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The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • Japanese Mono
  • Japanese PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Feature-length audio commentary by critic and Asian-cinema expert Tony Rayns
  • Alternative unrestored audio track
  • The Mystery of Marriage (1932, 34 mins): educational filmmaker and pioneering female director Mary Field draws peculiar and poignant parallels between the mating rituals of humans, animals and mould in this eccentric, entertaining educational film
  • The Good Housewife "In Her Kitchen" (1949, 9 mins): the fourth wall is shattered in this imaginative public information film, filled with good advice for kitchen users - whether they have a refrigerator or not
  • Illustrated booklet with archival essay by Tom Milne and writing on the archive films by the BFIís Vic Pratt (First Printing Only)

The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Yasujiro Ozu
1952 | 116 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: £14.99 | Series: BFI
BFI Video

Release Date: May 18, 2020
Review Date: May 24, 2020

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amazon.co.uk

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SYNOPSIS

Made the year before his career defining masterpiece, Tokyo Story, Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice is one of Yasujiro Ozuís most beautiful domestic sagas, a subtly piercing portrait of a marriage coming quietly undone.

Secrets and deceptions strain the already tenuous relationship of a childless, middle aged couple, as the wifeís city bred sophistication clashes with the husbandís small town simplicity, and a generational sea change in the form of their headstrong, modern niece sweeps over their household.

Ozuís expert grasp of family dynamics receives one of its most spirited treatments, with a wry, tender humour and an expansiveness that moves the action from the home, to the baseball stadiums and the shops of post-war Tokyo.


PICTURE

BFI Video presents Yasujiro Ozuís The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice in a new dual-format edition. It is presented in 1080p/24hz high-definition on the dual-layer Blu-ray disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. BFI is making use of the exact same 4K restoration undertaken by Shochiku that Criterion used for their North American release. The restoration was sourced from a 35mm fine-grain positive. This disc is locked to region B, so North American viewers will require Blu-ray players capable of playing back region B content.

As with the Criterion presentation the image is very pleasant, much, much better than I had initially been expecting, but it has a handful of issues that probably come down to the restoration itself. The biggest surprise (still) is that there is no damage to speak of, or at least anything that sticks out. I would have expected, at the very least, very fine scratches or similar, but nope, I didnít notice anything of the sort popping up. I suspect the reason for this is because the image was softened a smidge to hide this. Detail is decent, mind you, and I would certainly not say the image becomes a smudgy mess; it isnít. Itís just that finer object-detail and textures never pop and there can be a flatness to the image. And while that could be an issue with the source, the reason I ultimately feel the image has been softened during the restoration is because the grain has obviously been muddled with. Itís still there, but it can lack texture itself and is never well-defined.

The presentation is still solid, though, still watchable, and still far better than I ever would have imagined possible. Gray scale and blacks still look exceptional, and the whites are good without ever blooming. The image is also stable and very clean. Again, itís fine. It just seems some filtering knobs were turned a notch or two past where they maybe should have been.

7/10

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

So, this is the area where I must say Iím most shocked. BFI includes two lossless PCM mono tracks, both in Japanese: the restored one and the original unrestored one. When I initially reviewed the Criterion edition, I noted it was incredibly flat, lacking any sort of depth or fidelity, while still sounding a little tinny. The restored track sounds exactly the same here: incredibly flat, a bit tinny and distorted, but easy enough to hear. I attributed its short-comings primarily to age initially in my review for the Criterion edition, though as I learned here, I was very wrong on that front.

The unrestored track sounds waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy better, despite any of the issues that remain. I know filtering out background noise and such can have adverse effects on an audio track, but I guess I just never realized how bad it could be. The unrestored track has far more of a kick to it: dialogue has more depth and range, sound effects, even footsteps, are far clearer, and music sounds a bit more dynamic. Yes, itís still a bit edgy overall, and yes, background noise can be loud and there are some clicks and pops, but good God, it sounds infinitely better overall than the muffled, lifeless ďrestoredĒ track.

Iím pleased BFI at least gives you the option, but I would still push everyone to the unrestored track. It shows its age, but it manages to be a far more robust and dynamic presentation in comparison to whatever the hell that ďrestoredĒ track is.

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

BFI throws together a nice little edition for this film, though it does pale in comparison to what Criterion managed to put together for it. BFI does provide an audio commentary by film scholar Tony Rayns. Rayns starts off by saying that recording a commentary for an Ozu film is a ďdaunting taskĒ and maybe he has taken that a bit to heart as this isnít one of his more memorable tracks. He covers all of the bases I would expect, talking about Ozuís work, this filmís surprisingly long history (it was originally to be made during the war, with the husband leaving to go off and fight), and gets into the filmís presentation of marriage, culture clashes, and what not. He also offers context where needed and talks about Ozuís style of filmmaking, which didnít follow conventions of the time and he explains how he was outside the norm. He also brings up Ozuís film What Did the Lady Forget?, which shares similarities to this one, but he notes Green Tea isnít a remake of that one. But there are times where I felt he wasnít really in it, and he could occasionally go off on a few tangents, like one where he feels the need to counter some comments (or reviews) he read on IMDB. In the end itís fine and he covers what one would expect, but I was surprised to feel that there wasnít a lot of passion in it. Raynsí best tracks are best when heís obviously excited to be there, like with his track for A Brighter Summer Day (which is becoming one of my all-time favourite commentary tracks the more I think about it) and that just never feels to be the case here.

That ends up being the only film-specific supplement, though, with the remaining content having little to do with the film itself. BFI does include two short films from their archive (neither directed by Ozu), both of which are, at best, tenuously related to the feature film in that they deal with marriage (very loosely) and domestic issues. The first is the 1932, 34-minute educational film The Mystery of Marriage, followed by the 1949, 9-minute The Good Housewife ĎIn Her Kitchení. The latter one seems to be intended as an information film on how to properly store food, with the host showing how to place food in the fridge or various types of cabinets, before a working-class crew member interrupts things to remind her that not everyone has those things, taking her back to his apartment to show how he and ďthe missusĒ do it.

The Mystery of Marriage is a bit of a bizarre one: a nature film that looks at the mating rituals of various species, which is then amusingly cross-cut with what I guess are supposed to be similar (if a wee-bit aggressive) human interactions. The film works to explain how the sexes end up attracted to each other, even going as far as explaining how mold even follows similar traits. Itís a bizarre film, but all the more interesting because of it. Neither film looks to have received much in the way of restoration, but Marriage is presented in high-definition, while Housewife looks to be a standard-definition upscale.

BFI also includes one of their excellent booklets, though as I mentioned above there is nothing specific about this film. They provide a reprint of an excellent article written by Tom Milne, covering Ozuís work and style of filmmaking, with a focus on how all these little moments and scenes (some of which are insignificant on their own) all come together to build something more. Following this are some notes on the supplements written by Vic Pratt (including a lengthy one about The Mystery of Marriage and its director, Mary Field.

I was surprised to see that BFI didnít include What Did the Lady Forget? like Criterion did on their edition, especially since Rayns talks about that film pretty extensively on his commentary track. Further research showed that BFI had already included it on their edition for Early Summer, so that may be why it doesnít appear here. As it is this edition sadly pales in comparison to Criterionís, which wasnít really all that stacked itself, but at least included some strong video essays about the film and its director, along with What Did the Lady Forget?

6/10

CLOSING

Based on supplements Iíd say the Criterion edition edges this one out, but the unrestored audio is such an improvement over the ďrestoredĒ one Iíd say this edition is worth picking up for that reason alone.




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