Ikiru (1952)

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Released 12-May-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Animation
Theatrical Trailer-(3:29)
Gallery-Poster-(1:36)
Gallery-Stills (1:56)
Booklet-Essay By Gabrielle Murray
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1952
Running Time 137:10 (Case: 140)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:15) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Akira Kurosawa
Studio
Distributor
Madman
Madman Entertainment
Starring Takashi Shimura
Shinichi Himori
Haruo Tanaka
Minoru Chiaki
Miki Odagiri
Bokuzen Hidari
Minosuke Yamada
Kamatari Fujiwara
Makoto Kobori
Nobuo Kaneko
Nobuo Nakamura
Atsushi Watanabe
Isao Kimura
Case Alpha-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Fumio Hayasaka


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    In Ikiru, Akira Kurosawa studies a man who is brought face to face with his own mortality.

    Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) makes a living as the Section Chief of Public Affairs at the Town Hall. Thirty years of officialdom, paper shuffling and buck passing have transformed him into one of many soulless cogs in a hypocritical, bureaucratic machine. His outlook on life changes dramatically when he discovers he has cancer of the stomach and is not expected to survive another six months. His initial reaction is one of pure regret for things he neglected and opportunities he missed, followed quickly by anger and resentment. He withdraws his life's savings and blows it on booze, slot machines and women, only to find true happiness with a young female co-worker, Toyo Odagiri (Miki Odagiri). Their relationship is non-sexual and one of pure convenience - he buys her presents and she fills him with a youthful vigour he has not felt in decades. However, this does not stop tongues wagging and she soon dismisses his attention as plain creepy.

    At this point Watanabe has a revelation, deciding to commit all of his remaining energy to breaking the bureaucratic cycle at his office by instigating a project that will truly better humanity. Does he succeed?

    The literal English translation of Ikiru is To Live, which is essentially the theme of the film as it takes a major event like his impending death to wake Watanabe up. The narrative is intriguingly divided into two distinct sections; first his confrontation with the truth of his declining health and the quest for final redemption, followed by a fly-on-the-wall perspective of his funeral as his colleagues and relatives try to make sense of his last few months. These funeral scenes are given relevance via flashbacks and drunken arguments that give an amazing insight into the differing perspectives of his closest personal contacts.

    To those that pay attention, this film has the potential to be a life altering experience. Kurosawa has crafted an uplifting tale that causes the viewer to genuinely reconsider their passions in life, as well as their close relationships. This is a superb film, with some of the most memorable images I have witnessed on screen, making it easily one of Kurosawa's best efforts.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This film is fifty-four years old, and the transfer is as good as we could possibly expect. This is a black and white film and it shows quite a bit of wear and tear, however this is likely to be the best transfer we'll see for now.

    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 great 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. There are many shifts in brightness during scenes, which can be a bit distracting at times, but contrast in the image is generally good. Personally, I didn't find these off-putting because this is exactly how I expected the film to look.

    The video stream is encoded with a highly variable bitrate, averaging 5.9Mb/s, so 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 contains distracting errors such as missed spaces between words, incorrect punctuation and Americanisms such as realize instead of realise. Otherwise, the stream is well paced and does the job.

    This disc is dual layered (DVD9 formatted), with the layer transition placed during the feature at 64:15. The break appears to be adequately placed between scenes.

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

Audio

    There is only one soundtrack accompanying this film on DVD; Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s). A mastering error on this disc mistakenly lists the soundtrack as English.

    The Japanese dialogue is easy to discern in the mono mix and even though I don't comprehend much Japanese the spoken word is always dominant. Audio sync seems to be perfectly accurate.

    As with the video transfer, the soundtrack really shows its age. There are a great many pops, clicks and scratches present and the pitch noticeably wavers at times. There are a few minor dropouts in the audio, usually around reel changes, but they don't interrupt any passages of dialogue or detract from the experience to a great degree. I noticed a significant volume drop for several seconds after 26:11, which also appears to coincide with a reel change.

    The score by Fumio Hayasaka flows seamlessly with the emotion on screen and employs some surprisingly western influences. If you watch the film multiple times, the melodies and rhythms really stay with you and you'll find yourself humming them at work.

    The subwoofer and surround channels are obviously not utilised.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu page contains some very nice animation, accompanied by a short clip from the score. None of the disc's content is 16x9 enhanced.

Gallery- Stills (1:56)

    This is a series of stills taken from the film, attractively presented with pans and zooms with musical accompaniment.

Gallery- Poster Art (1:36)

    What do Ikiru and canned sandwich meat have in common? Check out these posters, and you'll find out.

Theatrical Trailer (3:29)

    The film's original trailer contains a few images that I don't recognise. This is a typical trailer of the time, from Toho Studios.

Booklet

    The twenty page colour booklet includes many images from the film and a lengthy essay by Gabrielle Murray, of LaTrobe University.

Madman Trailers (5)

    Trailers include An Autumn Afternoon, Early Summer, Seven Samurai, Taste Of Cherry and The Wind Will Carry Us.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 Criterion release (NTSC, 142:50) includes the following features:

    Reviews of the Criterion speak highly of the picture quality, citing an average video bitrate of 6.9Mb/s. The documentaries look rather interesting to me.

    The Region 2 disc by BFI (PAL, 137:00) has comparable picture quality to ours and includes some biographies and an introduction by Alex Cox.

    Our local release is good, but obviously keen Kurosawa fans ought to go for the more expensive Criterion.

Summary

    Ikiru is a boa-fide cinema classic that should be compulsory viewing. I recommend it highly.

    The PAL transfer is only limited by the age of the film and the condition of the source material.

    The extras include galleries, trailers and a nice booklet.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo 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 DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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