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Eclipse Series 38: Masaki Kobayashi Against the System

 

The Thick-Walled Room (1953)         I Will Buy You (1956)

 

Black River (1957)          The Inheritance (1962)

 

One of the most important filmmakers to emerge from Japan’s cinematic golden age, Masaki Kobayashi is remembered in great part today for his three-part epic The Human Condition (1959–61), but that is just one of the blistering films he made in a career dedicated to criticizing his country’s rigid social and political orders. He first found his voice—rebellious, angry, engaged—in the fifties, following his life-altering experiences as a soldier in World War II; the four films collected here, made during the same period as The Human Condition, reflect Kobayashi’s coming into his own as an artist. He fought to get these powerful dramas made at a studio more oriented at the time toward quiet family melodramas, and they are unforgettable depictions of a postwar Japan troubled by identity crises and moral corruption on scales both intimate and institutional.

Titles

 

 


 

One of the most important filmmakers to emerge from Japan’s cinematic golden age, Masaki Kobayashi is remembered in great part today for his three-part epic The Human Condition (1959–61), but that is just one of the blistering films he made in a career dedicated to criticizing his country’s rigid social and political orders. He first found his voice—rebellious, angry, engaged—in the fifties, following his life-altering experiences as a soldier in World War II; the four films collected here, made during the same period as The Human Condition, reflect Kobayashi’s coming into his own as an artist. He fought to get these powerful dramas made at a studio more oriented at the time toward quiet family melodramas, and they are unforgettable depictions of a postwar Japan troubled by identity crises and moral corruption on scales both intimate and institutional.

Theatrical Releases: 1953 - 1962

  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Eclipse Series 38: Masaki Kobayashi Against the System

 

 

 

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC
Time: Respectively - 1:50:04, 1:51:52, 1:50:08 and 1:47:48
Bitrate:  The Thick-Walled Room
 
Bitrate: I Will Buy You
 
Bitrate: Black River
 
Bitrate: Inheritance
 
Audio Japanese (original mono)
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Eclipse / Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33:1 / 2.35:1

Edition Details:

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


DVD Release Date:
April 16th, 2013
4 Slim Transparent Keep Cases inside a Slipcase cardboard box
Chapters:
12, 19, 17, 16

 

Comments:

The 4 main features of this boxset are housed in individual slim transparent keep cases (see image above and below) they are not sold separately, by Criterion, at this time. Although have seen some DVD covers by other companies of a couple of the films but I am unsure if they offered English subtitles - I believe these particular NTSC editions can only be obtained in Criterion's Eclipse Series 38 package at present. I am unaware of any reputable English-friendly editions available elsewhere - although I won't deny that they exist.

All four DVD discs are dual-layered. They are also progressive in their original aspect ratios (1.33:1 for The Thick-Walled Room, I Will Buy You, and Black River and 2.35:1 for The Inheritance.) Bitrates are high and consistent ranging from 8.60 - 8.64 Mbps. I Will Buy You and The Inheritance seem to look the best with the other two appearing a bit muddy - although certainly watchable. I don't have any complaints on the image quality. There are a few vertical scratches and speckles - that are not bothersome.

The sound is original Japanese mono - imperfect but without major issues. The dialogue is clear enough and audible - I noted a couple of instances of minor hiss, but overall it is supporting the films well enough to enjoy them. There are optional English subtitles (font samples below).

Aside from one page liner notes for each film (visible on the inner case sleeve through the transparent case cover there are no supplements - as typical for Eclipse.

These films and grouping are a fabulous selection and Eclipse are continuing with their mission statement: "...a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions. Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer."

I gained a lot and while I might have been most keen on I Will Buy You - I truly found value in all 4 of the films. What a pleasure indulging in them. I doubt I need to sell fans of the director or Japanese cinema in general on this package - it is well worth the investment!!

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus



 

Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

Among the first Japanese films to deal directly with the scars of World War II, this drama about a group of rank-and-file Japanese soldiers jailed for crimes against humanity was adapted from the diaries of real prisoners.

 

Screen Captures

 

The Thick-Walled Room (1953) aka 'Kabe atsuki heya'

 

Directed by Masaki Kobayashi

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

Masaki Kobayashi’s pitiless take on Japan’s professional baseball industry is unlike any other sports film ever made.

 

 

Screen Captures

 

I Will Buy You (1956) aka "Anata kaimasu"

 

Directed by Masaki Kobayashi

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

Perhaps Masaki Kobayashi’s most sordid film, Black River examines the rampant corruption on and around U.S. military bases in Japan following World War II.

 

 

Screen Captures

 

Black River (1957) aka 'Kuroi kawa'

 

Directed by Masaki Kobayashi

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

 

On his deathbed, a wealthy businessman announces that his fortune is to be split equally among his three illegitimate children, whose whereabouts are unknown to his family and colleagues.

 

Screen Captures

 

The Inheritance (1962)

 

Directed by Masaki Kobayashi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

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