Plot: What’s it about?
Japan is well known for the tradition and ethical standards found there, but there is also much modernization and Western influence to be seen. In this film, we watch over a suburb in Tokyo where the lives of the citizens run much we’d expect from an American (or any other urbanized country) suburb around this time period. Most of the men go to work in order to support their families, while the wives take care of the home and spend time chatting with each other. Of course this means gossip and lots of it, so you never know what to take with a grain of salt and what to really believe. In fact, talking seems to be the focal points of all these people and without such volume of it, you’d think their lives would simply fall apart. In the middle of this modern change and such, is one man who wants his family to resist the temptations of one modern device, the television. His two young sons want one badly, but he refuses on the notion that it would destroy their minds as they watched. The boys are none too pleased with this and as such, take a vow of silence until the are given what they demand. it seems as though even without television, something has already changed these two, right along with almost everyone else.
As I sit down to review this disc, I wonder to myself just what makes a disc worth buying. Some people care only for the movie, some want lots of extra, some want great audio/video, and some want all of the above. This disc sports an excellent movie, but lacks in both other categories. No extras at all have been included and while the audio is good, the video is average at best. Mix in a rather steep thirty dollar suggested price, and this makes for a tough call. This movie is of the quality that a rental is deserved at the minimum and I think fans will want to pick this one up, just on general principle. This is not a perfect or even great total release, but as I don’t think we’ll see a new version any time soon, it’s a safe move to pick this one up if you’re so inclined. So the disc isn’t all it could be, but the movie itself drives the value up enough to recommend the package. Good Morning is a complex, but simple at heart film that is hard to describe without spoiling parts, which I don’t want to do. This is a terrific choice for foreign film fans and even for novices looking to get started, and this is the version you’ll want to find.
I can’t imagine too many films working with a premise of two boys taking a vow of silence over a television, but Yasujiro Ozu’s Good Morning works in every facet you can think of. Ozu based this film on a previous effort of his, I Was Born, But…, which was a silent picture. This is a grand Technicolor vision of that movie and I think it stands on its own as a classic. I know this film isn’t a household name like Citizen Kane or anything, but this is an acclaimed film and for very good reason. In addition to directing this film, Ozu also helped to write the screenplay and I think he delivers on all counts. The characters seem simple and familiar, but Ozu uses that to enhance the movie’s impact. So while normal folks could be very boring in a film, Ozu’s characters never become dull or static. If you like Good Morning and want to see more of Ozu’s films I recommend I Was Born, But…, Equinox Flower, Flavor Of Green Tea Over Rice, Tokyo Twilight, Floating Weeds, and Where Now Are The Dream Of Youth? This cast brings the characters to life very well and more than do Ozu’s material justice. I especially liked the work here of Masahiko Shimazu (Late Autumn), Koji Shidara (Late Autumn), Haruko Sugimura (Redbeard, The Written Face), and Kuniko Miyake (Until The End Of The World).
Video: How does it look?
Good Morning is presented in a full frame transfer, which retains the film’s original aspect ratio. This is a film from 1959 so I didn’t expect a perfect transfer, but I feel this one just falls short of what it should be. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a decent overall transfer, but it doesn’t measure up to the usual Criterion standards. I wasn’t too taken back by the level of debris in the print, but there is frequent evidence of just that, sometimes much worse than others. My real complaint stems from the colors in the film, which come off as distorted at times and that pulls you right out of the movie. The shades tend to pulse a little too much and as such, we see some discolorment from time to time. But contrast seems in order and compression errors were limited to some minimal moire patters and such.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc features the original Japanese mono track and Criterion has included optional English subtitles, in case you don’t speak that language. The audio fares better than the video to be sure, but still comes a little short of what I expected. You can’t expect the world from a 1959 mono track of course, but the harshness seems a little too high with this track at times. That might be a minor quibble, but I still think it’s worth a mention. Other than that, this is one of the better mono tracks I’ve heard from this time, with crisp vocals and no signs of distortion I could detect. It’s not perfect, but it does sound very good.
Supplements: What are the extras?
You’ll find the color bars as usual, but no true extras have been included on this disc.