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Author Topic: Zatoichi films on Criterion
Claude S. Ayakawa
Film God

Posts: 2722
From: Waipahu, Hawaii, USA
Registered: Aug 2002


 - posted 07-29-2015 04:30 PM      Profile for Claude S. Ayakawa   Author's Homepage   Email Claude S. Ayakawa   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Because Hawaii always had a very large Japanese population, all the major Japanese motion picture studios had a first run venue playing their films in Honolulu. The Daiei studio theatre here was the Kokusai or known by it's English name, The International . This is where all of the earlier Zatoichi films from Daiei played but by the time, the newer films were distributed by Toho because Daie went bankrupt in 1971, they never played here because Toho had closed their Honolulu theatre. Now for the first time, all twenty five Zatoichi films from Daiei and Toho are on Blu Ray from Criterion and they all look fantastic. The Criterion Zatoichi Blu Ray set has been out since 2013 but I only had a chance to view the discs now and I was just amazed how great the movies all look. All the films are in scope and in color except the first two which are in B&W and true to Criterion's tradition all of the movies have been restored to full perfection. I do not know if the Zatoichi movies were photographed in Eastman Color or Fuji Color but the original elements must have been in fantastic condition because I have never seen negative color motion picture look so great. Although the plot of all of the Zatoichi films are pretty much the same, the movies are still very entertaining.

-Claude

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Jim Cassedy
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1511
From: San Francisco, CA
Registered: Dec 2006


 - posted 07-29-2015 04:56 PM      Profile for Jim Cassedy   Email Jim Cassedy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Claude-

I think I've got to read up a bit on Japanese films, since I'm the head
projection-tech at a big Japanese film festival here in San Francisco
that starts next week.

I know I'm running at least one of the Zatoichi films in 35mm, but I
think it's one of the later ones, from around 2002-2003.
[edit: I think it's the one Paul mentions in the post after this one]

I also just took delivery on "Electric Dragon, 8000V" , a real nice
35mm Black & White print that appears to be fresh from the lab.

The director & star of the film (Tadanobu Asano) will be there too.
(That's him on the poster pictured below)

I'm running several other 35mm prints for the festival also. The rest are
digital, either in DCP or HDCAM. I screen a lot of Asian films at one of
the screening rooms I work at, and we get a lot of them on HDCAM.

I worked this same festival last year and saw some great stuff, so I'm
looking forward to it again this year too, even though it's a lot of work!

 -

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Paul Mayer
Oh get out of it Melvin, before it pulls you under!

Posts: 3833
From: Albuquerque, NM
Registered: Feb 2000


 - posted 07-29-2015 05:00 PM      Profile for Paul Mayer   Author's Homepage   Email Paul Mayer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Glad to hear they're looking good Claude! They'll make a great addition to my Japanese film collection at the Kinema Kawasumi Archives. Now if we could get someone to do Blu-ray releases of all the "Tora-san" films (all 48 of 'em) Otoko wa Tsurai yo! (It's Tough Being a Man!)... [Smile]

BTW I already have Takeshi Kitano's 2003 remake of Zatoichi on a UK Blu-ray. It too looks and sounds wonderful!

[Edit] For Jim, Tadanobu Asano was a star in the 2003 remake of Zatoichi, opposite director Takeshi Kitano himself as the blind swordsman. It's pure entertainment - you'll love the ending tap-dance sequence!

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Claude S. Ayakawa
Film God

Posts: 2722
From: Waipahu, Hawaii, USA
Registered: Aug 2002


 - posted 07-29-2015 05:59 PM      Profile for Claude S. Ayakawa   Author's Homepage   Email Claude S. Ayakawa   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Jim & Paul,

Because of my Japanese ancestry I grew up watching a lot of Japanese films on the big screen at my home town theatre, the Waipahu as well as at the Waipahu Japanese Social Club.My parents were members of the WJSC by paying dues and it allowed my entire family see Japanese films after they finish their first run at the Kokusai or the Nippon Theatre in Honolulu. The showings were held about three times a month and the movies would be either Daiei or Shochiku films and many of the Tora san films played at the club showings. The Waipahu Japanese Social Club had their showings on the large lawn that had a outdoor stage and a projection booth with a pair of Simplex 35mm projectors . The movies were projected on a large cloth screen with a pair of loud speakers on both sides of the stage. The Waipahu Theatre on the other hand played films every Monday night from Toei and almost all the films were Chanbara or Samurai movies.

-Claude

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Claude S. Ayakawa
Film God

Posts: 2722
From: Waipahu, Hawaii, USA
Registered: Aug 2002


 - posted 07-30-2015 04:56 PM      Profile for Claude S. Ayakawa   Author's Homepage   Email Claude S. Ayakawa   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I just watched two more Zatoich movies last night and I just cannot get over the fact how entertaining the movies are. They all have very simple plots but they are all superb. Although I am watching the movies on a forty six inch 1080p video display , the picture quality gives me the feeling I am watching the movies on film projected From a brand new print without any scratches and faded color.

-Claude

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Paul Mayer
Oh get out of it Melvin, before it pulls you under!

Posts: 3833
From: Albuquerque, NM
Registered: Feb 2000


 - posted 07-31-2015 10:11 AM      Profile for Paul Mayer   Author's Homepage   Email Paul Mayer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks to my grandparents I grew up on Zatoichi and other chambara films - one or two Zatoichi films a year would play in Los Angeles just after they finished their roadshow runs in Japan. At the time (1960s and '70s) LA had three full-time Japanese screens - the Toho La Brea, the Kokusai (was it a Daiei at some point?) on Crenshaw, and one in or near Little Tokyo (my memory is spotty here - perhaps I'm thinking of the Linda Lea, now the Downtown Independent).

Claude, if you haven't seen it yet, the 2003 remake of Zatoichi by Takeshi Kitano is a hoot, and extremely satisfying. I have the UK Artificial Eye BD (marked as Region B, but it's actually region-free). The tranfer mimics the period washed out look that Kitano was going for - much better than the punched up look of the US Miramax BD. Definitely worth a viewing if you can get it!

And Tora-san... I have all 48 of those on legit Hong Kong DVDs. They look about as good as the source material will allow, as good as the Japanese Region 2s, and they are subtitled. Still I would love to see all of those come out on BD!

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Claude S. Ayakawa
Film God

Posts: 2722
From: Waipahu, Hawaii, USA
Registered: Aug 2002


 - posted 07-31-2015 10:31 AM      Profile for Claude S. Ayakawa   Author's Homepage   Email Claude S. Ayakawa   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Paul,
The Takeshi Kitano remake sounds very interesting and I will look into it by checking AMAZON UK for it.

If you are interested in the original Zatoichi movies on Criterion, you can get it at half price now at Barnes & Noble until Monday when their twice a year Criterion sale ends. The movies come in a beautiful 27 disc set ( 9 Blu Ray & 18 DVD) and worth getting. With the usual Criterion high quality standards, it is a 'no brainier' if you like the original Zatoichi movies.
-Claude

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Claude S. Ayakawa
Film God

Posts: 2722
From: Waipahu, Hawaii, USA
Registered: Aug 2002


 - posted 08-11-2015 08:52 PM      Profile for Claude S. Ayakawa   Author's Homepage   Email Claude S. Ayakawa   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Paul,

I just ordered the 2003 version of Takeshi Kitano's ZATOICHI from Amazon uk and the BD is region free and cost slightly less than $15.00 -US. I know I will like it and I thank you for bringing it to my attention. Delivery date is promised for the middle of next week.

-Claude

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Jim Cassedy
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1511
From: San Francisco, CA
Registered: Dec 2006


 - posted 08-11-2015 11:55 PM      Profile for Jim Cassedy   Email Jim Cassedy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
It's pure entertainment - you'll love the ending tap-dance sequence!
I ran the 35mm print for an almost full house at the San Fran Japan Film Fest on Saturday,
And you're right- That sequence on the last reel was great; & I enjoyed every minute of the flick.
Claude, ya shouldda been here !

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Claude S. Ayakawa
Film God

Posts: 2722
From: Waipahu, Hawaii, USA
Registered: Aug 2002


 - posted 08-21-2015 04:03 PM      Profile for Claude S. Ayakawa   Author's Homepage   Email Claude S. Ayakawa   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Jim, you are right, I would have loved to be there for your Japanese film festival.

I just received the 2003 version of ZATOICHI by Takeshi Kitano from Amazon UK yesterday and watched it last night and as expected, I enjoyed it very much. There are several things I liked about Kitano's version. It is a little bit more artistic in the way the film was shot and edited. I liked the subtle use of color and it looked great on a 16X 9 HTTV screen with it's 1.85 aspect ratio. Story telling is exactly like Shintaro. Katsu's films but Kitano had a plot twist at the end that I U lthought was very clever. The ony thing I did not like about the remake is the very long Taiko drum dance sequence at the end of the movie by villagers and some of the cast. In my option, it was too modern and totally out of place. I think they should have used more traditional dancing one would see during Obon (Bon Dance) during this time of the year at Japanese Buddhist temples. Except for being out of place, I liked the dancing and enjoyed it.

-Claude

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