Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

Discuss internationally-released DVDs and Blu-rays or other international DVD and Blu-ray-related topics.
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Cash Flagg
Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2008 11:15 pm

Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#226 Post by Cash Flagg » Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:53 am

I was just about to order the 5 Shochiku Ozu BDs (skipping Green Tea and Good Morning) from CDJapan, and was wondering if there were any other 30s-60's 'domestic melodrama'-type films with English subtitles on BD that were recommended?

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feihong
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:20 pm

Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#227 Post by feihong » Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:36 pm

Calvin wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 5:53 am
Obayashi was given only a few months to live prior to commencing production on Hanagatami. He not only lived to finish that, but also Labyrinth of Cinema

I've not seen any of his recent films so I can't vouch for Hanagatami but I'm looking forward to getting the Third Window release next week and will chip in with my thoughts then. The reviews around, even the ones that lean towards mixed/negative, have sold me on it.
That's interesting to learn about Hanagatami and Labyrinth. The trailers for the movies make them look quite...extreme...in their stylization. Which seems weird to say, since Obayashi has always been synonymous with those kind of crunchy, hand-made special effects. But doing them in digital looks really weird. The images look uncomfortably flat. This goes back to those films like Casting Blossoms Into the Sky and Seven Weeks. I think it's how the films are shot on digital and use weak digital effects. I didn't mind the cheap effects in Suzuki's Princess Raccoon, but that was shot on 35mm. And Obayashi goes for these awkwardly close shots in these later films. Eh, whatever. I'll check these films out and see what they're like.

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feihong
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:20 pm

Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#228 Post by feihong » Tue Jun 30, 2020 3:31 am

Actually, I think maybe the change in Obayashi's movies takes place around the time of Sada, a movie I haven't watched all the way through, but upon skipping through it tonight, there are a lot of scenes shot on what look like very small soundstages. The lighting is garish in a way not present in his earlier movies, because they were shot primarily on location, in larger environments. Sada looks cramped and uncomfortable (I'm still going to watch it), and Obayashi's films of the 21st century in general have that same feeling to them. Obayashi's effects looked chintzy in the 80s, but because they were handmade––because a certain quality of light fell upon the figures in the effects, mediated by distance from the camera lens––they had a kind of hand-made charm to them. Then, as he shoots in smaller locations, eventually on digital, he does the same kind of effects, to a very different effect. So the more recent films have this flat, but uncomfortably crisp look to them, perhaps brought about by being filmed in tight spaces, under less advantageous lighting conditions. The musicians that travel through Seven Weeks are garishly mapped onto B-roll of various settings––they look uncertain of where they're supposed to be. Characters in Casting Blossoms Into the Sky and Hanagatami leer close to the camera, while a cut-and-paste moon is superimposed behind them. It doesn't look charming anymore––it looks claustrophobic. It's also clear just from the trailers that Obayashi's preoccupation with death––a lingering chill in the background of films like Emotion: Dracula's Legendary Afternoon, The Deserted City, His Motorbike Her Island, Bound for the Fields the Mountains and the Seacoast, and Lonelyhearts (Chizuko's Little Sister is an exception and a harbinger of things to come––a cute, fun movie about emerging adolescence made strained and misshapen by the extraordinary pain of the elder sister's death scene; The Discarnates, or, Summer Among Ghosts, has a kind of miserable grimness made alien by its presentation as a Poltergeist–style chiller)––has taken over in these later movies. One of these later films is about a widower dealing with grief meeting a man whose wife is in a coma, and stuff like that. Several of these seem to involve vivid parades of the dead, or ships taking the dead to some kind of afterlife. There's an early speech in Seven Weeks about people dying and being replaced by new people living. There's constant images of the atom bombs. Older actors play young students, grimacing next to teenage actors who are supposed to be their peers. Scenery to Remember is literally about a woman dying, returning to her hometown for closure but only finding the sting of imminent death. Each film in this later cycle seems aimed at morbidity for its overall tone. It all seems to suggest that the claustrophobia of the visuals in the later movies is meant to imply the closeness of death. These later movies look unrelentingly grim. No less inventive than the earlier films, but not as fun–looking. There is only the weakest sense of mitigating nostalgia in the more recent films, especially when you don't have the distance of the earlier films, which allow you to see the world of Onomachi in the 80s and early 90s. The new films look to embody what I would consider Obayashi's most overt overemphasis from those earlier movies. I am not really looking forward to seeing them.

But I plan to see them all this week! COVID goals. I've rounded up a bunch of Obayashi movies I haven't been able to see before, spanning his entire career. I plan to go through them all. By the time I'm done I hope to have seen:

Take Me Away!
Cute Little Devil
Kenya Boy
Four Sisters (Shimaizaka)
Haruka, Nostalgia
Beijing Watermelon
Sada
Switching: Goodby me
Casting Blossoms Into the Sky
Seven Weeks
Hanagatami

If anyone has a line on where I can find some of the even rarer films, I'd certainly appreciate it. I've seen The Island Closest to Heaven, Samurai Kids (the bizarre Indian-in-the-Cupboard–inspired picture with the tiny samurai), The Rockinghorsemen, and Tomorrow (Ashita) without subtitles, and I have unsubtitled versions of April Fish and One Summer's Day I haven't watched yet (I tried in the past and just couldn't get into either without the language). I've seen all the short films in the DVD collection, Emotion (great movie), Hausu, The Visitor in the Eye (the Blackjack movie with Joe Shishido), the Kosuke Kindaichi movie (the most fun of these early movies, prior to him really finding his way, and discounting Emotion, because it's great and an anomaly early on), School in the Crosshairs, Exchange Students (a personal favorite), The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, The Deserted City, His Motorbike Her Island, Lonelyhearts, Bound for the Fields the Mountains and the Seacoast, Drifting Classroom, The Discarnates, Chizuko's Younger Sister, and The Reason (a genuine misery; not comprehensible, and not interesting). So I suppose I'm looking for the TV movies (which I doubt I'll find, though someone has been subbing the Seijun Suzuki TV movies from the 60s and 70s, so maybe it could happen?), The Strange Couple, Turning Point, whatever Shinjuro is (I can't find a description of it or a cast list anywhere), The Stupid Teacher, Before That Day, Goodbye for Tomorrow, The Last Snow, I Want to hear the Wind's Song, Song of Goodbye (sounds real morbid), Scenery to Remember, So Long! and Labyrinth of Cinema. Wow. Exhausting! But I'm looking forward to seeing Four Sisters, Haruka Nostalgia, Cute Little Devil, and Beijing Watermelon (from what I will probably end up feeling is Obayashi's sweet spot, from the early 80s to the early 90s). I'm not writing off these later movies, but nothing I read or see about them makes them seem like my cup of tea.

WmS
Joined: Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:46 pm
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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#229 Post by WmS » Thu Jul 02, 2020 9:27 am

Feihong, your posts on Obayashi have really been great. Thank you!

No idea on the rarer films but the Japan Cuts fest at Japan Society is streaming this year, with Labyrinth of Cinema available to rent starting July 17.

Along with a new doc on his and his wife's career together.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#230 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Jul 02, 2020 10:20 am

Obayashi seems to fall in the same general category as Kinoshita -- a director who seems like he was a kind and decent person, and whose cinematic heart was in the right place, but whose films almost never seem to work for me (though I wish they did). All the same, happy to see (for the sake of others, at least) more of his films becoming available.

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feihong
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:20 pm

Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#231 Post by feihong » Thu Jul 02, 2020 5:09 pm

WmS wrote:
Thu Jul 02, 2020 9:27 am
Feihong, your posts on Obayashi have really been great. Thank you!

No idea on the rarer films but the Japan Cuts fest at Japan Society is streaming this year, with Labyrinth of Cinema available to rent starting July 17.

Along with a new doc on his and his wife's career together.
Thanks for those links! I'm going to try an see Labyrinth of Cinema, and I'll take a look at that documentary if I can, as well.

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