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Sakuran (Blu-ray) (Special Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) Blu-ray Region A

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Sakuran (Blu-ray) (Special Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
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YesAsia Editorial Description

If ever a film could sashay, it would be Sakuran. Helmed by first-time director Ninagawa Mika, Sakuran is a gorgeously luscious period film set in the Edo period courtesan district of Yoshiwara. Ninagawa brings her photographer's eye to the big screen, and the result is a film bursting with vibrant energy, unabashed sexuality, and an exuberant passion for life. Straying from convention, the film features a pop rock soundtrack from Shiina Ringo and an almost over-the-top beauty with its flamboyant kimonos and theatrically vibrant palette. Drawing from Anno Moyoco's original manga, Ninagawa vividly paints the life and times of the courtesan in all its colors - laughter and tears, excitements and banalities, simple dreams and complex emotions. In showing both the reveled and the reviled, the film stays refreshingly free of sweeping statements about prostitution, and instead lets the characters speak for themselves. Tsuchiya Anna of Kamikaze Girls stars as the film's feisty heroine, and she brings to the role a brash attitude and bold sex appeal that cinema sees too little of. Alongside Tsuchiya is an illustrious supporting cast including Kimura Yoshino (Nezu no Ban), Ando Masanobu (Big Bang Love, Juvenile A), Narimiya Hiroki (Last Quarter), Kanno Miho (Dolls), and Shiina Kippei (Shinobi).

Brought to the brothels as a child, rebellious Kiyoha (Tsuchiya Anne) stands out even as a young girl, repeatedly talking back, challenging authority, and running away. Her brazen streak stays with her as she grows up to be a sassy straight-talking courtesan with a quick temper and a natural knack for her job. Taking her first patron at the age of 17, she hurls forward without looking back, as she fends off rivalries and rises to the top status of oiran. From the men who come in and out of her life - first love Sojiro (Narimiya Hiroki), brothel clerk Seiji (Ando Masanobu), wealthy samurai Kuranosuke (Shiina Kippei) - Kiyoha tastes hope, heartbreak, and that relentless quest for freedom. But like a goldfish, she is beautiful and prized only as long as she remains in the fishbowl.

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Technical Information

Product Title: Sakuran (Blu-ray) (Special Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) 惡女花魁 (Blu-ray) (特別版) (英文字幕) (日本版) 恶女花魁 (Blu-ray) (特别版) (英文字幕) (日本版) さくらん スペシャル・エディション 【Blu-rayDisc】 Sakuran (Blu-ray) (Special Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
Artist Name(s): Tsuchiya Anna | Kimura Yoshino | Shiina Kippei | Narimiya Hiroki | Kanno Miho | Koizumi Kyoko | Ando Masanobu | Nagase Masatoshi | Ishibashi Renji | Natsuki Mari | Minami | Sadanji Ichikawa 土屋安娜 | 木村佳乃 | 椎名桔平 | 成宮寬貴 | 菅野美穗 | 小泉今日子 | 安藤政信 | 永瀨正敏 | 石橋蓮司 | 夏木 Mari | 美波 | 市川左團次 Tsuchiya Anna | 木村佳乃 | 椎名桔平 | 成宫宽贵 | 菅野美穗 | 小泉今日子 | 安藤政信 | 永濑正敏 | 石桥莲司 | 夏木 Mari | 美波 | 市川左团次 土屋アンナ | 木村佳乃 | 椎名桔平 | 成宮寛貴 | 菅野美穂 | 小泉今日子 | 安藤政信 | 永瀬正敏 | 石橋蓮司 | 夏木マリ | 美波 | 市川左團次 Tsuchiya Anna | Kimura Yoshino | Shiina Kippei | Narimiya Hiroki | Kanno Miho | Koizumi Kyoko | Ando Masanobu | Nagase Masatoshi | Ishibashi Renji | Natsuki Mari | Minami | Sadanji Ichikawa
Director: Ninagawa Mika 蜷川實花 蜷川实花 蜷川実花 Ninagawa Mika
Blu-ray Region Code: A - Americas (North, Central and South except French Guiana), Korea, Japan, South East Asia (including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) What is it?
Release Date: 2012-09-05
Publisher Product Code: TCBD-103
Language: Japanese
Subtitles: English, Japanese
Country of Origin: Japan
Disc Format(s): Blu-ray
Other Information: Blu-ray Disc
Shipment Unit: 1 What is it?
YesAsia Catalog No.: 1030977842

Product Information

タイトル:さくらん スペシャル・エディション: 【Blu-rayDisc】

吉原遊郭「玉菊屋」に売られて来た8歳の少女、きよ葉。女だけの世界で自分も遊女になっていくのが怖いと逃亡を試みるが即座に捕まってしまう。店番の清次は咲かないと言われた吉原の桜が「もし咲いたら」ここを出してやるという。トップ花魁・粧ひの挑発に乗せられ吉原一の花魁になる決意を固めたきよ葉は花魁街道まっしぐらに人気遊女への道を駆け上がっていく。ところがある日、きよ葉は客の惣次郎と激しい恋に落ちる。偽りの愛を売る世界に身をおきながら、唯一、真実の愛を感じられる瞬間に酔いしれるきよ葉。しかし、きよ葉をねたむ花魁・高尾の策略によって惣次郎との仲を引き裂かれてしまう。18歳になったきよ葉は、凄まじい人気を呼んで、誰もが憧れる花魁の座を勝ち得る。やがて身請けを申し出た大名・倉之助の登場で、吉原を出ることに。その当日、咲かないと言われた“吉原の桜”に奇跡が!それを目にしたきよ葉と清次は・・・。
てめぇの人生、てめぇで咲かす江戸吉原に咲き乱れる“極彩色エンタテインメント”

テクニカル・インフォメーション
:カラー
画面:16:9
言語/音声:日本語:dtsHD Master Audio5.1chサラウンド/日本語:ドルビーデジタルステレオ

その他の情報
備考:1枚組
封入特典:キャンペーン応募券/映像特典収録/音声特典収録
日本小売価格:¥3800

Additional Information may be provided by the manufacturer, supplier, or a third party, and may be in its original language

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YumCha! Asian Entertainment Reviews and Features

Professional Review of "Sakuran (Blu-ray) (Special Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)"

July 26, 2007

This professional review refers to Sakuran (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
Prostitution: The oldest profession in the world. Every country has its own laws (or not) regarding this infamous art, and every culture has been affected and altered to a certain extent by the men and women who are willing to ply their trade. At its grass roots, prostitution is a very unglamourous, perhaps miserable affair; but in some countries prostitutes were once the idols of their time. This is perhaps true no more than in Japan during the Edo era, when the Tokugawa regime decided to clean up its city centres by establishing walled-in entertainment districts on the outskirts of all the major cities. Within these walls, human desire would run wild, and prostitution became so ritualised that it became a pseudo-heirarchal system where the courtesans with the greatest beauty, most refined elegance, and superior intellect could rise up the ranks and become the oiran - the head prostitute of each brothel. These oiran were essentially the supermodels of their day, the most glamorous and sophisticated beauties, and they could even dictate the fashion trends of the whole nation, such was the influence of these queens of the pleasure quarters.

Sakuran tells the story of a tenacious young girl who is sold to the Tamagikuya brothel by her mother and reluctantly rises up the ranks to become known as one of the greatest oirans in the district of Yoshiwara. As soon as the Tamagikuya owns her, they give her the name Kiyoha and put her under the wing of the current oiran, Shiho. Shiho pokes fun at the rather tomboyish young girl and as soon as the opportunity presents itself, Kiyoha makes a run for it, but she is eventually chased down at the local shrine by one of Tamagikuya's male attendants, Seiji. There she witnesses cherry blossom leaves - her one overriding memory from the outside world - that have been blown into the district by the wind, and laments to Seiji that there are no sakura trees within the walls of Yoshiwara. In response Seiji points out that the withered old tree that stands on the shrine grounds is in fact a sakura tree, and he vows that if the tree ever blossoms he will take her away from the district. Kiyoha's reply is to stubbornly claim she will escape on her own when such an event occurs.

Hated by the other young girls at the Tamagikuya because she refuses to obey the rules, Kiyoha eventually begins to learn the "tricks of the trade" after being carefully manipulated by Shohi, who soon leaves the brothel after a rich merchant takes her for his wife. By her late teens Kiyoha is put to work as a prostitute and quickly garners the affections of the townsmen who all go giddy in her presence. This in turn upsets Shohi's oiran successor, Takao - who is in a doomed relationship with a poor artist - and a rivalry is established. Eventually Kiyoha falls in love with a kind unassuming young man named Shouji, but he's not quite the man he makes himself to be and their relationship affects Kiyoha's performance with other clients. This is just one obstacle amongst many on Kiyoshi's path to becoming oiran of the Tamagikuya.

The first thing that strikes you when sitting down to watch Mika Ninagawa's directorial debut is that she's clearly completely unconcerned with painting a realistic portrait of the pleasure quarters of old and the courtesans, entertainers, and customers that frequented them. Instead Ninagawa has chosen to not so much remain faithful to Sakuran's comic book roots, but amplify the visuals in an impressionistic explosion of pop art. A popular photographer who has worked for world famous magazines like Vogue and Esquire, Ninagawa has successfully managed to bring her distinctive style into the medium of moving pictures, as every frame of Sakuran is an opulent display of art and colour. Vivid red colour schemes have commonly been prevalent in her photography work and they're almost omnipresent in Sakuran, with the pleasure quarter of Yoshiwara transformed into a crimson landscape by searing red lanterns. Inside the Tamagikuya are bright displays of every bold colour you can think of: reds, greens, yellows, violets, and just about every surface in the building have some form of gorgeous artwork adorning them. Likewise the courtesans' kimonos and hairstyles are excessively extravagant, looking like a whole team of art designers have worked on each one. It's all a far cry from how these brothels and courtesans would have looked in the real world, but perhaps Ninagawa is onto something here - after all today's filmgoers have become a hell of a lot more accustomed to bold displays of colour in both their environment and art. So, maybe the only way you can truly convey just how glamourous these pleasure quarters and courtesans would have appeared to the average customer is to really ramp up the style. Either way, it works - and purely on style alone Sakuran definitely engages throughout its 110 minute runtime.

It's a good job as well, because Ninagawa is working from a script that is every bit as bland as the visuals are colourful. Sakuran gives us very little insight into the world of the oiran, instead it just plugs away at the same old tired story of someone with innate talent in a chosen field rebelliously rising through the ranks and refusing to conform along the way. This has been told so many times within the film and television industries of Japan that it has gone beyond cliché, it's become rote! Sakuran goes right through all the usual checkpoints. Cruel but ultimately kind mentor? Check! Older woman in a doomed relationship who takes out her frustrations on the more beautiful and talented lead? Check! Handsome man who courts and seduces female lead but ultimately turns out to be a snake? Check! Handsome man who is kind hearted and been helping female lead from the sidelines throughout her life? Check! There is a genuine lack of inspiration here, and the problem wouldn't have been compounded so much if the characters at least had some life in them, but they're every bit as vapid as the plot.

The men are given a rawer deal than the women. The two love interests, Soujiro and Seiji, are both dichotomous individuals. Soujiro pretends to be a kind hearted, naïve young man to the courtesans at night, but ultimately has little interest in the women beyond soliciting their services. Seiji acts as a brotherly figure to Kiyoha, always there to dispense advice and moral support when she needs him, yet he is working as a male attendant in the brothel. This is far from an ethical career, and it is he who is constantly foiling Kiyoha's escape plans. Despite these contradictions, Ninagawa never explores the darker side of these two characters. In Soujiro's case that's not so important, but Seiji is a role that's crying out for something to make him stand out. It doesn't help that the men cast in these roles, Hiroki Narimiya and Masanobu Ando, are likeable but rather prosaic actors; both roles need someone who can bring a bit of life to them. Masatoshi Nagase and Kippei Shiina are two better character actors, but they're left floundering in the under-developed roles of the tortured artist boyfriend of oiran Takao, Mitsunobu, and Kiyoha's rich samurai suitor, Kuronosuke. The women have a little more life in them, but they're all cardboard clichés. The standout example is oiran Takao, whose resentment of Kiyoha is fuelled by the fact she fell for a poor nonchalant artist who could never afford to buy her out of the brothel. Yoshino Kimura plays her quite broadly and appears to be enjoying herself. Even Kiyoha herself is little more than a precocious madam whose aggression towards her fellow courtesans is matched by her disdain for her upper-class clientele.

I got the impression whilst watching Sakuran that Ninagawa has been influenced to a certain degree by directors like Seijun Suzuki, Kon Ichikawa, and by opening the film with a rapid fire montage sequence showing future events, I'd add Takashi Miike to the list. However, Ninagawa doesn't approach the material with the same level of depth or subtext as these directors would. About the only recurring symbolic item we do get are the frequent shots of fantail goldfish (another trademark from her photography career), which in case you can't figure out their meaning, is blatantly explained to the viewer when Shohi lectures Kiyoha after knocking a goldfish out of its bowl that: "Put a goldfish in a river and you get a carp. They only stay beautiful in their bowl!". Perhaps Ninagawa's most inspired decision beyond the aesthetics of the film was in casting Anna Tsuchiya in the role of Kiyoha, because aside from the physical resemblance Tsuchiya has to the original comic book character design of Kiyoha, her own life mirrors that of her role. Tsuchiya was scouted for a career as a model from a young age and has now risen to the top of the music and film industry to boot. Plus, the fact that at the tender age of 23 she's already got a failed marriage and child behind her would suggest a high level of rebellion against these heavily produced and manufactured industries. What a shame then that these obvious parallels between the courtesans of the Edo era with the idols of modern day Japan are not explored more completely.

Ultimately, watching Sakuran is like owning a beautiful sleek sports car with a 1.6l engine. Sure it makes a strong visual statement and provides a comfortable, enjoyable ride; but you're always aware that it doesn't have enough horsepower to truly exhilarate.

DVD
This 2-disc Special Edition release of Sakuran comes encased in an attractive fold out digipack and cast & crew information booklet (along with a paper chapter stops insert and an Asmik Ace DVD catalogue).

Video
Presented anamorphically at roughly 1.82:1, Sakuran appears to have been shot with high exposure and the film processed to boost the colours. I believe they may have achieved this by clipping the grayscale, resulting in a high contrast look that has limited the shadow detail a little. Still, despite the extremely bold colour scheme Asmik Ace's DVD transfer looks absolutely sumptuous at times. The reproduction of the colours is pretty excellent, they're bold and vivid with hardly any bleeding that I could notice. The encoding is very strong, but understandably given the intensity of the colours, there is some chroma noise present - particularly in the searing reds – but it's never noticeable enough to distract. The print used is pristine, with only the opening scene demonstrating any noticeable spots and flecks, and the image is sharp and free of any noticeable Edge Enhancements. Contrast and brightness seem just about right for a film shot and processed in the manner previously mentioned; the image does look high contrast but shadow detail remains pretty good.

Audio
A choice of Japanese DD5.1 and DD2.0 surround is present. For the purposes of this review I sat through both sound tracks and can report they both provide a more than adequate audio presentation of this loud, vibrant film. The DD5.1 track is aggressively loud, bringing the rock tracks that seep into the soundtrack later into the film vividly to life. The audio dynamics are generally excellent, each element of the sound always sounds nicely separated and localised in the mix. Dialogue too is completely clean and audible, while the pounding bass remains smooth and tight. In comparison the DD2.0 is obviously much quieter and the sound is a touch more hollow, but otherwise this is an excellent DD2.0 track that also demonstrates strong dynamics, smooth audible dialogue and strong bass.

Optional English subtitles are included, with no spelling or grammatical errors that I can recall.

Overall
With Sakuran, Mika Ninagawa has flamboyantly burst onto the Japanese film scene in an extremely expressive and assured display of style and colour; what a shame then that the vapid, generic story and characters stop her debut film from truly excelling. Nevertheless, with style like this there remains much to enjoy from Sakuran's excesses. Asmik Ace have delivered an excellent DVD set, providing first rate audio/video presentation with hours of extra material – unfortunately without any English subtitles.

by Matt Shingleton - DVD Times

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