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The Shape Of Night (Radiance Films) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • The Shape Of Night (Radiance Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Radiance Films
    Released on: April 20th, 2024.
    Director: Noburo Nakamura
    Cast: Miyuki Kuwano, Mikijiro Hira
    Year: 1964
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Shape Of Night – Movie Review:

    Directed by Noburo Nakamura for Shochiko in 1964, ‘The Shape Of Night’ follows a young woman named Yoshie Nomoto (Miyuki Kuwano). In the opening scene, she’s working as a streetwalker on the outskirts of town and soon enough, she’s picked up by a john named Hiroshi Fujii (Keisuke Sonoi). He takes an instant liking to her and wants to see her on a regular basis. She is agreeable to this and as they start to see one another with more frequency, he starts to get to know her better, eventually asking why she does what she does for a living.

    From here, the story travels back in time to explore how Yoshie became a prostitute in the first place. It wasn’t that long ago that she was a factory worker but getting tired of that led to her taking a job at a night club. It was there that she was introduced to Eiji Kitami (Mikijirô Hira), a low level Yakuza soldier, and the two fall quickly in love. Things are good at first, but it isn’t too long before Eiji finds himself in desperate need of money. To solve this problem, he talks Yoshie into turning tricks to bring in some quick cash.

    What was initially meant to be a one-time solution to a one-time problem soon becomes a regular gig for Yoshie when Eiji’s boss learns what’s happening and demands a cut of the action. As Yoshie tries to get away from all of this, pressure on both she and Eiji from the higher ups in his gang make it seem almost impossible.

    Beautifully shot and making fantastic use of color, The Shape Of Night is a visual feast right from the opening credits where the camera frames the beautiful Miyuki Kuwano with the film’s dramatic title placed to the side of her face. These opening minutes give us a look at the life of a streetwalker, maybe making it appear a bit safer than it probably is in real life, before then pulling us into Yoshie’s story and plight. It’s quick and simple set up, but also a very effective one, we want to know more about this striking woman as soon as the film introduces us to her, and through the film’s strong narrative, thanks for a really well-developed script from writers Toshidi Gondo and Kyoko Ohta, we do just that.

    The cinematography from Tôichirô Narushima is just as much of a draw here as anything else. Through some really unique framing devices and gorgeous use of light and color, he and Nakamura ensure that, even during the film’s slower moments, we’re attentive and engaged with the drama as it all unfolds. Additionally, the performances are really strong across the board. Miyuki Kuwano creates a remarkably sympathetic character, imperfect like all humans are, and she shows excellent range particularly in the second half of the movie. Mikijirô Hira is also very good here and he shares an interesting chemistry with the film’s leading lady.

    The Shape Of Night – Blu-ray Review:

    The Shape Of Night arrives on Blu-ray from Radiance Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen taking up just over 31GBs of space on the 505GB disc. The transfer is a good one, presenting the film in very nice shape. Colors are reproduced beautifully, this is a big part of the movie’s visual appeal, and quite accurately. The image is free of any noise reduction or edge enhancement issues. The picture is very clean, showing really no real print damage at all while retaining the expected film grain. Detail is quite nice, looking pretty impressive most of the time. Compression artifacts are never a problem and there’s good depth and texture to take in. No complaints here, Radiance has done a great job with the video presentation.

    The only audio option on the disc is a 24-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono track in Japanese with optional subtitles provided in English only. This is a fairly dialogue heavy film but the track handles everything well, giving things some punch when the movie calls for it and doing a very nice job with the score. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are balanced nicely. The subtitles are clean, clear, easy to read and free of any noticeable typos.

    Extras start off with a new interview with Yoshio Nakamura, son of director Noboru Nakamura, that runs sixteen minutes. He speaks fondly about his father and his career, how he started in the film business in the forties and climbed the ranks of the Japanese film industry over the decades to come.

    ‘Major Changes’ is a thirteen minute visual essay by Tom Mes that covers the evolving state of affairs at Shochiku studios in the 1960s. Mes talks about the studio's origins, how they had to change with the times during the sixties and how they went about doing this.

    There's also an interesting Easter Egg hidden on the menu that, when enabled, plays a six minute short called 'Yoshio Nakamura's Baseball Memories.' Finishing things up on the disc is a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection options.

    As to the packaging, Radiance supplies, with the first pressing, some really nice reversible sleeve artwork featuring newly commissioned artwork on one side and art from the original Japanese theatrical poster on the reverse. This release also comes packaged with a limited edition full-color booklet featuring an essay on the film by Chuck Stephens titled ‘Beautiful Downer’ and an archival piece called ‘On Filming The The Shape Of Night’ by Toichiro Narushima that was originally published in Eiga Satsuei magazine in 1964. The nicely illustrated booklet also includes cast and crew notes and credits for the Blu-ray release. This limited edition first pressing is being pressed in 3,000 copies and comes with a removable Obi strip, which is a nice touch.

    The Shape Of Night - The Final Word:

    The Shape Of Night is excellent, a stirring drama rife with fantastic performances and gorgeous visuals that tells a gripping story that is as impactful as it is emotionally involving. The Blu-ray edition from Radiance Films offers the movie up in a gorgeous presentation and while the disc isn’t stacked with extras, the two featurettes and the booklet are all quite interesting and worth taking the time to appreciate. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Shape Of Night Blu-ray screen caps!

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