Criterion’s new Blu-ray release of Rashomon is out today, and so are the reviews. Using the 2008 restoration made by the Academy Archive, the Tokyo National Film Center and Kadokawa Pictures, this is to the best of my knowledge the first time that the film is available on Blu-ray for the English speaking world. Criterion has also released a new DVD version with the print.
While, due to geographical reasons, I have not been able to get my hands on the new release, the general consensus among reviewers seems to be that the new release’s video quality is excellent, and certainly an improvement on what has been available before. Some minor scratches and other imperfections remain, and the black levels are not perfect, but these seem to be minor complaints. Meanwhile the audio, although also an improvement over previous releases, is not quite as big a step forwards, as it still lacks some sharpness and suffers from tinniness and some level of hiss.
There seems to be no doubt, however, that Criterion’s new Blu-ray is as good as it currently gets. DVD Beaver calls the new release “a significant improvement over the SD releases often showing much more information on the frame edges”, suggesting that “it is the best we are likely to see the film in the comfort of our home theaters”. The subtitle translation is also generally praised.
This new restoration is the one that was touring cinemas a few years ago. In addition to the new print, Criterion’s new edition also differs from their earlier one by including A Testimony as an Image, a 68 minute documentary featuring many of the people who worked on Rashomon. This was not part of the original Criterion DVD release of Rashomon, although it is included on the UK 2008 Optimum edition, as well as on the Australian Madman release. What the other releases don’t have is an archival audio interview with Takashi Shimura, which is also included on the new release.
The other special features included on the disc are the same as on Criterion’s earlier Rashomon release:
- Audio commentary by Japanese-film historian Donald Richie
- Video introduction by director Robert Altman
- Excerpts from The World of Kazuo Miyagawa, a documentary on Rashomon’s cinematographer
- Original and rerelease trailers
- A booklet featuring an essay by film historian Stephen Prince; an excerpt from director Akira Kurosawa’s Something Like an Autobiography; and reprints of Rashomon’s two source stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” and “In a Grove”
For availability of Criterion’s Rashomon and other Kurosawa films on Blu-ray, check out the Kurosawa Blu-rays section.