The Lower Depths (Donzoko) (Directors Suite) (1957)

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Released 12-Sep-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Freda Freiberg
Gallery-(1:05)
Trailer-An Autumn Afternoon; Tokyo Story
Trailer-The Quiet Duel; Dolls
Biographies-Crew-Kurosawa
Filmographies-Crew-Kurosawa
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1957
Running Time 124:04
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:06) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Akira Kurosawa
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Toshirô Mifune
Isuzu Yamada
Kyôko Kagawa
Ganjiro Nakamura
Minoru Chiaki
Kamatari Fujiwara
Akemi Negishi
Nijiko Kiyokawa
Koji Mitsui
Eijirô Tono
Haruo Tanaka
Eiko Miyoshi
Bokuzen Hidari
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Masaru Satô


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 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

    Produced in 1956, Akira Kurosawa's The Lower Depths (Donzoko) transposed the original Russian play of the same name by Maksim Gorky into a cramped shack in a Japanese slum, situated in a rubbish tip below ground level. The story follows the interactions of a contrasting array of colourful characters as they argue, drink, fight, gamble and squander their lives away with no thought for their future. The main ensemble of characters include:

    The hum-drum lives of these undesirables is inescapably altered when Okayo brings home an old priest to stay for a few nights. We follow the assorted goings-on in the slum through this priest's stunned eyes, as characters are introduced, people are cheated and secret conversations are overheard. Every single one of the residents longs to escape in some form or another, but none have the will or determination to take the plunge. It seems the only way out of their big hole in the ground is via death, which of course leads to another hole in the ground, six feet under. Can the priest's brief influence help them move forward and escape the inevitable?

    This is pure Kurosawa, stylishly Directed with superb performances. It doesn't quite reach the grandiose heights of Throne of Blood, which was made prior to this film, but the Director's style permeates every scene, which makes it easy to recommend.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This video transfer is an NTSC conversion, with a similar runtime to the Region 1 equivalent. Because of this conversion process, movement on screen is ghosted and lacks fluidity. Video frames have been corrupted and appear doubled.

    The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1, full frame. The image is tight to the edges of the frame and there is no image distortion present. I compared our image closely with captures of the Region 1 Criterion transfer and the two appear almost identical. Ours is slightly softer and has been brightened considerably, to the point where the white opening titles disappear into the pale background. The framing of the transfers is absolutely identical.

    Contrast varies a bit, but doesn't present any major issues. Because the image is so bright, we never really see anything darker than pale grays.

    I didn't notice any dire MPEG compression issues, but film artefacts are unavoidable. Telecine wobble is always present and varies in severity. Source damage, marks, dirt and scratches are visible throughout. I also noted some moments of extreme film grain.

    An English subtitle stream is activated by default and is comprised of a white font with a thin black outline. The text is easy to read, although there are some Americanisms present.

    This disc is dual layered, with a transition placed during the feature at 68:06. This is a relatively quiet moment mid-scene.

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

Audio

    There are two soundtracks, one of which is a brief Audio Commentary. The default audio stream is the film's original mono Japanese audio, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

    This soundtrack fares slightly better than the video presentation, and it shows its age. There is mild hiss present throughout, crackling and popping. I also noted a few dropouts here and there.

    The dialogue is generally easy to follow and I didn't have any troubles recognising who was speaking. Audio sync is not too bad, but does waver at times.

    The score by Masaru Satô is traditional, percussive and very simple. It's clear that the score is imitating the kind of accompaniment one might hear at a Japanese theater.

    There is obviously no subwoofer or surround activity to report.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu page is static, with an audio clip from the score.

Audio Commentary- Freda Freiberg

    This is a typically academic style of commentary; a person at a microphone reading awkwardly from their notes in monotone. The actual commentary really only amounts to a brief piece in the film's introduction, and again at the conclusion. Freda discusses Kurosawa's adaptation of Gorky's text and the devices he has employed as a director.

Gallery (1:05)

    Simply pans and zooms across a handful of stills taken from the film. The audio accompaniment is the same as the main menu.

Madman Trailers (4)

    These are preceded by the obligatory anti-piracy advert. Trailers are included for Directors Suite titles An Autumn Afternoon, Tokyo Story, The Quiet Duel and Takeshi Kitano's Dolls.

Biography & Filmography- Akira Kurosawa

    The reverse side of the cover slick contains some text; a biography and filmography of our Director.

R4 vs R1

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

    As is often the case, Criterion in Region 1 set the bar pretty high for this title with their release of 2004 (NTSC, 124:52), which was packaged together with Jean Renoir's 1936 film adaptation of Gorky's same play. The Criterion package includes the following extra features on the Kurosawa disc:

    In comparing the transfers, the framing of the image is absolutely identical, probably sourced from the same Toho master. Ours has been slightly boosted in brightness, while the Criterion is noticeably sharper. Being a native NTSC transfer, the Criterion would also be void of any format conversion artefacts, corrupt frames and the like that plague our transfer. The Region 1 is the obvious choice for fans of the film.

Summary

    The Lower Depths is fantastic, thought-provoking viewing.

    The transfer is an NTSC conversion, and the source material shows its age.

    The extras don't amount to much.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Friday, October 12, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using HDMI 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 DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3806 (7.1 Channels)
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III floor-standing Mains and Surrounds. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Center. Mirage 10 inch powered sub.

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