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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Sweet Bean aka "An" [Blu-ray]

 

(Naomi Kawase, 2015)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Comme des Cinémas

Video: Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Spine #153

 

Disc:

Region: 'B'-locked (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:53:12.000 

Disc Size: 44,589,844,517 bytes

Feature Size: 36,633,086,400 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.08 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: August 22nd, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio Japanese 3594 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3594 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
LPCM Audio Japanese 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• A new, exclusive video interview with Naomi Kawase (35:28)
Theatrical trailer (1:42)
A 32-page booklet featuring a new essay on the film by critic Philip Kemp; an interview and statement from Kawase, and production images

DVD included

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: One of the most acclaimed figures in modern Japanese cinema, Naomi Kawase followed up her remarkable 2014 film Still the Water with Sweet Bean [An], a small-town drama of culinary redemption, which opened the prestigious Un Certain Regard strain of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Struggling street food vendor Sentaro finds himself confronted with Tokue (Kirin Kiki), an odd but sympathetic elderly lady looking for work. When he reluctantly accepts, it's not long before Tokue proves to have an extraordinary gift when it comes to making "an" - the sweet red bean paste filling used in his dorayakis - which starts a relationship that is about much more than just street food.

With Sweet Bean, Kawase again focuses on people at the periphery of Japanese society and investigates their place in the flow of life itself. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present the film for the first time in the UK.

 

 

The Film:

Writer-director Naomi Kawase, adapting Durian Sukegawa's novel "An" — the Japanese word for the red bean paste that's sandwiched between small pancakes to make dorayaki — is an unapologetically heart-tugging film. But its sentimentality is tempered by the elegant restraint of the fine lead performances.

Masatoshi Nagase, who had one of his first screen roles as a blues-loving tourist in Jim Jarmusch's "Mystery Train," plays Sentaro, middle-aged and glum. He serves up sweets at his dorayaki shop but has no taste for them. That's apparent to Tokue (Kirin Kiki), a charmingly odd 76-year-old who arrives at his counter determined to work with him. A sample of her homemade bean paste seals the deal.

Excerpt from LATimes located HERE

Mr. Nagase plays Sentaro, the laconic, haunted-looking proprietor of a stall from which he sells the Japanese confection dorayaki. Early in the film, as cherry blossom trees flower outside his place, we see him preparing batter, frying it up and putting dollops of red bean paste between two little pancakes. He’s devoted to his work, but something’s missing.

Along comes Tokue, an old woman, seemingly out of nowhere. Played by Kirin Kiki, she has a disarming smile, but also a haunted air — it seems to follow two steps behind her. She wants to work for Sentaro, who has no idea why and isn’t terribly interested. Until, that is, he tastes some red bean paste she’s made.

Excerpt from NY Times located HERE

 

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

Sweet Bean looks clean and efficient on Blu-ray from The Masters of Cinema group in the UK. The image quality authentically reflects the Arriflex Cameras production via the dual-layered transfer with a max'ed out bitrate. It shows no gloss or imperfections of any kind - pristinely clean, realistic colors and probably precisely accurate to the theatrical presentation. The aspect ratio is 2.39:1 and rendered in 1080P.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The audio is transferred in the option of a robust DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround or a linear PCM 2.0 channel track - both 24-bit. There are no aggressive scenes nor heavy requirements for adroit separation (a few noted). The film's music is by David Hadjadj and it all sounds precise, clean and gentle. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

 

Extras :

Masters of Cinema provide a new, exclusive, 35-minute video interview with director/writer Naomi Kawase about the production. There is also a theatrical trailer and the package has another extensive MoC booklet with a 32-page booklet featuring a new essay on the film by critic Philip Kemp; an interview and statement from Kawase, and production images. The dual format disc has a DVD included.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Sweet Bean is a beautiful film - full of Japanese sensibilities - cultural affectations to food, simplistic storylines and characters and gentle inter-generational communication hinting at Ozu. The director knows how to set pace and keep a realistic expression. There is a timelessness to Sweet Bean. Another excellent choice for MoC to release on Blu-ray. The 1080P presentation is rich as the film and the package with extensive booklet, and interview makes it ever so desirable. I wish all modern film were like this. Absolutely recommended! 

Gary Tooze

August 20th, 2016

 


 

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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