Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

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DarkImbecile
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Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#1 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Sep 18, 2020 9:59 am

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Throughout the 1980s, Shohei Imamura (The P*rnographers, Profound Desires of the Gods), a leading figure of the Japanese New Wave era of the 1960s, cemented his international reputation as one of the most important directors of his generation with a series of films that all competed at Cannes to great critical acclaim. This exclusive box set from Arrow Academy presents restored versions of three late career classics from the legendary filmmaker.

Based on an ancient folktale, The Ballad of Narayama (1983) was the first of two works from the director to win the prestigious Cannes Palme d Or. Imamura s magnum opus depicts the members of an extended farming family eking out their existence in the mountainous north of Japan against the backdrop of the changing seasons before village lore decrees they make the sacrifice of abandoning their aged mother on the top of a nearby mountain when she reaches her seventieth year. Making its HD debut, Zegen (1987) takes a satirical look at Japan s prewar colonial expansion through the unscrupulous eyes of its flesh-peddler antihero as he establishes a prostitution enterprise across Southeast Asia. Finally, the harrowing Black Rain (1989) details the precarious existence of a household of atomic bomb survivors as, five years after being caught in the blast of Hiroshima, they struggle to find a husband for their 25-year-old niece.

These three works epitomise the director s almost documentary style of filmmaking, exposing the vulgar yet vibrant and instinctive underbelly of Japanese society through a sympathetic focus on peasants, prostitutes, criminal lowlife and other marginalised figures to explore the schism between the country s timeless premodern traditions and the modern face it projects to the world.

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
  • Restored High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of all three films
  • Original lossless Japanese PCM 1.0 mono soundtracks
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Brand new audio commentaries on all three films by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp
  • Brand new, in-depth appreciations of all three films by Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns
  • Alternate colour ending to Black Rain, shot by Imamura but removed from the film shortly before its release
  • Archival interviews on Black Rain with actress Yoshiko Tanaka and assistant director Takashi Miike
  • Multiple trailers and image galleries
  • Original Japanese press kits for The Ballad of Narayama and Black Rain (BD-ROM content)
  • Limited edition 60-page booklet containing new writing by Tom Mes
  • Limited edition packaging featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shehei Imamura

#2 Post by Ribs » Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:14 am

This is wildly exciting - was not expecting a new Academy set anytime soon but am thrilled the one Imamura that was teased was just a sampling of this larger set. Very cool.

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shehei Imamura

#3 Post by L.A. » Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:15 am

Shehei?

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shehei Imamura

#4 Post by swo17 » Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:30 am

Should be Sh*hei

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shehei Imamura

#5 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:34 am

I sort of randomly predicted a month or two ago that Arrow would probably release The Ballad of Narayama. Consider me surprised when it’s paired with two other films! Arrow’s last year of releases have been absolutely incredible and ending with a box set of three Imamura’s best works feels like a perfect way to end the year.

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shehei Imamura

#6 Post by Pavel » Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:45 am

Nice to be excited by an Arrow Academy announcement again. Tony Stella is one of my favorite artists.

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shehei Imamura

#7 Post by Yakushima » Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:56 am

Best Arrow news of the year (and probably since "Khrustalev, my car!"). Day one pre-order for me. High hopes for Dr Akagi, The Eel and Warm Water in the near future!

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shehei Imamura

#8 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Sep 18, 2020 11:25 am

L.A. wrote:
Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:15 am
Shehei?
Whoops... that’s what I get for letting swo log in to my account to create a thread.

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#9 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Sep 18, 2020 12:13 pm

First subbed release of Zegen, so far as I can tell.... Definitely, a must-pre-order for me as well.

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#10 Post by What A Disgrace » Fri Sep 18, 2020 12:22 pm

No offense to Eureka!, but I hope Arrow releases all of the Imamura films in similar boxes, so I can ditch that other one which had a booklet on a CD-ROM and didn't think it was a good idea to do A Man Vanishes in HD.

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#11 Post by Berzeli » Fri Sep 18, 2020 6:49 pm

I was happy when Black Rain popped up as a tease on one of them postcard thingys.

This. This makes me ecstatic. Yes, the overlap with the MoC boxset is a bit annoying, but dammit more Imamura is always welcome and I hope Arrow has gotten their hands on more.

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#12 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Sep 18, 2020 7:07 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Fri Sep 18, 2020 12:13 pm
First subbed release of Zegen, so far as I can tell.... Definitely, a must-pre-order for me as well.
I imagine like most others, Zegen is the one I haven't seen, though everything I'm reading makes it sound like a great satire- Michael have you seen it?

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#13 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Sep 18, 2020 7:41 pm

TWBB - This is one I have never run across even unsubbed. It WAS included in the big Imamura retrospective at Harvard Film Archive in 2007, but I missed it.

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Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#14 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Sep 18, 2020 7:52 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Michael Kerpan wrote:
Fri Sep 18, 2020 12:13 pm
First subbed release of Zegen, so far as I can tell.... Definitely, a must-pre-order for me as well.
I imagine like most others, Zegen is the one I haven't seen, though everything I'm reading makes it sound like a great satire- Michael have you seen it?
I’ve seen it. Like all Imamura, it’s an interesting film, crammed with ideas and life. But it falls short of a great satire. Indeed I prefer Imamura’s tv documentary on the same subject. Here’s my write up from the Imamura thread:
Mr Sausage wrote:Zegen (1987)

A movie examining Japanese comfort women, told through the lense of the true story of Iheiji Muraoka, who built a series of brothels for the Japanese military in Southeast Asia stocked with women, often poor, kidnapped from the mainland under the approval of the Japanese government. Japan helped build its empire on the back of this enterprise, then shut it down and abandoned all the people working in it when they decided it didn’t suit the image of a country newly emerged on the international stage. On one level, the movie is an allegory. Iheiji is an image of Japan itself, naïve and thrust suddenly into international politics by Russia, only to find himself in a position to expand his interests through immoral and shady dealings he justifies with blood and soil nationalism. Heady prosperity gives way to war and to widespread discontent among the oppressed local populations, leaving our central figure to exhaust himself with chasing delusions of further conquest and success well after his downfall. On a less symbolic level, Iheiji is also a victim of Japanese colonialism. Like so many of the characters in the film, he is used, bullied, and discarded by Japan. He is also sold an ideal of nationalism and fealty to the emperor that clouds his judgement, gives him leave him to commit crimes against humanity, and allows him to be taken advantage of by an ungrateful government with no interest in rewarding its servants.

This is a rich film, as you’d expect from Imamura, and yet it lacks the power and incisiveness of Imamura’s documentary work on the same subject. I felt I’d gotten precisely this story in The Making of a Prostitute, only not so diffuse, and in the words of its primary victims, the kidnapped women, instead of in a farce about a primary exploiter. Indeed, the decision to play the story as farce is unfortunate given that Imamura can’t muster the necessary energy. The prologue isn’t panicky enough, the first act full of the rush of success and ingenuity not frenetic and buoyant enough, and the downfall not quite so crushing or desperate. The film is pitched just a bit too low. There are moments when the farce works brilliantly, such as when it undercuts the solemnity and stoicism of seppuku (hard not to see it as a response to Mishima’s cult of suicide), but I’m not sure it finds the right note on which to bring everything together. One can, however, simply bask in the splendour of its period setting. As so often before, Imamura creates a living, breathing world around his story, one you feel extends well outside the camera’s lense. As a recreation of turn of the century Southeast Asia, it is persuasive and enthralling.

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#15 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Sep 18, 2020 8:10 pm

If only this included Karayuki-san as a bonus....

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#16 Post by Finch » Fri Sep 18, 2020 8:20 pm

Exciting news! I can live with a second copy of Ballad as I can't wait to see Black Rain and Zegen for the first time.

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#17 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Sep 18, 2020 8:32 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:If only this included Karayuki-san as a bonus....
It’d be the perfect extra. It’s the best context you could get for Zegen.

Despite my ambivalence, I think I would put Zegen among the best of the post-Narayama period. It’s not as good as Black Rain, a near masterpiece, but it’s richer than the more celebrated but comparatively lightweight The Eel and Warm Water Under a Red Bridge. I’d rank it alongside Dr. Akagi, I think. Both are strange, semi-allegorical films that may or may not come off in the end, but show more complexity of theme and character than the more straightforward and successful work from this period.

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#18 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:48 pm

I don't think Karayuki-san has ever gotten a subbed home video release has it?

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#19 Post by swo17 » Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:54 pm

It's on the Icarus set with six of his documentaries

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#20 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:55 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:48 pm
I don't think Karayuki-san has ever gotten a subbed home video release has it?
It was released by Icarus Home Video in 2012 along with four other Imamura tv documentaries and A Man Vanishes.

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#21 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Sep 18, 2020 11:08 pm

Oops. It's Bar Hostess that has never gotten a home video release, I guess. I suppose I repress thoughts of that Icarus set because I thought it really was pretty poor overall. :-(

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shehei Imamura

#22 Post by Stefan Andersson » Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:23 pm

Yakushima wrote:
Fri Sep 18, 2020 10:56 am
Best Arrow news of the year (and probably since "Khrustalev, my car!"). Day one pre-order for me. High hopes for Dr Akagi, The Eel and Warm Water in the near future!
This box set is great news!

+1 vote fo Dr Akagi, The Eel, Warm Water -- plus Eijanaika, and perhaps re-releases of the OOP MoC Imamura titles.

I believe there are two cuts of The Eel. The director´s cut was released by Madman:
https://www.blu-ray.com/dvd/The-Eel-DVD/144327/

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shehei Imamura

#23 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Sep 19, 2020 1:42 pm

Stefan Andersson wrote:
Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:23 pm
I believe there are two cuts of The Eel. The director´s cut was released by Madman:
https://www.blu-ray.com/dvd/The-Eel-DVD/144327/
The Madman release remains the best so far. The somewhat longer version is (IMHO) definitely preferable.

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#24 Post by swo17 » Sat Sep 19, 2020 1:51 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Fri Sep 18, 2020 11:08 pm
I suppose I repress thoughts of that Icarus set because I thought it really was pretty poor overall. :-(
I'm curious what you thought was poor about it

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Re: Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura

#25 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Sep 19, 2020 2:18 pm

The way it was put together seemed very amateurish -- and I'm not certain that they had access to the best possible elements. Maybe it was the best they could manage at the time, but I'm sure that a better presentation must be possible. Details are foggy at this point, I'm afraid. I just remember being quite unimpressed when I went through the set (and not because of the content).

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