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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New video interviews with Japanese film scholar Tadao Sato and film scholars David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, authors of Film Art, the United Statesí best-selling film studies book

There Was a Father


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Yasujiro Ozu
1942 | 87 Minutes | Licensor: Shochiku

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #526
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: July 13, 2010
Review Date: July 7, 2010

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SYNOPSIS

Yasujiro Ozuís frequent leading man Chishu Ryu is riveting as Shuhei, a widowed high school teacher who finds that the more he tries to do what is best for his sonís future, the more they are separated. Though primarily a delicately wrought story of parental love, There Was a Father offers themes of sacrifice that were deemed appropriately patriotic by Japanese censors at the time of its release during World War II, making it a uniquely political film in Ozuís body of work.

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PICTURE

Part of a Yasujiro Ozu double-feature box set, Criterion presents There Was a Father in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The image has been slightly window boxed.

Both of the films in this set (which also includes The Only Son) are in rather horrible shape, with There Was a Father possibly being the worst of the two. Like the source used in the transfer on the DVD for The Only Son itís littered with scratches, marks, debris, and a rather surprising number of stains (which Criterion attributes to mold and chemicals) that swirl through the film. Frames are missing along with, by the looks of it, entire sequences (Tony Raynsí essay makes mention of a couple of excised sequences) which just adds somewhat to the frustration. Unfortunately all of these issues, specifically the damage, are constant and the screen grabs below really donít capture how bad it really is: In motion it looks worse.

But this is probably as good as it gets. The conditions of the material are so atrocious thereís simply no way they can be cleaned up to look pristine. Those that worked on the restoration did the best they could Iím sure, though no less disappointing. But at the very least the actual transfer itself is fine. There are no artifacts to speak of, contrast looks decent, with some nice blacks and whites (maybe a little blown here and there but I blame that on the print) and it remains as sharp and clean as it can. Another unfortunate thing is that the materials used were a 16mm copy of the lost 35mm negative, so detail is lost and it always looks a little out-of-focus.

Again, it isnít pretty. Sure, I wish more could have been done with the restoration but I seriously doubt much more could have been done. And Iíll take it like this than not get it at all.

4/10

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 Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track found here (in Japanese of course) sounds pretty bad and is the worst of the two audio tracks in this set. Cracks, pops, static and other background noises really harm it and are a constant nuisance. Iím guessing some work was done to remove some damage but there are still some obvious problems. Though for English speaking viewers it wonít be a huge issue (since we get subtitles) voices are incredibly low and flat, barely audible, and the fact thereís always a constant hiss makes it even harder to hear. Again, this is because of the source materials, and nothing to do with Criterionís work on the transfer. Itís in such poor shape a lot of information is lost and no amount of digital trickery is going to help.

2/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The set as a whole comes with three features, only one of which is found here. The lone disc supplement here is a an interview with David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Ozu scholars who have collaborated on a couple of books, including Film Art: An Introduction. Not as good as the interview found on the other disc but still worth watching, this one looks at the more political aspects of There Was a Father, the one key theme basically being sacrificing for the sake oneís country, or how the sacrifice of parents can make it better. They also talk about war films in general from the period and Ozuís ďhuman touchĒ with Bordwell closing on an anecdote about a Ozu retrospective he had attended. At 23-minutes itís not as spread out as the other but it has some engaging material.

Though the disc supplements here may be the weaker of the two discs in this set, the booklet that accompanies this release is much stronger. Tony Rayns first provides another wonderful essay on the film, looking at the more political aspects in it (and mentioning some scenes cut out after the war because of this) followed by a wonderful piece on actor Chishu Ryu by Donald Richie. And in a nice little surprise there is a piece by Chishu Ryu on his early work with Ozu. Itís a nice piece but Iím not sure when it was written or for whom as I didnít see any indication in the booklet.

And thatís it. The interview was a little disappointing but the booklet picked up some of the slack. Not packed, but a nice release for the film.

4/10

CLOSING

This one is the weakest of the two discs, presenting the weaker image and sound, and the weaker collection of supplements (though I was quite happy with the booklet.) But Criterion has done what they could, and they should be commended for even releasing the films at all. Despite the obvious problems and the overall low-to-average scores, I do love this set (the packaging is especially wonderful,) and I think any Ozu admirer will be thrilled with this disc and this set as a whole.


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