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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Pigs and Battleships [Blu-ray]

 

(Shohei Imamura, 1961)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Nikkatsu

Video: Masters of Cinema Spine # 21

 

Disc:

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

Pig and Battleships Runtime: 1:47:50.922

Stolen Desires Runtime: 1:32:16.572

Disc Size: 49,368,042,443 bytes

Pig and Battleships Size: 30,453,190,656 bytes

Stolen Desires Size: 18,870,650,880 bytes

Pig and Battleships Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Stolen Desires Video Bitrate: 24.99 Mbps

Chapters: 19 / 14

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 27th, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

Pig and Battleships:

DTS-HD Master Audio Japanese 864 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 864 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 512 kbps / 16-bit)

Stolen Desires:

DTS-HD Master Audio Japanese 903 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 903 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 512 kbps /
16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

Stolen Desire [Nusumareta yokuj˘]

Booklet featuring essays on both films by Tony Rayns and rare stills

Dual Format DVD of features included

 

Bitrate:

1) Pigs, and Battleships TOP
2) Stolen Desires BOTTOM

 

 

 

Description: A dazzling, unruly portrait of postwar Japan, Pigs and Battleships details, with escalating absurdity, the desperate power struggles between small-time gangsters in the port town of Yokosuka. The film is shot in gorgeously composed, bustling cinemascope.

***

With this, his fifth film, Sh˘hei Imamura finally answered his true calling as Japanese cinema's most dedicated and brilliant chronicler of society's underbelly with the astonishing Pigs and Battleships [Buta to gunkan]. A riotous portrait of sub-Yakuza gangsters battling for control of the local pork business in a U.S. Navy-occupied coastal town (Yokosuka), Imamura conjures a chaotic world of petty thugs, young love, tough-headed women, and underworld hypochondria, with one of the most unforgettable climaxes ever to grace the screen. Featuring dynamic black-and-white 'Scope cinematography, the director's typically sly sense of social commentary, and a host of outstanding performances (including Jitsuko Yoshimura from Onibaba), Pigs and Battleships immediately became a cornerstone of the Japanese New Wave and remains perhaps Imamura's most sheerly entertaining work. Pigs and Battleships is a much-loved, major classic of Japanese cinema, and part of the established canon along with Seven Samurai, Onibaba, Kwaidan, Ugetsu monogatari, and Tokyo Story, etc.

 

 

Also included Imamura’s 1958 rarely-seen debut feature, Stolen Desire [Nusumareta yokuj˘]:

 

Shohei Imamura's first feature (1958), shot in black-and-white 'Scope, deals with a form of working-class Kabuki that attracted him as a college student, but its story about an itinerant troupe performing a striptease version of the form near Osaka isn't very inspired. Nevertheless, Imamura characteristically finds some vitality in vulgarity—though his more prosaic working title, “Tent Theatre,” was rejected by the production company.

Excerpt from Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader located HERE

 

 

The Film:

In post-War Japan, drunk American soldiers flood the streets looking for prostitutes - meanwhile, the Japanese Yakuza is doing its own part to damage the honor of the country via the black market. Imamura does a fine job of not simply pointing the finger at the Americans, but also criticizing his own people, but the movie is also exhaustingly moral, slightly hysterical and awkwardly employs symbolic elements. That Imamura went from something as simple as this to significantly more nuanced works like Vengeance Is Mine and Dr. Akagi shows his growth.

Excerpt from The Cinematic Threads located HERE

Imamura's fifth film kicks off with hordes of uniformed American sailors running rampant through the neon lit streets of Yokosuka, and closes with a stampede of pigs doing much the same: a rather wonderful bracketing device pinpointing the twin poles of the slum town's economic life. Kinta (Nagato), like every other young punk in town, has his heart set on making a favourable impression with the gangsters, whose main racket involves exploiting the local pig trade. By contrast his girlfriend Haruko (Yoshimura) is one of the few women to think twice about prostituting herself to the steady influx of Yanks flush with money and booze. She wants them both to quit town while they can. Around this familiar set-up Imamura spins a hectic, furious portrait of a melting pot of deadend low-lives, which, with its restless tracking and panning shots, high contrast 'Scope photography and gothic secondary characters, recalls the corrupt, sweaty universe captured by Welles in Touch of Evil. Imamura plays fast and loose with the plotting (he likes his films 'messy'), but if some of the finer narrative details are opaque, the over-arching vision of life as a meat market is abundantly clear.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

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

For Pigs and Battleships the Masters of Cinema appears lighter than the Criterion rendition in their SD Boxset Pigs, Pimps, & Prostitutes: 3 Films by Shohei Imamura. The Blu-ray contains a thick, heavy looking image that produces a clean and consistent presentation - one that I suspect is accurate to its theatrical roots.  The softness is probably a production factor but there is some notable detail in close-ups. This Blu-ray has an authentic film-like feel without any distinguishing black-marks. Sharing the disc is Imamura's debut feature via the Nikkatsu studio; Stolen Desires. It is less technically robust than the Pigs and Battleships transfer with a smaller bitrate and has some issues of compression. It is darker in comparison, but visually is shares a consistency that easily allows one to settle into the presentation. There is some contrast fluctuation but nothing that deterred my viewing experience. This worked for me as a cool Double-Bill. The image of both is not modern-era sharp - but it would be out of the ordinary if it was. I was very satisfied with the digital look of both films.

 

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

 

 

1) Pigs, Pimps, & Prostitutes: 3 Films by Shohei Imamura - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' -
Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Pigs, Pimps, & Prostitutes: 3 Films by Shohei Imamura - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' -
Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Pigs, Pimps, & Prostitutes: 3 Films by Shohei Imamura - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' -
Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Pigs, Pimps, & Prostitutes: 3 Films by Shohei Imamura - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' -
Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Stolen Desires

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The flatness of the audio reflects the original quality and both films have a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 864 kbps in Japanese to help accentuate its authenticity. It has no impressive qualities excepting that, like the video, it supplies a clean, consistent and reasonably trouble-free replication of the film's sound. Hence, there is no range or depth - and few instances in the films that would require it. There are professionally rendered optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region B-locked.

 

Extras :

Stolen Desires - as an extra - is a wonderful inclusion. Beyond that is a booklet featuring essays on both films by Tony Rayns and rare stills as well as being a Dual-Format Edition containing a separate disc SD-DVD of the two features.

 

1) Pigs, Pimps, & Prostitutes: 3 Films by Shohei Imamura - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT
2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' -
Blu-ray -
RIGHT

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Imamura's later films can playful and an acquired taste but the earlish Pigs and Battleships is certainly not dense and is highly accessible while still identifying the director's greatness with more readily obvious themes explored. It was a pleasure to see the even older Stolen Desires - an important debut feature. I think this definitely escalates the value of the Blu-ray package. Along with the simultaneously released Coeur Fidele from the MoC gang - I realize how invaluable a region FREE Blu-ray player is. This Imamura set is enthusiastically recommended! 

Gary Tooze

June 29th, 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.

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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