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Upcoming film club films (availability problems)

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    Vili Maunula

    I was going through the list of this year’s film club films, and it seems like a couple of them are more difficult to acquire than I had originally thought. In particular, I no longer know if the following are good choices:

    – Ozu’s A Hen in the Wind (chosen as a companion piece for One Wonderful Sunday and Drunken Angel to be watched in June)

    – Mizoguchi’s The Life of Oharu (a companion piece for Stray Dog to be watched in October)

    Neither seems to be easily available in versions other than what you can find on eBay, and I have no idea about the quality of those releases. Would any of you have suggestions for films that could replace them?

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    Ugetsu

    For A Hen in the Wind, I’d suggest:

    Record of a Tenement Gentleman which is a good contrast in theme I think to One Wonderful Sunday and No Regrets. I think its quite widely available. Two other wonderful Ozu films of the period are my personal favourite, Late Spring which I think is available in both Regions 1 and 2. Another favourite of mine is Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice. Of those three, the latter two are, I think, much superior films to the first, but the Tenement Gentleman is I think the more directly relevant to Kurosawa’s immediate post war films.

    Is Oharu so hard to find? There is a copy in my local dvd rental place, but maybe its been out of issue for a while. For alternatives, I’d suggest:

    Lady of Musashino. Quite widely available I think – its a beautiful film in parts, but badly flawed (especially the ending). Quite a good contrast to Kurosawa, Naruse and Ozu’s post war films.

    Sansho the Bailiff: Again, widely available in regions 1 and 2. An interesting contrast I think to Kurosawa’s historical films – Mizoguchi took a very different approach. This is undoubtedly one of his masterpieces.

    Street of Shame: Mizoguchi’s last film, and in my opinion, possibly his best. Not really comparable to anything Kurosawa did, but it is similar in theme to some of Naruse’s. Its interesting in that it was quite experimental – it shows that of the ‘big’ Golden era names, Mizoguchi may have been best equipped to adopt to the changes in the Japanese film industry in the 1960’s had he lived.

    As a modern alternate, its not in the cinemas here yet, but I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the adoption of Norwegian Wood by Ahn Hung Tran. I would imagine it will be out on DVD by this summer.

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    Vili Maunula

    Thanks for the suggestions, Ugetsu! Unfortunately, it looks like the availability of many of these films is worse than what it was only a couple of years ago. I wonder if the number of out of print titles means that there are blu-ray releases on the way.

    As far as I can see, the region 2 Palisades Tartan release of Record of a Tenement Gentleman is out of print, and the film has never received a DVD or Blu-ray release in North America. Copies of the Tartan version can still be bought in some places of course, but that is strictly region 2. There is also a Chinese Bo Ying release, but I have no idea about its quality. Anyone else?

    Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice has the same status as Tenement Gentleman. In fact, the two were released together by Tartan, and the set now appears to be out of print. At least many shops no longer stock it, and I couldn’t find it from Tartan’s website either.

    But if you know other editions for these two, do let us know!

    Late Spring is available from both Criterion and BFI, but we already have it scheduled for August!

    As for Life of Oharu, the only editions that I could find available in region 1 were Chinese ones. Meanwhile, the region 2 Artificial Eye release is apparently out of print, or at least I couldn’t find it sold anywhere else but eBay, and it’s no longer listed on the company’s website, as far as I see.

    Artificial Eye’s region 2 Lady of Musashino appears to be more or less available, but there is no corresponding region 1 release that I could find, other than a pirated looking South Korean one. Do you know some other?

    Surprisingly, also the region 2 Masters of Cinema edition of Sansho the Bailiff seems to be out of print, although available second hand for inflated prices, and I guess also new in some places. It is available as part of the Late Mizoguchi box set, of course, which may or may not be a bit pricey if you just want one film. It’s still available for region 1 from Criterion, of course. It could be an option.

    Street of Shame is available in region 1 through an Eclipse box set (but it’s a bit costly), but I couldn’t find a region 2 release. Can you point us to one?

    I can’t say much about Norwegian Wood, as I don’t know what it’s about or when it might be available. IMDb doesn’t list a theatrical release date for the US yet. It could of course go straight to DVD there.

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    Ugetsu

    Sorry about that Vili, I should have done my research into availability before posting! I was just going from memory from what is in my local dvd shops and what I saw in the US.

    And of course I should have remembered that Late Spring was already on the club list…

    I don’t know who released Street of Shame, but there definitely was one available in Region 2, but it might be long out of print – I guess I should be grateful I’ve a local dvd rental place that keeps so many old out of stock dvd’s…

    I think this needs a bit more thought about availability – I think the discussion has suffered so far from some films just being too difficult for people to obtain.

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    Vili Maunula

    I suggest that for June, we replace Ozu’s A Hen in the Wind (largely unavailable except for eBay) with Chekhov’s play A Marriage Proposal (aka The Proposal), the English translation of which is freely available online.

    Although it is not an actual film, it works well with our Kurosawa chronology, as following Drunken Angel (our film in May) Kurosawa toured Japan with the Chekhov play as almost all film production was halted at Toho due to union strikes. The play will also give us a month to discuss Kurosawa’s Russian and Soviet influences, a subject that has recently come up in our discussion. Since the play is a short one, it should also give each of us the possibility to check out a further Russian film or book that Kurosawa may have been influenced by, and to report back the findings. That is, if you feel like doing that extra bit.

    Does it sound like a plan?

    As for October when we should have The Life of Oharu but due to poor availability probably won’t, I would suggest one of the following:

    1) some Georges Simenon novel (September’s film Stray Dog was influenced by Simenon),

    2) some film based on a Simenon novel (but none seem easily available),

    3) some John Ford film, for instance My Darling Clementine (not that it has anything directly to do with Stray Dog but we don’t have a John Ford film on the list)

    4) Sansho the Bailiff (which seems to be available again).

    Let me know what you think. If either of the options 1-2 gains support, I can try to see which Simenon work to pick.

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    Ugetsu

    Sounds a nice idea for a change – I have to confess to having never seen or read a Chekhov play (although a Brian Friel version of Three Sisters was performed just a few months ago in Dublin, and there was a version of The Seagull before then).

    As for October, I’m quite happy with all those suggestions. I would have thought that if doing a Ford film then maybe Stagecoach, as I think that may be the one people think of when they talk about Kurosawa’s influences. Just as long as its not The Quiet Man, I’ve unwillingly had to see that film about 50 times! I’d personally quite like Sansho, as its a favorite film of mine.

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    lawless

    Reading a Chekhov play is fine with me! If I’m feeling ambitious, I may try rereading The Idiot, though if my recent experience with The Possessed (aka The Devils or Demons is any guide, it might take me awhile. Like Kurosawa, Dostoevsky is one of my favorite writers.

    As for October, reading a Georges Simenon novel (I seem to remember having read one as a teenager) or watching a John Ford film or Sansho the Bailiff are all fine with me. I’m interested in seeing another Mizoguchi film anyway after acquiring The 47 Ronin.

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    Vili Maunula

    Thanks for the responses! Since we three seem to be the most active participants here these days, I’ll make a decision based on what you two suggested — so, let’s have Chekhov’s play A Marriage Proposal in June, and Mizoguchi’s film Sansho the Bailiff in October. I’ll update the film club schedule accordingly.

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    Ugetsu

    Just as a suggestion to pop in to May’s viewing – a new Takashi Miike film is opening now (in both the States and Europe simultaneously I think – and from what I’ve read it seems to be very much in the Seven Samurai tradition. Its called 13 Assassins.

    I can’t wait to see it – the Miike films I’ve seen have ranged from excellent (Audition), the bizarre, to the so-bad-its-almost-good.

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    Vili Maunula

    13 Assassins keeps popping up in my news feeds, and it seems like it’s been getting some fairly good reviews so far. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be opening here any time soon, and even when it will, it will surely be dubbed. However, if any of you go to see the film, I’d certainly be curious to hear your opinions, and what the Kurosawa connection is like.

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