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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

    

(aka 'Akasen Chitai' or 'Street of Shame' / 'Yōkihi' or 'Empress Yang Kwei Fei')

Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Japan 195
5 - 56

 

Mizoguchi's final film is a grim but profoundly moving study of a group of prostitutes in Tokyo's red light district. While they go about their daily business, there are constant references to the anti-prostitution legislation which Parliament is debating. As is made clear, merely passing a law won't save the women. For whatever reasons they became prostitutes (money-related in every case), they can never escape the judgment passed on them by the repressive, patriarchal society which shunned them in the first place. The settings are a far removed from the medieval landscapes of Ugetsu or The Life of Oharu, but Mizoguchi's focus on the plight of his women characters is as intent and heart-rending as ever.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

 

In AKASEN CHITAI, director Kenji Mizoguchi once again explores the lives of the courtesans of Tokyo's Yoshiwara pleasure district but forgoes his customary lyricism, taking a more harshly realistic view than in earlier films as SISTERS OF THE GION. Set in a brothel ironically dubbed Dreamland, the film allows five of its occupants to unfold their lives. Yumeko (Aiko Mimasu), a middle-aged widow supporting a son, remembers an era when the profession of courtesan was esteemed, requiring skills in music and flower arrangement. The cynical Mickey (Machiko Kyo) has entered the life as a form of rebellion against a wealthy businessman father whose philandering scarred her mother. Yorie (Hiroki Machida) is a simple country girl, working to support aged parents while dreaming of marriage. Yasumi (Ayako Wakao), a victim of her father's embezzlement, moonlights as a moneylender, to achieve respectability with a small business. Hanae (Michiko Kogure), with a baby and an unemployed husband, simply hopes for survival. Against an audio backdrop of news reports of the Diet of Japan voting to outlaw prostitution, the women struggle for a scrap of dignity amid the bleakness of their lives. A veritable dream team of Japanese actresses gives an ensemble performance of memorable virtuosity in the director's last and most lacerating excoriation of his nation's unforgivable treatment of its women.


YOKIHI is a panoramic period romance about the legendarily beautiful and graceful common-born woman loved by the last T'ang Emperor. The pure love shared by the royal couple is offset by the political turmoil and corruption of the 8th century, as a dynasty breathes its last dying gasps.

***

Set many centuries ago, Yokihi [Imperial Concubine Yang, aka _Yang Kwei Fei] recounts the Chinese legend referred to in its title.

In eighth-century T’ang China, widowed Emperor Hsüan-tsung (Masayuki Mori) reigns alone, devoting his life to the composition of music. When he meets and falls in love with a beautiful young woman (Machiko Kyo), who will become his imperial concubine, a tale of political intrigue and rival dynasties is set in motion, with ultimately tragic consequences.

Sumptuously filmed in vibrant colour, Yokihi is the most ancient of Mizoguchi’s costume dramas, yet its central themes of passion, sorrow, and the conflict between love and power remain timeless — it was also nominated for the Golden Lion at Venice.
 

Excerpt of product description at Amazon.UK located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: March 18th, 1956 + May 3rd, 1955

DVD Reviews

Comparison:

Eureka 'Masters of Cinema' - Region 2 - NTSC vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

1) Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Region 2 - NTSC  LEFT

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

 Box Cover

Distribution Eureka 'Masters of Cinema' Spine #''s 58 + 59 - Region 2 - NTSC

Masters of Cinema - Spine #58 +59

Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:25:54 + 1:31:30  1:25:33.169 + 1:31:11.132 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.84 + 7.70 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

 Akasen Chitai 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,735,131,473 bytes

Feature: 21,889,115,712 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Video

Yōkihi 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,735,131,473 bytes

Feature: 26,720,493,120 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate:

 Akasen Chitai

Bitrate:

 Akasen Chitai Blu-ray

Bitrate:

 Yōkihi

Bitrate:

 Yōkihi Blu-ray

Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital mono)  LPCM Audio Japanese 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

LPCM Audio Japanese 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka - Masters of Cinema

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Video discussions on both films by Tony Rayns (11:15, 9:03)
• Audio commentary on Akasen Chitai by acclaimed Japanese film expert/critic, festival programmer, and filmmaker Tony Rayns.
• 64-page booklet featuring writing by Keiko I. McDonald (author of Mizoguchi), Mark Le Fanu (author of Mizoguchi and Japan), Masako Nakagawa (author of The Yang Kuei-fei Legend in Japanese Literature), ninth-century poetry (A Song of Unending Sorrow) by Po Chü-i, and rare production stills.

DVD Release Date: May 26th, 200
8
Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 16 + 16

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka - Masters of Cinema

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Video discussions on both films by Tony Rayns (11:15, 9:03)
• Audio commentary on Akasen Chitai by acclaimed Japanese film expert/critic, festival programmer, and filmmaker Tony Rayns.
• 64-page booklet featuring writing by Keiko I. McDonald (author of Mizoguchi), Mark Le Fanu (author of Mizoguchi and Japan), Masako Nakagawa (author of The Yang Kuei-fei Legend in Japanese Literature), ninth-century poetry (A Song of Unending Sorrow) by Po Chü-i, and rare production stills.

Blu-ray Release Date: October 28th, 2013
Custom
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 16 + 16

 

Comments:

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

 

ADDITION: Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray (October 2013): Firstly, these two films in 1080P, Chikamatsu Monogatari and Uwasa no Onna, along with the Blu-ray of Akasen Chitai and Yōkihi are only available, at present, in Masters of Cinema's Late Mizoguchi package which also contains, the previously released, Oyu-sama (1951), Ugetsu monogatari, (1953), Gion bayashi (1953), and Sansho dayu (1954) on Blu-ray.  

 

There isn't too much to say except that the new Blu-ray transfers are improved in visual and sound area over the 5 year old SD treatments. They are brighter, better contrast, more grain, less artifacts, more detail and are supported with strong bitrates. The static screen captures bear that out. Because of the higher resolution the light damage is a shade more noticeable - but that is only because all detail is. It has the same subtitles and extras listed below (Tony Rayns video discussions, booklets etc.) and the beauty of these films really shines through via the HD presentations. These films are timeless and serious cinephiles shouldn't pass these up. I will own these for the rest of my life.   

***

ON THE DVD: Yet another terrific package from our diligent friends at Masters of Cinema. We have another two Kenji Mizoguchi films (Akasen Chitai and Yokihi), each on their own dual-layered DVD - and each is transferred progressively with optional English subtitles.

They are coded for region 2 in the NTSC standard. Both classic Japanese films look exceptionally strong with lofty bitrates. Image quality appears extraordinary although very light scratches and speckles can be seen - most notably at the finale of Yokihi - which is actually a shade dirtier. These light marks appear on alternate frames and concur some sort of long-standing damage - but it is not overly intrusive and should not impinge upon your enjoyment of the film. 

The contrast flickering, present to small degrees on some other Mizoguchi films transfers seems totally absent and one might accurately compare these to equivalent Criterion-level presentations. I didn't note any digital manipulation, as in black-level or brightness boosting, but if it was done - it is discreet enough to only improve the overall presentation a small notch in detail. These might very well be the best looking of the MoC Mizoguchi transfers that I have seen - Akasen in particular looks quite marvelous - a beautiful testament to the magnificence of the film. The colors of Yokihi are muted but distinct enough to represent it to a high standard. I am very appreciative that they both look so very good.   

There is original Japanese mono audio for both films and sounds quite clear with only a few, mostly unnoticeable, inconsistencies a couple of times for each film. There are optional English subtitles in a slightly large font - clear, visible and without undue gaps of translation (see samples below).

Supplements include more short, but educational, video introduction discussions on both films by Tony Rayns (running respectively 11:15 and 9:03), and an original, Japanese teaser (for Yokihi). But a big bonus on Mizoguchi's last film, Akasen Chitai, is a Rayns' commentary - he is easily the best in the business and his fluid manner and inspiring discussions are a true delight to follow - I expect to run through this on more than one other future occasion. I consider it the 'icing on the cake' for this package.

Also most impressive is a 64-page booklet featuring writing by Keiko I. McDonald (author of Mizoguchi), Mark Le Fanu (author of Mizoguchi and Japan), Masako Nakagawa (author of The Yang Kuei-fei Legend in Japanese Literature), ninth-century poetry (A Song of Unending Sorrow) by Po Chü-i, and rare production stills.

More good news is that Masters of Cinema have plans for even more Mizoguchi releases in April of 2009 - truly the greatest time to be a film fan. This package has our highest recommendation and Akasen Chitai will enter into my selective group of favorite Mizoguchi films. 

Gary W. Tooze

 


DVD Menus - Akasen Chitai


 

DVD Menus - Yōkihi


 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 


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

 

Akasen Chitai

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Region 2 - NTSC  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Region 2 - NTSC  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Region 2 - NTSC  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Region 2 - NTSC  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Region 2 - NTSC  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures
 


Yōkihi

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Region 2 - NTSC  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Region 2 - NTSC  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Region 2 - NTSC  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Region 2 - NTSC  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Region 2 - NTSC  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures


 Box Cover

Distribution Eureka 'Masters of Cinema' Spine #''s 58 + 59 - Region 2 - NTSC

Masters of Cinema - Spine #58 +59

Region 'B' - Blu-ray




 

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