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Middle-aged art restorer Ryota and his sister Chinami return to their childhood home with their own families for a gathering to mark the anniversary of the death of their older brother Junpei, who drowned while saving another boy's life 15 years earlier. The film tracks the subtle events that take place over the course of one summer's day as the family members reconnect while struggling to come to terms with undercurrents of generational conflict and the consequences of loss.
For more about Still Walking and the Still Walking Blu-ray release, see Still Walking Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 16, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Yoshio Harada, Yui Natsukawa, Kazuya Takahashi, Shohei Tanaka, Hotaru Nomoto
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
» See full cast & crew
Still Walking Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 16, 2011
Screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Aruitemo aruitemo" a.k.a "Still Walking" (2008) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; interviews with director Hirokazu Kore-eda and cinematographer Yutaka Yamazaki; and making of featurette. The disc also arrives with a 20-page illustrated booklet. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Hirokazu Kore-eda's Still Walking is about a large Japanese family whose members have a difficult time communicating with each other. The only time they get together is when they have to commemorate the tragic death of one of their own, Junpei, the family's eldest son. They don't like doing it, but agree that they must.
It is that time of the year again, and the grown children have brought their families to the home of their elderly parents. This is the first time everyone will meet Ryota's (Hiroshi Abe, Happily Ever After) new wife, Yukari (Yui Natsukawa, Alone in the Night), who is a widow with a son (Shohei Tanaka). Ryota's sister, Chinami (You, Nobody Knows), who is planning to move into her parents' house with her family, is excited to finally meet her sister-in-law. But the father, Kyohei (Yoshio Harada, Preparation for the Festival), a retired doctor, isn't. His wife, Toshiko (Kirin Kiki, Tokyo Tower: Mom and Me, and Sometimes), also does not seem thrilled.
The family gathers around the table to taste Toshiko's traditional dishes. They begin eating - and revealing what torments their souls.
Kyohei is still mourning the tragic death of Junpei, who he had hoped would take over his practice. He is also upset that Ryota has chosen to follow a different path, and that he has brought to the family a widow. He does not want to admit it, but he is hurt because he has finally realized that while his professional life has been a success, his personal life has been a disaster.
Toshiko has learned to hide her feelings, but Ryota can tell that his mother also isn't happy that he has married a widow. He also feels that she is disappointed with his career choice - restoring paintings. Toshiko is convinced that Ryota could have done a lot better.
Ryota does not have any regrets - choosing freedom over success was worth it. But the fact that he has been unable to find work for quite some time is now driving him crazy.
Having spent less than a day with Ryota's family, Yukari can already tell that there is a lot in it that is irreversibly broken. She also senses that Ryota's parents would always treat her as an outsider.
It is impossible not to compare Still Walking to Yasujiro Ozu's films, and especially his Tokyo Story - the film is literally a slice of life, a fragment from a larger story whose beginning and ending are practically unimportant; it is the atmosphere and the various emotions conveyed by the main protagonists that matter.
The film has a distinctively Japanese flavor (there is that unique Japanese sense of serenity that permeates it), but its message is universal. On the other hand, the dilemmas Ryota, Yukari, Kyohei and Toshiko struggle with are painfully familiar, as are their relationships, but the mini-episodes where they argue have some unusual climaxes.
According to Director Kore-eda, many of the conflicts between Ryota, Kyohei and Toshiko were inspired by his rocky relationship with his parents. They loved him, but did not always agree with his views of the world they shared. Ultimately, though the film honors the director's parents, it also questions various conservative perceptions of family dynamics.
The title of the film comes from the lyrics of Blue Light Yokohama, a popular 1960s Japanese song.
Still Walking Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Hirokazu Kore-eda's Still Walking arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Supervised and approved by director Hirokazu Kore-eda and director of photography Yutaka Yamakazi, this new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Cintel C-Reality Telecine from the original camera negative.
Telecine supervisors: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Yutaka Yamazaki.
Telecine colorist: Mori Seijiro/Imagica, Tokyo."
This is an excellent high-definition transfer. Fine object detail is very good, clarity pleasing, and contrast levels consistent throughout the entire film. The film's lovely spectrum of warm colors is beautifully reproduced - the variety of light blues, greens, yellows, grays, browns, and blues look fantastic. Edge-enhancement is never a serious issue of concern; neither is macroblocking. I also did not see any traces of heavy noise reduction. I did a few random comparisons with the R2 UK SDVD release of Still Walking, courtesy of New Wave Films, which I have in my library, and must say that the Criterion Blu-ray release represents a substantial upgrade in quality - in addition to superior detail and improved contrast, the random background noise, blockiness, and occasional color pulsations present on the SDVD release have also been effectively addressed. Lastly, the film's grain structure has been retained, and there are absolutely no serious stability issues to report in this review whatsoever. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Still Walking Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This film features a fully digital soundtrack. The audio for this release was mastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master using Pro Tools HD."
I don't have any major reservations. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. There are no balance issues with Gonchichi's music score either. Generally speaking, the Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track has a good range of nuanced dynamics and pleasing organic qualities. Finally, while viewing the film I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
Still Walking Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Still Walking Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I hope that this excellent release of director Kore-eda's beautiful Still Walking will also inspire Criterion, or another distributor, to bring to Bu-ray his equally impressive After Life and Nobody Knows. In the meantime, I urge you to add Still Walking to your libraries. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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