A new Japanese DVD release of After the Rain appears to be on its way for an October 24 release.
After the Rain (Ame agaru, 1999) was the first film to be made from a Kurosawa script after his death. It was directed by Takashi Koizumi (assistant director for Kurosawa’s last four films) and nursed by Teruyo Nogami, with the rest of the cast and the crew also including many of Kurosawa regulars. Personally, I find it a tasteful and very well made homage to Kurosawa, and the best one of the “Kurosawa movies” made after the director’s death.
But what is so special about this release? Well, one thing is for sure — it is cheaper (around $26 American) than either the original DVD release ($43) or the 2003 super hi-bit release ($63).
Other than that, the information is a little bit more patchy. For example, while the Amazon.co.jp page doesn’t tell us what subtitles the new release comes with, Kadokawa Entertainment’s own product page indicates that both English and Japanese subtitles are included. If this is true, the new release is like the original DVD release in this respect, and unlike the “super hi-bit” release which, to the best of my understanding, doesn’t have English subtitles.
So, now that it seems that at least the feature is English-friendly, we can turn our attention to what else is on the disc. The first thing to notice is that Amazon.co.jp suggests that the new DVD will be in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, instead of 1.78:1. I have no way to verify this, as the Kadokawa page lists the aspect ratio simply as “squeeze” (スクイーズ), as it does for the earlier releases (see here and here). I am not familiar with this term, so I wonder if anyone can help me? I read the relevant Wikipedia article, but came out even more confused. If I had to guess, I would say that the information about 2.35:1 is wrong. But does anyone know what ratio After the Rain was originally shot for?
The new release also seems to have more extras. Included are an audio commentary with Koizumi and Nogami (I have no idea if this is subtitled), music tracks (no idea what this means), a “making of” documentary, the original script and notes (I suppose on the disc, not as a booklet), storyboard images, set design and costume design pictures, a production diary, a collection of posters and stills, as well as a cast and crew listing. This seems to be more than in the previous releases of the film, although I cannot say for sure since I don’t own them.
It is too bad, though, that they went with the cover of the first DVD release, pictured above, and not with the infinitely more interesting image that was used in the original promotional posters as well as the “hi-bit edition”:
After the Rain isn’t actually the only Kurosawa release to come out this month in Japan. Apparently, today marks the release of a new Dreams DVD. It’s pretty cheap too, selling for just under $10. And it comes with English subtitles (as well as a number of other languages).
Again, however, there is uncertainty about the aspect ratio. The original film, to the best of my knowledge, was 1.85:1, and this is also what Warner Home Video’s North American Region 1 release is displayed in. Yet, the Amazon.co.jp product page lists the new Japanese release as being in 1.78:1 (which, curiously, also seems to have been the aspect ratio of the earlier Japanese releases). The Warner Home Videos product page also seems to confirm this, listing the new release as 16:9.
Now, why have 1.85:1 elsewhere, and then release what seems to be the exact same print in another aspect ratio in Japan?
Being as cheap as it is, I may just have to order the new Dreams as well, once After the Rain is out. So, I’ll probably have more information for you in November.