PictureAlone Across the Pacific wings its way onto DVD with an anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 aspect ratio. For a film of this age it fares very well. Once you factor in the niche value of it to many a Western audience, then the transfer must be considered excellent. The usual wear and tear that one associates with such an aged piece is minimal. Specks of dirt, dust and hairs are all but gone - obviously I lack the time to go through it frame by frame but the most important part is that not once did I visibly pick out a specific flaw that jarred my viewing experience. Whatever the minds behind this new transfer have done, they have done well.
The colours, though muted, are sharp and avoid signs of bleeding. Though the palette may appear muted, the appearance later on of a few vivid shots proves this to be an entirely artistic decision and it pays off. The almost monotone nature of life in Japan for this young man is oppressive and bland, whilst the richness of the sunsets and oceanic views he is treated to are anything but plain. Of particular note is the sheer boldness of the deep red cushion Kenichi's sister gives to him as a parting gift before his voyage begins.
Grain is very consistent with only a few exceptions, notably when only viewing clouds it can look a tad excessive but these minor instances are the exceptions rather than the rule. Similarly, the occasional dark scene shows up some flickering and waves across the screen but once again, these only seem to show up a few times during the entire film and only with particular types of shots - those where these effects were more pronounced tended to be stock footage of a vista such as The Golden Gate Bridge by nightfall.
These small instances though are far outweighed by the clean print, strong colours, detail, depth and flesh tones presented to us.
SoundWhilst an image can be cleaned and restored to something approximating its former glory, I'm afraid a mono track will never truly be anything more than two speakers worth of sound. There seems to have been some work done on this as well though as it is nicely free for the most part from the pops and hiss oft associated with films of the era on DVD. Little more can truly be said - it is flat and obviously front sound stage oriented, but what more could one have expected? It performs its function well and is clear. Dialogue seems crisp but my lack of the ability to speak Japanese probably precludes me from saying how well it performs with the minutiae of different pronunciations.
A perfunctory track that does what is needed - relating what is on screen without any major distractions.
ExtrasJapanese Trailer - 3:43
Self explanatory, but for those who enjoy period trailers (I include myself in this group) this is nice to see.
Teaser #1 - 2:46
A “coming soon” teaser that was sure to whet the appetites of the Japanese cinema going public. In the present day it comes across more as a promo with the added bonus of a Pan Am airlines advert tacked onto the end.
Teaser #2 - 1:38
The consistent theme of the two teasers is the lure of an aspirational film for young Japanese. This one pushes the boat out (pun intended) a touch further and seemingly tries to bill this as more of a rebel piece, using all the angry lines (of which there aren't many, even if they could be considered as such) to create a brooding atmosphere.
24 page booklet
In such a time of digital extras, I was pleased to see an actual booklet still being released. Perhaps it was purely a financial move but I can only applaud it either way. It consists of a colour reproduction of the original poster for its cover, archival publicity stills, a small piece about leading actor Yujiro Ishihara as well as an essay by Brent Kliewer (professor at College of Santa Fe) on the film itself. The whole booklet seems well laid out and even goes so far as to clarify the way in which Japanese names are used, which title they chose to use for this release and how to correctly view an anamorphically enhanced DVD. It isn't the most in-depth booklet but as an added extra, for a film that I was fairly sure would have none, it is a bonus.
In total, this was never going to have a Lord of the Rings style package and I'm not even sure how much extra footage even exists for this title. A couple of trailers/teasers and a booklet is about all one could expect but at least it feels like they've tried to put together what was available. I'd far rather have this than be confronted by the same material stretched over a few talking heads and repeated in several EPKs.
VerdictThe film itself is stunning. I've read numerous reviews and articles that all seem to praise but add a caveat of a question regarding its status as a great piece of cinema. For me, this ranks right up there as a truly wonderful vision of the duality of man - both simple in his aspirations yet patently complex in nature. There are levels to this story that can be read by the audience and scrutinised if the viewer chooses to do so. Is it a tale of aspiration, the force of the sea, defeating what seem to be unassailable obstacles, an insight into the generation gap in post war Japanese society, a diatribe on the stifling rules of the country or the family units within or even just a postcard from the edge of the world and a study in human psychology and mental wellbeing? In truth, it can stand as all these aforementioned highlights and more so besides. It is intensely spiritual when viewed as a whole and the essence of this is never far away from being demonstrated but this is very much a case of the sum total being greater than the constituent parts. It holds together perfectly, through minimal script and expert direction coupled with a profoundly believable leading man, this has a cohesion to it that makes for a satisfying viewing experience.
The picture, from a new transfer, is clean and only serves to heighten what was already a moving experience. The added bonus is that the colours really brighten the screen when called to do so, making the central character's elation at his freedom that bit more captivating for an audience unable to actually take in the real air of the Pacific Ocean. Sound is less stellar but ably serves in the best way it can, being clear with no obvious problems. The extras fall somewhere in between these two extremes, being functional but with just an extra touch of thought placed in the form of the booklet.
Overall, the main draw here is undoubtedly the film itself. Even if you have no knowledge of Japanese cinema or the works of Kon Ichikawa, I would strongly recommend you at least watch this once. It contains everything a great film should have - thought behind it, craft in making it and a message to be gleaned from it.
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