Blu-ray
Recommended
3 stars
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$23.99
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
1.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

An Autumn Afternoon

Street Date:
February 17th, 2015
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
April 7th, 2015
Movie Release Year:
1962
Studio:
Criterion
Length:
113 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu began making silent films in 1927, but unfortunately over half of those have been lost over time. His first use of sound was a 1936 documentary and his first use of color was 'Equinox Flower' (1958). While Ozu is currently held in great esteem around the world, during most of his lifetime his work was rarely shown internationally. Many of his films are part of the Criterion Collection, including Tokyo Story (1953), considered one of the greatest films ever made by voters in the last three British Film Institute's polls, and his final film, the recently added 'An Autumn Afternoon'.

A frequent subject in his work, 'An Autumn Afternoon' finds Ozu exploring the clash of Japanese tradition within the country's evolving modern society. Shuhei Hirayama's (Chishu Ryu) family is the focal point. He is an aging widower whose 24-year-old daughter, Michiko (Shima Iwashita), runs the household in terms of the chores. Shuhei has given little thought to what her desires might be and isn't sure what to make when he receives an offer for marriage from a friend's wife who has found someone.

Shuhei frequently gathers with former classmates at a local restaurant. Although they are all older men with professional jobs, when together they still interact as if they were the age they met. For example, Horie gets a lot of the teasing due to having a beautiful young wife that he likely can’t keep up with or satisfy at his age. But it's obvious, they are all jealous. They also act like a bit like school children when a former teacher, who is down on his luck, joins them for drinks. However, when called upon, they show respect.

Ozu's directing style is notable and comes across timeless here in a film over 50 years old. He limited his use of the tools at his disposal. Setting the camera at a low level in a spot it doesn't move from, he allows the actors to perform in front of and many times directly into the camera. His choice provides an opportunity for the audience to focus solely on the actors' revelations about the characters' humanity by creating a more intimate entry into the conversations taking place.

Ozu's contemporary Akira Kurasawa, whose influence from Hollywood films like John Ford's was a major factor why his films were more accessible to the west, outshined him on the world stage. Ozu's films tell smaller-scale stories dealing with situations more likely experienced by the viewer. Yet, the lives of the post-war Japanese middle class characters he deals with are no less fascinating. They come across as real people who deal with issues that may be unique to their society but the humanity on display also makes the stories universal.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'An Autumn Afternoon' (#446 in The Criterion Collection) comes on a 50GB Region A Blu-ray disc in a clear keepcase. The discs boot up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. Included is a 12-page leaflet containing "Fond Farewell," an essay by Geoff Andrew.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 1.37:1. The liner notes state, "This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative at IMAGICA Corp. and IMAGICA West Corp. in Tokyo, where the film was restored in 2K resolution.

While leaning towards a slight green tint, the image exhibits many warm colors as seen in the vibrant reds, strong grays, and the great deep blues that appear as night descends. Blacks are solid and occasionally crush. Contrast can be dark in some scenes. The image looks clean and sharp, with evidence of the latter on display in the textures on the bamboo used in the restaurant design. The transfer appears free of digital artifacts.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Also from the liner notes, "the original monaural soundtrack was removed at 24-bit from a 35mm optical track print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle wrtr manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube's integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4."

There's not much to work with, but the dialogue is clear throughout and not hampered by signs of age or defect. Music, effects, and bass are all limited as is the dynamic range, but the latter delivers well on the quiet side of the spectrum as the soft sounds of wood floors responding to footsteps can be heard.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Commentary – Recorded for the 2005 Criterion DVD release, David Bordwell, author of Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema, offers an insightful analysis about the film, even breaking down the credit sequence.
  • "Yasujiro Ozu and The Taste of Sake" (1080i, 15 min) – Excerpts from the 11/26/78 episode of the French TV series Cine regards features “critic Michel Ciment and writer Georges Perec look[ing] at the ways Yasujiro Ozu's filmmaking style changed over the course of his career.”
  • Trailer 1 (HD, 2 min) – Japanese theatrical trailer reveals the cast during production.
  • Trailer 2 (HD, 3 minutes) – This Japanese theatrical trailer presents more of the story.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no HD extras.

Final Thoughts

While the lower numbers of the mono audio track and the limited supplements bring down the disc's score, Ozu's 'An Autumn Afternoon' tells a captivating story about families and growing old.  It's a welcome respite for those looking to see something different than the popular superhero/comic book fare.  Although it's last film, 'An Autumn Afternoon' is a great entry point into his work.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.33:1

Audio Formats

  • Japanese LPCM Mono

Subtitles/Captions

  • English

Supplements

  • Audio commentary featuring film scholar David Bordwell, author of Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema
  • Excerpts from Yasujiro Ozu and “The Taste of Sake," a 1978 French television program, featuring critics Michel Ciment and Georges Perec, that looks back on Ozu’s career
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: Essays by critic Geoff Andrew and scholar Donald Richie

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