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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Stereo
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with director Lucille Carra
  • New conversation between filmmaker Paul Schrader and cultural critic Ian Buruma on author Donald Richie
  • Interview with Donald Richie from 1991
  • An essay by scholar Arturo Silva

The Inland Sea

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Lucille Carra
1991 | 56 Minutes | Licensor: Travel Film Company

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #988
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: August 13, 2019
Review Date: August 7, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

In 1971, author and film scholar Donald Richie published a poetic travelogue about his explorations of the islands of Japanís Inland Sea, recording his search for traces of a traditional way of life as well as his own journey of self-discovery. Twenty years later, filmmaker Lucille Carra undertook a parallel trip inspired by Richieís by-then-classic book, capturing images of hushed beauty and meeting people who still carried on the fading customs that Richie had observed. Interspersed with surprising detoursóa visit to a Frank SinatraĖloving monk, a leper colony, an ersatz temple of plywood and plasteróand woven together by Richieís narration as well as a score by celebrated composer Toru Takemitsu, The Inland Sea is an eye-opening voyage and a profound meditation on what it means to be a foreigner.


PICTURE

Lucille Carraís adaptation of Donald Richieís The Inland Sea receives a Blu-ray release from The Criterion Collection, presenting the film on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is taken from a new 4K restoration scanned from the 16mm A/B negatives.

The film looks exceptional on the format and the restoration work has clearly been exhaustive. I donít recall a single blemish or imperfection source-wise throughout the film and even if the film isnít all that old (it was filmed in 1991), it does look like it could have been made within the last few years.

The digital presentation itself is also fairly spotless. The film isnít even an hour long, so it has a lot of room to breathe on this disc, which obviously pays off well. Film grain can vary between the black-and-white and colour footage, looking heavier in the former and finer in the latter, but itís always rendered cleanly and naturally. Details are quite impressive, even in long shots of the landscapes and seascapes (I donít think Iíve ever been as impressed with the rendering water as I was here), and this lends a nice sense of depth to the picture. Colours look unbelievably good, with blues sticking out, along with oranges and reds. Black levels are very strong, though are maybe a bit too opaque in the black-and-white scenes, the details looking a little weaker during these portions (which could come down to the film stock used).

The film is a travelogue, completely dependent on its visuals of its setting and this presentation does so in spades. It looks gorgeous.

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 audio, presented here in lossless PCM 2.0 stereo surround ends up being a wonderful little surprise all on its own. Though most of the filmís audio consists of Richieís narration, nicely delivered to the center speaker with remarkable range and depth, the track also manages to capture some great background sounds that spread out between through sound-field. Most impressive are some city sounds, like motorcycles or cars moving from left to right (or vice versa), a moving train surrounding the viewer entirely, or sea noises like waves or gulls moving about. They all offer incredible depth and fidelity and are nicely mixed here. I wasnít expecting much here but the end mix and its delivery really manages to effectively immerse the viewer.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The 56-minute film only comes with a small selection of supplements (altogether running shorter than the film), though Criterion has at least priced this edition accordingly (itís $29.95 instead of the usual $39.95). The on-disc features consist entirely of new interviews, including a new one recorded with director Lucille Carra. For 17-minutes she talks about her schooling and then career (which led to working in Tohoís New York office) before falling into this project. She had to work to convince Richie to be involved in the project (ultimately, he ended up writing the script) and then she gets into more technical details behind filming. This feels painfully short but itís great getting the backstory behind how this film came to be and what it took to convince Richie to be involved.

Director Paul Schrader and writer Ian Buruma pop up next for 15-minutes to talk about their friend, Donald Richie, recalling defining moments of his life (like his move from Ohio to Japan) and then reflect on how his work impacted them (his writings on Yasujiro Ozu was very important to Schrader, for example). They also explain the important role he played in getting Japanese cinema recognized in the west, and talk about his work (there are also some samples from his contributions for some of Criterionís releases showcased here).

The short discussion ends up being a rather loving and touching tribute to the man, and this is nicely followed by a 10-minute interview with Richie, filmed by Carra in 1991. Here Richie talks about how his book came about (it was taken from journals he had been keeping during trips around the area, kept over a long period of time), and the narrative of it, along with what itís like being an expatriate and how one is treated as an outsider in Japan. He then talks a little about his involvement with the film. Itís short but heís very to the point so he manages to cover a wide range of material in the time allotted.

An insert then closes of this release, featuring an essay by Arturo Silva, breaking the essay down into three sections: ďThe Film,Ē ďThe Film and the Book,Ē and ďThe Book and the Man.Ē

Taken altogether the material doesnít look like a lot, but it nicely encapsulates the book and film themselves, while also offering a very loving tribute to Richie and his work.

7/10

CLOSING

A modest release that Iím sure could easily fall under oneís radar, Criterion not only provides a solid A/V presentation for the 56-minute film, but they also use this release to pay respect to Richie and his work. Itís a lovingly put together edition and with the lower price itís easy to recommend.


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