Great movie...bad DVD!
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I'll start with the movie and save the worst for last. Funny, touching, and some wonderful acting. Nobuko Miyamoto and Tsutomo Yamazaki give great performances as do the cast of characters who parade past the chilled corpse. The camera is wonderfully active and vibrant.So if the movie is so good what can be bad you ask? Well it would seem most DVDs by Fox/Lorber. The Funeral is presented in a full screen/pan and scan format. It is a shame that Fox/Lorber is not releasing classic movies like the Funeral, My Life as a Dog, and others in at least letterbox and Dolby Digital. Fox/Lorber did not even work on cleaning up some bad edits and scratches on their copy. This pan & scan does not pay attention to making sure all speaking actors are in frame. The audio is just 2 channel with very poor tracking. What would make Fox/Lorber think that anyone would want a DVD version that is inferior to an old VHS copy poorly used at the local rental store?On top of the poor audio and video there is the fact that the subtitles are useless at many points. The subtitles are in a faded white which are hard to see most of the movie and impossible whenever there is a light background (ie. the ENTIRE black and white episode!). The subtitles actually get cut off of the right side of the screen at some points leaving a question as to what was meant. Amazingly those aren't enough mistakes for Fox/Lorber since they have only subtitled 2/3 of the conversations and huge gaps get left out at the beginning and ends of some scenes. All in all I give the movie 5 stars but the Fox/Lorber edition on DVD is a -3. So I averaged the two together and came up with a 1. I hate to think someone might think that such a great movie gets such a horrible grade, but I would hate for anyone to suffer such through such poor versions if they didn't necessarily have to. If you must have this movie on DVD then at least it's out there. But then again maybe if Fox/Lorber left the good movies alone someone like Criterion would pick them up? Personally I'll be avoiding the Fox/Lorber label on my DVDs from now on until I hear they are going to start doing some quality DVDs. Even with such wonderful classic movies."
Movie is great; DVD is sub-par
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great movie, but the DVD could be a lot better. Typically, Fox Lorber seems to have done as cheap a job as possible. It's not letterboxed, and they didn't re-do the subtitles."
Itami's first deserves better!!
Anaguma | Platteville, WI USA | 01/12/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first movie by Japanese director Juzo Itami, depicting the Japanese perspective on a subject that most of us would like to avoid. However, with a humorous eye, he presents a universally appealing approach, showing that humankind, despite cultural differences, is the basically the same: the funeral is for the family and friends as much as for the deceased.I purchased the DVD because it took forever to find a copy of the VHS, and didn't want to miss the chance. However, the Fox-Lorber FLV5109 release is little improvement over the VHS. The video portion is sharper. However, it is still a cut down version with the subtitles occasionally disappearing off the screen (this happens on the VHS also). The subtitles are burned into the video track so you can't turn them off. The sound to me sounds mono, whereas the VHS is stereo. This could just be my poor hearing ;).Conclusion: The film is well worth owning. However, if you already have a VHS copy, the only reason to "upgrade" is for a slightly sharper image or having it on a more durable format. The DVD also gives a filmography for the main actors, about the only plus. If you don't own it, you can get almost the same quality on the VHS.... If money is no object, the DVD is OK; just don't expect anything beyond owning VHS quality with fast scene selection. ..."
A wry commentary on the loss of meaning in traditions
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 06/24/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There are times when death has been appropriate and hilarious material for a comedy. The juxtaposition of the seriousness of a funeral with wacky hijinks and hootenannies makes for funny stuff. But don't expect to find any of that in Itami's social commentary, "The Funeral" ("O-soshiki").
It is, in fact, an incredibly insightful exposition of the meaninglessness of tradition and ritual in modern Japan. A family, so far removed from the society that first created these traditions, tries to struggle though an "appropriate" funeral for the deceased father. They rent videos on appropriate greetings and responses, they hire experts to tell them what direction the coffin should face, and how many sticks of incense to light. The ritual has far more importance too the family than the actual loss of the father, as does presenting a proper face.
The elderly, as the vanguard of the traditions, are the only ones who care. In fact, the dead man's daughters are shocked and impressed when one of their father's friends shows actual sorrow at the loss. "That's the way to do it," they say. Money is the symbolism for the loss of tradition, the idol that has replaced emotion at the altar. The Buddhist priest is made a gift of Italian tiles for his garden, and the climax of the film is when a case of money opens up to the wind, and the family grasps at it desperately.
While rough in nature, and clearly a first film, Itami manages to artfully wrap these various elements together, without stating the message directly. In the Japanese style, much is implied and little is said. A particularly capturing moment, is a black and white home movie of the family laughing and having fun, while a sad lament plays in the background. The pace is slow and patient.
The critique of Japanese culture is honest and authentic, and I highly recomend this film to anyone who wants to see real Japanese people living real Japanese lives.