Kids Return Blu-ray Review
The circles of life
Movies reviewSRP: £13.99
Kids Return was Takeshi Kitano's sixth film, marking his return to filmmaking following on from a near-fatal crash two years earlier.Remaining behind the camera, the writer/director/editor (and commonly main star) would fashion a curious, offbeat drama which is at once steeped in cynicism, yet also dusted with hope. The narrative follows two high-school kids whose increasingly rebellious behaviour leads them down two very different paths - the suburbian milieu seeing their anger and repression manifesting in various forms; everything from amateur sports to organised crime. Despite watching the fates of their respective predecessors - and the almost endless cycle of failure that seemingly predetermines their fate, the kids keep trying; keep hoping, eventually returning to where they came from to reflect on where they've been.Kitano's period of reflection and melancholia is evident and understandable given everything that had befallen him just two years prior to 1996's Kids Return, adding personal weight to the contemplative account of the lives of these teen drop-outs. At once able to capture the hopes and moods of their teen years, he effortlessly and fluidly crafts a non-linear exploration of dashed dreams and rather natural, after-the-fact maturity. With an outstanding score by Kitano's go-to collaborator Joe Hisaishi playing a part of its very own in the mood and tone of the piece, once again Kitano's distinctive filmmaking style gives the movie its own identity, establishing it as another solid entry in his oeuvre.
Picture QualityThird Window Films does another stand-up job with this, their fifth (and hopefully not last) Kitano back-catalogue release, with the 2K restoration work done courtesy of the director's own Office Kitano production company. Presented in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, the 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation leaves this feature looking better than it has ever done before - much like the previous Kitano titles.
Another Kitano 2K restoration looking better than it has ever done before
Of course the twenty year vintage, and limited, almost non-existent budget, leaves it far from demo material, but the picture has been impressively cleaned up, boasting strong detail and a nice texture, as well as a suitably fine layer of natural grain. Certainly scenes look far better than others - mostly to do with the way they were shot and the lighting - which is best exemplified during the brief, bright, vibrant and clean boxing matches; juxtaposed with the dull, almost misty, dressing room shots. Darker night sequences suffer worst of everything, but still look better than ever, cementing the impressive job that has been done with the material.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track has - much like the majority of Kitano's collaborations with the great composer - one standout facet: Joe Hisashi's tremendous score. Overall, it's a solid piece, also contending with the vintage of the material as well as the budget and shooting restrictions, but excelling when it comes to the treatment of such a distinctive feature.
The track has one standout facet: the tremendous score
Dialogue, in the original Japanese, is firmly prioritised across the frontal array (as with the rest of the elements), whilst effects are given precious little room to breathe for all the aforementioned reasons. Gunshots seldom ring out, body blows don't have that same weight of impact, but the muted representation is only what is to be expected, and can largely be forgiven, particularly with the encouragement of Hisashi's excellent score. The score, whilst carrying some very dated twangs around the edges, is arguably an integral character in the proceedings, conveying mood and sentiment - and hope - where the narrative itself leaves things far more ambiguous and even often downbeat.
ExtrasKids Return benefits from two strong extra features - a Making-Of Featurette looking behind the production, and an excellent Audio Commentary by film scholar Aaron Gerow, who lends some input into the themes and ideas behind Kitano's work, giving it added resonance. The Blu-ray also comes with another great little slipcover in-line with the previous Kitano releases that Third Window have delivered, with similarly impressive, newly-commission artwork.
VerdictAnother solid entry in writer/director/editor (and normally lead actor) Takeshi Kitano's oeuvre
Marking Third Window Film's fifth and final (at least, insofar as have been announced) release from Kitano's back catalogue, Kids Return is another rare and little-seen gem that Kitano fans should lap up, given quality treatment courtesy of both Third Window and Office Kitano themselves, who did the 2K restoration work. It looks and sounds better than ever, and features two very worthy, strong extra features, leaving it a solid way to conclude Third Window's Kitano run. Now let's hope they get hold of Kitano's early - and arguably best - gangster classic Sonatine (made more hopeful now that his acting debut, Violent Cop, has just made its US Blu-ray bow).
You can buy Kid's Return on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £13.99
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