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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • Japanese PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with actor Kyoko Kagawa
  • Mizoguchi: The Auteur Behind the “Metteur-en-scène,” a new illustrated audio essay by film scholar Dudley Andrew
  • Trailer
  • An essay by film scholar Haden Guest

A Story from Chikamatsu

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Kenji Mizoguchi
1954 | 102 Minutes | Licensor: Kadokawa Herald Pictures

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #949
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: November 13, 2018
Review Date: December 8, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

One of a string of late-career masterworks made by Kenji Mizoguchi in the early 1950s, A Story from Chikamatsu (a.k.a. The Crucified Lovers) is an exquisitely moving tale of forbidden love struggling to survive in the face of persecution. Based on a classic of eighteenth-century Japanese drama, the film traces the injustices that befall a Kyoto scroll maker’s wife and his apprentice after each is unfairly accused of wrongdoing. Bound by fate in an illicit, star-crossed romance, they go on the run in search of refuge from the punishment prescribed them: death. Shot in gorgeous, painterly style by master cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, this subtly sensuous indictment of societal oppression was heralded by Akira Kurosawa as a “great masterpiece that could only have been made by Mizoguchi.”


PICTURE

Kenji Mizoguchi’s A Story from Chikamatsu (also known under the title The Crucified Lovers) makes its North American Blu-ray debut thanks to the Criterion Collection, who present the film on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 4K restoration, scanned from a 35mm fine-grain.

The restoration work has impressively removed just about any sign of damage; there are a few fluctuations but outside of that I don’t recall anything ever popping up, not even a scratch or a mark, especially impressive for a 64-year-old film. Though there are a handful of shots that can look a bit soft (which obviously comes down to elements) the level of detail overall is impeccable, and I was especially impressed with some of the intricate patterns and details found in some of the costumes and settings, all of which are sharply rendered without any noticeable distortion or noise. This of course is also aided by the digital encode, which is pretty faultless itself. Film grain is rendered cleanly and naturally (especially impressive during the darkly lit central boat scene) and no anomalies ever pop up, allowing the image to keep that wonderful film texture. Contrast is excellent with superb tonal shifts in between the clean whites and the rich blacks. Overall it’s a gorgeous looking presentation far surpassing whatever I may have been expecting.

9/10

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AUDIO

The lossless Japanese linear PCM 1.0 mono track is, outside of some minor background noise, is clean and easy on the ear. But it is fairly flat, with little range and fidelity, some of the music sounding a little edgy, but this is pretty much expected for the age of the film.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This ends up being a fairly sparse edition, though thankfully the supplements prove worthwhile. First is an 11-minute interview with actor Kyoko Kagawa, who explains how important this film and working with Mizoguchi was for her career, while also recalling a few key sequences in the film, like the boat scene. Also here is a 41-minute video essay by film scholar Dudley Andrew called Mizoguchi: The Auteur Behind the Matteur en scène. The essay looks at how Mizoguchi incorporates elements of Japanese Bunraku puppet plays into his films, from sets to positioning of the actors, to even how performers will move through a scene. Andrew looks at a number of Mizoguchi’s films but pays special attention to Chikamtsu, even dissecting a number of scenes in the film during the last half of the feature.

The included insert also features an essay by Haden Guest, who writes about the women in Mizoguchi’s films, this film’s story, as well as the structure and camera work, offering a scholarly bit that expands on Andrew’s essay.

Both are good, and I rather enjoyed Andrew’s video essay, but it’s still an incredibly sparse release.

4/10

CLOSING

The lack of supplements make the release feel a bit overpriced but the presentation is beyond stellar, even greatly improving upon the region B Masters of Cinema Blu-ray edition.


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Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca