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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • Japanese PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • What Did the Lady Forget?, a 1937 feature by director Yasujiro Ozu
  • New interview with film scholar David Bordwell
  • Ozu & Noda: Tateshina Diaries, a new documentary by Daniel Raim on Ozuís relationship with longtime screenwriter Kogo Noda
  • An essay by scholar Junji Yoshida

The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Yasujiro Ozu
1952 | 116 Minutes | Licensor: Shochiku

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #989
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: August 27, 2019
Review Date: August 25, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

One of the ineffably lovely domestic sagas made by Yasujiro Ozu at the height of his mastery, The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice is a subtly piercing portrait of a marriage coming quietly undone. Secrets and deceptions strain the already tenuous relationship of a childless, middle-aged couple, as the wifeís city-bred sophistication bumps up against the husbandís small-town simplicity, and a generational sea changeóin the form of their headstrong, modern nieceósweeps over their household. The directorís abiding concern with family dynamics receives one of its most spirited treatments, with a wry, tender humor and buoyant expansiveness that moves the action from the home into the baseball stadiums, pachinko parlors, and ramen shops of postwar Tokyo.


PICTURE

Yasujiro Ozuís The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice is presented on this dual-layer Blu-ray disc in the filmís original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The new 4K restoration, performed by Shochiku, comes from a scan of a 35mm fine-grain positive.

I was perfectly prepared for there to be a lot of damage, at the very least minor scratches raining through, but much to my surprise this never becomes an issue. In fact, I donít recall much of anything ever popping up ever throughout the film. I almost suspect that maybe things were softened a wee-bit to maybe hide scratches or other imperfections, though I canít say for sure. There is a general softness to the overall image that plays into me leaning this way, though, to be fair, this could be related to it being sourced from a later generation print. Still, how the grain is rendered also plays into it: itís kind of there but itís mushy and looks to have been reduced a bit. Either way damage is minimal, and the details are there but the finer ones never pop.

Still, it has gorgeous looking contrast and blacks and whites look great. Tonal shifts in the grays are strong, and I didnít notice any digital issues. Despite any slight reservations I may have the image is still a pleasant surprise, much better than I had been expecting by a large margin.

7/10

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.

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AUDIO

The lossless PCM 1.0 monaural presentation is fine but I think the original materials are simply limited by age. Dialogue sounds clear but it all comes off very flat and tinny, music sounding distorted and edgy as well. There are no signs of cracks or pops, though, and the track is pretty clean otherwise in the end.

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

At a glance it doesnít look like a lot has been added to this edition, but everything here ends up being incredibly thorough and it ends up feeling to be stacked edition in the end. The big supplement has to be the inclusion of another feature film from Ozu, his 1937 film What Did the Lady Forget?, running 71-minutes. The film focuses around an unhappily married couple and their free-willed niece (also name Setsuko, like in Flavor) who comes into their life for a short time, and it ultimately shares similar themes to Flavor looking at the clashing of modern elements with traditional ones, told with a similar sense of humour (more screwball in nature).

Itís a great inclusion but sadly, even though itís presented here in 1080p/24hz, it has not been restored at all. Scratches, dirt, and stains are all heavy and the image is incredibly soft, though the latter is obviously an issue with the source since the damage found on the elements themselves is perfectly sharp and crystal clear. The audio is damaged as well but isnít as bad as I would have expected. Itís presented in Dolby Digital mono.

Criterion then includes a couple of excellent academic features, starting with Ozu & Noda, a look at the working relationship between Ozu and screenwriter Kogo Noda. This video has been put together by Daniel Raim and has been assembled in a manner I assume plays off how Ozu and Noda worked out their stories, which was to use a storyboarding process similar to what animators use since they planned things out visually. Most of the video uses illustrations to cover their working process, quoting Noda along the way (and thereís a sample of an audio interview with Ozu too). The video also provides samples from their actual screenplays to give an idea as to how they were structured, while film professor Daisuke Miyao pops in at times to either contextualize the period or bring up the social issues their films tackled. Itís a nicely edited video and beautifully lays out their working history together, covering a lot in its rather brief 17-minute runtime.

And if that wasnít enough Criterion also gets David Bordwell to talk about bother The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice and What Did the Lady Forget? and the work that influenced these and other social comedies by Ozu. Bordwell points out how both Harold Lloyd and Ernst Lubitsch played into influencing Ozu (Lloyd influencing the slapstick side that popped up in Ozuís films, Lubitsch influencing the satirical side) and shows how these aspects pop up in the films. He then does a deep-dive into the structure and social commentary found in Flavor, right down to how Ozu showcases conflicts and character traits through visuals, while also showing the various parallels he sets up between characters. It runs 25-minutes. Paired with the previous essay these are two of the better segments Iíve seen on Ozuís work.

The edition then concludes with an insert featuring an essay by Junji Yoshida, focusing on the filmís representation of Western and traditional cultures clashing in post-war Japan, perfectly rounding things out and closing off a rather satisfying set of supplements.

8/10

CLOSING

I feel the image may have been processed a bit to hide unwanted scratches and marks but itís still a pleasant looking picture and I found it to be a nice surprise. What sells this most, though, is the inclusion of What Did the Lady Forget? and two excellent academic features. Highly recommended.


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