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Criterion’s Yojimbo and Sanjuro out on Tuesday

This is just a reminder to those of you who live in the US that Criterion’s new Yojimbo and Sanjuro DVDs will be available on Tuesday.

The new high definition digital transfers come with Stephen Prince’s audio commentaries and other extras. Yojimbo and Sanjuro can be bought separately or together in a single box. There is no difference in the contents of the packages, but you should save around $10 by buying the two films together.

For more in formation about the availability of these films, see the sections on Kurosawa DVDs and Kurosawa Blu-rays.


Discussion

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Jeremy

Just ordered using your link, I’ve been looking forward to this release and hopefully will be able to see it this weekend.
Its the commentary that I look forward to, as I really enjoyed the newly released Seven Samurai’s commentary, its was completely entertaining throughout such a long film.

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Vili Maunula

Thanks, Jeremy! I still really need to catch up with the Criterion releases. Unfortunately, getting them here in Europe is somewhat complicated, as well as quite costly.

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Jeremy

Just got the box set, I didnt notice in any review how the internals where arrange, so I figure it would be like Seven Samurai(trifold with a pamphlet)
Instead its normal individual DVD cases but clear with some a small pamphlet in each. Nice but I like the arrangement of the Seven Samurai better and the outer box that holds the contents is of better quality then Y&S’s, suppose its because they had to be able to release the two by themselves. However its really the film quality and commentary I want to begin with, so no sense in complaining.

Hope to watch them soon

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Vili Maunula

What is the case made of? Is it thin cardboard or some thicker stuff?

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Jeremy

Both the cases are thin cardboard, Y&J has a smooth texture with what I guess is a wax coating, The words are simply printed, but I like the font and artwork.
Seven Samurai is a heavier cardboard that is textured with a semi gloss, the text has a look as though it was etched into the surface reviling the white underneath. I know you can see it from pictures but the white font on the Seven Samurai looks really neat to me, the picture dont replicate it well
The dvds storage on seven samurai is cardboard and folded over 4 times, the pamplet in the first fold, and a DVD in each of the other folds.
S&Y is just a normal retail style plastic dvd case with the artwork as the insert.

Seems a bit odd talking about the cases instead of the actual movie, but I found the Seven Samurai box to be rather attractive , it would of been nice if Y&S had a similar style, but hardly anything to complain about.

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Vili Maunula

I am perhaps a bit too fixated on the issue of DVD cases, but I feel that in general DVD cases are far too thick. Rather that packing all DVDs to those standard digipack cases, I would rather like to see everything released in slim-cases, as those take so much less space on the DVD shelf.

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BMWRider

I do not have a shelf with DVD cases. I buy 400 disc DVD changers, the DVDs go in the changer and the cases go in a box in the attic. I would love to have one of the high end systems but my system works for now.

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Vili Maunula

That is an interesting approach to take, BMWRider. But how on earth do you remember what you have, and don’t you miss the joy of browsing through your own collection? 🙂

It must be a space saver, though. I have some 500-600 DVDs, so I guess I’d need two of those changers…

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BMWRider

I have two players right now. I am holding off on the third with the hopes that we get a HD-DVD version in the next year or so. I do browse through my collection, I just do it on the screen.

My son (21) and I watched the new Yojimbo last night. He loved the movie, which is always a great feeling when your kid likes something you do. I am very pleased with this release. The sound is very good, the picture quality is 4.8 out of 5. I still see some damage during the opening credits and an occassional frame skip. The subtitles are better, and that is saying a lot. I have not listened to the commentary, and I probably won’t. I did watch the trailer, and enjoyed the differences in those scenes and the movie. This is a good upgrade from the previous release. Sometime this week we will be watching Sanjuro, and latter The Idiot.

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Vili Maunula

So, how do you alternate between the two players? Are both of them connected to your TV or projector, or do you need to plug some wires when choosing what to watch?

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BMWRider

I alternate through my receiver and a component video switching box. The receiver does the audio switching and the video is switched with the box. If I had to do it over again I would buy a receiver that would allow HDMI inputs from my DVD changers (they did not exist at the time). I use my home theater computer as my DVD player. My projector gets DVD/PVR input from the receiver and HTPC input from the HDMI cable.

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Vili Maunula

That’s an interesting setup. If I ever get enough money to set up something like that, I need to remember to ask your advice regarding these things. As for now, I am content with my simple DVD player and projector TV.

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BMWRider

Debt is bad so wait till you are ready.

I watched the new release of Sanjuro, which was the first Kurosawa movie I ever saw many years ago, and I am very impressed with the quality of this release. It is a dramatic improvement over the last one. I believe of the two, this is the one that gained the most. BTW, the new sound mix is very nice, I am used to going to seven speaker mono for older movies, but the three speaker sound is good, and very listenable.

I am pondering on what to show my son next, I realize Seven Samurai is probably the consensus pick, but all he has seen is Yojimbo and Sanjuro, and the humor of the films is what he liked. I am thinking that Hidden Fortress may be the way to keep him on a roll. Thoughts?

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Vili Maunula

I must confess that I am a “mono” man in that I don’t really care that much for stereo sound, let alone surround. I feel that anything but mono distracts me from the film itself, to be honest. Or maybe I just haven’t yet learnt to watch films with these newer sound systems

A tough question you have there regarding the next film to show your son. What about Rashomon or Stray Dog? The former has that humour in it, while the latter is like Yojimbo and Sanjuro in that it is a well crafted action piece.

Scandal, Drunken Angel and One Wonderful Sunday also have some of that Kurosawa humour in them, although I feel that the humour in them is quite different from the two samurai films, so maybe not something to rush into after all.

I really don’t know about Hidden Fortress. It is actually one of my least favourite Kurosawa movies, but also one of my least watched Kurosawa films. I think that I should probably give it another watch one of these days.

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Jeremy

I prefer to keep my DVD in there cases, stored in a large cabinet. It looks really nice to have everything in groups of director and then the year it was made from the director. I havent found a DVD changer that has ever been rated well in theater magazines, otherwise I would consider one, but I wonder if storing them there is a safe place for archival reasons. I would like to have my DVD still working many years from now.

As for sound, I prefer to keep things original. If the movie was in mono then I play in mono though my center speaker only, feeding it to all the speakers I would find distracting as well. On newer movies in 5.1-7.1 I enjoy them greatly in their native format, I found sound to very important to movies, but I can understand how some movie the rear channel effects can be distracting.

The question regarding the next movie for BMWRider’s son, it was mentioned that he was 21, its roughly the time I started, am currently 25. If its something with some humor overtones that your looking for then, I would say as you guessed Seven Samurai. Since the Seven Samurai has many humors parts, but still a serious movie, it should make for a good gateway.

From my experience,I found
Yojimbo and Sanjuro the be some of the better first films with Seven Samurai to follow. Afterwards the epic dramas Kagamusha and Ran, from there on just about anything he should find of interest. I figure if you havent been hook with the films I mention then perhaps, Kurosawa is not for you. As Vili mentioned Rashomon, without a doubt is a great film to consider. Obviously not knowing your son, but I found in general people not familiar with the more stage like Shakespearian style acting, can be put off by Mifune’s acting in Rashomon, then again it is something to really enjoy.

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BMWRider

I had not considered Rashomon. One of my favorites too. Stray Dog is on the list, just not yet. One Wonderful Sunday and Scandal are two of my favorites. I love the stories, and they are sweet. Alas, OWS is one of the ones I have on Chinese DVD. Until a better release is issued, I’ll hold off showing him that one. I think Seven Samurai may have to be next, followed by Rashomon. Next week we’ll watch Stray Dog and one of my favorites, The Quiet Duel. I think his love of Star Wars may help him appreciate Hidden Fortress. I’ll keep you posted.

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Jeremy

Finally got a chance to watch Yojimbo tonight. As you already now the picture quality is very impressive. I notice only 2 jumps from missing frames, they are easy to overlooked. In some areas the quality looks amazing, perhaps better then it really should be, as they remove all the natural film grain making it look like it was shot in digital. Its far better then it was when it was originally filmed. I understand this is really rediculous but I am a little conflicted about it. Should they of restored it to brand new condition or restore it to better then brand new condition, as they did here. There is no denying what a wonderful job they did, the lighting, shading and detail are not negatively effected in anyway, just the natural film grain. It doesnt hurt it in the end, just makes it look like modern digital tape versus 35mm film.

The audio is completely free of hisses, cracks and pops, I played it in mono as it was originally filmed. The voices came though clear, even during loud parts of the soundtrack, no complaints here

I didnt notice this possibly “over restored” picture with the Seven Samurai as I recently upgraded my theater room’s equipment this year. Currently am using the best Denso upscaling DVD player, taking it to 1080i and watching on a 60″ DLP TV with a pull down remover to get 24FPS. All my equipment has been calibrated and I am even a reward nominee for A/V magazine next month.

Not trying to brag, the reward is only for small theater(actually just a unused room), mid budget setup :), am just trying to get across that I was watching it so that I could of seen every flaw the film had, but the thing is, there was nearly none.

No matter it was over restored or just perfect, the story as we all know is fantastic and very entertaining. I am very happy to have this new release and look forward to hearing the commentary and then move on to Sanjuro.
Just thought I’ll share my thoughts and was wondering yours.

Do you believe if its good, bad or doesnt even matter to restore a film better then it was when it first came out?

I understand Vili, being in Europe prevents you from getting the new DVD, I dont think the question really matters if you seen it or not. I wonder your thoughts and of course anyone who wishes to post.

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BMWRider

I never really thought about the fact that the film is “over restored.” But it is. I suppose if you look at grain as an artistic statement, it is a negative. To me “restoring” a film to the point where the artistic statement is erased (e.g. colorizing Raging Bull) is wrong. In the case of Kurosawa’s films, I don’t think that is the case. Now the sound is another question, are you really listening to it in the “original mono?” From my understanding the use of three channel sound is how Kurosawa intended it. Is that a mistake on my part?

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Vili Maunula

Jeremy has a point there, and it is something that I have been thinking about as well. Kurosawa shot many of his films with long-distance lenses on purpose so that he could get that “grainy” look that he was after.

I still haven’t seen Criterion’s restored versions so I can’t really comment on the look of the restorations, but I know that in many cases they have left “errors” in the restored prints because they were present also in the originals. I would imagine that they did their homework also on these, although I cannot be sure as I can’t remember from the top of my head how Yojimbo and Sanjuro were actually shot.

But if you give me a couple of months I’ll tell you — the five Kurosawa books I ordered a few weeks ago arrived last week. I’m currently half-way through Waiting on the Weather. 🙂

In any case, I think that BMWRider is correct about the audio — I also seem to remember that the originals were presented with a three-channel sound. Criterion’s three-channel versions on the discs are not actually exactly what the originals were like, but rather a reconstruction.

In the end, I don’t know whether I personally care about the exact manner in which Kurosawa intended his films to be seen. If I did, I would probably be watching them in cinemas and not alone at home. I’m basically just happy if the full frame is preserved and the movie is not obscured by cracks and missing scenes. 😉

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Jeremy

In Seven Samurai they did leave behind a hair that got on the lens, and I agree this is a good idea. There is also a small spec on the Yojimbo film that couldnt be for more then 3 secs, I believe they were aware of it and decided to leave it. I dont believe the transfer affected the artist statement an anyway, but it is clear they did remove the film grain.
If Kurosawa considered grain as something artistic to exploit, or it was simply the natural occurrence he could do nothing about,I do not know. Its hardly as damaging as colorizing Raging Bull, but it is clear to me at least, they did restore it to better then new. Personally I found it interesting, but dont consider anything to get upset about.

As for the audio, both of you are correct, but am not entirely wrong, it comes down to personal view point.
The film used Perspecta stereo, which is a fake stereo, as there is no separate tracks for each channel , on the film it is just a single(mono) track so that it would playback in projectors of the time, not requiring a upgrade. The audio was also recorded in the normal mono fashion during filming. The fake stereo implant occurred during the editing process, where tones not hear-able to humans where inserted in the mono track. When these tones where pickup by a Perspecta decoder installed in the theater, the tones would notify when to take portions of the mono track and feed them to the left, right or center channels.
This technology came out in 1954 but never hit if off. In America Paramount Pictures drop it in 1958, going for true stereo, requiring the theaters to replace the sound heads on their projectors. A number of American studios stuck with with the Perspecta but few theaters ever installed the equipment as the cost was to high to consider, later the more important upgrade to true stereo would occur.
I dont know the a lot about Japanese theaters but from what I can find out, only the expensive theaters had the Perspecta equipment, the majority maintained their mono sound equipment, til much later, going true stereo.

So to me, if the film was recorded in mono, the three channels are just a manipulation of the mono recording, and most theaters didnt have the equipment, then it should be played mono. I do not know if Kurosawa wanted the three channel audio, or it was a Toho studio decision.
If Kurosawa and his sound engineer, setup the audio with knowledge of the three channels where to be used, then I agree am wrong and should of played with three channels(both mono and three channel is included in the DVD). I have never read or heard anything regarding his thought on the audio of his movies, minus the soundtracks in which he speaks of their importance.

I choose to play it as it was recorded during actual filming. In modern film cases where the 5.1 is done though the editing process, I will listen in that modified format as the sound engineer although not using 5 mics in every case does adjust his sound with 5.1 in mind. As in lower budget films recorded in stereo and then using DD encoding during editing, I will use the 5.1 as the director and audio engineer have intended for this, but simply couldn’t afford true 5 channel recording.

I believe everything I mentioned is correct, but I really dont know in Yojimbo if they used one mono track recorder or three different one, that where later processed to a mono track with Perspecta encoding. If Kurosawa used three different mono recorders then, I should of used the three channel audio track.
I might of been wrong using the mono track. I will watch Sanjuro in three channels then, until I discover infomation on how it was actually recorded

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BMWRider

Watch it however you like. In the end isn’t it the viewer’s experience that counts? 🙂 I just wish the big guns would be turned to the heretofore un-released Kurosawa stuff. While I am grateful to have the Chinese releases instead of nothing, I would really like to see a respectable studio work on the early and late stuff.

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Jeremy

Now, that I can agree on!

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Jeremy

Just finished Sanjuro, my previous comments hold true to this one as well. I played the audio in three channels this time, it add a small amount of hissing, nothing distracting.
The three channels don’t seem to offer much difference as the majority of the audio still is on the center channel. The left and right channel both receive the same amount of audio so with speakers that are phased properly it will sound as though its all in the center channel, so in the end I wasn’t able to tell the difference between three channel audio and just the mono.
This of course is a simulation of the Perspecta, by using 3.0 DD, but it still would be close to the original recording.
I still wonder how it was recorded during filming.

Despite Yojimbo being considered the greater of the two, I enjoyed Sanjuro a little more, and couldn’t help but laugh every time the captured man in the closet made a appearance. I havent seen these films in a long time, so it was good to see them again. I hope the hear the commentary soon.

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BMWRider

I also enjoy Sanjuro more. I think it is lighter stylistically, and I like the pacing of the movie more. But that’s me. I found the link that makes me think that Kurosawa filmed wanting to use Perspecta. On DVD Verdict it says “When shooting the pictures, Kurosawa utilized the Perspecta Stereophonic sound system, which spreads various frequencies of a mono track across three separate channels, creating more depth and allowing the sound to be mixed with side-to-side pans. Criterion decoded the pictures’ soundtracks with Perspecta equipment, digitally restored the output, and translated it into a Dolby 3-channel mix that spreads the sound across the entire front soundstage of 5.1 systems.” If this is indeed correct, the 3.0 sound is original. Again it is really at the viewers discretion. I like the 3 channel sound, it spreads the sound a bit and the front stage is still proportional to my room. I’ll check my Kurosawa books and see if any of them mention it.

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Vili Maunula

I also like Sanjuro more. 🙂

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cocoskyavitch

I’m so impressed by the lists of electronic equipment discussed above. BMWRider, I may have to ask you some questions when it’s time to upgrade. I watch on an old-fashioned fat-butt tv and use a $24 dvd player.

Everything changes so quickly in technology though, it freaks me out. There used to be a comedian who joked she wouldn’t buy “Meet the Beatles” again until they promised it would be the last format….she’s cycled through albums, 8-track tape, cassette, cd and now MP3. It was a funny observation and true. I’ve owned albums on every single format. It would make me so bummed if all my Criterion discs were outmoded. I can only say how pleased I am that I didn’t get into buying vhs!

I wonder, if buying all these Criterion discs will be a big fat disappointment once cheaper HD dvd players become affordable, or if they’ll continue to support and upsample? Blu Ray is winnning, right?

Like, I still have one little tv in the basement with a built-in vhs player, but I haven’t used it in years. So, will HD be like that”?: Right now, you can get an Blu Ray player that upsamples regular dvds right?

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Vili Maunula

I wonder, if buying all these Criterion discs will be a big fat disappointment once cheaper HD dvd players become affordable, or if they’ll continue to support and upsample? Blu Ray is winnning, right

As far as I know, all BluRay players play DVDs, and will probably do so for a long time to come, just like all DVD players (as far as I know) play CDs.

And yes, BluRay has won the war, HD DVD is dead. Toshiba abandoned the format in February this year, and I think that the very last HD DVD releases will be coming in August this year.

As for Criterion, they’ll probably “upgrade” their DVDs to BluRay at some point in the future, but at least in my case I don’t think that I will be getting the BluRay editions for the improved picture quality, as the DVD quality is fine enough for me already.

However, if the discs include more extra content such as documentaries and new commentary tracks, I would get the discs for those. But in this case also the old Criterion DVDs would still be worth having!

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Jeremy Quintanilla

Criterion has already settle some licensing agreement for some Blu-Ray release and we should be seeing the first before the year is up.

However separate licenses are required for DVD and Blu-Ray release, so dont expect Criterion to release movies in both formats, DVD releases will still likely be the majority for a few more years. You’ll only see new never done before releases on Blu-Ray long before they update their library for Blu-Ray.

DVD players are not going anywhere and will be around for a long time, and Blu-Ray spec requires backward compatibility for DVD so there will always be something to play your DVDs.

Blu-Ray players are fairly cheap now, I wouldnt except much change for several more years, but for most people there is not really strong reason to go Blu-Ray–till several more years.

Speaking of equipment I just bought a new Pioneer Kuro TV — I figured it was a sign, Kurosawa movies should be played on a Kuro TV-Right? –at least that’s how I justified the cost. 🙂

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Vili Maunula

Kurosawa movies should be played on a Kuro TV-Right?

😆

Is the TV black, or why is it called “Kuro”?

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Jeremy Quintanilla

The TV frame is black as with most newer TVs, but they named it “Kuro” because it offers the blackest blacks for a plasma TV. Plasma and LCD always having trouble make blacks actually dark, normally they are too illuminated.

I had 2 TVs I was choosing from, but the Pioneer’s model name tip the scale—stupid I know. It’s a highly regarded TV on various A/V forums so I properly would of gotten it anyways. Just thought it was cool.

For those that dont know Kuro means black/dark in Japanese.

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cocoskyavitch

Thanks, Jeremy and Vili for all the information on “kuro” tv and on the Blu-Ray/DVD issue. It’s good to know that the DVD format won’t go the way of the 8-track tape. Most of us writing in this forum probably have a lot invested in Criterion DVDs. (Not to mention Mei Ah, Bo Ying, etc.) I’ve got a ton of Fellini, Ozu and some Kobayashi, Mizoguchi.

Like you, Vili, when Criterion comes out with a deluxe version (e.g., the recent “Seven Samurai”) I buy it-even though I had the “old” Criterion version.

But, Netflix is changing all that, for me (I’m in the U.S.). Just three years ago one had to buy everything…and stuff was hard to get…but now Netflix lets you give titles (they have Criterion stuff!) a test run. I’ve got the as-yet-to-be-released Mishima bio in que, and a bunch of Ozu and some Renoir (wouldn’t be tempted to go out and buy it, so this is great!) Really, Netflix is awesome for cinemaniacs.

Talking about cost: pressure from lower-cost DVDs, Blu-Ray, and Netflix are probably why Criterion came out with the Eclipse Series with a much-lower per-disc price point. I cobbled together a Kurosawa collection from myriad sources, (with dramatically different standards of production), then Criterion came out with the “Post-War” Kurosawa Eclipse series. I mean, it would have been nice to know they were in the pipeline before spending money on the Bo Ying translated from Japanese to Chinese to English. The quality of the subtitles ranges from obtuse to unitentionally funny.

Oh well, no complaints. Speaking of changing technology, though, don’t you think film and books will be downloadable? The “Kindle’ is a first-generation “reader”-it will probably need to be a lot more aesthetically pleasing to be desireable-and offer a lot more content than is currently available.

We (that’s the inclusive “we” of the new millenials) want all the bells and whistles and entertainment and information and art and communications in as portable and handy and on-demand a package as possible. Like, don’t you think we’ll have a home macro version of an I-phone that does internet, communications, downloadable content such as films, news, books, and will do all the regular computing stuff? I’m thinking yes. Eventually.

I mean, “Dick Tracy” comix featured the crazy notion of a two-way wrist phone/video watch. Of course, Dick tracy’s son also married the “moon maid” from outer space. Still…!

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Vili Maunula

But, Netflix is changing all that, for me (I’m in the U.S.).

And I can’t say how jealous of you Americans I am for that! Hungary, which is where I currently live, has a few companies that do something similar, but their catalogues are extremely poor. Yes, you can find all the Bruce Willis films there, but trying to find films that I would actually like to watch is next to impossible.

So, the alternatives for me are either buying the stuff or taking the illegal route. Since buying pretty much means ordering from abroad, and because shipping costs such ridiculous amounts of money and you can’t even combine too many DVDs into one shipment from outside of the EU because of the insanely low import tax limits (although I hear they are going to raise the EU import limit at the end of this year), I don’t really get to see as many films as I would like to.

Fortunately, the art cinemas in Budapest (two hours by public transport from where I live) do show quite a lot of good stuff. Yet, unfortunately neither my Hungarian nor for example my Japanese is quite on the level where I could follow and enjoy a Japanese film with Hungarian subtitles.

And, to be honest, I am not a big fan of the big screen, to begin with. Or, rather, I have no problem with the screen, but most of the time I don’t really like watching a film with strangers.

Speaking of changing technology, though, don’t you think film and books will be downloadable?

Well, I think that they’ve been downloadable for quite some time now. 😛 The question is rather when do they sort out the copyright laws and distribution contracts in a way that allows for a sensible commercial distribution system where for example I, living in Hungary, can with the press of a button pay for and legally download a movie or a TV series from an American, Japanese or any other film distributor? I am more than ready to pay for that.

But I guess that it will take a long time, and a lot of fighting, until that happens. Until then, the biggest winners financially from my film viewing habits are probably the various logistics and postal services around the world.

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cocoskyavitch

You are outside Budapest, Vili?
I have been there, but, doing tourist-sites, I don’t expect that I know it well in a substantial or real way. I traveled through Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey last summer.

It seems that you are currently in the situation I was in before NETFLIX, without decent access to film, and only the choice to buy if i wanted to see something. Hey, maybe you could begin a NETFLIX-style business in Hungary! Make money, AND serve the good!

I live in a college town with a restored cinema, so we get the occasional art house screenings, and seeing Kurosawa on the big screen is pretty awesome, actually. They’ve shown a few Kurosawa films over the last couple years. The students and faculty and professionals drawn to the films are smart and savvy…so, it is a VERY cool experience to view films-all the posturing can be left behind-everybody is into the experience for real. It’s pretty enjoyable to share the experience with others-at least it is for me. I’m a loner, in some ways, but it’s fun for me to go with a friend, and feel the audience grooving on something I love a lot. I love it when other people love Kurosawa (or Fellini or Rossellini…etc.).

Yes, the royalties, copyrights, etc., will be a huge issue to battle. On NETFLIX right now, though, I can stream Alexander Nevsky to my computer. It seems only a matter of time before we can dependably sort out the connection speeds, the copyrights and royalties…

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Vili Maunula

Yes, I’m about 30 kilometres from Budapest, in a town called Gödöllő. You may have visited us, as we have the former imperial palace. You may not. The town’s doing its best to market itself to tourists as the Versailles or Schönbrunn of Hungary, but there’s still some way to go until we get those tourist numbers. And the palace is not quite as grandiose, either (although nothing to be ashamed of).

Mainly, it’s a commuter town. Lots of detached and semi-detached houses and gardens that go with them. And yappy dogs that live in those gardens. Like our neighbours’.

I doubt that Viliflix, with my business sense, would make me much money. 😆 So, I’ll just wait until Netflix takes over the world. Or Microsoft buys it. Or something.

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Jon Hooper

My situation is somewhat similar to yours, Vili. I live in Greece, and since my Greek is pretty basic I have a problem following the subtitles of world cinema DVDs. The local rental stores stock a small amount of “foreign” titles but they are invariably with Greek subtitles only. Which means that I have to buy anything I really want to see. I don’t mind doing this with Kurosawa and my other favourite directors, but I’m less inclined to try out (at least for me) new or untried directors. I know what you mean about cinemas, but then again the sort of audiences I have shared a cinema with are not usually the sort who would appreciate Kurosawa in any case.

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Vili Maunula

I live in Greece, and since my Greek is pretty basic I have a problem following the subtitles of world cinema DVDs.

My mom was married to a Greek, so I have spent some summers in Greece (or Crete, rather), and I am therefore quite familiar with that particular problem. Crete may, in fact, be even worse than mainland Greece since all you can really find is touristy stuff, since so much of the island seems to be built up just for the tourists.

I remember the Greek TV being quite fun, though. My favourite show was one where four people, one of which was always an Orthodox priest (not sure if the same one, since they all dress the same and have that same beard), discussed the hot topic of the day. Instead of having them all in the same studio, they were simultaneously shot in four different locations, and the screen was divided for the four streams. The priest sometimes dozed off, and at other times the discussion got really heated up about something like what order things should stand in on the new EU identity cards.

I wonder if they still have that show? I haven’t been to Greece for a number years now.

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Jon Hooper

How many years ago was that, I wonder? Because they do indeed have the same show, and the priests are virtually interchangeable. I remember the identity card fiasco. It was something to do with whether religion (Orthodox) should be included on the identity card, if I remember right. There’s actually more than one show that follows this format, and they usually descend into a shouting match with all of the participants talking (or indeed shouting) at the same time.

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Jeremy Quintanilla

I’m sure the Eclipse series from Criterion is as they said, simply to get films out that likely to never get a the full upgrade. That being that films like those in the post war set, are not very popular and will never make the returns of say Seven Samurai. It doesn’t make business sense to spend large amounts of money on a film that doesn’t have a whole lot of wide appeal. However by grouping many not-so popular movies, you now make them worth something, all without having to spend a fortune renewing them completely. Selling cheaply and as a group, gives justification to Criterion not fully working on them. Which is something I’m completely happy with.

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cocoskyavitch

Ah, you guys! I travel to Greece once a year. In Athens I stay on Omonia Square at the brutalized La Mirage, in Delphi, well, Delphi is so small what does it matter where I stay, in Crete I stay at Rea in Iralklion, I used to spend a lot of time on Rhodes at the Anastasia…I consider the Angelou family good friends. Where are you in Greece, Jon, and what do you do in Greece?

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Jon Hooper

I’m on the island of Euboea. Not a tourist place, except for the weekend trippers from Athens. I’ve heard lots about Rhodes and Crete but never been to either. Do go to a different island every year though – plenty of nice ones to choose from. I’m not too far from Athens but I tend to avoid the place, except for summer concerts. And I liked Delphi when I went there, even though the museum was closed for the day. Parnassus is great, as is the village of Arachova, which are both in the area.

I’m a teacher of English as a foreign language, by the way. I had planned on an academic career, something in the field of medieval literature, but my Greek wife dragged me out here and now I’m doing the only thing I can do. I run my own school so I don’t have to bother about working for a headmaster or headmistress. I had a pupil a couple of years back, by the way, a mature student actually, who also likes Kurosawa and who is now learning Japanese. He tells me that there are no books in Greek for learning Japanese, and that they have to learn the language using English books. Seems a bit strange to me – learning a language through another language. I suppose the resulting essays would be up to the standard of some of those Mei Ah DVDs.

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Vili Maunula

I forgot to answer your question, Jon: it must be something like 7 or 8 years since I last was in Greece.

Also I have TEFL qualifications, as I completed a pedagogy degree on the side of my MA proper, which was in English Philology. I am not a practising teacher though, and try to do my best to stay that way, although I may sooner or later find myself back in the class room (if so, hopefully at the University rather than the secondary school). I actually really like teaching, but it is such a demanding job, and at least here it doesn’t really pay as well as it should.

While in University, despite ending up specialising in theoretical linguistics, I actually attended more courses in literature. Medieval literature was my favourite, especially the Anglo-Saxon works. I even took some course in Old English, although all we ended up doing there was translating the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

I actually learnt Japanese through English, and I use English also for learning Hungarian. But then again, whenever I need to write anything more proper than an email in Finnish (which is my mother tongue) I end up having to look up words in an English-Finnish dictionary. But that, I suppose, is only normal considering that I mostly speak English these days.

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Jon Hooper

Given the time and the opportunity, I would rather do something other than teaching, especially teaching a language. It’s not really my thing, to be honest, but I’ve learned the job well enough to be something like a good teacher. I’m not sure whether you need to love teaching to be a good teacher. It’s more a case of mustering up the courage, I think. Literature and cinema are closer to my heart, so a university job would have been nice, but there you go. Actually, I was thinking about trying for a doctorate through distance learning a couple of years back, but lost interest in the end. Things were just too busy. I did, however, get so far as to discuss possible research areas with my old tutor. I asked for Kurosawa, but he told me there’d be a language problem. Oh well.

I loved Beowulf, The Wanderer, The Searfarer and the rest but translation was never my strong point. Middle-english was more within my grasp, especially Chaucer, Gower, and the Gawain poet.

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Vili Maunula

Did you see the Beowulf film that came out last year? Any thoughts?

Chaucer and the Gawain poet were also repeatedly on my reading list, but Gower I never got acquainted with. Also, strangely enough the literature department gave no special courses on Chaucer, but I did attend two courses run by the linguistics department called simply “Chaucer”. Basically, we looked at his language and how he used it. Funny, how you can spend weeks after weeks talking about those line-ending “e”s!

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Jon Hooper

Funny, how you can spend weeks after weeks talking about those line-ending “e”s!

Glad I didn’t come at it from the linguistics angle, to be honest. It was never my strong point. I’m more at home talking about the naughty bits in The Miller’s Tale. 🙂

Yes, I did see Beowulf. I get a thrill, to be honest, just watching anything in that sort of dark ages setting, and as with The Lord of the Rings it was nice to finally see a version of the story with impressive visuals. But the changes to Grendel and his dam, to the dragon, left me a bit muddled. I think the script was by Neil Gaiman. I’ll need to watch it again to understand what he was getting at.

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Vili Maunula

I thought Gaiman and Roger Avary, who wrote the script, did a fairly good job at making the last part of the poem (with the dragon) an integral part of the story. Of course, by doing that they also ended up radically changing the nature of all the main characters (and making the setting quite contemporary in its message), but I didn’t really mind that. It is an interesting interpretation and a good take on what actually happened in that cave. Plus, I thought that they captured the feel of Heorot pretty well.

I did, however, have two major problems with the film. The first was the animation, which was lifeless and quite uninteresting. The second problem I had was the unnecessarily strong sexual innuendos throughout the film, ranging from the obvious (a naked Angelina Jolie, or Ray Winstone leaping around naked with his private parts covered by random objects — what is this, Austin Powers?) to the suggestive (lots of phallic symbols, and the entrance to Grendel’s cave is a 10-metre vagina). I don’t really know why they had to go down that route, it felt at times like watching a 10-year-old’s fantasy.

But all in all, I quite liked the film. Too bad I didn’t manage to catch it in 3D.

Understanding the line-ending “e”s in Chaucer, by the way, is quite helpful if you want to read Chaucer aloud. Some of them get pronounced (often altering the pronunciation of earlier words on the line), some don’t. The meter helps, of course.

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cocoskyavitch

Jon,
It is cool to know that you are in Greece teaching ESL classes, and have your own program! I teach for a university. Let me disabuse you of any notion of an ivory tower though, if you’ve got any illusions. It’s brutal in the trenches…

Vili, I thought I had read something about the Finland connection in these posts. I’ve been to Helsinki, but that’s as far as I’ve been able to get, and when I’ve been there it’s only been passing through. I would say the Saarinen train station is one of the coolest bits of architecture in all of Europe. Those massive figures holding the polygonal spheres…fabulous (and reminds me of Prague).

I study Chinese, but am a rather stupid and poor student. Your language ability is something I am quite envious of…

I’m a big fan of technology and its democratization of art.

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