The Shape of Night

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Synopsis

A young woman from the countryside (Miyuki Kuwano of Oshima’s Cruel Story of Youth) falls in love with a handsome hoodlum (Mikijiro Hira, Sword of the Beast), who pushes her into a life of prostitution. When his sleazy superiors catch sight of her, she finds herself trapped inside the gaudy maze of city nightlife. Directed by Noburo Nakamura, a veteran of the Shochiku studio’s signature Golden Age family dramas, The Shape of Night was made as a reaction to the radical film styles of the Japanese New Wave. With its lush cinematography full of saturated colours, a lyrical tone and its story of love leading to inescapable tragedy, it has been compared to the films of Douglas Sirk, while also acting as a precursor to the work of Wong Kar-wai.

Picture 6/10

Radiance Films presents Noboru Nakamura's The Shape of Night on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on a dual-layer disc. Shochiku has provided the 1080p/24hz high-definition master to Radiance.

Radiance does what it can with what they’ve been given, but the end presentation is ultimately hampered by the print materials and dated high-def master provided. The image looks muddy with flat, milky blacks and minimal range in the shadows. Definition is weak, and the picture looks fuzzy and soft, though that could have more to do with the print (an interpositive at best, though I doubt it's even that) than the digital master specifically.

Despite those visual limitations, the Blu-ray does justice to the film’s unique color palette; the nighttime sequences' layered colors and dramatic lighting are particularly striking. The restoration work has successfully removed major imperfections, although minor marks and dirt can still be spotted.

Overall, it looks perfectly acceptable but could use a whole new restoration.

Audio 6/10

The lossless PCM 2.0 monaural soundtrack is a little flat, with music sounding a wee bit edgy in places, but it’s still clean and free of heavy damage.

Extras 5/10

The disc features a couple of solid features, including a new 16-minute interview with the director’s son, Yoshiko Nakamura. He talks about his father's, grandfather's, and family’s relationship with Shochiku Studios. He also talks about his father’s work and his approach to filmmaking, which included learning from other “good” films. There’s also an excellent 13-minute video essay by Tom Mes covering Shochiku’s shifts during the 60’s, primarily thanks to the rise in television. This led to “pink films” (also produced by rival studio Nikatsu) and more investment in new, younger talent to attract younger audiences. It is short but wonderfully assembled, getting all its points across.

While the disc's features are commendable, the true value lies in the exclusive booklet, exclusive to this limited edition. It houses an excellent essay by Chuck Stephens, drawing parallels between the film and its contemporaries, followed by a translated reprint of a 1964 article on the film's production, providing a unique insight into its creation.

It's a bit slim, but the content is good and all worth going through.

Closing

The master limits what can be done, but Radiance does what it can with the presentation while also packing on some satisfying supplements.

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Directed by: Noboru Nakamura
Year: 1964
Time: 109 min.
 
Series: Radiance Films
Edition #: 52
Licensor: Shochiku
Release Date: April 29 2024
MSRP: £14.99
 
Blu-ray
1 Disc | BD-50
2.35:1 ratio
Japanese 2.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Regions A/B
 
 Visual essay on the artistic upheavals at Shochiku studios during the 1960s by Tom Mes   Trailer   Limited edition booklet featuring new writing by Chuck Stephens