Himizu (2011)

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Released 2-Jan-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Eastern Eye trailers x 4
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 124:50 (Case: 129)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Shion Sono
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Shôta Sometani
Fumi Nikaidô
Tetsu Watanabe
Mitsuru Fukikoshi
Megumi Kagurazaka
Ken Mitsuishi
Makiko Watanabe
Asuka Kurosawa
Denden
Jun Murakami
Yôsuke Kubozuka
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Tomohide Harada


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

“Don’t give up!”

     Life in the areas of Japan devastated by the 2011 tsunami is not easy. People have lost their will, society values have been corrupted and there are random acts of violence in the city. Fourteen year old Yuichi (Shota Sometani) just wants to be ordinary and live his life unnoticed like a “himizu” (the Japanese for a mole). It is a wish unlikely to be fulfilled: he lives with his alcoholic mother in a shack, running a boat rental business when he is not at school. A number of people whose houses were destroyed by the tsunami are camping on the property including an elderly businessman, a young couple and various displaced men. Yuichi’s father (Ken Mitsuishi) is absent, but returns periodically to demand money and to beat Yuichi. He is a violent and brutal man, who tells Yuichi that he wishes the boy were dead; the father also owes a considerable sum to the local Yakuza boss.

     Keiko (Fumi Nikaidou) is from a wealthy family and is in the same school class as Yuichi. Yet her family life is equally unhappy; her parents do not want her and are erecting a gallows in the family home expecting Keiko to commit suicide. At school, Keiko is obsessed with Yuichi; she stalks him and collects his words, which she copies onto butcher’s paper and sticks onto her bedroom walls. Yuichi is annoyed by her presence and tries to ignore her.

     When Yuichi’s mother suddenly packs up and leaves, he starts to miss school to run the business. Keiko is determined to help, printing advertising bills and working in the business whether Yuichi wants her there or not. Life is further complicated for Yuichi by a visit from the yakuza, who want the money his father owes, and administer a beating while they are there. Yuichi’s father also returns every few days, demanding money and assaulting Yuichi. Pushed too far, Yuichi kills his father and buries the body. The future for Yuichi is bleak: he swings between depression, contemplating suicide, and violence, taking a knife into the city and intending to help society by killing bad people. Yet, even in his despair, there are people who are trying to help him, if only he would become less self-absorbed and let them.

     Himizu is based upon the manga by Minoru Furuya that was originally published prior to the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011. However, writer / director Sono Sion changed the setting of his script until after the events to excellent effect, as the devastation becomes an effective metaphor for the breakdown of values within Japanese society. Sono is an important director with a compelling, but bleak, world view displayed in such films as Suicide Club (2001), Cold Fish (2010) , Guilty of Romance (2011) or, to a lesser extent, the no less interesting Love Exposure (2005). Himizu is certainly bleak, nihilistic and anarchic, but ultimately comes down on the side of the life affirming “don’t give up”, the repeated refrain which ends the film.

     In Himizu it is clear that the youth are the hope for a changed future, and the only question is whether some of them will be able to rise above the faults of their elders. While the parents, and families, shown in Himizu are dysfunctional, support for Yuichi comes from some very unlikely and unexpected sources, not only Keiko, although she is the heart of the film. Keiko is the positive force; she is enthusiastic and idealistic, she collects and uses words as a mantra although clearly she too has an almost unhealthy obsession with Yuichi. She is the one with most of the important dialogue in the film and in the role Fumi Nikaidou is wonderful, her need palpable, her eyes expressive, her dialogue delivered with the assuredness of a veteran actor. Yuichi is a much less expressive character but Shota Sometani gives him a wonderful depth amid the stillness. The two together are wonderful contrasts, believable and very effective.

     Himizu looks beautiful with long lingering takes and pans over the tsunami devastated landscape, but it includes sharp brutal action courtesy of action director Tak Sakaguchi, an actor / director in his own right, known for such films as Death Trance (2005) and Yakuza Weapon (2011). Himizu is a film that says a lot about a breakdown of values across all levels of the society within its 120 minute running time. Keiko’s parents are rich and live in a huge house, Yuichi lives in a shack, but their parents equally would like them dead, and violence is endemic. Indeed, most humanity in the film comes from those who have lost everything in the tsunami, the group who camp around the boat shed who have been stripped down to nothing. And, in the end, Sono diverges from the original manga to come up with a positive, and life affirming, conclusion.

     Himizu is a beautiful, intense, bold and powerful film that will stay in the memory; a must see for fans of Sono or anyone remotely interested in quality World Cinema.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Himizu is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is a print with generally muted colours, reflecting life in post-tsunami Japan. There is a lot of rain about, the skies cloudy and gloomy, the water grey. However blacks are good and the lights of the boat hire shack after dark shine brightly. Close-up detail is good, but otherwise detail is on the soft side. In some scenes, especially with light sources behind the character, brightness and contrast does vary, and some scenes come over as quite glary. However, it is never an issue, instead giving a disorienting feeling in keeping with the tone of the film.

     Other than some minor aliasing on vertical surfaces, and some ghosting with motion, artefacts were absent. There was a fair amount of shimmering with the end titles.

     The layer change at 105:32 was in the middle of a scene and resulted in a slight pause.

     English subtitles are in an easy to read yellow font. They seemed to be timely and I did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors.

     A good print, reflecting the mood of the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps.

     Dialogue was clear and centred. The surrounds were constantly in use for effects, such as rain and insects, and the music. However, the most impressive part of the sound design was the rumble of the tsunami used in scenes of stress and tension to reflect the dislocation of the characters. Other effects used include the pounding of a heart beat and the clicking of a radiation counter. The subwoofer is used very aggressively adding to the rumble of the tsunami, the weather sounds and some other atonal effects. At times the bass filled the room and was almost overpowering, which was the point.

     The music by Tomohide Harada was good and it was supported by classical music including Mozart which added gravitas to the visuals.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

     The audio track was excellent.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Making Of (72:50)

     A long on set video diary with raw behind the scenes footage and interviews. It is really an extensive look at the working methods of director Sono Sion, including his limited rehearsals, redoing takes, adapting the manga to include the tsunami and the possible endings. There is no narration, but text captions provide information. The only problem is that the people interviewed are not identified – some are obvious such as the director and leads, others less so. Long, but interesting, and almost everyone smokes constantly!

Theatrical Trailer (2:05)

Eastern Eye Trailers

     Trailers for Smuggler (1:42), Love Exposure (2:12), Crows Zero (1:42) and Gantz 1 & 2 Collection (1:38).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There does not seem to be a Region 1 US version of Himizu at present. The Region 2 UK two disc release includes the trailer, the making-of we have and adds deleted scenes (27 min) and an interview with actor Denden (20 min). The Japanese Region 2 “Collector’s Edition” includes the making of, interviews, stage events and cast profile. The feature has English subtitles, but I am unsure about the extras.

     The Region 2 UK release would have the edge due to the additional extras, however our Region 4 version at least has the major extra, the extensive making of.

Summary

     Set in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan, Himizu is certainly nihilistic and anarchic but ultimately comes down on the side of the life affirming “don’t give up”. Himizu is a beautiful, bold, intense and powerful film by an important director; a must see for any fan of Sono or anyone remotely interested in quality World Cinema.

     The video is good, the audio excellent. The extras include the extensive making of available in the UK but miss out on the other extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, April 05, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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