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The Only Son / There Was a Father: Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu

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

These rare early films from Yasujiro Ozu are considered by many to be two of the Japanese director’s finest works, paving the way for a career among the most sensitive and significant in cinema. The Only Son and There Was a Father make a graceful pair, bookending a crucial period in Japanese history. In the former, Ozu’s first sound film, made during a time of intense economic crisis, a mother sacrifices her own happiness for her son’s education; the latter, released in the midst of World War II, stars Ozu stalwart Chishu Ryu as a widowed schoolteacher whose devotion to his son ends up driving them apart. Criterion proudly presents these nearly lost treasures for the first time on home video.

 

Comments:

We thought it prudent to fully compare in our existing reviews of the two films - respectively The Only Son and There Was a Father. We've given some screen capture examples below...

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 transfers are 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. I can't recommend films any higher...

Gary W. Tooze



(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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DVD Comparison:

Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC vs. Criterion (Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu) - Region 1 - NTSC

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

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
Runtime 1:22:21  1:22:42
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 

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

Bitrate: Panorama

Bitrate: Criterion

Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0)  Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Subtitles English, Chinese, 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

 

DVD Menus

 

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

 
 

 


Subtitle Sample

 

Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


 

Screen Captures

 

Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 


Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM
 

 


Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM
 

Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 


Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM
 
Damage...
 

(aka 'Chichi ariki' or 'There Was a Father")

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/ozu.htm
Japan 1942

 

I honestly think that this may eclipse both "Late Spring" and "Tokyo Story" as my very favorite Ozu film. It is possibly his most simplistic narrative, again dealing with familial communication - this time a father and son. All the noted Ozu signatures are here with an early shot of derricked hydro-electric lines and a few trains, also shots of solitary smoking characters and camaraderie drinking of alcoholic beverages. I enjoyed Ozu regular Chishu Ryu in his relative youthful appearance. This is a bit unique from Ozu's other films in that there are an abundance of static shots (almost like postcards) that pop up usually without musical accompaniment (or very light traditional music audio). The film is so expressive with strong overtones of love and respect filling many scenes. There Was a Father is an extremely quiet, subtle and peaceful film - one which I crave deeply to continue to revisit. Frankly this may be Ozu's best film - unrecognized because of the poor condition of the print and therefore lack of availability. It rates a heartfelt out of .

Gary Tooze

Theatrical Release: April 1st, 1942 - Tokyo

Reviews      More Reviews     DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

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

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

DVD Box Cover

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

Distribution Panorama (Hong Kong) - Region 3 - NTSC Criterion Collection - Spine # 526 - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:26:48  1:27:09
Bitrate: Panorama
Bitrate: Criterion
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.30 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.19 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 
Audio  Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0)  Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Subtitles English, Traditional Chinese, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Panorama

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Ozu Biography (text screen)
• Ozu Filmography (text screen)

DVD Release Date: June 20th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• New video interview with film scholars, David Bordwell, and Kristin Thompson
• 30-page liner notes booklet 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

DVD Menus

 

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


 

 


Subtitle Sample

 

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

 


 

Screen Captures

 

Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 


Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

 


Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM
 
 

Panorama - Region 3 - NTSC TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM

 

DVD Box Cover

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 526 - Region 1 - NTSC

 



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