Of Flesh and Blood: The Cinema of Hirokazu Koreeda [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (13th August 2019).
The Film

Of Flesh and Blood: The Cinema of Hirokazu Koreeda

Filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda started his career in the world of television from 1987, from assistant director on various variety shows to eventually creating some well received documentaries for television in the early 1990s. His career in fiction filmmaking as a director started in 1995 and since then he has made thirteen features which from his debut onward have received high acclaim from critics and festivals, with his stature only growing in status as one of the greatest Japanese filmmakers working today, if not in all of Japanese cinema. His dealings with family, blood ties, societal woes, children, life, and death through matters of everyday life and everyday people resonated with audiences worldwide, bringing an emotional depth with each of his works. He has worked in the genres of the samurai film, courtroom drama, and fantasy, but he is best known for his family dramas that evoke the works of Yasujiro Ozu, Mikio Naruse, and Ken Loach while adding a personal touch that makes them quite his own. His films were not always box office successes as the personal and low key dramas were not made to be blockbusters, but his more recent works have been very successful financially at the Japanese cinemas and his past films continue to be rewatched and rediscovered by new fans. This Blu-ray box by the BFI includes four of his works, all being clearly distinct from each other yet having common thematic cores together.


"Maborosi" 「幻の光」 (1995)

Yumiko (played by Makiko Esumi) is a young mother in her twenties that is suddenly widowed when her husband Ikuo (played by Tadanobu Asano) is hit by a train one evening. The sudden and unexplained loss takes a toll on her life which was not exactly on the positive side, but with help from her mother and others she is able to have an arranged marriage with Tamio (played by Takashi Naito), a fellow widower. Moving to a coastal village, she looks to have a new life as a new wife and continue as a mother, but her past and trauma continues to haunt her rather than being able to find true happiness.

Koreeda's feature film debut was based on the novel of the same name by Teru Miyamoto first published in 1978 and would become his first and so far only film in his filmography that he did not write himself. Built on unanswered questions and the effects of mourning over a lengthy period, the story is both extremely straightforward while also being very abstract. Time flows in one direction without flashbacks, starting off with with Yumiko as a little girl feels guilt with the disappearance of her grandmother. Her subsequent life with husband Ikuo is not the best of situations, not living comfortably financially though their bond as a couple seems to be the more positive point. It's when she receives news that her husband was hit by a train and was killed that the thoughts that run through her mind are also what the audience feels. Why was he on the tracks? Was it an accident? Was it suicide? If so, what was the reason? How can she continue life as a single mother? How will she cope with the loss? They are not immediately mentioned nor does she say them out loud, but it is obvious that all the questions are within her. Life goes on for Yumiko in an almost dreamlike yet frozen state. Things are moving around her but she is trapped in the past emotionally unable to break free even with the people around her including the new husband.

Koreeda's direction lingers on the visuals for lengthy periods in "Maborosi". Cuts are very few with many long takes used throughout with many occasions with very little happening on screen or in dialogue, like pauses in limbo that are stretched out. The original Japanese title is "Maboroshi no hikari", with "Maboroshi" meaning "phantom", "supernatural", "unexplained", or "non-existent" and "hikari" meaning "light". "Maboroshi" is commonly thought of with ghosts or other unexplained visions, and some going into the film might expect it to be a ghost story rather than a family drama. The meaning of the title is never fully explained but can be interpreted differently. Is the memory of Ikuo the mysterious light for Yumiko, the one that she continues to chase for answers to life? Is Yumiko herself the mysterious light, the beam that withered away with the death of Ikuo, that is trapped in the darkness? Is the bonfire near the end the title, the place where Yumiko finally says out loud her true feelings and opens her heart and mind? The film is not one to give all the answers. It is made to make audiences think about life and death and how things can change instantaneously and it can be hard to move on. With Japanese culture being extremely quiet and subtle in the ways of expressing emotions for the dead in comparison to the wild cries and screams of other Asian cultures, there are a lot of things not talked about and left lingering within, rather than for discussion. Suicide rates are high in Japan compared to many other developed nations and for many cases, and while the film doesn't hit the nail on the head, it is one that should make people talk about death more in a positive light rather than the bottled in uncertainty.

"Maborosi" came at a time in Japanese cinema where there was over a decade of few creative new voices due to television dominating entertainment and film studios were taking less risks. Produced independently and receiving a small theatrical release in its home country, it became a surprise critical hit in Japan and abroad, with a Newcomer of the Year award and Best New Actress for Makiko Esumi at the Japanese Academy Awards and Blue Ribbon Awards respectively, plus awards from Venice, Vancouver, and Chicago overseas.


"After Life" 「ワンダフルライフ」 (1998)

At a building somewhere between earth and the heavens is a group of workers whose task is to greet each of the recently deceased and comfort them on the way to the next step. The people are to stay at the place for a week, and they are told that they are only allowed to carry one memory from their life, which the staff would try to recreate during that time. The staff interview the various people that range from elderly to teenage, all having different takes on life. Some like Mr. Shoda (played by Toru Yuri) says nothing beats sex in terms of great memories. The teenage girl Kana (played by Sayaka Yoshino cannot forget going to Disneyland with her friends. Mr. Watanabe (played by Taketoshi Naito) who had an arranged marriage. Although not all have memories worth keeping, as evidenced by the young Iseya (played by Yusuke Iseya who refuses to choose a memory. During the week, the counseling staff have to bring their guests' stories out and to be able to bring them to "life" again.

Koreeda's second feature explored death in an unusual cinematic way. Taking place in what looks like a formerly abandoned government office where the cracks are visible and furniture look ancient, the place is not a cleanly lit heavenly place like the pearly gates or above the clouds many might picture following an after life. Instead it looks like an unrenovated city hall office where people are sitting around waiting and wondering how long things will take. But the difference between standing in line and getting forms stamped and standing in another line, the staff working there are counselors as well as filmmakers for the guests. Mochizuki (played by Arata), Kawashima (played by Susumu Terajima), and Sugie (played by Takashi Naito) are a few of the workers that have to talk to each person, find out about their lives, and try to bring out details of their one memory to take to the next world. This means earning trust, helping them choose and then having to recreate everything in their studios as best they can with location recreation, recreating sound effects, and casting choices as any film would need. Koreeda's documentary works from the past blend with fiction in this piece, with much of the dialogue and sequences made through a documentary style. When the people are interviewed to talk about their memories, the camera is on a fixed position with the performers telling their stories and for the most part their testimonials are not scripted but really their own stories. Interviewing over 500 people to hear people's thoughts on what their one memory to keep would be, he selected a few of the people from the interviews that were non-actors to play in the film alongside the professionals as their testimonials resonated heavily with the director.

Much of the film feels real. The stories that many talk about with first loves, eating chicken rice for the first time, dancing in "The Red Shoes", going to Splash Mountain, eating rice for the first time in a long time during the war, etc. They feel true to life with the people explaining what they saw, what they felt, what they experienced without feeling like they had recited lines. Of course with audiences they were to also ask themselves the same question. If only one memory could be taken, which memory would be the one? Not only does the audience think themselves, but they are also shown how time and reflection can change, as seen with some of the guests changing their minds after consultation periods or giving things a day or two to think about their choices, just as almost anyone would. But this is not a reality where memories can just be plucked from the mind. It's also a metafilm where the filmmaking process is seen with the makeshift setpieces and the staff directing and gathering from whatever they can put together in the short period of time of a week. There are some logical issues such as how they are really able to recreate memories with the limited resources, and where they are able to get actors to portray the various people, but then again that is also the magic of cinema and storytelling. That is not where the heart is. The way they describe the memories are in the minds of the viewers and that is all that is needed. The audience is never shown the completed films though there are scenes of them viewing the films in a screening room, and possibly for the better. It is their memory and not ours.

A plot point that is also important is with the character of the counselor Mochizuki and the counselor trainee Shiori (played by Erika Oda). The counselors are also people that have lost their lives. Rather than choose a memory, they decided to stay as staff to guide people and work at the office, and like the guests, they do not age, with some staying for a very lengthy period. Mochizuki died in World War II while Shiori is a new recruit still learning the ropes. They are bonding quite well but Mochizuki's talks with Mr. Watanabe triggers something that had been repressed for years. Mochizuki was engaged to be married but was unfortunately killed in battle. He finds out that Watanabe actually married his former love through an arranged marriage and his memories with her return in full. He doesn't want to tell Watanabe of his connection as he must do his job of helping him choose a specific memory but without his own feelings getting in the way. Shiori sees the difficulty going through his mind. Bringing back the old memories of happiness before the war is something that he is thinking to take to the afterlife. But that also means having to erase all memories of working at the office including time with Shiori. Is it important to live in the present or throw it away for that one memory?

"After Life" is a cinematic experience, a documentary experience, and an emotionally beautiful ride that became a major awards winner internationally with wins at San Sebastian, Torino, and the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema among others, but was surprisingly not a major awards winner in Japan even with critical praise. The film cemented Koreeda as a filmmaker to look out for in the 2000s.


"Nobody Knows" 「誰も知らない」 (2004)

The Fukushima family move into a new apartment in Tokyo. A family of five comprised of single mother Keiko (played by YOU, the 12 year old son Akira (played by Yuya Yagira), and younger siblings Kyoko (played by Ayu Kitaura), Shigeru (played by Hiei Kimura), and the youngest Yuki (played by Momoko Shimizu). The children do not go to school, and besides Akira, they are not allowed to leave the apartment. The children were born out of wedlock to different fathers, and besides Akira are not documented so if spotted they are at risk of being separated going into child care. The mother tries to make ends meet, but one day she leaves behind some money for the children and decides not to return. With the limited resources, the children bond together as best they can to make ends meet and deal with life on their own.

Koreeda followed "After Life" with "Distance" in 2001, a film contemplating life and death following a terrorist incident. Unlike "Maborosi" which was based on a novel and "After Life" based on an original idea, "Distance" was based on a real life incident with the Tokyo Sarin gas attacks. His fourth feature "Nobody Knows" would also come from a true incident. In 1988 a case of child abandonment became a major story in international media, in which a single mother had abandoned her four children in a Tokyo apartment for nine months. Police were called in due to noise complaints as the the apartment was a place that rowdy teens would go to. Police found three children, a 15 year old, a 7 year old, and a 3 year old, malnourished by living off junk food. While the names of the children and the mother who eventually turned herself in were never disclosed, the media was covering the story heavily with discussions on child abandonment being a major social issue in Japan. Koreeda looked to making a story about the kids into a feature, but the script languished for fifteen years with many changes over time, eventually becoming its own original story.

"Nobody Knows" on paper makes the mother an evil character with the basic description of abandoning her children but there is much more depth to her character in the film. When seen at the start, the mother Keiko is truly caring for the children, by playing with them, joking around, and talking to them lovingly. With three of the four children being undocumented and difficulty for a single mother with four children able to get an apartment in Tokyo, she must smuggle two of the younger children in suitcases while the second oldest Kyoko must come by train at a later time at night. Rules are established like a game where the children are not allowed to go outside of the apartment and have to keep quiet so people do not come by. There is one period where Keiko is gone for about a month. Later she makes a decision to permanently leave. In one scene before her decision she wakes up with tears in her eyes as she is making the most difficult decision in her life. Akira later finds out she quit her job, moved to Kanagawa prefecture and started a new life with someone else, but rather than confronting her or going to the location where she is, he decides to become the leader of the household instead. The phone call scene is one of the more emotionally devastating moments in the middle of the film, as he is left speechless in hearing her answer the phone with someone else's name. The mother made a terrible choice no doubt, and the audience is never shown where she went or what kind of person she followed and can only speculate how much better life was for her. Regardless of how rich and well off, it truly makes no excuse. The mother's work is never shown and her life outside the home is never seen. There really is no reason to see what made her leave, and Koreeda magnificently constructs the narrative without the point of view of the mother.

The story is about the children and their coping with the situation. The younger two are oblivious to the situation. The second oldest is questioning the happening. The oldest deals with using the remaining money wisely but when basic utilities are cut off, the children have to make ends meet by washing at the park and living in the sweltering heat with the windows open and disregarding the mother's set rules of staying indoors. The scene of Akira taking his siblings outside for the first time is a liberating experience, and one that finally shows the laughs and smiles in a bright outdoor setting even if the situation is disheartening. It's also important to see that the kids have some people on their side. Some convenience story workers help out Akira by giving him soon to expire food secretly, and the high school student Saki (played by Hanae Kan) befriends them and becomes a surrogate mother figure. Though she comes from a very well off family living in a gorgeous house, she is bullied at school and doesn't seem to be emotionally stable with her own family. The characters are very well established and especially for the child actors very natural in their performances. The younger ones are very playful and silly while the older ones are more restrained and serious, yet still children wanting to be regular children.

The specifics of the children were not written in script but created with the four main children with the director. Koreeda encouraged the four actors cast to create the characters themselves, by choosing their character names, interacting with each other in rehearsals, and making them feel comfortable with each other to feel like a real family. The performances are excellent for each giving a uniqueness for each sibling wonderfully. It's one of Koreeda's bleakest works but one that also has many bright and fun moments as well, with a very uncertain ending that is open ended. It also became Koreeda's most successful film at the time with high praises from critics, and multiple awards received. Yuya Yagira became the youngest actor to receive Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival and kickstarted his career as a prominent child actor. It also won Best Film and Best Director at the Blue Ribbon Awards along with Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress at the Kinema Jumpo Awards in Japan, and many more domestically and abroad. Highly praised for his direction of children in performances and bringing to light a very dark social issue, the film became one of his most well known over the years.

While the story's ending may be on the bleaker side, the true account that the story was based on was actually even bleaker. One of the four children was killed by some teens that were playing too roughly in the apartment and her body was buried in a forest by the eldest brother. The teens were convicted and sent to juvenile detention. The police also found skeletal remains of a baby in the home which was a fifth child that died soonafter childbirth, which was the third child born four years prior. The mother was convicted of child endangerment and received a sentence of only three years in prison. Upon release, she was able to regain custody of the two youngest children while the oldest became eighteen. There whereabouts of the children and mother now are unknown, but it's almost insane to think that a mother who left her children in squalor for months, had a skeleton of a baby in a closet, and was partially responsible for the death of a two year old would be able to get her children back, but the laws of Japan with child abandonment and child custody are not as well defined in comparison to other countries. Awareness of cases such as this one were brought more to light but sadly the number of children found dead, abused, or in other similar situations is a dime a dozen even in modern Japan.


"Still Walking" 「歩いても、歩いても」 (2008)

Ryota Yokoyama (played by Hiroshi Abe) is not particularly looking forward to returning to his family home for the summer, on the twelfth anniversary of the death of his older brother Junpei. He recently married Yukari (played by Yui Natsukawa) who has a son from her deceased husband, and all are going to visit Ryota's parents as well as his older sister Chinami (played by YOU) and her husband and children. The grandparents Kyohei (played by Yoshio Harada) and Toshiko (played by Kirin Kiki) are quite critical of Ryota's decision to go his own way not following the family business and marrying a widow coupled with the frustration and mourning of the loss of the eldest son comes full circle.

Following the critical and commercial success of "Nobody Knows", Koreeda made his first samurai piece with "Hana: Tale of a Reluctant Samurai" in 2006, combining drama and comedy with a revenge film on a higher budget with a cast of many big names. Unfortunately it was not a major hit, and for his sixth film the scale was turned down to a modern family drama during the Obon season, a time when Japanese return to their hometowns to pay respects to their ancestors. For the Yokoyama family, their get together may resemble more with the American Thanksgiving holiday where family members meet but not all with smiles. Death has been hanging over the family for a dozen years following the drowning of the eldest son Junpei, and the family dynamic has never been the same. The elderly father Kyohei's home clinic is still technically open but he also has his health problems to deal with. He was hoping Junpei would continue the family business as is with the case of many traditional Japanese families. Second son Ryota being the second son had moved away and become an art restorer and the daughter Chinami found work after college, got married and became a mother of two. With daughters rarely being considered for continuing a family business, disappointment and resentment fell on Ryota over time. The doctor father would have no particular interest in the arts and not care about his second son's life or work. The mother is critical of Ryota marrying a woman with extra baggage. No matter what Ryota does or says, he is always overshadowed by his dead older brother's memory.

While in "Maborosi" the death of a loved on brings sadness but is kept within for a lengthy period, the frustrations and anger come to display in "Still Walking", with family members frequently complaining to each other and expressing their thoughts. In comparison to loud outbursts typically seen in Western family dramas, the anger is restrained here and kept to a minimum. But even with the troubles seen, the film is filled with many comical and loving moments as well. The cooking scene featuring corn tempura is very memorable with past anecdotes as well as the reactions of everyone eating, the three children playing outside filled with laughs and smiles, as well as the visiting scene by the 25 year old Yoshio (played by Tomoya Taguchi), the person that Junpei saved from the ocean on that fateful day. Brighter and funnier, the film's setting was an extremely personal one for Koreeda who lost his mother not long before the production. Koreeda based much of Toshiko's mannerisms and personality on his mother and even during the cooking scenes they used some of his mother's recipies. Kiki would later become a surrogate mother figure for Koreeda in his later career, being featured in almost all his productions for the next decade up to his most successful film "Shoplifters" in 2018.

What makes "Still Walking" so fascinating is how everything about this one family is presented within a 24 hour period. Their entire past, the tension between generations, a secret affair by the father, the mother's cruel intention of inviting Yoshio over every year, the unspoken sadness that looms over the family. All is done through dialogue and mannerisms without the use of flashbacks or dreams, keeping things in reality and done incredibly well. Everyone in the family has their faults, yet everyone has their brightness as well. It's a film about family values and what binds and separates us with blood and marriage. It's one of the director's finest works in a line of many, and was a film that cemented working relationships with Kiki as well as Hiroshi Abe who would also star in many of the director's later works. It may be a spoiler, but at the end of "Still Walking", through narration it is told that the grandfather would die three years after the events of the story. In real life Yoshio Harada, the actor who played the grandfather, died exactly three years later in 2011 at the age of 71. He would collaborate once more with Koreeda in 2011's "I Wish" which also featured Kiki and Abe in roles. The ending of "Still Walking" also mentioned that the grandmother also died soonafter the grandfather, but in reality Kiki continued to perform on screen and in television in a variety of roles for the next decade. Her death in late 2018 at the age of 75 was one of the biggest losses in Japanese entertainment, as it lost one its most well known faces for the last forty years.

"Still Walking" was yet another critically lauded film in the director's oeuvre, with multiple nominations and wins at international and domestic festivals. The Kinema Junpo Awards, Mainichi Film Concours, and the Blue Ribbon Awards gave prizes domestically while The Asian Film Awards, the Mar del Plata Film Festival and others gave international awards to the film. It was another milestone in the director's filmography, and his popularity with international critics would only rise from thereon, and his more financially successful films with "Like Father, Like Son" (2013), "Our Little Sister" (2015), "The Third Murder" (2017), and "Shoplifters" were yet to come.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray set

Video

The BFI present all four films in their original aspect ratios in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. "Maboroshi", "Nobody Knows", and "Still Walking" are in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio while "After Life" is in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio. All films were remastered in high definition by Celluloid Dreams in Japan. They may not have gotten 2K or 4K transfers, but the films look absolutely wonderful for the most part. "Maborosi" is the oldest and is the darkest looking film overall due to the many night sequences and some dark indoor scenes, though the details are very good with color reproduction. "After Life" is a little on the softer side with muted colors being heavy on browns and colder tones, with skin tones and white snow looking very good. "Nobody Knows" has a thick appearance with the summer heat and bold colors throughout. "Still Walking" is the newest also looking very thick in colors, where dark spaces looking very black and bright outdoor scenes showcasing the vivid landscape such as the parks and the beach. "Nobody Knows" was shot on 16mm film while all others were shot on 35mm film, and thankfully film grain is intact with very little if few instances of dust or other anomalies in the picture. Overall a strong excellent image for each.

The runtimes are 109:25 for "Maborosi", 118:59 for "After Life", 140:49 for "Nobody Knows", and 114:32 for "Still Walking".

Audio

"Maboroshi"
Japanese LPCM 2.0 stereo

"After Life"
Japanese LPCM 2.0 mono

"Nobody Knows"
Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0
Japanese LPCM 2.0 stereo

"Still Walking"
Japanese LPCM 2.0 stereo


Note that in the review discs the audio for "Nobody Knows" featured a synchronization error which was recognized only after the discs were sent. The BFI has made sure to correct the discs for retail and the set was delayed for a month. As I haven't received the corrected disc, I cannot grade the audio option here.

All four films are presented with their original soundtracks, with "Nobody Knows" an optional lossless 5.0 track is also included. With "Maboroshi" the stereo track is a very subtle one with few instances of the music cues using stereo separation. With the stereo track of "Still Walking" the music and effects are very noticeable with stereo separation, from the crying of the cicadas to the quiet and beautiful score in the background. All the soundtracks sound very good, with no issues of distortion, hisses, or cracks, with clear voices and well balanced music.

All films include optional English subtitles in a white font. They are well timed and easy to read, and the only error spotted was "statute of limitations" spelled as "statue of limitations" in "Still Walking". It is not a statue, as Jerry Seinfeld once said.

Extras

The BFI presents the four films on four discs, with each film having its own disc and extras spread across each.


DISC ONE "Maborosi"

Audio commentary by Jasper Sharp

In this exclusive new commentary, critic Jasper Sharp talks about the production's uses of shadows and light, the quite lengthy scenes and cuts, the various music cues, as well as giving biographical information for the actors and crew. He also discusses about the group of Japanese filmmakers that were seriously re-shaping Japanese cinema from the mid-90s onwards, all coincidentally having "K" at the top of their family names, with Koreeda, Takeshi Kitano, Naomi Kawase, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa. At times the conversation goes in tangents with Sharp talking about other films of the period as well.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Birthplace" featurette (29:41)
In this 2003 featurette, Koreeda shoots a video diary of Makiko Esumi revisiting the locations of the film around eight years after the release. They are frequently greeted by the locals who recognize her as they wander around places including some locations that were eventually abandoned over the years since filming. There are also stills from the production that are inserted into the featurette.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles

"Of Flesh and Blood: The Cinema of Hirokazu Koreeda" trailer (1:00)
An excellent retrospective trailer by the BFI.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 stereo with burned-in English subtitles

2019 Reissue Trailer (1:37)
A great reissue trailer capturing the emotional depths of the film.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 stereo with burned-in English subtitles


DISC TWO "After Life"

Audio commentary by Tara Judah

Tara Judah, director at 20th Century Flicks video shop gives a full length commentary, focusing on the many differences as well as similarities to "Maborosi", the blending of his earlier documentary work with fiction, the audience interaction that the film brings, and the changes of the characters that happen during the story. There are quite a few blank moments within this commentary track and unfortunately not too much on the actual making of the production.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"The Treasure of Memories" deleted scenes (16:52)
A collection of deleted and extended scenes are here. The people checking into the building, various conversations in the cafeteria, and a lot more of Shoda's sex encounter stories are here. The scenes are fairly clean in picture but are coming from a standard definition upscale.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.66:1, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles

"Memories of a Special Place" 2003 interview with Arata Iura (15:37)
In this 2003 interview shot for the DVD, actor Arata is interviewed by Koreeda in a slightly awkward format, where memories are recalled not of the film but of Arata's life. From his memories of school, department stores, rooftops, and others, it's also not well shot with odd angles and muffled sound with background noise.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles

"Hirokazu Koreeda Screentalk" 2013 discussion with Hirokazu Koreeda and Jasper Sharp (46:57)
In this 2013 on stage interview at the BFI London Film Festival, Jasper Sharp interviews Koreeda along with an interpreter discussing mostly about the film "Like Father, Like Son" which was screened. Talked about are how the film compares to the director's other works such as "Nobody Knows", the casting process, his documentary career, the influences and inspiration from other filmmakers as well as the critics like Donald Ritchie and Tony Rayns that helped with his career get more notice in the West. During the Q&A some film clips are presented in Japanese with burned-in English subtitles. For the Q&A portions, they are entirely in English and Japanese with interpretation following the Japanese answers.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English/Japanese LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles


DISC THREE "Nobody Knows"

Audio commentary by Kenta McGrath

Documentary and short filmmaker Kenta McGrath who also lectured for the Japanese Film Festival and Japanese Animation Film Festival in Australia gives a lengthy and talkative commentary for the film. He discusses the narrative structure, the use of children, the cinematography and editing style, and also goes into many details of not only the production but the true story that the film was based on. He also discusses elements of Japanese culture such as how child abandonment was and is seen through society, and everyday things that Japanese audiences would take for granted.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Behind the Scenes on Nobody Knows" featurette (7:06)
B-roll footage from the shoot is presented here. Interestingly this was an extra featured on several international DVDs but was never included on the Japanese DVD or Blu-rays for the film.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles

Original Trailer (1:53)
The original Japanese theatrical trailer is presented here.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.70:1, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles


DISC FOUR "Still Walking"

Audio commentary by Alexander Jacoby

Alexander Jacoby, lecturer in Film Studies at Oxford Brookes University and writer of a forthcoming book on Koreeda gives a solo performance discussing the film. He discusses about Japanese cultural points such as the importance of the Obon season in summer, filial duties, and how women are treated, plus biographies of the performers and information on the individual scenes. There are some empty moments towards the latter half, but is a very good commentary track overall.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Making Still Walking" documentary (28:32)
This short documentary features behind the scenes material, location footage, read through footage in pre-production, interviews with the cast and crew, and clips from the film. It is edited in non-linear form with narration to string everything together.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles

"Still Walking" 2019 Q&A with Hirokazu Koreeda and Michael Leader (33:06)
In this on stage Q&A that took place on April 16, 2019 at the BFI Southbank where a Koreeda retrospective was held, Koreeda is interviewed by Michael Leader along with an interpreter in between. Koreeda talks generously about Kiki who appeared in several of his later films and only recently passed away, the reflections on "Still Walking" being hard especially since both actors who played the grandparents have passed away and how personal the production was for him, plus talks of his influences as a filmmaker and more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English/Japanese LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Stills Gallery (2:40)
An automated slideshow of stills taken during the production.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

Trailer (1:54)
The original international trailer is presented here, with English text where necessary.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles


Book
A 72 page book is included with the set with essays, interviews, stills, and more. First is David Jenkins' profile on Koreeda entitled "Family Man" which is an overview of the filmmaker's career as a whole, from his style to his differing works over the years. Next is an interview by Alexander Jacoby with Koreeda which was published in Sight & Sound in April 2019 where they discuss a multitude of topics such as where he is looking to take his career after his Palme d'Or winning "Shoplifters", parallels in his films, his collaborators, and more. "Maboroshi" receives a new essay by Jessica Kiang along with a review by Mark Sinker from 1996. Two essays are for "After Life", with "Colliding Truth and Fiction" by Michael Leader and "This Is Your Life" by Tony Rayns from 1999 which also includes a short interview with Koreeda as well. Tony Rayns' review of the film from 1999 is also included. Alexander Jacoby returns for a new essay on "Nobody Knows" and Jasper Sharp with "The Hidden Heart in the Home Dramas of Hirokazu Koreeda" by Jasper Sharp. A contemporary review of "Still Walking" by Trevor Johnston is also included, but strangely none for "Nobody Knows". Last there are special features credits, transfer information, and acknowledgements.


While these are Blu-ray debuts for each film in the UK, all of them have seen releases in Japan previously. The "Maborosi" Japanese Blu-ray also featured the retrospective video diary included here. The "After Life" Japanese Blu-ray had an exclusive new retrospective roundtable interview that is not included here, while the UK release has a 2003 interview that was not on the Japanese Blu-ray or older DVD release. The "Nobody Knows" Japanese Blu-ray also had an exclusive new retrospective roundtable interview that is not included here. Instead the UK Blu-ray features a short B-Roll featurette that was on some DVD editions, but curiously was not on the Japanese DVD which had an exclusive documentary instead. The Japanese "Still Walking" also had an exclusive new retrospective roundtable interview which again was not carried to the UK set. But interestingly the Japanese Blu-ray did not port over the making-of documentary from the DVD edition, though it has been included here on the UK set. "Maborosi" and "Still Walking" have also been released in the United States, by Milestone Films and The Criterion Collection respectively. The US release of "Maborosi" has an exclusive commentary but unfortunately sports an interlaced transfer for the film. The US release of "Still Walking" has exclusive interviews with Koreeda and cinematographer Yutaka Yamasaki.

Overall

"Of Flesh and Blood: The Cinema of Hirokazu Koreeda" is an excellent set of earlier works from the master filmmaker that touches emotionally on a very deep and beautiful level in each of the films included. The BFI have provided an excellent collection of works along with a generous selection of extras including a commentary track for each. Absolutely one of the best releases of the year so far.

The Film: A Video: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


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