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Pigs & Battleships [Masters of Cinema] [UK] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Classification: PG
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Studio: Eureka Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: June 27, 2011
  • RRP: £25.52

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B004YJZ9X6[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.co.uk

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:5/5]

Japanese filmmaker Shôhei Imamura entered the realm of the greats such as Kurosawa and Ozu with Pigs & Battleships, his fifth feature-length film. This 1961 Art House gem is every bit as important as Seven Samurai, Tokyo Story, or, heck, even a French New Wave film like Breathless in its brilliant use of camera angles, cutaways, and, most importantly, down-to-earth realism chronicling the underbelly of post-war Japan.

The story is a mix of wry social commentary, black comedy, drama, and romance following the a group of low-level Yakuza as they battle for control over the burgeoning pork business in a U.S. Navy-occupied coastal town. At the center of the impoverished town’s red light district where poor Japanese families sell their beautiful young daughters off to Americans in order to get by and whorehouses thrive, the Yakuza are battling to run the turf and caught in the middle are the young Kinta and his girlfriend Haruko. Kinta’s joined the gang with visions of earning big money once the gang’s pigs mature and he gets his share of the loot, but Haruko wants out before she has to become a rich American’s mistress.

Imamura slyly wraps his commentary on “pigs” “gangsters,” “Americans” and the downfall of Japanese morals all into one slick and contemporary film that tackles many social issues all ending in an unbelievable climax – one of the greatest in Japanese cinema.

This release also contains Imamura’s 1958 feature debut for Nikkatsu, Stolen Desire. While this story of a group of traveling actors who combine their kabuki theatre with strip shows doesn’t reach the brilliance of Pigs & Battleships, the characteristics of Imamura’s social commentaries are all there.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

I’ve found that many classic Asian or Japanese films tend not to look very good when restored. Whether it has to do with them not being as well kept as their Hollywood or European counterparts over the years or the original filming techniques is debatable. Either way, as a lover of Asian cinema, this is often disheartening to me, to say the least. Still, when done properly restoring these films can yield superb results. This AVC/MPEG-4 1080p transfer of Pigs & Battleships from Eureka Entertainment’s Masters of Cinema label may not show the inkiest of blacks for a black and white film and still has a bit too many scratches for my taste, but it is an ultimately satisfying, cinematic, and filmic presentation with nuanced shadings and appropriate amounts of grain.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix provided here is obviously limited by the technology used to capture the sound at the time (1961/Pigs & Battleships; 1958/Stolen Desire). There is a lot of inherent clipping and sibilant distortion that is unavoidable and not much dynamic range at all. Still, the audio could have been much worse and it is authentic to the films presented here.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3.5/5]

Apart from the included DVD, there is the standard and welcomed booklet from the Masters of Cinema series featuring essays on both films by Tony Rayns and rare photo stills. Additionally, I suppose one could also count the entire second feature Stolen Desire (93 mins) as a supplement if one wanted to.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

If you’ve not seen Pigs & Battleships, then you must pick up this release and watch it now. It is one of the great films of the 1960s. Period. The Masters of Cinema label continues their trend of unearthing cinematic treasures and bringing them to high definition in definitive editions with this Japanese jewel.

Additional Screen Captures


[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B004YJZ9X6[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.co.uk

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

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