Japanese Story: Special Edition (2003)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Inside Japanese Story: Q&A Session With Filmmakers
Deleted Scenes-With Optional FilmmakersCommentary
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Trailer-The Rage In Placid Lake, I'm With Lucy, Facing Windows
Trailer-Plots With A View
|Year Of Production||2003|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Sue Brooks|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Japanese Story is a film which has been on my list of 'must see' films for some time and I was very pleased to get the chance to review this disc when the reviewer of the rental version decided to not exercise her claim over this (thanks, Mirella). Her review of the rental disc can be found here.
I think it is interesting that this disc should be reviewed by both a male and a female here at MichaelDVD, as I believe this film has been made from a woman's perspective and takes a less narrative focused and more emotion focused approach than a male filmmaker would perhaps have done with similar material. I do not mean this statement in any way to be derogatory of the film or a woman's approach to filmmaking and I am certainly not suggesting that this should be dismissed as a 'chick flick'. This is a powerful, haunting, and atmospheric piece of cinema which focuses on physical attraction, love and loss but does so from the perspective of the female lead, Sandy Edwards (Toni Collette) rather than from a man's perspective as so many films tend to do. Rather than lingering shots of the female form, here we get them of the male lead, Tachibana Hiromitsu (Gotaro Tsunashima) as we follow Sandy's changing attitude from initial irritation to attraction, despite their many differences. It should be noted that the main creative trio who worked on this film, director Sue Brooks, writer Alison Tilson and producer Sue Maslin are all women.
The plot follows Sandy, a Perth based geologist, as she meets Hiromitsu-san, a potential client of Sandy's software partnership with Bill Baird (Matthew Dyktynski). Baird has agreed that Sandy will help Hiromitsu see some parts of the Pilbara region, especially the mining operations of BHP. Sandy is not pleased that Bill has agreed for her to do this, but sets off to Port Hedland regardless. Once they meet at the airport their relationship immediately gets off to a bad start as she unknowingly insults him by putting his business card in her back pocket (a major insult to many Asian cultures) and he assumes that she is just a driver rather than a professional. Slowly as they get to know each other, and experience the risks of the Australian desert together, they begin to be attracted to one another. I will not continue to describe the plot of this film as that would spoil it for you.
The cinematography by Ian Baker is excellent and really captures the harsh reality of the Pilbara and surrounding desert regions. Although it may seem to be a little washed out, this is the true nature of this area and the harsh sunlight which bathes it. Another factor which really adds significantly to this film is the beautiful, haunting and mesmerising score by Elizabeth Drake. Over the concluding twenty minutes of the film the music tells more of the story than the dialogue does. The acting by the leads is excellent throughout, from Collette's emotional range to Tsunashima's uncanny acting in certain scenes (which I cannot elaborate on without spoiling the plot).
If you are very keen on tight and intricate plotting this film may not be for you, but as an example of how cinema can get across emotions and feelings through strong performances, beautiful photography and exquisite music, this film is a winner.
The video quality is very good. I did not experience the same issues with this film as were experienced by Mirella in her review of the rental version.
The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.
The picture was generally clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise, although the sharpness was affected the desert locations, especially the backgrounds due to heat haze and possibly also by the transfer being compressed onto one layer. I do not consider this slight softness to be a big issue. There was some light grain throughout, probably caused by the MPEG compression. The shadow detail was very good but not used very often.
The colour was excellent and really gets across the great natural beauty and harshness of this remote area of Australia.
The only artefacts I noticed were very occasional film artefacts, maybe 3 or 4 in the entire film.
The only subtitles are burnt in ones for the Japanese language used during the film. There are no subtitle streams.
There is no layer change as the film fills one layer of the disc.
The audio quality is excellent and completely in keeping with the nature of the film.
This DVD contains one audio option, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s.
Dialogue was clear and easy to understand , although by necessity due to the nature of his character, Gotaro Tsunashima's dialogue can be a little difficult to understand, however this is no fault of the audio transfer.
The score of this film by Elizabeth Drake, as mentioned above, is excellent and very evocative of both the landscape and the haunting and poetic nature of the film.
The surround speakers added some nicely integrated effects and atmosphere as required. This is not a film which requires an incredible array of surround effects, however, what is needed is well done.
The subwoofer was used to add significant depth to the noises of mining, machinery and explosions.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu is excellent, atmospheric and includes the wonderful score and footage from the film. From a functional perspective, it is well designed.
This is a live question and answer session filmed with an audience in Dec 2003 at Federation Square in Melbourne (quite possibly the ugliest building in the known Universe!). Answering the questions are the main three creative crew members, director Sue Brooks, writer Alison Tilson and producer Sue Maslin. Topics covered include project development, production, casting, selling the idea, difficulties of filming in the remote areas and cultural issues both within the film and understanding issues with international audiences. The discussion is interesting, however, the feature is quite boring visually as it is basically just the three women on a couch. Presented 16x9 enhanced.
An interesting and illuminating commentary which covers many different topics including the Pilbara, character details and motivations, Japanese cultural issues, how they thought audiences would react, how the actors worked together, cuts they made for the US version (not for censorship reasons), difficulties of working in the desert (especially the magnetic dust) and various musings on the film itself and small details which audiences may miss. Occasionally, they are guilty of watching the film which leads to some pauses but generally this is a good commentary track.
This deleted scene is an interview between Sandy Edwards and an investigator. Optional commentary explaining why the scene was cut is available. While watching the film, I did wonder why a scene such as this was not included, however, I understand why it was not. Presented in 4x3 letterboxed widescreen.
A good quality trailer which introduces the film well. Presented in 4x3.
Text biographies and filmographies of the major cast and crew presented 16x9 enhanced.
10 stills from the film in 16x9 widescreen.
Trailers for Rage in Placid Lake, I'm with Lucy, Facing Windows and Plots with a View.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 version of this disc includes the complete version of the film, whereas the Region 1 version is cut as mentioned in the commentary. As the Region 1 includes 4 extra deleted scenes, I would assume these are the bits cut from the film itself. The Region 2 version includes a DTS soundtrack which according to reviews is better than the Dolby Digital one and also includes the complete version of the film and the same extras.
Based upon the above, the Region 2 wins, assuming you have DTS capability. Otherwise, the local release is perfectly acceptable.
The video quality is very good.
The audio quality is excellent.
The disc has a good selection of extras.
|DVD||Pioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output|
|Display||Sony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Bose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)|