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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Lovers' Exile [Blu-ray]


(Marty Gross, 1980)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: New Cinema

Video: Marty Gross Films



Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:26:52.040 

Disc Size: 22,140,187,659 bytes

Feature Size: 5,895,038,976 bytes

Video Bitrate: 6.83 Mbps

Chapters: 3

Case: Cardboard digi Blu-ray case (see image below)

Release date: December 30th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 1.89:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio Japanese 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit



English (burned-in on English chosen version)



Introduction by Jean-Louis Barrault (2:22)
32-page booklet with
A Note on Bunraku, by Susan Sontag
The Tradition of Bunraku, by Barbara Curtis Adachi
The Art of Bunraku: Discussion with Dr. Northrop Frye
Monzaemon Chikamatsu
Notes on the Production





Description: The film The Lovers’ Exile has been digitally re-mastered and restored from the original 35mm negative and the monaural soundtrack has been restored and expanded to stereo contains the film with the original English subtitles and with new optional Japanese subtitles Supplements Filming Bunraku, a short documentary about the making of the film at the Daiei Uzumasa Studios, Kyoto, Japan, August 1979 Comments on Bunraku by legendary French actor Jean-Louis Barrault Slide shows on the Bunraku performers and the production Includes a 32 page booklet on the Bunraku Theatre, its origins and history, along with 'A Note on Bunraku' by Susan Sontag and 'The Tradition of Bunraku' by Barbara Curtis Adachi, and a transcript of a discussion on the film with literary scholar Northrop Frye. The Bunraku Theatre has been designated by UNESCO as a "masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity." Performed many of the greatest stars of the Bunraku Stage. Directed by Marty Gross Photography by Kozo Okazaki and Hideaki Kobayashi Music Supervision by Toru Takemitsu Cover Photo by Ian Buruma Japanese with English subtitles 88 minutes, colour Region Free Blu-Ray authoring by Valis Inc., Toronto, Canada with the cooperation of the Japan Traditional Cultures Foundation.


Bunraku combines the arts of puppetry, joruri dramatic recitation, and musical accompaniment of the samisen. Each puppet is manipulated by three handlers; the resulting ensemble effort of puppeteers and musicians creates not only a sense of heightened realism, but also a dreamlike delicacy and complexity of movement

THE LOVERS' EXILE is an adaptation of MEIDO NO HIKYAKU by classic Japanese dramatist Monzaemon Chikamatsu (1673-1724). The story, one of Chikamatsu's domestic tragedies, recounts the love between a penniless clerk and an indentured prostitute.

THE LOVERS' EXILE is performed entirely by the Bunraku Ensemble of Osaka, widely considered the most sophisticated puppet theatre in the world. The Bunraku Theatre Ensemble, and numerous of its players have been declared Living National Treasures of Japan. THE LOVERS’ EXILE is the only filmed adaptation of a classic Bunraku performance.

In 2003 UNESCO proclaimed Bunraku a “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.”



The Film:

'The Lovers' Exile,'' which opens today at the Public Theater, is a charming film but it is less a cinematic than a theatrical event, one that no student of the theater can afford to miss. It's a straightforward film recording of a performance by the Bunraku Ensemble of Osaka, Japan's justly acclaimed doll theater that played limited engagements at the New York City Center in 1966 and 1973.

''The Lover's Exile,'' based on one of the classic Bunraku plays by Monzaemon Chikamatsu (1653-1724), was produced, directed and edited by Marty Gross, the Canadian film maker, as a labor of love, care and immense admiration.

Some background notes: The art of Bunraku evolved in the early 18th century, coming after the Kabuki dance theater and somewhat before the Kabuki theater of drama. According to one source, Chikamatsu, whose works have been adapted by the Kabuki and somewhat more recently filmed (Masahiro Shinoda's ''Double Suicide,'' 1971), came to devote himself exclusively to the doll theater of his day after becoming fed up with the way live actors tended to ''improve'' his work. Dolls don't talk back, don't ask for a percentage of the profits or demand to know the origins of a particular sentiment. Alfred Hitchcock would have understood.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE


The film The Lovers’ Exile is an adaptation of the Bunraku Meido no Hikyaku (The Courier for Hell) by Monzaemon Chikamatsu. The 3rd Act, Ninokuchimura, is based on a later revision of the original, Koi Bikyaku Yamato Orai - Love’s Messenger on the Yamato Road. The original three- hour stage performance is skillfully edited to a 90 minute masterpiece which draws out the charm of Bunraku delicately and precisely. The Lovers’ Exile has rarely been seen in Japan - we are proud to be presenting this unique work in a beautiful newly created digital restoration. For this new release, Japanese subtitles have been added - the English version will also be presented on the schedule noted. This is a must-see opportunity for Japanese and English audiences. Bunraku is world-renowned as an exemplary tradition of the multidisciplinary performing arts of which Japan is extremely proud.

Excerpt from Bunraku-movie located HERE


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

Unfortunately, this Blu-ray is pretty severely picture-boxed and loses much of its resolution potential (I gauge it around 1370 X 722). But not only was it a poor transfer choice but the bitrate is as small as I have ever seen for a BD feature. It's not that I didn't appreciate seeing, totally unique cultural experience - I did, but this was an opportunity that was lost in not exploiting the format's potential (especially if, as they claim, they had a 35mm original source.) As opposed to optional subtitles (they are burned-in) - they have another version (same bitrate), transferred, devoid of them. This is wasted space. Technically - not great authoring decisions at all - hopefully fellow Torontonian Marty Gross will heed this for his next Blu-ray release. It clocks in at around 1.88:1. I got fascinating enjoyment out of seeing this - but shake my head at the digital rendering.

















Audio :

A linear PCM is used at 1536 kbps (16-bit) seems transferred adeptly. There is Japanese 'narration' in original Japanese and live traditional music. It never sounds rich or deep but does sound consistent. There is a version with burned-in English subtitles (translated by Donald Richie and Marty Gross) - below the picture-boxed frame - and another transferred version, in original Japanese (similar bitrate), with no subtitles (for potential sales in that market, I assume.) My Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE.


Extras :

There are some supplements - we get an introduction/comment on the film by Jean-Louis Barrault (remember him from Children of Paradise!) plus a 12-minute documentary about the making of the film at the Daiei Uzumasa Studios, Kyoto, Japan, August 1979 plus some extensive stills galleries with titles like 'Men of Bunraku', 'Puppets', 'Musicians', 'Toru Takemitsu on the Set' etc. What is a nice keepsake is the 32-page booklet included which has A Note on Bunraku, by Susan Sontag, The Tradition of Bunraku, by Barbara Curtis Adachi, The Art of Bunraku: a text discussion with Dr. Northrop Frye and more.



I was very keen to immerse myself in The Lovers' Exile and once invested - found it very rewarding. I would definitely seek out more Bunraku. It's beautiful, artistic and I found it improved (became even more engaging) as it ran. It was a grand idea to bring this to Blu-ray - but the flaws of this transfer should be addressed. I learned a great deal from the liner notes booklet and hope more Bunraku makes it to this format. 

Gary Tooze

November 17th, 2015

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 5000 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.

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Gary W. Tooze






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