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Kuchu Teien (DVD) (Normal Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) DVD Region 2

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Kuchu Teien (DVD) (Normal Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
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YesAsia Editorial Description

Toyoda Toshiaki's latest offering begins as a quirky comedy about an eccentric little family, before veering off into far darker territory. Koizumi Kyoko stars as Eriko, mother of a perfectly normal suburban family. She has a salaryman husband, two teenage children (one girl, one boy) and is herself a housewife. She has a terminally ill mother that she cares for and a family she adores. But she also has a very bizarre rule that affects every member of the household. Everyone must tell the truth about everything. All the time. So when her daughter Mana asks one morning where she was conceived, Eriko and her husband happily inform her that it was at a love hotel in town that is still open today. Mana is intrigued and sets out to find the establishment for herself.

Here it is exposed that the family members are not half as quaint as they appeared. Eriko's husband is really a philandering cheat with at least two mistresses on the go, the kids rarely go to school and all of them lie through their teeth on a daily basis. Even Eriko suffers long and hard dealing with her mother. The veneer of domestic bliss begins to crack, and Toyoda has no qualms about showing us every little detail.

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Technical Information

Product Title: Kuchu Teien (DVD) (Normal Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) 空中庭園 (通常版) (日本版 - 英文字幕) 空中庭园 (通常版) (日本版 - 英文字幕) 空中庭園(通常版) Kuchu Teien (DVD) (Normal Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
Artist Name(s): Koizumi Kyoko | Suzuki Anne | Sonim | Nagasaku Hiromi | Itao Itsuji | Kunimura Jun | Ohkusu Michiyo | Imajuku Asami | Katsuji Ryo | Eita | Hirotama Sahiro 小泉今日子 | 鈴木杏 | Sonim | 永作博美 | 板尾創路 | 國村準 | 大楠道代 | 今宿麻美 | 勝地涼 | 瑛太 | 廣田雅裕 小泉今日子 | 铃木杏 | Sonim | Nagasaku Hiromi | 板尾创路 | 国村准 | 大楠道代 | Imajuku Asami | Katsuji Ryo | Eita | Hirotama Sahiro 小泉今日子 | 鈴木杏 | ソニン | 永作博美 | 板尾創路 | 國村隼 | 大楠道代 | 今宿麻美 | 勝地涼 | 瑛太 | 広田雅裕 Koizumi Kyoko | Suzuki Anne | Sonim | Nagasaku Hiromi | Itao Itsuji | Kunimura Jun | Ohkusu Michiyo | Imajuku Asami | Katsuji Ryo | Eita | Hirotama Sahiro
Director: Toyoda Toshiaki 豐田利晃 丰田利晃 トヨダ トシアキ Toyoda Toshiaki
Release Date: 2006-05-26
Publisher Product Code: PCBG-50938
Language: Japanese
Subtitles: English
Place of Origin: Japan
Picture Format: NTSC What is it?
Disc Format(s): DVD
Region Code: 2 - Japan, Europe, South Africa, Greenland and the Middle East (including Egypt) What is it?
Other Information: DVD
Shipment Unit: 1 What is it?
YesAsia Catalog No.: 1004146327

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YumCha! Asian Entertainment Reviews and Features

Professional Review of "Kuchu Teien (DVD) (Normal Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)"

View Professional Review:
March 3, 2006

The Kyobashis are an unusual family who believe in hiding nothing from each other. They speak with perfect candor around the dinner table about where each of the children was conceived and even hold a celebratory party for the daughter's first period. However, all is not quite as ideal and open as it seems, and, coming from 9 Souls director Toyoda Toshiaki, the viewer would be right in expecting from Hanging Garden (Kuchu Teien) a similar mix of genre material and social commentary. Although it is much more restrained than many have come to expect from the director, the focus here is firmly on the crisis within the Japanese family unit.

Despite maintaining an image of complete openness and trust, the father Takashi (Itao Itsuji), we discover, is skipping work and indulging in wild, illicit sex in love hotels with a number of other women. He has not slept with his wife for five years. She, Eriko (Koizumi Kyoko), is depressed by her dead-end job at a restaurant, not always successfully keeping up a front of the happy smile she has to wear, trying to convince herself that everything is going well. Their children seem to follow in the footsteps of their parents, with the same pretence of honesty while hiding little deceits. The son Ko (Hirota Masahiro) is a reserved loner, wrapped up in his own world, but literally always just around the corner from where his father is conducting his little affairs. When he inadvertently stumbles across one of his father's girlfriends, Mina (Suzuki An), and brings her back home with him to be a private tutor, the only person who is shocked is the father. The daughter Mana also literally and metaphorically follows after her mother. Fascinated by the location of her conception, she brings her boyfriends to the Wild Monkeys love hotel, imagining getting herself pregnant there and allowing herself to be photographed for pornographic magazines.

To say that the situation of the Kyobashis is somewhat incestuous is not to imply that there is any sexual impropriety going on among them, but the fake closeness and hermetic existence that they exist in creates just as unhealthy a relationship. The whole honesty trip is clearly a front to cover a number of serious flaws and insecurities, and they all seem to stem from the upbringing of the mother Eriko. Having had a difficult relationship with her own mother, Eriko starts her own family. Striving for the ideal she never had, she intends to see that her children are brought up in a healthy home. It's as false an ideal as the garden she cultivates at the side of the apartment - a rootless hanging garden on the balcony of an outmoded housing project - and symbolic of her attempt to block out reality. The cracks begin to show, as Eriko suffers a number of bloody hallucinatory episodes that become increasingly disturbing and violent.

The subject of the breakdown of the Japanese family unit is hardly a new idea and Toyoda's depiction of the inevitable collapse of the facade, through a series of bloody and nightmarish cracks in reality, is hardly inspired. Nor are the impressions of unmoored lives depicted through swirling, spinning camera movements. It's inevitable that someone is going to crack - the safe bet is on the mother - and the whole sorry mess is going to be messily uncovered. What is surprising, however, is that the director reaches this point about halfway through the film. Rather than the shock of the various revelations rocking the family's foundations, we discover that they are all perfectly aware of the flaws and lies that they have been feeding each other, but more than happy to go along with the pretence. Getting this out of the way then allows the film to move beyond the example of one specific family and take on deeper resonance and wider application as a critical examination of Japanese society and collective and individual memory. This brings the film to a more ambiguous and intriguing finale.

Hanging Garden is released in Japan by Pony Canyon. There are two editions of the film available: a Special Edition that includes the film's soundtrack and a Normal Edition. The Normal Edition contains two postcards. The DVD is encoded for Region 2 and is in NTSC format.

As seems to be common with Japanese DVD releases, the contrast on this edition is quite low, the image grainy and soft, with colors looking rather unnatural and sepia-toned and with textures not being overly detailed or defined. I would suspect that the film was shot on digital video (though it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify, as the medium becomes more and more common), so the perceived flaws in definition, tone, and color could well be down to the manner in which the film was shot. Within those limitations, however, the image is remarkably good. There are no flaws, marks, or scratches and the image remains stable throughout, with no signs of compression artefacts.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes. Either would be sufficient for the film, which keeps the dialogue focused on the center channel with only discreet sounds filtering through to wider front and surround channels. Dialogue is clear and well placed in the mix, with no noise or distortion evident anywhere. English subtitles are provided in a clear, white font and are optional.

The only extra feature on the regular edition of Hanging Garden is a Trailer (1:50).

The subject of the destruction of the family unit under the pressures of modern social values may be a familiar one in modern Japanese Cinema, but there seems to be more to Hanging Garden than meets the eye. There are many other themes and motifs - motherhood, childbirth and pregnancy, shopping malls, love hotels and suburban lifestyles - all of which combine to form an intriguing picture of Japanese society as a hanging garden without any solid foundation. Toyoda's style seems to have evolved greatly - even from his much better known and much-admired 9 Souls - towards a less direct and not so easily definable technique. The results are just as potent and Toyoda remains a director to watch carefully for whatever direction he takes next.

by Noel Megahey - DVD Times

March 3, 2006

This professional review refers to Kuchu Teien Special Edition (w/ CD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version - English Subtitles)
On first blush, the news that Toyoda Toshiaki's The Hanging Garden (Kuchu Teien), the follow up to the much loved 9 Souls, would be a family drama felt like a huge departure for the director. And in many senses it is. The setting and shooting style are dramatically different from everything he has done before and his regular stable of actors is entirely absent. But, looked at another way it feels like a natural, even inevitable, extension of his previous work.

Think of it like this: Pornostar revolves around an absolute loner lashing out at society. Blue Spring is still youth only, but it revolves around a gang of high schoolers, a sort of implicit surrogate family and the dynamics within that group. 9 Souls takes that explicit surrogate relationship and makes it explicit, forging a strong bond between the father who killed his son and the son who killed his father, while also - for the first time in Toyoda's work - introducing several strong threads revolving around the character's actual families. All signs point in this direction and by the time you reach the end, enough of Toyoda's recurrent themes - latent mental illness and sudden bursts of fantasy - have again reared their heads that it's quite clear who you're dealing with.

The Hanging Garden revolves around an apparently perfect family. They are bright, their finances are sound, they have a perfectly adequate home, and - most importantly - they have an explicit house rule that they talk about everything honestly. There are no omissions and no subject is taboo, a point driven home by a breakfast time conversation about where each of the two children was conceived. But, of course, nothing is as it seems. Mother has a vicious streak. Father has a pair of mistresses. Son is very nearly a shut in. Daughter is experimenting with sex. And all of them have huge secrets tucked away from the others.

Shot with a restless camera almost constantly in motion to reflect how unmoored these people really are, The Hanging Garden is about the secrets we keep and how they gnaw away at us. It is a film about obsession, particularly the self-obsession that consumes all of these characters and absolutely blinds them to what they really have surrounding them.

Trying to describe the film in terms of plot is a difficult matter. While Toyoda's earlier films follow fairly simple narrative arcs with simple goals driving the characters, things are entirely murkier here. His earlier films all revolve around people in motion, people with aims and goals. With The Hanging Garden, Toyoda is dealing with people whose lives have stalled, people who are simply living with no greater goal than maintaining the status quo, which is after all how most of us live our lives. There is no one central event that drives the film, but rather a series of episodes in each of the character's lives. Gradually they fit together until carefully segmented lives begin to overlap and things finally explode in the one truly honest conversation - a partially drunken argument at a birthday party - that sends all the dirt spilling over.

The Hanging Garden is a quieter film, a subtler film, than what has come before and will likely have trouble connecting with many fans of the teen violence aspects of Toyoda's earlier work. Nevertheless it shows his unusual gift for character and his ability to create seemingly simple films that leave you stewing well after the final frame. The performances are uniformly strong and Toyoda's keen eye is in full effect. Is this a new chapter in Toyoda's work? A continuation? A sign of what is to come or an aberration? We won't know until he returns from his self-imposed exile and brings us whatever is next but he continues to stand as one of Japan's most important young talents.

Though I initially reviewed this film as part of my coverage of the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival, the film had already screened when I made my late arrival in Philadelphia meaning that rather than seeing it properly projected I was forced to watch it later on a low grade VHS screener tape. Having the chance to sit down with it again with the film in its proper aspect ratio and a superior translation only serves to reinforce the immense talent of director Toyoda Toshiaki. While The Hanging Garden lacks the genre hooks that drew many fans to his early work, repeated viewings confirm that his skills both behind the camera and on the page have grown with every subsequent outing. The Hanging Garden is a smart, subtle film filled with beautifully wrought characters captured through a burgeoning master's lens. Toyoda is surely one of the bright lights of the current generation of Japanese film.

Now, on to the disc itself. As already mentioned it boasts an excellent English translation of the film, one that flows easily and captures the individual quirks of each of the characters, a very important feature in a film as character-driven as this. Whoever was responsible for translating this from Japanese to English deserves full marks. The transfer itself is anamorphic and in the correct ratio. The standard edition of the film is devoid of features, including only the film's theatrical trailer though it does give 2.0 and 5.1 audio options. While there is some softness to the image my hunch is that this is more a deliberate choice in film stock than a flaw in the transfer. The look of this is quite similar to the Japanese DVD release of Tony Takitani. That film was criticized for being soft when the graininess was a deliberate choice of the director, and though I can't confirm it - not having seen the film projected - this has the same consistency of feel and a lack of any obvious transfer problems. It seems likely, therefore, that Toyoda shot this on a similar stock to that used in Takitani, making the softness a stylistic decision of the director and not a flaw of the DVD. Also included with this release is a pair of postcards. A very strong release for a very strong film.

by Todd Brown -

This original content has been created by or licensed to, and cannot be copied or republished in any medium without the express written permission of
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