Vengeance Is Mine Blu-ray Review
PictureVengeance is Mine comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p resolution encoded using the AVC codec and framed within a theatrically correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Unfortunately the disc itself is locked to region B.
A clear selling point of this disc is the effort Eureka have put into restoration work for this transfer and it shows. It has never been the most three dimensional image and previous DVD releases have been at either ends of the scale, either looking boosted or flat -this sits somewhere comfortably in between. Neutrality has been prioritised and the result is still muted in terms of palette but there is definitely extra detail evident. It doesn't completely trump the Criterion release, strangely there appears to be some scenes where the DVD still holds its own, but fine texture detail in well lit scenes are much improved thanks to the extra resolution.
There remain problems though, the darkened shots still appear flat and suck any semblance of dimensionality and detail from the frame. Blacks are closer to the greyer end of the scale and the resulting wash of shadow, low in detail, can be quite off-putting. Thankfully when sufficient light is apparent the outcome is an image with noticeable fine detail in clothing and the like and a good sense of depth. The palette as mentioned previously is muted but primary colours in signs and the like cut through this drained visage with good colour fidelity. Skin tones hold true, with only the standard model of making up characters in Asian cinema to look older than their years, as seen on Rentaro Mikuni, being in any way out of keeping with the other characters' flesh tones.
This was never going to be perfect, but the restoration work to rid the print of major unsightly debris and scratches looks to have been a success. There are still scenes that can't be dragged up to Blu-ray standards in terms of detail, but it is hard to imagine there is much that can be done with these moments. It is arguably the most naturalistic the film has looked and it holds up well even when projected.
SoundThere is only one track available on the disc, that being English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.
Those hoping for modernistic miracles from the monaural mix won't find anything beyond a good clean presentation of the original audio. Ikebe Shinichiro's jazz tinged score is arguably the main beneficiary of the move up to a lossless sound format. Instruments are about as dynamic as one could hope for a sub-less arrangement and they fill the front soundstage well, bringing a sense of width to the mix that is lacking during times of speech. As with any film that concerns itself with more contemplative subject material, there are large periods spent in silence or low noise. This leaves little to be actually rated, but the good news is the absences during these thoughtful moments of annoying pops or hissing that so often mar aged cinematic releases on home formats (though 1979 seems recent, the condition of the print in recent iterations shows it not to have necessarily been well cared for).
Some of the speech is a touch shrill and bordering on the tinny, but generally it holds up well. Even though this is a 2.0 mix, there is still room for some elements of subtlety, but overall what you're getting is a clean and clear representation of what was there to begin with.
Unfortunately, with this being a promo disc I am unable to rate the quality of the accompanying printed material. However, going by prior releases the 56 page book “featuring a lengthy 1994 career-spanning interview with Imamura by Tôichi Nakata; original promotional material; and a director's statement” should be well worth a read.
Introduction by Alex Cox - 1080i - 6:36
Filmed exclusively in Liverpool in 2005 for the Masters of Cinema series, this covers all the key aspects of the film and works as both a handy refresher of the most salient points as well as an interesting insight into how another filmmaker analyses Imamura's vision.
Commentary by Tony Rayns
London based filmmaker, critic and festival programmer Rayns is known for his encyclopaedic knowledge of East Asian cinema. The track is a little dry in places, but all the meaty issues, symbolism and Imamura's techniques are unwound and explained (where possible) in a manner that makes the track accessible and absorbing for newcomers and fans alike.
Original Japanese teaser - 1080p - 3:02
It's always intriguing to see how a film from another era and continent was marketed to its public. There are also a couple of shots interspersed that were not seen in the film, though they are of a blink-and-you'll miss-it variety.
Original Japanese trailer - 1080p - 3:01
Much like the teaser, just with different shots used.
Play film without subtitles
Not exactly an extra, but it's worth listing for those able to speak Japanese or Imamura fans desperate not to have to see writing on the screen.
VerdictVengeance is Mine is an engrossing and powerful depiction of a sociopath and the havoc he wreaks on the lives that he touches. It is not only of interest to those keen to view films from the Japanese New Wave of cinema but also those who are interested in the link between the old and the new, with Imamura having learnt under Ozu and himself taken Takashi Miike as a student. It is a link between two generations and a compelling piece of cinema.
The disc shows us a good example of a restoration, with the image being clean (within reason) and free from boosting. The sound won't thrill but is an adequate reproduction of the monaural mix that nitpickers might argue doesn't warrant a lossless format, but it's always nice to see it used on a high capacity storage medium such as Blu-ray. The extras are brief in terms of footage/featurettes but the information packed and authoritative commentary more than make up for that shortfall.
Another “must have” for high def fans of East Asian cinema.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £22.99
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