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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Introduction by critic Tony Rayns
  • Conversations between Shohei Imamura and critic Tadao Sato

The Insect Woman


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Shohei Imamura
1963 | 123 Minutes | Licensor: Nikkatsu Co.

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $79.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #473
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: May 19, 2009
Review Date: May 8, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

Born in a rural farming village in 1918, Tome grows up to survive decades of Japanese social upheaval, as well as abuse and servitude at the hands of various men. Yet Shohei Imamura, with his trademark "entomological" approach, refuses to make a victim of Tome (played by the extraordinary Sachiko Hidari), instead observing her as a fascinating, pragmatic creature of twentieth-century Japan. A portrait of opportunism and resilience in three generations of women, The Insect Woman is Imamura's most expansive film, and Tome his ultimate heroine.

Forum members rate this film 8.6/10

 

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PICTURE

As part of their box set of three films by Shohei Imamura, Pigs, Pimps, and Prostitutes, Criterion presents The Insect Woman in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this dual-layer disc. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

The digital transfer found here is another strong one, presenting a fairly sharp image through most of the film. Gray levels look good, but contrast looks to have been boosted somewhat, though Iím not sure if this is the intended look of the film, similar to the look of Pigs and Battleships. The brighter scenes look decent enough but some darker scenes look far too dark.

The restoration again looks to be very thorough and the film is almost blemish free, only a few marks present throughout. Grain is noticeable and I didnít notice any distracting artifacts within the transfer. Another nice, clean looking transfer for the set.

7/10

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 about the same quality as the one found on Pigs and Battleships. Music is a little edgy but the track quality as a whole is a little weak. But thereís nothing in the way of background noise and clean sounds to have been quite thorough.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterionís edition of The Insect Woman is currently only available in their Pigs, Pimps, and Prostitutes box set, which contains two other films. Each film gets their own disc and has their own set of supplements. This supplement review and the grade provided only reflect this title in the set, and not the box set as a whole.

The supplements are about the same in nature on all of the discs presenting interviews with director Shohei Imamura and historian Tony Rayns, though Pigs and Battleships presents a longer interview with Imamura, taken from an episode of the French program Cinema de notre temps.

The first supplement is a less than 21-minute interview with Shohei Imamura, conducted by Japanese film critic Tadao Sato, that looks to have been conducted for a Japanese TV station after an airing of The Insect Woman, and looks to have been done around 1989, though I donít know for sure. While this is a pretty static interview with the two just sitting there chatting (and it appears the segment has been edited down based on some jump cuts) I found it a little more interesting than the distant documentary/interview on the Pigs and Battleships disc. Here Imamura talks about The Insect Woman starting with his forced hiatus after the studio Nikatsu basically banished him for Pigs and Battleships, leading him to spend a few years writing. He wrote many scripts and plays, and had actually finished the script for what would be his next film, Intentions of Murder, before The Insect Woman but when Nikatsu saw the latter script they wanted him to direct that first. He does touch on the somewhat painful script process (stating his notes for the script were more interesting than the actual finished script) and how he got to the fragmented state of the film. He then touches on the production, including location scouting, and then offers an analysis of his lead female character (and for most of the women that appear in his films.) Yes, itís a little stale, but I preferred this more intimate discussion.

And again, like on the other discs in the set, we get an interview with Tony Rayns, which looks to be a continuation of the interview on the Pigs and Battleships disc. This one lasts about 13-minutes. Rayns begins by somewhat dissecting the meaning of the title and then getting into what Imamura did during the few years between films (as he Imamura said in the other interview, lots of writing.) He gives an analysis of the lead character and her ability to adapt to the various conditions she encounters throughout the film, and then focuses on the freeze frames used throughout the film, pointing out that, unlike the final shot in something like The 400 Blows, the freeze frames are uniconic and seem random. He points out elements he does consider ďpretentiousĒ in the film, and even suggests that some aspects of the film do feel to shock just for the sake of shocking, but he attributes it to Imamura trying to stand out in the industry. Itís a nice interview, very analytical and interesting, and I actually wish that Rayns provided a commentary for at least this film (one for each would have been even better.)

The booklet comes with an essay by Dennis Lim, who offers his own thoughts on Imamura and this film in particular, focusing on some of the same aspects Rayns covers in his interview.

Again the boxset isnít loaded in terms of supplements, with each disc coming with a couple of features. The features found on this disc are shorter than what appears on the Pigs and Battleships disc but I enjoyed them far more.

6/10

CLOSING

I like this box set a lot and recommend it without question. The films are all great works and the transfers are good across all. The supplements are slim but you can find this set for around $60 online working out to $20 a disc, which I think is worth it. The Insect Woman has a strong transfer just like the rest and interesting couple of supplements.


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