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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

Profound Desires of the Gods aka Kamigami no Fukaki Yokubo [Blu-ray]

 

(Shohei Imamura, 1968)

 

Dual Format Edition available October 24th, 2011

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Nikkatsu

Video: Masters of Cinema Series

 

Disc:

Region: 'B'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:53:25.269

Disc Size: 44,605,218,128 bytes

Feature Size: 42,178,990,080 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.99 Mbps

Chapters: 19

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 21st, 2010

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio Japanese 877 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 877 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• Introduction by Tony Rayns (11:37 in HD!)

• Japanese Trailer with English subtites (5:28 in HD!)

Extensive booklet with a new essay by Rayns (to accompany his introduction), rare stills, reprinted statements by Imamura, a lengthy 1994 career interview and a transcript of Imamura's introduction and Q&A session at the 1994 Edinburgh International Film Festival's screening of the film.

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Shohei Imamura's epic production was of little acclaim when first released and has since grown to become legendary in Japanese cinema. Profound Desires Of The Gods chronicles the tale of the Futori Family and an engineer, a powerful encounter in both strange and powerful ways.

The culmination of Shohei Imamura's extraordinary examinations of the fringes of Japanese society throughout the 1960s, Profound Desires of the Gods was an 18-month super-production which failed to make an impression at the time of its release, but has since risen in stature to become one of the most legendary albeit least seen Japanese films of recent decades. Presenting a vast chronicle of life on the remote Kurage Island, the film centres on the disgraced, superstitious, interbred Futori family and the Tokyo engineer sent to supervise the creation of a new well an encounter which leads to both conflict and complicity in strange and powerful ways. A tragic view of a passing epoch that teeters on the edge of grotesque farce, Imamura's merciless gaze combines with spectacular colour 'Scope photography to create a mythic saga convulsing with earthly impulses.

 

 

The Film:

One should note that Imamura's camerawork both raises the sense of watching through a window and also conveys a sense of the animals -- actually legendary gods through the film's identification of divinity with nature -- as the ones doing the watching. What the film's title, content, and structure emphatically exclude is the possibility of equating the film's "gods" with the film's audience. It would be smug and arrogant to assume that the film's viewers are meant to be gods. Because Imamura's camera often switches focus from the human characters to the animals and back again, it is clear that the camera's field of view does not singlemindedly represent any one particular perspective. And even if it were Imamura's intention to make viewers into gods, so to speak, the viewer-gods would be necessarily impotent and ineffective, since the viewer is at the mercy of Imamura's cinematic and narrative judgment.

To the other hand, one could conclude that the film is little more than an indulgent effort to equate the real god back to Imamura himself. While Imamura has played similar tricks in his other films -- most notably in his 1967 film NINGEN JOHATSU (A MAN VANISHES) where Imamura surreptitiously photographed a woman who is searching for her missing fiance and who falls in love with the fake interviewer-investigator Imamura paid to accompany her -- there is no such sense of egotism in KAMIGAMI NO FUKAKI YOKUBO because Imamura never calls undue attention to his camera tricks. He also does not carry anything to gratuitous extremes. Imamura is certainly fascinated by the dirty laundry of humankind, and it is therefore only natural that he would be attracted to the themes of incest and lecherous gods that Kuragejima has to offer. But in this film at least, Imamura wants to examine and learn from those themes, not exploit or revel in them.

The abrupt epilogue of the film somewhat disrupts the flow of the film, but it does effectively address how these concerns have changed the community five years after the main events of the film. Kariya, the engineer, returns with his family to visit, as does Kametaro, who has become disillusioned with life in Tokyo. Although western influences have transformed the island (Coca-Cola signs are everywhere), new indigenous legends are also emerging. Imamura implies that such folklore will always find resources to survive in the face of encroaching realities. What is most striking, though, is how strange and foreign the visitors seem on the island. Not having witnessed the events that led to the creation of the new myths, the visitors will never consider the rock named after the now-deceased Toriko to be anything more than a curiosity. Kametaro is best qualified among the visitors to realize the full import of the changes, and it is therefore appropriate that he is the only one who sees a vision of Toriko dancing on the train tracks ahead of the locomotive pulling Kariya's train. This is a rather clumsy method, but Imamura makes his point: Kametaro (and the audience) are well on their way to realizing that the story of Toriko has now become intimately anchored within the village's traditions and collective mythology -- just as a large rock hurled onto the island became a part of the local lore twenty years earlier.

Excerpt from Manavendra K. Thakur's review at IMDb located HERE

 


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

The 42-year old Japanese film looks impressive in 1080P. There is abundant grain that is not overwhelming and the image is never glossy nor appears manipulated.  Profound Desires of the Gods was shot almost entirely outdoors and the natural lighting gives the HD image an authentic, and consistent, appearance. There are moments of strong detail in the many close-ups of insects and marine life. Colors, like the rich flora of the island and the turquoise ocean look a little pale but I suspect this was a product of the film's age and utilized source.  This is still a beautiful film, filled with unique and delightful shots, that benefits greatly by the move to hi-def. It's an incredible treat to simply see this film let alone in the glory of Blu-ray definition. I was treated to one of my most enjoyable presentations of the entire year with Profound Desires of the Gods.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

No superfluous boost going on here - its a lossless 1.0 channel (mono) track - DTS-HD Master at 877 kbps in original Japanese - pushing through the center channel. I appreciate the authenticity but fans who indulge for their Surround systems will be left empty handed with Profound Desires of the Gods. There is an original score by Toshirô Mayuzumi that never comes into play much and it is, Predictably, without range or depth but remains clear and consistent with crisp dialogue. There are optional English subtitles and, unfortunately, my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked Blu-ray ('Fiddlesticks' as the warning screen states).

 

 

Extras :

We get a super introduction by Tony Rayns for almost a dozen minutes in HD. He talks about the historical aspects before discussing the director and production. We get a Japanese trailer in HD with English subtitles that runs an unusually lengthy 5.5 minutes and another of MoC's magnificent booklets - this with a new essay by Rayns, rare stills, reprinted statements by Imamura, a lengthy 1994 career interview and a transcript of Imamura's introduction and Q&A session at the 1994 Edinburgh International Film Festival's screening of the film.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I believe Masters of Cinema are only releasing this in the Blu-ray format at this time. It's an incredible Imamura film - one I'm surprised I haven't seen or at least was more aware of. I truly felt 'treated' by seeing it on Blu-ray - one of the most interesting directors in an essential film from his oeuvre. For those lucky enough to have been exposed to Imamura's style (see Ballad of Narayama, Black Rain, or Pigs and Battleships - 1962, The Insect Woman - 1963 and Intentions of Murder - 1964) from Criterion's Pigs, Pimps, & Prostitutes: 3 Films by Shohei Imamura, The Eel (Unagi), Dr. Akagi, Warm Water Under a Red Bridge, Vengeance Is Mine and "The Pornographers") - Profound Desires of the Gods is easily identifiable as 'his' - another in his unforgettable body of work. I'd have been thrilled to simply see this in SD - but in the film-like representation of 1080P we, emphatically, give this our highest recommendation! We're talking 'Blu-ray of the Year' category as many will, surely, agree. 

Gary Tooze

May 25th, 2010

 

 

Dual Format Edition available October 24th, 2011

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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