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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create, a 36-minute documentary created as part of the Toho Masterworks series, about the making of Dodes'ka-den, including interviews with director Akira Kurosawa, script supervisor Teruyo Nogami, actor Yoshitaka Zushi (who played Rokkuchan), and other members of the cast and crew
  • Theatrical trailer

Dodes'ka-den


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Yoshitaka Zushi, Kin Sugai, Toshiyuki Tonomura, Shinsuke Minami, Kamatari Fujiwara
1970 | 140 Minutes | Licensor: Toho Co.

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #465
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: March 17, 2009
Review Date: February 22, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

By turns tragic and transcendent, Akira Kurosawa's Dodes'ka-den follows the daily lives of a group of people barely scraping by in a slum on the outskirts of Tokyo. Yet as desperate as their circumstances are, each of them-the homeless father and son envisioning their dream house; the young woman abused by her uncle; the boy who imagines himself a trolley conductor-finds reasons to carry on. Kurosawa's unforgettable film was made at a tumultuous moment in his life. And all of his hopes, fears, and artistic passion are on fervent display in this, his gloriously shot first color film.

Forum members rate this film 6.4/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterion presents Akira Kurosawa’s first colour feature, Dodes’ka-den, in the “director’s preferred aspect ratio” of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The picture has been slightly picture-boxed.

It’s a rather incredible looking transfer and the grabs I’ve taken don’t really seem to do it justice. The image is sharp and detailed, without a moment of looking fuzzy. Despite some occasional pulsating closer to the end of the film the print as a whole is in fantastic shape and I can’t say I noticed a blemish while watching it.

But colours are the real selling point here. The film overall is bright and vibrant, with striking reds, yellows, and blues scattered throughout and they’re all beautifully saturated. As a whole it’s a stunning looking transfer that far outdid my expectations, presenting a sharp, clean, and bright looking picture.

9/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly 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 Japanese Dolby Digital mono track is adequate and works for the film. Dialogue is sharp and clear and the film’s score has some excellent range and never comes off harsh or distorted. There can be a slight hiss in the background at times but it barely registers and the track is clean otherwise.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This release only contains one significant feature, which is another part of the Toho Masterworks series’ Akira Kurosawa: It is Wonderful to Create, which can be found spread out over most of Criterion’s Kurosawa releases. The section presented here runs a little over 36-minutes and focuses primarily on Dodes-ka-den. It begins with his projects that never really took off after Red Beard, which included his “non-stop action thriller” Runaway Train (problems with American financiers caused the project to fall through) and then moves on to Fox removing him from the Japanese portion of Tora! Tora! Tora! After that debacle (and issues in the Japanese film industry overall,) there was a worry that he wouldn’t be able to find work easily again and that led him to start a production company with directors Masaki Kobayashi, Kon Ichikawa, and Keisuke Kinoshita, calling it Club of the Four Knights. Their first (and ultimately final) film would be Kurosawa’s Dodes’ka-den. Through interviews, which includes archival segments with Kurosawa, we learn about the quick production (filming was done in 28-days, less than what was scheduled) and actors and members of the crew share their memories of the shoot and working with Kurosawa, who was still recovering from the shock of being fired from Tora! Tora! Tora!, and his excitement in finally making a film 5 and a half years after his last one (his crew remembers recall him actually being nicer than usual on this particular shoot.) It’s pointed out that after Tora! Tora Tora! Kurosawa felt the need to make a film that was 1.) within budget 2.) brought in on time and 3.) acclaimed worldwide. While the documentary states that 1. and 2. were met, it doesn’t get into the film’s reception (the film didn’t do well during its run.) Instead the documentary moves on quickly to Kagemusha. Like the rest of the segments found on the other Kurosawa DVDs from Criterion it’s informative and filled with great behind-the-scenes material. It has been divided into 8 chapters.

The only other supplement is the 3 and a half minute theatrical trailer for the film, which makes the film feel more like a soap opera of sorts. It also has a few seconds worth of behind-the-scenes segments with Kurosawa working on the set.

A 24-page booklet is included with the disc containing an essay by Stephen Prince, who writes about the film’s origins, the development of Kurosawa’s new production company, the film’s shoot, and gives a bit of an analysis on it and Kurosawa’s use of colour. It’s a great read, actually, and it’s a shame that Prince wasn’t called in to do a commentary for the film, allowing him to expand on it. You’ll also find a printed interview between Criterion and Kurosawa’s script supervisor Teruyo Nagami, who recalls Kurosawa’s mood on the set and his anxiousness to get back to work, and she tells some anecdotes about Kurosawa working with a new set of actors. This section of the booklet also includes illustrations by Nagami of key events during the shoot, including the first day of shooting and when the production finished (according to Nagami and the documentary on the disc Kurosawa became sad when the shoot was over.) While the disc isn’t loaded, the booklet does nicely round out the release nicely.

5/10

CLOSING

I figured when Criterion eventually got around to this title they’d give it a fairly lavish release but instead have given it a rather small, lower-tier disc. A commentary by Prince would have made a great feature, expanding on his essay, but alas it’s not here. Still, despite this, I think it’s a wonderful release. The documentary covers the film well enough, but the transfer is real the selling point. It looks absolutely wonderful and makes the release a must.


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