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Onibaba: Criterion Collection Region 1 DVD review

Discussion in 'Movie Forum' started by Phil Hinton, Apr 29, 2004.

  1. Phil Hinton

    Phil Hinton
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    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="0" BGCOLOR="#800000" ALIGN="CENTER"><TR><TD WIDTH="40">&nbsp;</TD><TD STYLE='font-size: 18px; color: white; text-align: center '>ONIBABA: CRITERION COLLECTION</TD><TD WIDTH="40"></TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="0" BGCOLOR="#800000" ALIGN="CENTER"><TR><TD WIDTH="120"><TD><TD STYLE='font-size: 10px; color: white; text-align: center'>Reviewed April 2004 by Richard Hardbattle.</TD><TD WIDTH="120" STYLE='font-size: 10px; color: white; text-align: right'>

    </TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2" ALIGN="CENTER"><TR><TD COLSPAN="2" VALIGN="TOP"><IMG SRC="http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/Onibaba/OnibabaR1.jpg" ALT="ONIBABA: CRITERION COLLECTION" ALIGN="RIGHT"><B>ONIBABA (1964)<B><TABLE BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2"><TR><TD WIDTH="65" VALIGN="TOP" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Genres</TD><TD STYLE="font-size: 10px"><A HREF="http://www.dvdworldmag.com/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=exact&searchfield=genre&search_for=DRAMA">DRAMA</A>, <A HREF="http://www.dvdworldmag.com/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=exact&searchfield=genre&search_for=HORROR">HORROR</A></TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2"><TR><TD WIDTH="65" VALIGN="TOP" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Director</TD><TD STYLE="font-size: 10px"><A HREF="http://www.dvdworldmag.com/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=director&search_for=KANETO SHINDô">KANETO SHINDô</A></TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2"><TR><TD WIDTH="65" VALIGN="TOP" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Stars</TD><TD STYLE="font-size: 10px"><A HREF="http://www.dvdworldmag.com/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=NOBUKO OTOWA">NOBUKO OTOWA</A>, <A HREF="http://www.dvdworldmag.com/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=JITSUKO YOSHIMURA">JITSUKO YOSHIMURA</A>, <A HREF="http://www.dvdworldmag.com/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=KEI SATO">KEI SATO</A>, <A HREF="http://www.dvdworldmag.com/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=JUKICHI UNO">JUKICHI UNO</A>, <A HREF="http://www.dvdworldmag.com/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=TAIJI TONOYAMA">TAIJI TONOYAMA</A></TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2"><TR><TD WIDTH="65" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Region</TD><TD STYLE="font-size: 10px"><B>1</B> <FONT STYLE="font-size: 10px">USA</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN="TOP" WIDTH="65" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Supplier</TD><TD><FONT STYLE="font-size: 10px">Criterion. Released Tuesday 16th March 2004</FONT></TD></TR>
    <TR><TD VALIGN="TOP" WIDTH="65" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Price</TD><TD><FONT STYLE="font-size: 10px">29.95</FONT></TD></TR>
    <TR><TD VALIGN="TOP" WIDTH="65" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Discs</TD><TD><FONT STYLE="font-size: 10px">1</FONT></TD></TR>
    <TR><TD VALIGN="TOP" WIDTH="65" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Format</TD><TD><FONT STYLE="font-size: 10px">DVD 9</FONT></TD></TR>
    <TR><TD VALIGN="TOP" WIDTH="65" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Time</TD><TD><FONT STYLE="font-size: 10px">103 mins.</FONT></TD></TR>
    <TR><TD VALIGN="TOP" WIDTH="65" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Chapters</TD><TD><FONT STYLE="font-size: 10px">20</FONT></TD></TR>
    </TABLE><TABLE BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2"><TR><TD WIDTH="65" VALIGN="TOP" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Picture</TD><TD STYLE="font-size: 10px">Anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1&nbsp;</TD>
    </TR></TABLE><TABLE BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2"><TR><TD WIDTH="65" VALIGN="TOP" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Sound</TD><TD STYLE="font-size: 10px">Japanese DD 1.1</TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2"><TR><TD WIDTH="65" VALIGN="TOP" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Subtitles</TD><TD STYLE="font-size: 10px">English</TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2"><TR><TD WIDTH="65" VALIGN="TOP" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Case</TD><TD STYLE="font-size: 10px">Amaray</TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2"><TR><TD WIDTH="65" VALIGN="TOP" STYLE="font-size: 10px">Extras</TD><TD STYLE="font-size: 10px">Video Interview with director<BR>Behind the scenes footage<BR>Stills gallery<BR>Original Trailer<BR>Detailed booklet<BR>Theatrical Trailer</TD></TR></TABLE>
    </TD></TR></TABLE>

    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2" ALIGN="CENTER" BGCOLOR="#800000"><TR><TD WIDTH="100" STYLE="color: white; font-size: 10px"><B>The Movie</B></TD><TD STYLE="color: white; font-size: 10px"><B>8</B></TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2" ALIGN="CENTER"><TR><TD STYLE='text-align: justify; font-size: 10px'><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">Whilst a civil war rages throughout medieval Japan, a young woman and her mother in law await the return of their loved one. Camped out in a hidden, desolate marsh, full of thick, 7 foot high susuki grasses, the two women do what they must for food. </p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">The women chase, trap and eventually murder any lost samurai who are unlucky enough to be wandering through the grasses. The co-conspirators strip the bodies for any belongings of value, and then trade the items for grain. The bodies are disposed of in a deep hole in the ground.</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">Two may well be company, but three is certainly a crowd when an old neighbour, a man called Hachi shows up with bad news about the missing relative. </p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">Lust, jealousy, manipulation and murder hang over this trio like a poisonous cloud, but all is resolved when a cursed demon mask eventually makes an appearance…</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">This is Japanese director Kaneto Shindo’s tenth film, and is a masterpiece. Although most people seem to remember this film as a tale of supernatural terror, it isn’t until the last 20 minutes or so of this film that Shindo moves into that territory that the Japanese know so well. The large bulk of the story plays like a morality tale, and shows just how low people will go to survive. It’s clear from the start that the two women (only known as Woman and Young Woman in the cast listing) are not good people - although driven by hunger, they are murders. Yet by the end of the film, it’s interesting that the audience’s perception of the young woman is now good, and the older woman bad - the fact they are both murders and manipulators has been expertly manipulated by Shindo.</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">Made and released in 1964, and shot in black and white, the film feels ahead of it’s time. The sexual elements of the story are not glossed over, and probably over 20 minutes of the film contains nudity, which at first is surprising considering the age of the movie. These scenes are presented with not so much taste, but in a more “matter of fact” style - in fact, the nudity is a plot point which kicks in when Hachi shows up.</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">The acting is excellent across the board (there are only five speaking parts). Nobuko Otowa and Jitsuko Yoshimura offer subtle, brave performances as the two women, joined by family, but split by jealously. Kei Sato plays Hachi, also a thoroughly dislikeable character, who only has his mind on one thing - bedding the young woman. </p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">The photography by Kiyomi Kuroda is astonishing - full of interesting compositions - striking uses of contrast and perspective make for a dazzling spectacle - especially when you consider the limited number of locations used. He certainly wins the award for “most menacing susuki grass.”</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">Upon watching this film for the first time, I jumped out of my skin about a minute or so into the film as Hikaru Hayashi’s music kicked in. Thoughtful, atmospheric and dynamic, this is a first class score, that is both transparent whilst also being potent enough to creep under you skin…..</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">The supernatural elements of the story are based upon a Buddhist fable called “A Mask with Flesh” which Shindo adapted into the screenplay for Onibaba (you can read a translation of this in the booklet which comes with the film). Its funny how what was originally a highly moral religious story, is twisted by Shindo into something altogether less wholesome. When you watch Onibaba, its noticeable how many modern film makers have been influenced by it. The young woman being chased in this film is shot almost identically to Tobe Hooper classic Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s chase sequence thorough the woods. The whole idea of the mask has been copied countless times, most obviously in Lamberto Bava’s Demons. And then of course, the hole in the ground has been done a few times too, none better than the original Ringu.</p></TD></TR></TABLE>

    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2" ALIGN="CENTER" BGCOLOR="#800000"><TR><TD WIDTH="100" STYLE="color: white; font-size: 10px"><B>Picture</B></TD><TD STYLE="color: white; font-size: 10px"><B>8</B></TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2" ALIGN="CENTER"><TR><TD STYLE='text-align: justify; font-size: 10px'><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">This is a new high-definition digital transfer, and generally is good. This is a black and white film with extremely high contrasting images - normally terrible for showing over processed edge enhancement - well rest easy, this print has hardly any. There is often aliasing on the shots of the constantly moving grass, this kind of image is notoriously difficult to encode, so (maybe) this can be expected.</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">There is print damage visible - the worst instance I have screen captured for you - this only lasts for a few frames, and is as bad as it gets (check it out yourself at 27.55) but as you can see, it is pretty bad. </p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">I also noticed flickering on large sky shots - the image isn’t entirely stable - the greys seemed to fluctuate back and forwards - I viewed this on a 8 foot screen and this was noticeable - what you notice on a smaller display device will depend on your set-up and your eyes….although I can still see the flickering on my LCD monitor - take a look at 35.55 for one example.</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">Despite the above negative comments, I must stress that overall, the picture is very pleasing, especially when you consider that this is an obscure foreign movie, that is 40 years old.</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">The subtitles are player generated - on my player they were white with black edging, and they appear on the film.</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">Special mention should go to the menus of this disc which are a delight - and follow the theme of the packaging.</p></TD></TR></TABLE>
    <P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC="http://www.dvdworldmag.com/cgi-bin/makeimage.php?image=Onibaba/Onibaba_1.jpg" ALT="ONIBABA: CRITERION COLLECTION"></P>

    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2" ALIGN="CENTER" BGCOLOR="#800000"><TR><TD WIDTH="100" STYLE="color: white; font-size: 10px"><B>Sound</B></TD><TD STYLE="color: white; font-size: 10px"><B>7</B></TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2" ALIGN="CENTER"><TR><TD STYLE='text-align: justify; font-size: 10px'><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">The Japanese mono soundtrack is very good. I’m not 100% sure, but I think the voices have been re-recorded - they sound clear, but slightly tinny. The score is extremely effective (even in mono), the low end thunder rumbles will be routed to your sub.</p> </TD></TR></TABLE>
    <P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC="http://www.dvdworldmag.com/cgi-bin/makeimage.php?image=Onibaba/Onibaba_2.jpg" ALT="ONIBABA: CRITERION COLLECTION"></P>

    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2" ALIGN="CENTER" BGCOLOR="#800000"><TR><TD WIDTH="100" STYLE="color: white; font-size: 10px"><B>Extras</B></TD><TD STYLE="color: white; font-size: 10px"><B>7</B></TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2" ALIGN="CENTER"><TR><TD STYLE='text-align: justify; font-size: 10px'><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">The main extra is a video interview (in 16x9) of the director. Kaneto Shindo was in his 90’s when this was recorded last year, but he looks a lot younger and seems to have a far better memory than most people I know! This is a fascinating and worthwhile extra, which provides insight both into the meaning and the making of the film that only the director would know - this last 21 minutes.</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">Also included are 38 minutes of rare super-8 black and white and colour footage provided by the actor Kei Sato (Hachi). This was shot on location during the production of the film, and although silent, it is nonetheless fascinating. This extra is accompanied by pages of notes which are fairly detailed regarding the production of the film - taken together, this is an excellent addition to the disc.</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">A slightly incomplete trailer is also on the disc, along with a comprehensive still gallery, which shows a large number of pre-production art, set designs, sketches, storyboards and promotional artwork for the film.</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">The usual Criterion booklet is included, this time with an interesting essay by Asian film scholar Chuck Stephens, a filmmaker’s statement by the director, and a translation of the original Buddhist fable that inspired the film.</p><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">For such an old, obscure title, I cannot imagine anything else a fan of this movie would either want or expect in terms of extras.</p></TD></TR></TABLE>
    <P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC="http://www.dvdworldmag.com/cgi-bin/makeimage.php?image=Onibaba/Onibaba_3.jpg" ALT="ONIBABA: CRITERION COLLECTION"></P>
    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2" ALIGN="CENTER" BGCOLOR="#800000"><TR><TD WIDTH="100" STYLE="color: white; font-size: 10px"><B>Verdict</B></TD><TD STYLE="color: white; font-size: 10px"><B>8</B></TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2" ALIGN="CENTER"><TR><TD STYLE='text-align: justify; font-size: 10px'><P STYLE="font-size: 10px">Ringu brings us full circle. If you have enjoyed any in the recent splurge of Asian supernatural movies that have been released, like Ringu, Dark Water, The Eye or The Grudge for example, I would recommend giving Onibaba a try. The films I have mentioned above all have one thing in common with Onibaba: they all reek atmosphere.</p>

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    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="2" ALIGN="CENTER" BGCOLOR="#800000"><TR><TD>&nbsp;</TD></TR></TABLE>
    <TABLE WIDTH="100%" BORDER="0" CELLPADDING="0" CELLSPACING="0"><TR><TD ALIGN="CENTER">Review disc provided by <A HREF="http://www.lasersedge.com"><img src="http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/SuppliersLogos/LasersEdgeLogo.jpg" ALIGN="ABSMIDDLE"></TD></TR></TABLE>
     

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