Can't Criterion do better?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DarrylWHarrisJr, Jul 20, 2003.

  1. DarrylWHarrisJr

    DarrylWHarrisJr Stunt Coordinator

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    In reference to the few Kurosawa films that I have and love... I just picke up Akira's Rashomon (these things are expensive, but I'll get to that in a second) and this thing looks worse than Seven Samaurai or The Hidden Fortress. I know it's a 50's film, but I've seen what others have done to their back catalog (see North By Northwest) and I must say that Criterion to be just that, they have got to do better than this for the $35 they are charging me at retail (yes, I know I can get it on-line cheaper). And don't get me starting the the jitter of the picutre (on the close ups during the confessions). I'm dying to pick up Throne of Blood but I'm hesitant to shell out the bucks for a sub par picture quality. Is this the best we are ever going to get? Some one call Robert Harris! Sidebar: Whoever does the covers for these things is freaking awesome. Makes me not want to open the package for the fear of damaging it.
     
  2. Richard Kim

    Richard Kim Producer

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    First of all, Rashomon looks WAY better than Seven Samurai (Criterion's supposed to release a newer DVD based on a better print).

    Second, consider that Criterion probably could not obtain a properly restored print of Rashomon from the Japanese distributor and did the best they could with it.
     
  3. DarrylWHarrisJr

    DarrylWHarrisJr Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes I understand that, but shouldn't they have tried to remove as much dust and scratches as possible...? This one had a lot of them..
     
  4. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    I'm sure they did. Unfortunately budgets for such things are not unlimited, and is very expensive.
     
  5. Brian PB

    Brian PB Supporting Actor

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    I am perplexed by your comments on Criterion's Rashomon: this is a fine transfer using elements superior to those that Toho had provided for Seven Samurai. Is it pristine? No. The elements show signs of their age (50+ years), but according to Donald Richie's definitive The Films of Akira Kurosawa, the original negative no longer exists (though a dupe negative does). I've watched this DVD three times (including last weekend), and I think as a package it's worth every penny.

    If you don't believe me, here are a number of online reviews that highly praise Criterion's efforts:

    Digital Bits
    DVD Talk (DVD Savant)
    DVD Angle
    DVD Movie Central

    Perhaps your expectations are too high--no studio or distributor (Criterion included)is able to work miracles with compromised or deteriorated elements. Criterion searches for the best available elements and attempts a transfer which respects the original look and sound of the film. Iin the case of Rashomon, I think they've done a fine job.
     
  6. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Well, they could have pulled an Artisan and DVNR the heck out of it. [​IMG]

    North By Northwest is really an impressive DVD (even after 3 years), but you really need to be less sensitive to film defects. Some criticized Warner's The Thin Man when it came out for having too much film damage. To be perfectly honest, the photographic quality of their transfer is beautiful.

    I'm not sure exactly what is the exact film damage for this title (I have yet to see it), but if it has great photographic quality...enjoy it. A wonderful print with some specks and lines is a lot better than a pristine 3rd generation dupe print.
     
  7. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    Also consider that when you see restoration demos like on Grand Illusion, they're showing you the repairs they were able to work after finding a dupe/original (I can't remember which now) negative v. the print source they had available before for their laser for instance. Criterion had access only to theatrical prints of Rashoman, Toho lets noone touch their negatives, and until recently didn't provide the US with the best elements. I've not watched the DVD yet, but I can attest that a theatrical print I saw was in quite bad shape, but still magnificent to view. DVD, to me, means the oppurtunity to see films in full standard NTSC resolution films on home video, it doesn't mean perfect images every moment. A perfect DVD of a film still doesn't come close to watching that same film in the theater, even if it has some print damage/wear.

    Adam
     
  8. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

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    Adam - I'm not sure that's correct anymore. All of Criterion's Toho transfers after the whole Yojimbo/Sanjuro debacle have been taken from much higher-quality elements. Rashomon, according to the liner notes, was taken from a 35mm fine-grain master positive, which is much too high-a-quality to actually project. It also wasn't licensed from Toho, but Dalei, whoever they might be.

    The elements for Rashomon are in very poor shape indeed, but one can't hold Criterion responsible. Criterion have said in the past (when that big fuss got kicked off over their Eisenstein boxset) that they only take digital image restoration as far as they can before it starts to alter the actual look of the film (ie. the removal of film grain).

    In an ideal world, all transfers would be done like this.

    And, fear not, Throne of Blood is in much better shape. Pick it up without delay!
     
  9. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  10. rich_d

    rich_d Cinematographer

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  11. Kyle Tippett

    Kyle Tippett Stunt Coordinator

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    In regards to the "jittering" picture during the confession scenes: DVDs are tranfers of film, most commonly starting as 35mm stock (excluding such as BARAKA and DERSU UZALA). If the absolute best print that Home Vision was able to obtain is in fairly faded and scratched condition, they often do the absolute best they can, (keep in mind, this is usualy kust a guy like you or i on a computer, depening on his day, the restoration for some scenes may be sh*t). anyway, lets say the print is able to be restored to look fairly decent, on a frame by frame basis... there is another issue that then comes up. if this film has made the circuit for 58, or even 20 years... think of how many projectionists that goes through.... wouldnt you like a frame of toshiro mifune from an original mid 50's printo of rashomon? i would.. so there goes one frame... and another... eventually the film will look like the diner scene in Breathless, filled with jump cuts, or "jittering"
    i really beleive that criterion/HVE does the best they can with what they have. i just bought Kino's Dersu, cause it was shot on 70mm, and i just for a new 46" tv, when i put it in, it didnt look too hot either... but its 30+ years old, what should i expect? its simply not possible for us now to Completely remove all wear and tear (or cut) from 30-50-80 year old films... for example, you put in Dryer's Passion and you arent disappointed, or Kino's Faust... there from when? 1918-27? i thought that passion looks great, the contrast is excelent, and there isnt too much missing, allthough there is some gone. anyway, film restoration is done by people on computers, not computers alone, and it does leave the clean room, so ther will always be dust... even on Eraserhead (allthough very little)
     
  12. Jeff Swearingen

    Jeff Swearingen Second Unit

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    Yeah, I'm a little disappointed in Criterion too! Why haven't they assembled that 9 1/2 hour cut of Erich von Stroheim's Greed yet? What? It doesn't exist anymore?

    Well still Criterion should do a better job and get this released!

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Having recently seen the Kurosawa/Mifune retrospective, for which many of the films have been recently restored. I don’t think that anyone should expect magic from the restored Seven Samurai

    While the print I saw was no doubt better than the Criterion DVD, defects still exist. None of those scratches or other defects kept me from full enjoyment of the film.
     
  14. Ted Todorov

    Ted Todorov Cinematographer

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  15. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    1.Daiei is another Japanese movie studio. After Kurosawa's initial contract with Toho expired, he freelanced for a few years in the early 50's and made Rashomon for competitor Daiei. He then went back to Toho until his career hit the skids in the mid 60's.

    2. You aren't remembering right Ted, the Kino Dersu DVD is non-anamorphic.

    3. Lew is right, the new Seven Samurai prints are far from perfect. A new DVD isn't going to look like Red Beard or Singin' in the Rain. Criterion aren't miracle workers (though it may seem like it quite a bit), and they don't have the $$ resources that a big studio like Warner or Paramount has to spend on restorations.
     
  16. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    I agree with what's been said above about the 'new restoration' of Seven Samurai. But I agree w/ Lew: not for one second did it prevent me from enjoying this gem again.

    (BTW: Not to derail the thread, but... I'm no Kurosawa expert, so don't laugh. The fellow who provides the audio commentary for Criterion's Seven Samurai really involved me a few days ago when I listened to the thing for, gasp, the first time. Who is he in terms of Kurosawa scholarship? Thanks.)
     
  17. Matthew_Millheiser

    Matthew_Millheiser Supporting Actor

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  18. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

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  19. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  20. Ian Hay

    Ian Hay Auditioning

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