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100 Years of Olympic Films, 14: Tokyo, 1964
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Widescreen
  • Japanese PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • None

100 Years of Olympic Films, 14: Tokyo, 1964

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Kon Ichikawa
2017 | 170 Minutes | Licensor: International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $399.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: December 5, 2017
Review Date: January 23, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

Spanning fifty-three movies and forty-one editions of the Olympic Games, 100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912–2012 is the culmination of a monumental, award-winning archival project encompassing dozens of new restorations by the International Olympic Committee. The documentaries collected here cast a cinematic eye on some of the most iconic moments in the history of modern sports, spotlighting athletes who embody the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”: Jesse Owens shattering world records on the track in 1936 Berlin, Jean-Claude Killy dominating the Grenoble slopes in 1968, Joan Benoit breaking away to win the Games’ first women’s marathon in Los Angeles in 1984. In addition to the impressive ten-feature contribution of Bud Greenspan, this stirring collective chronicle of triumph and defeat includes such documentary landmarks as Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia and Kon Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad, along with captivating lesser-known works by major directors like Claude Lelouch, Carlos Saura, and Miloš Forman. It also offers a fascinating glimpse of the development of film itself, and of the technological progress that has brought viewers ever closer to the action. Traversing continents and decades, reflecting the social, cultural, and political changes that have shaped our recent history, this remarkable movie marathon showcases a hundred years of human endeavor.


PICTURE

Kon Ichikawa’s classic document of the 1964 Olympic Games, Tokyo Olympiad returns to the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray through the 14th disc of Criterion’s large box set, 100 Years of Olympic Films. The film is presented again in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this dual-layer disc and comes from a new 4K restoration.

Criterion’s previous DVD (long out of print) offered a stunner of a presentation back in the day and rather surprisingly it still holds up remarkably well. But this new restoration wipes the floor with it and is absolutely breathtaking becoming one of the highlights of the set. Colours have been improved upon with the oranges and yellows found in the opening sunrise looking more astounding, likewise the colours in some of the film’s more incredible shots (the opening vista shots, the various track events, and the gymnastics shots) are even richer. Black levels, for the most part, are good, rich and deep, but some outdoor events that were shot with little light can look a bit murky, though I’m going to attribute that more to shooting conditions rather than anything to really do with the restoration or encode (the DVD looks similar, though I still think it’s better here). In all the colours and the blacks are really wonderful. There are also a handful of black-and-white sequences scattered about and they too offer rich blacks and terrific grays.

The level of detail is also surprising, and those slo-mo sequences have never looked so wonderful. Every little texture comes through clearly, every bead of sweat, every bit of dirt. I was always fairly impressed with the original DVD in regards to detail but the improvement here, even though I was definitely expecting one, was still staggering. Film grain is also rendered far better (this aspect not surprising), clean and free of noise, lending the film the expected filmic look.

The restoration has also been thorough, cleaning up any significant bits of damage, but then the Criterion DVD was also pretty clean in this regard—just a few bits of dirt and some scratches—so this isn’t as big a shock. Still, all told it all comes together to create a spectacular looking final presentation, and it’s again one of the stand outs to be found in the set.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The lossless PCM 1.0 mono track manages to pull off some surprising depth and fidelity, at least in regards to music and the sound effects of athletes grunting, feet hitting the track, and the clanging of the various tools used throughout. This all sounds great and manages to be amazingly immersive despite the single channel limitation. The narration, though, like the DVD, still sounds quite flat, and maybe even a bit edgy, at least in comparison to everything else found on the track. But I would still blame that on the original recordings and don’t feel it is an issue with the final restoration.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The only disappointing aspect to this set is that there are no on-disc special features to speak of. The set does come with an incredibly thorough 216-page hardbound book, featuring material on the restorations by Adrian Wood along with essays covering the films, all written by film scholar Peter Cowie. It also filled with photos from the various events.

Having no on-disc features for this title is a bit more inexcusable, though, because this is the one film in the set that Criterion had released previously on DVD, which featured a rather wonderful audio commentary by Cowie himself, along with an interview with Ichikawa and a rather thick booklet. None of that, not even the material from the booklet (which even listed the winners of the events, something I would have at least expected in this set’s book) makes it onto this release in any shape of form. I’m not sure why these supplements weren’t included. Though Cowie could be a little dismissive of most of the other official Olympics films in that track he never said anything I would consider bad in any way, and it was an incredibly rich and informed track about this film and the Games themselves. Maybe it was when he goes in-depth about doping scandals? Losing that track is a real shame (it’s one of Criterion’s best tracks) so I do hope that maybe Criterion will, at some point, be able to release an individual edition for the film bringing back those features.

As it stands, Cowie at least provides a lengthier essay on the film (and disc 15’s Sensation of the Century) in the book. In it he explains why there are two films constructed with the same footage but focuses primarily on Ichikawa’s film, looking at both the events it covers and it’s unconventional construction. He gives some credit to Sensation more because it covers events not shown in Ichikawa’s film. (The grade given here refers to the supplements for the set as a whole, which, in this case, is just the included book.)

5/10

CLOSING

One of the big draws of the set this new restoration and final presentation for Tokyo Olympiad does not disappoint. It’s a striking overall image and one of the best ones in the set, which has already delivered its fair share of surprises along the way.




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