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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 4 Discs
FEATURES
  • Contains the films Naniwa erejÓ, Gion no shimai, Akasen chitai, and Yoru no onnatachi

Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Kenji Mizoguchi
2008 | 299 Minutes | Licensor: Kadokawa Herald Pictures

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $59.95 | Series: Eclipse from the Criterion Collection | Edition: #13
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: October 21, 2008
Review Date: October 12, 2008

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SYNOPSIS

Over the course of a three-decade, more than eighty film career, master cineaste Kenji Mizoguchi (Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff) would return again and again to one abiding theme: the plight of women in male-dominated Japanese society. In these four lacerating works of socially conscious melodrama-two prewar (Osaka Elegy, Sisters of the Gion), two postwar (Women of the Night, Street of Shame)-Mizoguchi introduces an array of compelling female protagonists, crushed or resilient, who are economically and spiritually deprived by their nation's customs and traditions. With Mizoguchi's visual daring and eloquence, these films are as cinematically thrilling as they are politically rousing.

Forum members rate this film 8.5/10

 

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PICTURE

Iím still fairly fresh to the Eclipse line, having only looked at the Shepitko and Kaurismaki sets and some of the discs in the Kurosawa, Fuller, and Bergman sets, but overall Iíve been fairly impressed with them, especially since I figured that this line of releases would only present fairly average transfers, which hasnít been the case.

Unfortunately Series 13, Kenji Mizoguchiís Fallen Women, doesnít continue the streak for me. Iím sure it doesnít help that three of the four films on here have been licenced from Shochiku Co., who I guess don't take care of their older films. All four films are presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 over four single-layer discs. The first three films are barely over an hour so this isnít an issue, but the fourth film is almost 90-minutes and may have been aided slightly by a dual-layer disc. Iím sure one thing many will be happy with is that the tranfers have not been pictureboxed.

The first three films, Osaka Elegy, Sisters of the Gion, and Women of the Night, all licenced from Shochiku Co., look less than stellar. Osaka and Sisters both present very soft looking images, quite fuzzy and blurry, and Iím unsure if this is because of issues with the prints used or Criterion possibly hiding some of the print damage by softening the picture up a bit. The print damage is pretty extensive still despite the fuzzy image, scratches raining through, blotches appearing, along with lines, marks, and dirt. The image also flickers, jumps, and frames appear to be missing. The image also jitters about at times.

Women of the Night looks rather terrible for the first 12-minutes, even worse than the first two. The damage is quite extensive with lines and scratches being more prominent. Grain is quite heavy and the amount of dirt and debris is quite surprising. Then suddenly at the 12 or 13 minute mark it improves drastically and comes off looking the best of the three Shochiku titles for the remainder of the film, though the transitions between scenes show the same amount of damage seen at the beginning of the film. The image is still fairly soft but a tad sharper than the first two.

The fourth film, Street of Shame has been licenced from Kadokawa Pictures and looks the best of the three overall. Itís much sharper, clean-up looks to have been more extensive and is in general just a better looking image. It still has some damage, but itís nowhere near as noticeable as the other three films.

Contrast is somewhat off during the Shochiku films, blacks looking to be more of a dark gray in turn presenting a washed image. Street of Shame looks much better in this regard, with stronger blacks. Artifacts are somewhat noticeable in places during Street of Shame but are not distracting.

Overall the transfers on the set look disappointing, soft and fuzzy for the most part with a great amount of damage, but I blame the source materials more than anything else. Iím not overly familiar with how Shochiku stores its prints but their older films always look rather terrible on DVD and I assume that the damage is so extensive on their prints that nothing can really be done in the way of cleaning them up. I also guess Kadokawa takes better care of their prints since Street of Shame looks far better than the others (though in fairness it is also the newer film, made in 1956 where the others were made in 1936 and 1948.) Itís just a shame that this is probably about as good as weíre going to get with these films.

5/10

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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Osaka Elegy

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Osaka Elegy

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Osaka Elegy

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Osaka Elegy

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Sisters of the Gion

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Sisters of the Gion

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Sisters of the Gion

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Sisters of the Gion

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Women of the Night

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Women of the Night

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Women of the Night

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Women of the Night

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Street of Shame

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Street of Shame

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Street of Shame

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Street of Shame

AUDIO

Sound isnít much better. All three present Japanese Dolby Digital mono tracks, with Street of Shame sounding the best, presenting a rather solid mono presentation that has stronger range and sounds quite clean. The other three have their share of problems, the sound coming off quite weak with a great amount of distortion and background noise, Sisters of the Gion sounding the worst. Again I have a feeling the source materials just can't be helped.

4/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Eclipse releases do not come with supplements, a way for Criterion to get these titles out and keep the costs down, so as expected there are no supplements found here. But, like all of their other titles there are liner notes found on the inside covers of each slim case with notes about the respective film found in the case. Iím not sure whether these notes are a group effort or written by one person but I wish credit was actually given to the author or authors. Theyíre wonderful and informative and give some decent insight into the films.

1/10

CLOSING

When it comes to Eclipse titles their appeal is really based more on the films found on them and while I donít like commenting on the films themselves I will say I did rather enjoy watching this set and expanding my knowledge on Mizoguchiís work, a director Iím admittedly not very well versed on. Iím sure many will be happy just to own these films on DVD and I think anyone looking to get further into Mizoguchiís work will benefit from this set, but I still have to express a disappointment with how the set comes off in the end. Street of Shame (which I do feel, of the four, probably deserves a more extensive release) is easily the best disc in the set and is more of what I would expect from Criterion in presentation, but the other three titles do look and sound rather poor, presenting smudgy looking pictures with an extensive amount of damage, and distorted, heavily damaged audio. Because of this I have to admit to being quite underwhelmed with this release as a whole.


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