BFI: 32 Ozu Films

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FilmSnob
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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#826 Post by FilmSnob » Fri May 04, 2018 3:09 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:Finally got around to starting the set. The fragments of Straightforward Boy are a hoot. And I knew I loved Walk Cheerfully, but I had forgotten just how MUCH I love this remarkably visually playful (and charming) film.
I just started watching all early Ozu films. A Straightforward Boy did not work for me at all. After the opening title card, I didn't laugh once. Walk Cheerfully however was a beautiful, thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly likeable film. I almost cried during the opening dolly shot, and I almost cried again during the last scenes, for two entirely different reasons.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#827 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri May 04, 2018 4:07 pm

Walk Cheerfully is one of those Ozu silents that has a lot of "implied sound track" -- which is sometimes drowned out by any musical score that might be applied. ;-)

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#828 Post by FilmSnob » Sun May 06, 2018 2:44 am

I've now seen Tokyo Story, Late Spring, and everything which survives up to I Flunked, But ... I wrote a review for Walk Cheerfully, an early Ozu silent film I very much enjoyed.

Thank you Criterion, FilmStruck, BFI, everyone who helped to make these fragile films available to distant foreigners like me!

Walk Cheerfully (1930)

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Kenji Koyama, a.k.a Ken the Knife, leads a small-time band of crooks and thugs in this highly stylized, romantic and unabashedly sentimental gangster film. The story crafted by Hiroshi Shimizu, a fellow director and Ozu's good friend, plays out as the very definition of a morality tale: the title was inspired by Quaker founder George Fox's famous quote: "Walk cheerfully over the world answering that of God in everyone, that your carriage and your life may preach among all sorts of peoples, and to them...whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you."

In other words, Ken has a crisis of conscience. He's a feared boxer who commands criminal respect through superior intellect and brute force. He and his gang find creative ways to rob people-- and if necessary-- beat them up. Eventually, he falls in love with one of his targets, a kind and beautiful "good" girl named Yasue, who is thought to be rich, but turns out her family doesn't have any money at all. They develop a romance, his girlfriend gets jealous, etc. but when Yasue finds out about Ken's life of crime, she refuses to see him again. Point blank.

Can "The Knife" escape his past and become a changed man? Does he really want to? You'll have to watch the movie and find out.

Personally, I loved this film.

There will undoubtedly be some critics out there who call it mindless, sentimental rubbish, or "not essential Ozu". It's a facsimile film made by a 26 year old man who was (at that age) infatuated with Western culture, particularly Hollywood American culture. The characters lack all but the most obvious depth. The world of the story is not realistic -- this is pure cinematic pastiche.
The decor of Walk Cheerfully, the automobiles, buildings, typewriters, golf players, trumpets, hotels, original posters of foreign films and of boxing. guns, phonographs, English scribblings on the wall, the humorous greetings inspired by Harold Lloyd's The Freshman (1925) etc, constituted an "American-like" world, far from the Japanese reality and probably far from any reality in 1930.
Walk Cheerfully is not The Godfather. It's not a character study. There's a scene where Ken displays his intellectual superiority -- not by giving sage advice like "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer" -- but by simply telling everyone to calm down, he needs time to think. It's that basic sometimes, and yet it works. It's fun. The film never tries for more than it can handle.

(Hiroko Kawasaki, Nobuko Matsuzono, and Minoru Takada in Walk Cheerfully)

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The acting performances range from serviceable to pretty good. Minoru Takada presents a likeable, believable Kenji the Knife, except for the parts where he's asked to show greater range, and then you can see him struggle. Hiroko Kawasaki makes a fine Yasue, the good girl he falls in love with. I was particularly impressed with her performance in this scene near the end of the film:

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More often than not, Ken's friend Hisao Yoshitani, playing Senko, steals the show. You can even call this a tearjerker buddy comedy at times.

(Minoru Takada and Hisao Yoshitani in Walk Cheerfully)

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There were two times I got emotional watching this picture, and for two entirely different reasons. The first was during the opening sequence, when Ozu uses a very stylish dolly shot as the camera moves back, revealing one car neatly after another, until it stops, and then a mob starts chasing a man in the opposite direction. You just know after watching that, you are in the hands of a great filmmaker. When the plot in the middle does get occasionally thin at times, Ozu compensates with incredible visual storytelling -- far from the static domestic shots and tatami floor angles he's famous for later in his career, Walk Cheerfully contains a myriad of dolly shots, tracking shots, high angles, low angles, zooms (both in and out), fades, all of it, combined with artful storytelling that tricked me (but in delightful ways) on more than a few occasions. While not perfect and at times gratuitous or even insecure, this film nevertheless has a way of disarming you, keeping you guessing, and before you know it you really care for the characters, so that the overly emotional ending feels just right. All the tears and smiles felt earned.

Altogether, Walk Cheerfully was a thoroughly likeable, enjoyable, kindhearted film. It's not an unqualified masterpiece like Tokyo Story or Late Spring, but it's been described as Ozu's most "fun" film and can be appreciated as much lighter fare.

RECOMMENDED

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#829 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun May 06, 2018 12:13 pm

Perhaps Lady and the Beard is Ozu's most purely humorous film (closest to slapstick farce), at least of the complete surviving films. But Walk Cheerfully is (I think) the most purely visually playful. It really is a delight, for one reason or another, from start to finish.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#830 Post by FilmSnob » Sun May 06, 2018 3:14 pm

I haven't watched The Lady and the Beard yet, but it's coming up soon. Just doing the chronological thing right now and watched I Flunked, But ... last night. Felt much more like a dull sitcom than a film to me. It was nice to see Kinuyo Tanaka and the Tokkan Kozô kid, but otherwise I just didn't see much humor.

Not that Ozu isn't capable of being funny, because I've found all kinds of humor in Days of Youth, Walk Cheerfully, as well as both Late Spring and Tokyo Story. But some of these other early nonsense comedies have really missed the mark for me.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#831 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun May 06, 2018 4:12 pm

I think the nonsense comedies have a level of silliness inspired by American slapstick comedies (some of them quite forgotten now -- as well as classics like Lloyd and Chaplin) that either don't work or require one to adopt a more old-fashioned mindset. ;-)

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#832 Post by perkizitore » Fri Dec 21, 2018 8:22 pm

Are the rights for End of Summer still with Artificial Eye? I was wondering why the BFI skipped this and some other titles. It is also disappointing that Tokyo Twilight and Early Spring were relegated to DVD, but I guess that's an extra incentive to pick up the expensive Japanese BDs.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#833 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:21 pm

It looks like BFI has lost all interest in further Ozu releases and the person who had shepherded the series is long gone from BFI.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#834 Post by rapta » Sat Dec 22, 2018 11:58 am

Perhaps Criterion or Arrow will pick this up in the near future for a big box set effort. The BFI had a good try but they fumbled it a little by releasing them one by one rather than a big box set - I fear it was just a casualty of bad timing more than negligence, though. Similar to how Naruse was put out on DVD by both BFI and Eureka, and now both labels are somewhat discouraged from releasing any Naruse in HD.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#835 Post by reaky » Sun Dec 23, 2018 5:16 am

Anyone in the UK near a Fopp could have a bash at putting together their own BFI Ozu set right now, as they’re all on sale for £6 each.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#836 Post by rapta » Tue Feb 04, 2020 1:04 pm

Two new Ozu releases from BFI confirmed:

The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice (Dual Format Edition) - May 18th
Tokyo Story (4K Restored Blu-ray Edition) - June 15th

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#837 Post by What A Disgrace » Tue Feb 04, 2020 1:36 pm

What does a guy have to do to get his Blu-ray of Early Summer.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#838 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 04, 2020 1:44 pm

I'm guessing The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice is also the 4k restoration Criterion used? Interested to see if there are any different enticing extras considering Criterion's great edition.

Has Early Summer had a recent restoration? Probably my third favorite Ozu, and the first two have perfect blu-ray releases so I'm with you on wishing for that next

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#839 Post by Cash Flagg » Tue Feb 04, 2020 2:31 pm

Extremely disappointing that they (apparently) couldn’t at least include one of the orphaned films in SD with Green Tea. I wonder if Toda has been dropped from the Tokyo Story reissue.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#840 Post by EddieLarkin » Tue Feb 04, 2020 4:14 pm

Anyone know who would be the person to contact at the BFI these days who would be best placed to do something about the audio on the Green Tea release?

I think it's important they're made aware of what Shochiku are touting as the restored soundtrack, because it sounds fucking diabolical. Comparisons can be found at Moshrom's blog.

Consequently the 3 already available Blu-rays of this film are heavily compromised releases. The BFI can solve this issue and be by far the superior release by ditching Shochiku's restored track and using an older one from the DVD releases, or at least offering it as an alternative, like Masters of Cinema did back in the day for Vampyr.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#841 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Feb 04, 2020 6:09 pm

I do have the Shochiku DVD -- alas (besides being unsubbed -- except in Japanese), it doesn't _look_ nearly as good as the new restorations. No excuse for the restorer's botching of the sound, however.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#842 Post by tenia » Wed Feb 05, 2020 11:57 am

A few thoughts about this :
* Tokyo Story : this is likely not to be the same 4K restoration used by Criterion and Carlotta in 2013 but the newer 2017 4K restoration. It does look better than the older restoration and its AQ also sounded better (to my ear).
* The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice : most certainly the 2017 4K restoration. Unfortunately, it's far from being the best of the bunch. It's performed from an IP AND it's clearly been filtered. Early Summer, Early Spring and Tokyo Twilight all offers better PQ than Green Tea (same applies for Tokyo Story) and would have been better choices in this regard. Its AQ is also VERY problematic and here again, other movies would have been better choices. To me, only Tokyo Twilight comes close to this kind of issues, with Early Spring and Early Summer both faring much better (to my ear again).
* Extras : it seems all of the new Amazon product pages pretty much list no detail of the extras. I thus would rule out yet the SD movies will be dropped. It certainly would be a shame for Toda, since it's indeed AFAIK the only easily findable way to see it on disc for occidental viewers.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#843 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Feb 05, 2020 12:01 pm

I have never heard any explanation for why the (apparent) best source for Green Tea is even worse than that for Tokyo Story.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#844 Post by Moshrom » Wed Feb 05, 2020 12:15 pm

tenia wrote:
Wed Feb 05, 2020 11:57 am
* Tokyo Story : this is likely not to be the same 4K restoration used by Criterion and Carlotta in 2013 but the newer 2017 4K restoration. It does look better than the older restoration and its AQ also sounded better (to my ear).
Interesting, this is the first I'm hearing about a 2017 restoration. I'm having trouble finding any information about it on the web - anything you can point me to?

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#845 Post by tenia » Wed Feb 05, 2020 12:24 pm

Green Tea was restored from an IP, Tokyo Story an IN, both in 4K, in 2017 and by Imagica.
My only guess considering this and how they look, is that Green Tea simply was DNRed for some reason, but Tokyo Story hasn't been.
Moshrom wrote:
Wed Feb 05, 2020 12:15 pm
tenia wrote:
Wed Feb 05, 2020 11:57 am
* Tokyo Story : this is likely not to be the same 4K restoration used by Criterion and Carlotta in 2013 but the newer 2017 4K restoration. It does look better than the older restoration and its AQ also sounded better (to my ear).
Interesting, this is the first I'm hearing about a 2017 restoration. I'm having trouble finding any information about it on the web - anything you can point me to?
Here are a few :
http://www.film-foundation.org/cannes-2018
https://www.berlinale.de/en/archive/jah ... filmStills
https://www.imagica.com/e/news/ozu-4k/

It's the restoration included in the Carlotta Ozu 2019 boxset, meaning it's a different source than their 2013 individual release.

EDIT : I forgot I could also sum up the recent restorations :
Late Spring : 4K/2015/Cineric (+ possibly Imagica)/most likely from the same 2 sources used before : IP + 35mm print
Early Summer : 4K/2016/Imagica
The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice : 4K/2017/Imagica/IP
Tokyo Story : 4K/2017/Imagica/IN
Early Spring : 4K/2017/Imagica
Tokyo Twilight : 4K/2017/Imagica
Equinox Flower : 4K-2K/2013/Imagica
Good Morning : 4K-2K/2013/Imagica/OCN
Late Autumn : 4K-2K/2013/Imagica
An Autumn Afternoon : 4K-2K/2013/Imagica/OCN
(all 4 Color restorations look extremely similar, so it's very likely Equinox Flower and Late Autumn were also restored from the OCN since the other 2 were)

Floating Weeds has also been restored, seemingly in 4K but possibly only scanned in 4K and restored in 2K (since it looks similar to the other 4 color movies), and most likely in 2017.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#846 Post by nitin » Wed Feb 05, 2020 9:24 pm

Why was Tokyo Story restored again only a few years later?

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#847 Post by tenia » Thu Feb 06, 2020 3:33 am

I have no definitive clue for this question. I can only guess that Imagica launched this big project of restoring in 4K a bunch of Ozu movies, and they felt Tokyo Story's older restoration could be bettered (which was true, and turned out to be the case) and/or the most renowned Ozu movie should be included to buff the project up.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#848 Post by nitin » Thu Feb 06, 2020 7:13 am

How much better is it in your view? Is it marginal or fairly substantial? I am quite happy with the Criterion blu but if it’s a substantial upgrade, will definitely pick up the BFI.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#849 Post by tenia » Thu Feb 06, 2020 7:59 am

Somewhere in between. I'd say it's slightly better in terms of fine details and delineation, but it's noticeably cleaner and more stable (both in terms of frame stability but also in terms of flicker).
EDIT : I compared the older Carlotta disc (which has an improper sepia tone the Criterion doesn't have but otherwise is similar) to the newer Carlotta disc here. Newer caps are #31 to 35 and the older caps are #36 to 40.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#850 Post by Orlac » Sat Mar 28, 2020 3:44 pm

EddieLarkin wrote:
Tue Feb 04, 2020 4:14 pm
Anyone know who would be the person to contact at the BFI these days who would be best placed to do something about the audio on the Green Tea release?

I think it's important they're made aware of what Shochiku are touting as the restored soundtrack, because it sounds fucking diabolical. Comparisons can be found at Moshrom's blog.

Consequently the 3 already available Blu-rays of this film are heavily compromised releases. The BFI can solve this issue and be by far the superior release by ditching Shochiku's restored track and using an older one from the DVD releases, or at least offering it as an alternative, like Masters of Cinema did back in the day for Vampyr.
Has anyone spoken to the BFI about this?

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