The Idiot (Hakuchi) (1951)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-Early Summer; An Autumn Afternoon; Seven Samarai
Trailer-Taste Of Cherry; The Wind Will Carry Us
|Year Of Production||1951|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (85:14)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Akira Kurosawa|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The Idiot is Akira Kurosawa's adaptation of the Russian novel of the same name by Dostoevsky. In transferring the novel to film for a Japanese audience, Kurosawa set the story on the snow covered island of Hokkaido, in northern Japan.
Kameda (Masayuki Mori) was a soldier sentenced to death, completely resigned to his fate in front of a firing squad. The unthinkable happened however; while waiting to be executed he was granted a pardon literally at the last minute. Understandably, the trauma of the experience disturbed him a bit, in fact it made him mentally withdrawn and slow. It is also said that the disturbing event negated his ability to lie. After some time in an asylum, he begins his return home and crosses paths with Akama (Toshiro Mifune), a street-wise brute who is curious about Kameda's mental state. Together they become embroiled with two women; Ayoko, an innocent and pretty girl with a sharp tongue, and Taeko (Setsuko Hara), an attractive ex-concubine who is now on the market, so to speak. Most of Kameda's acquaintances see his simple demeanour as endearing, however such a chap is open to exploitation, which leads to many amusing social situations.
The two men become smitten by the former concubine, unperturbed by her former occupation, and Kameda forms a deep emotional attachment that causes him to spiral into mental instability once again. Ultimately, a confrontation between the two women sparks a tragedy that will effect both men immeasurably.
While I wouldn't say this is Kurosawa's greatest work, as a dramatic thriller it is certainly compelling viewing. The performances are simply sublime throughout, Mori in particular, but unfortunately the film's flow is a little confusing at times, as explained below. This film is a must for Kurosawa fans.
Kurosawa's initial cut of Hakuchi ran for more than 265 minutes, much to the dismay of the studio, who insisted that the runtime be halved. The version we have here was truncated without Kurosawa's involvement and was released theatrically in Japan. It would appear his original cut has been lost, for now.
For a film that is fifty-five years old, this transfer is as good as one would expect. This is a black and white film and it does show a bit of wear and tear, however this is likely to be the best transfer we'll see.
The transfer is presented in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. Obviously, there is no 16x9 enhancement.
The image contains a decent amount of detail, but is marred by many scratches, water marks and the like. There are also many moments of instability in the image such as during reel changes, fades between scenes and so on. Personally, I didn't find these distracting because this is exactly how I expected the film to look, however others may be more sensitive. As far as MPEG artefacting is concerned, I noticed a few instances of mild pixelation on shaded surfaces, during facial close-ups for example. Otherwise, there aren't any major compression issues to speak of.
A grey English subtitle stream is activated by default. The text is easy to read but is paced slightly behind the spoken word, which created a few confusing moments when the dialogue picked up speed, or had characters speaking over one another. I also noted a couple of minor errors, probably typos, that made things a bit difficult as well.
This disc is dual layered (DVD9 formatted), with the layer transition placed during the feature at 85:14. The break was transparent on my system, however it appears to be placed mid-scene and may be an interruption to some.
There is only one soundtrack accompanying this film on DVD; Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s). This soundtrack is mistakenly labelled on the disc as English.
The dialogue is generally easy to discern and even though I don't comprehend much Japanese, the spoken word is always dominant. Audio sync seems to be accurate.
As with the video transfer, the soundtrack also betrays the age of the film. There are many pops, clicks and scratches present and the pitch noticeably wavers at times. There are a few minor dropouts present, but they don't interrupt any passages of dialogue or detract from the experience to a great degree.
The score by Fumio Hayasaka incorporates some inventive instrumentation, such as the beautiful use of the music box, so delicate and innocent. The film also sported some interesting sound design for its time; gunfire appears in the soundtrack out of nowhere while a character is relating a war story, and bell sounds recur throughout the film to signify prayer.
The subwoofer and surround channels are obviously not utilised.
|Surround Channel Use|
This is a simple series of stills, taken from the film and very nicely presented with pans and zooms, all set to music by Fumio Hayasaka.
Trailers include Early Summer, An Autumn Afternoon, Seven Samurai, Taste Of Cherry and The Wind Will Carry Us.
It would appear our Region 4 disc has superior video quality. Judging by some screen shots I have viewed, the Region 2 has poorer image depth and a lower MPEG bitrate.
The transfer is restricted somewhat by the age of the film and the condition of the source material.
The extras amount to a gallery and some unrelated trailers.
|DVD||Denon DVD-3910, using DVI output|
|Display||Sanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Denon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete|
|Speakers||Orpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.|