) ... aka Passing Fancy

 

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

 

In the late twenties and early thirties, Yasujiro Ozu was working steadily for Shochiku studios, honing his craft on dozens of silent films in various genres, from romantic melodramas to college comedies to gangster pictures—and, of course, movies about families. In these three droll domestic films—Tokyo Chorus, I Was Born, But . . . , and Passing Fancy, presented here with all-new scores by renowned silent-film composer Donald Sosin—Ozu movingly and humorously depicts middle-class struggles and the resentments between children and parents, establishing the emotional and aesthetic delicacy with which he would transform the landscape of cinema.

Titles


I Was Born, But...
Yasujiro Ozu, 1932
One of Ozu's most popular films, I Was Born But . . . is a blithe portrait of the financial and psychological toils of one family, as told from the rascally point of view of a couple of stubborn little boys. For two brothers, the daily struggles of bullies and mean teachers is nothing next to the mortification they feel when they realize their good-natured father’s low-rung social status. Reworked decades later as Ozu's Technicolor comedy Good Morning, it's a poignant evocation of the tumult of childhood, as well as a showcase for Ozu's expertly timed comedy editing.

Passing Fancy
Yasujiro Ozu, 1933
The first of many films featuring the endearing single-dad Kihachi (played wonderfully by Takeshi Sakamoto), Passing Fancy is a humorous and heartfelt study of a close, if fraught, father-son relationship. With an ever more sophisticated visual style and understanding of fragile human relationships, Ozu seamlessly weaves rib-tickling comedy and weighty family drama for this distinguished precursor to a brilliant career.

Tokyo Chorus
Yasujiro Ozu, 1931
Combining three prevalent genres of the day—the student comedy, the salaryman film, and the domestic drama—Ozu created this warmhearted family comedy, and demonstrated that he was truly coming into his own as a cinema craftsman. The setup is simple: Low wage–earning dad Okajima is depending on his bonus, and so are his wife and children, yet payday doesn't exactly go as planned. Exquisite and economical, Ozu's film alternates between brilliantly mounted comic sequences and heartrending working-class realities.

Theatrical Releases: 1931 - 1933

  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Eclipse Series 10 from the Criterion Collection (3-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

 

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC
Bitrates: Respective bitrates - 8.75. 8.55, 7.93 mb/s
Time: Respectively - 1:30:24, 1:30:27, and 1:40:15
Bitrate:

Tokyo Chorus

Bitrate:

I Was Born But...

Bitrate:

Passing Fancy

Audio Silent film with optional track from silent-film composer Donald Sosin 
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Eclipse / Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33 

Edition Details:

  •  one page (for each film) of liner notes in the transparent case


DVD Release Date: April 22nd, 2008

3 Slim Transparent Keep Cases inside a Slipcase cardboard box (see image above)
Chapters: 13, 16, 15

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: December 2010: Comments added for addition of the BFI I Was Born... But - see HERE.

****

NOTE: The 3 features of this boxset are housed in individual slim transparent keep cases (see image above) and they are not sold separately at this time. These particular editions can only be obtained in Criterion's Eclipse Series Ten - Silent Ozu package at present.

All three DVDs are dual-layered and, very encouraging, are NOT pictureboxed transferred (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review), but each are slightly pillarboxed. All 3 are coded for Region 1 in the NTSC standard. Passing Fancy is interlaced but the other two are progressive. The audio is optionally silent or with new scores by silent-film composer Donald Sosin. There are optional English subtitles for the original Japanese intertitles (samples below). The Janus logo precedes each film.

We have compared to existing frames of Panorama's NTSC version of Passing Fancy. Specifically speaking of the individual transfers:

 

Tokyo Chorus : is the elder statesmen here and looks quite rough especially throughout the first 20 minutes. Severe damage marks are dramatically visible in every frame but the middle third of the feature has, comparatively, the most watchable image quality. Regardless, I am confident that it looks as good as it ever can on standard-def DVD considering the source quality. The Japanese are notorious for poor standards of film storage and I don't know that anything more can be realistically done to drastically improve this appearance. It is too far gone. It may be as damaged as I have ever seen - as an example, it requires even more 'viewer discretion' than Masters of Cinema's Humanity and Paper Balloons. On the positive, the film is easy to follow and the intertitles seem translated with Criterion's usual care. The film hints at later Ozu - escalating to his own style and for that it is very much worth watching. What we have here is an irreparably damaged film has seen the digital light. Perhaps we should be thankful that we have it available at all.   

 

 

I Was Born, But... : A highly anticipated film-to-DVD that, although, has strong improvements over Tokyo Chorus, still has its share of weakness. A lot of vertical scratch damage and marks that are light enough to enjoy the film but certainly visible throughout. Black levels are decent enough and probably boosted a slight degree. The popular film obviously harkens to the later Good Morning but with its own brand of familial humor. With the high bitrates and dual-layering we really can't point fingers why these don't look better except perhaps surmising it is the inadequate storage taking its toll over the years. A shame, but it is what it is.  

 

Passing Fancy : We compared it to the single-layered Panorama (Hong Kong) edition. Both are interlaced but the Panorama has it much more prominently visible. It seems obvious that a healthy portion of the left edge of this source is either lost or severely damaged. Even starting at the title credits the film is left biased. The Panorama has a large black border on the left edge where Criterion have attempted to center it. Damage marks seem exactly the same on both and although the Criterion is superior - it is not highly evident... except upon very close inspection. Where the Criterion vaults ahead is in the Japanese Intertitle translation to English which is always a weakness with Panorama. I expect the Criterion interlacing is dependant on the given source (as Tokyo Twilight was non-progressive in the Late Ozu Eclipse set).

Bitrates are very strong ranging from from 7.93 MPS (Passing Fancy) to 8.75 MPS (Tokyo Chorus).

Aside from one page liner notes for each film (visible on the inner case sleeve through the transparent case cover) there are no supplements. This is consistent from Eclipse. 

The new optional audio tracks by silent-film composer Donald Sosin are fairly piano based and sound wonderful. They flow very well with the films and after a while one develops a kinship with them and the storyline. I think it a benefit to have them consistently available in all three films. I, admittedly only sampled the 'silent' choice momentarily but much prefer the Sosin inclusions. I don't think I could watch them again without.

I tried to be quite diligent in my selection of screen captures to represent the transfers as accurately as I could. It might have been easy to frame jump and find cleaner samples but they wouldn't adequately 'demo' the image quality. I'm sure some might have been anticipating more from the transfers but I am hoping this review serves as a caveat on what to expect. Eclipse are making some of the most important films ever made affordable and accessible to vast audiences that have never been exposed to them before. We continue to encourage them in this project and find this Silent Ozu package essential to fans of the director, film scholars, silent cinema aficionados or just plain 'buffs' everywhere. Even in their, often, decrepit state they still exude humor, genuine warmth and Ozu's patented familial gentleness. A perfect escape from Hollywood's modern malady of excess.

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus



Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

Tokyo Chorus (1931) aka 'Tokyo no kôrasu '

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

Starring Tokihiko Okada, Emiko Yagumo, Hideo Sugawara, Hideko Takamine, Tatsuo Saito and Chouko Iida
 
Intertitle Sample
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Comparison

 

Eclipse - Region 1 - NTSC vs. BFI (part of Good Morning Blu-ray - reviewed HERE) - Region 2 - PAL

 

 Case Covers

 

 

 

Quickly we'll compare the Eclipse "Silent Ozu" I Was Born But... to the one included in the BFI's Good Morning Blu-ray package reviewed HERE. Firstly it is on a dual-layered DVD shared with an SD version of Good Morning. This disc is in addition to the Blu-ray of Ozu's Good Morning.

It has similar damage and obviously from the same source but Criterion have done some cleaning. The BFI may be slightly horizontally stretched - but nether of these factors effect the viewing too extensively as the film still has some egregious damage. The UK transfer is shifted a few notches to the left showing more information on that side but less on the right edge. The BFI has 4% PAL speed-up and the Criterion is the definitive for video but what the BFI offers is the option of silent or a newly recorded score by composer Ed Hughes and the New Music Players. Overall this is a decent inclusion in the BFI package with its relationship to the latter, color, film in the Blu-ray set. The subtitles are well done and the new score is kind of cool/funky. You also get the liner notes by Rosenbaum.

 

Screen Captures

 

I Was Born But... (1932) aka 'Otona no miru ehon - Umarete wa mita keredo'


Directed by Yasujiro Ozu


Starring Tatsuo Saito, Tomio Aoki, Mitsuko Yoshikawa, Hideo Sugawara, Takeshi Sakamoto, Teruyo Hayami, Seiichi Kato and Shoichi Kofujita

 

Intertitle Sample

 

Eclipse - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. BFI (part of Good Morning Blu-ray - reviewed HERE) - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Eclipse - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. BFI (part of Good Morning Blu-ray - reviewed HERE) - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

 

Eclipse - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. BFI (part of Good Morning Blu-ray - reviewed HERE) - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 

Eclipse - Region 1- NTSC TOP vs. BFI (part of Good Morning Blu-ray - reviewed HERE) - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM


Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

Passing Fancy (1933) aka 'Dekigokoro'


Directed by Yasujiro Ozu


Starring Takeshi Sakamoto, Nobuko Fushimi, Den Obinata and Chouko Iida

 

 

Intertitle Sample

 

Panorama - Region 0 - NTSC (reviewed HERE) TOP vs. Eclipse - Region 1- NTSC BOTTOM

 

 

 

Panorama - Region 0 - NTSC (reviewed HERE) TOP vs. Eclipse - Region 1- NTSC BOTTOM

 

 

Panorama - Region 0 - NTSC (reviewed HERE) TOP vs. Eclipse - Region 1- NTSC BOTTOM

 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

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