Yasujiro Ozuís Good Morning gets a much-needed Blu-ray upgrade from Criterion, presenting the film in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 4K restoration was taken from the original 35mm negative. The transfer and restoration were performed by Shochiku.
Criterionís old DVD is pretty abysmal: an interlaced, fuzzy mess, with questionable colours it was probably one of their worst looking DVDs. After sticking it out with that disc for so long popping this new Blu-ray in offered a whole new experience with the film, almost like seeing it for the first time. The detail improvement is simply unbelievable. Where the previous DVD had no fine details of any sort, the details on here just pop off the screen left and right. There are textures in the outfits I never noticed before. There are also some crisply rendered patterns I didnít notice before. Fine cross-hatching patterns are crystal clear, and best of all I didnít notice any shimmer or digital anomaly of any sort when these tight patterns and details were rendered. Barely any of this stuff shows up on the DVD, and if it did it was marred by jagged edges thanks to the interlaced presentation, but here all of these details, including all of those details in the settings, are crystal clear and obvious. Film grain is rendered wonderfully and looks natural throughout.
There is no damage of note, the image about as clean as can be. Colours do also look better here in comparison to the DVD. Iím still not sure about this area, though. The DVDís slightly over-saturated look and heavier reds in places always seemed wrong, though I canít say if this one is correct. The colours here lean heavier on the yellow side of things but ultimately the colours do look ďbetterĒ in comparison to the DVD and honestly I wouldnít be surprised if this was at the very least closer to how the film should look. On a somewhat related note black levels are also quite good, looking fairly inky without crushing being an issue.
I recall not being terribly fond of the film the first time I saw it, despite liking a number of Ozuís other films, though I began to at least appreciate it more over the years. Seeing it again on this Blu-ray was quite the revelation and as I mentioned it was like a whole new experience. Though maybe it was just bound to happen after watching the film a number of times through the years it feels like it finally clicked with me and I wouldnít doubt just getting a crystal clear, sharp presentation like this one may have helped make that finally happen. It really looks terrific. 10/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
The previous DVD was featureless, save for a short essay found in the insert. Since it was Criterionís first Ozu title (on DVD) I would have expected something, but alas it was not to be. That wrong has also been corrected with this edition.
Starting things off is a brand new 17-minute visual essay by David Cairns about Ozuís use of humour. Cairns looks at the fart jokes in the film and explains how most familiar with Ozuís dramatic work may be taken aback by this element to the film but they arenít so far removed from some of his other films. He then goes on to point out how Ozu worked on comic scenarios and films in his early days before going into some of his dramas, bringing up scenes from these films to showcase the humour. From here he then looks at the subtle moments Japanese audiences may relate to more and find funny, Ozuís use of children in a number of films, and even how Ozu can find humour in his compositions. For newcomers to Ozu or someone who may not know what to make of Good Morning on a first viewing itís certainly a good resource to use.
David Bordwell next takes a look at how Ozuís films have changed narratively and stylistically through the years, like how his early films focus on a smaller set of characters while his later films usually focus on a broader set, like an extended family. At one point he uses Ozuís early silent I Was Born, ButÖ and even Good Morning to illustrate some of these points. It runs 19-minutes.
A rather big add, though, is Ozuís silent film I Was Born, ButÖ, presented here in 1080p/24hz high-definition, accompanied with a score composed by Donald Sosin in 2008 presented in Dolby Digital mono. The film (which Criterion actually included in a previous Eclipse set) focuses on two children dealing with the possibility that their father isnít the ďbig man/heroĒ they envision him to be and the fallout that comes from that. Itís a good film, though I have to say Iím still at a loss as to why itís often cited that Good Morning is a remake of this film (which is why it is included here). Other than the fact the children are the central focus and a plot element involving a hunger strike that reminds me of the vow-of-silence/hunger-strike in Good Morning I canít say there is much else all that similar between the two films. The plots differ greatly otherwise and Iím sure the film could be compared to a number of Ozuís other family portraits. Still, this might be pointless to even ponder about as just getting the film in high-definition (sort of, Iíll get to that) will be good enough and itís a title I donít ever see Criterion rushing out all on its own.
As to the presentation I canít say itís strong. And thatís not in regard to the condition of the materials. No, because as expected there is some heavy damage, including tram lines, scratches, dirt, and even burns. Itís all there but itís at least not as bad as I would have expected. Unfortunately the digital presentation leaves a lot to be desired. Again itís a 1080p but Iím not entirely sure if this is simply an upscale of a standard-definition master or an actual high-definition presentation. At times it looks better than a standard-definition image but then itís laced with a number of problems. Definition is a bit limited and details are hazy, but I grant that could be related more to the print materials and nothing to do with the master, so that may not be fair. Still, there are more obvious digital concerns, particularly macro-blocking and some interlacing artifacts. You can make out the lines from time to time (they become fairly obvious in some of the burns that pop up) and jagged edges pop up often enough, more obvious in rounded objects or some diagonal lines. Even though the encode is technically progressive in this case Iím guessing the interlacing is inherent in the master and is possibly a byproduct of adjusting for an odd framerate. Itís still watchable and I actually feel terrible nitpicking it, but the weak digital presentation just adds on to the problems with the source materials.
Criterion then adds another of Ozuís works, this time with the 1929 silent film A Straightforward Boy, or at least 14-minutes of it. As the notes and opening title cards point out this (the beginning and end of the film) is all that remains. The story centers around a boy abducted right off of the street. He proves to be a bit much for the kidnapper and he hands the kid off to another individual to watch over, though this doesnít go well at all itself. There is an obvious chunk missing thanks to a jarring cut: at one point the kidnapper is contemplating returning the child and then suddenly heís taking him somewhere else to be watched over. Despite this large section missing (apparently more than half of the film) you still get a fairly complete story. The more slapstick-ish comedy doesnít tie directly to Good Morning in any obvious way (its child star, Tomio Aoki, does appear in I Was Born, ButÖ) other than a child being a main character, but it appears to be included because it was Ozuís first film to center around a child character. The feature also does nicely accompany David Cairnís essay on Ozuís use of comedy in his films.
The film is presented in 1080p, though does look more like a standard-definition upscale and has some of the same interlacing and macro-blocking problems as I Was Born, ButÖ Damage can be heavy but I didnít find it distracting. The film is also presented completely silent without any sort of score.
The release then closes with an insert featuring an excellent essay on the film by Jonathan Rosenbaum, with mention of I Was Born ButÖ. The essay by Rick Prelinger found in the original DVD edition has not been carried over, though this isnít too big a loss.
Itís a modest little special edition but a solid one, the inclusion of two other works by Ozu making it feel like a decent little bargain. 7/10