First, the bad news. Lionsgate/Canal+'s Blu-ray of Ran (affiliate link for reference only; I do not recommend the purchase of this disc) looks like a dud. Apart from some nice bonus features, which mostly likely would have shown up in a Criterion edition in the first place, the disc itself looks pretty wretched — like a 720p master created for broadcast that was blown up for 1080p.
The same sort of thing happened when Ran was released on DVD, come to think of it. The original Fox/Lorber version was nothing but a port of the LaserDisc D2 master; the subsequent reissue by Wellspring was heavily denoised (and looked like garbage as a result); but the Criterion disc was well worth the wait. Well, fine — if we have to wait for Criterion or someone else to renegotiate rights to get this thing issued in a decent edition, then I'll hang onto my DVD copy for now. The really cynical side of me thinks that this edition is just being hustled onto the market to take advantage of the change in the rights, and that we'll have to wait until someone has the wherewithal to actually work to get a good edition produced.
If I go on and on about this movie to the point of self-parody, it's only because it may well have been my big entry point into Japanese culture and art generally, and seeing it getting kicked about like some kind of cinematic soccer ball is downright painful.
But now the good news: some new Criterion titles. Some great new Criterion titles.
First and most striking: a Blu-ray edition of By Brakhage (as well as the second volume of same on DVD). Idiot that I am, I never did sit down with the DVD edition of this set and give it a proper look-see. This will give me a chance to rectify that. I feel immense kinship with filmmakers who work on their own and who use what few resources they have lying around — a fairly broad spectrum of people that includes Wong Kar-Wai, David Lynch and Brakhage himself.
Next: Stagecoach. The ultimate road picture, the ultimate Western, and maybe the John Ford film that most everyone can see and enjoy for being nothing more than what it is.
Next: M. No explanation needed.
And finally: Walkabout. Another movie I have learned to interpret differently in different stages of life, and which was also seen as being a much more optimistic film in its day than it probably was.
AND! A NAGISA OSHIMA BOXSET! Which includes the never-released-here Pleasures of the Flesh (based on a Fūtaro Yamada [Basilisk] novel, no less); Violence At Noon, Sing A Song of Sex, Japanese Summer: Double Suicide, and Three Resurrected Drunkards. Most of these have only been available as imports, or gray-area bootlegs for god knows how long.
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