DVD Title
International Title
DVD Length
Original Length
143 Minutes
143 Minutes
Year of Manufacture
Aspect Ratio
Black and White
:2 Disc Set:
Menus (English)
Chapters (25)
- Trailers: Ikiru
Audio Commentary by Stephen Prince
- Documentary on Kurosawa, A Message from Akira Kurosawa: For Beautiful Movies (81 minutes)
- Documentary on Ikiru, from Toho's Masterworks, with interviews from the staff (41 minutes)
- Three pages of background information on the film by Donald Richie, found in the booklet

Criterion's first Toho release for 2004 shows just how far they have come since first releasing their Seven Samurai DVD six years ago. Criterion has really gone the extra mile for their release of Ikiru with a wonderful two disc set. The set includes everything one has come to expect from Criterion, and then some, including: an excellent video transfer taking into account the film's age, a very well restored audio track, removable subtitles, the film's trailer, commentary, a through booklet pertaining to the film, and some excellent documentaries on Ikiru and the people behind it.

As with many films as old as Ikiru, one can't expect a flawless transfer; however, Criterion does a noteworthy job of restoring the film as best they can. The film is very sharp, with no noticeable signs of artifacting. The fault of the video presentation, however, is the numerous scratches found on the print; including numerous lines down the middle of the screen, a large amount of "specks" found on the print, and light flickering on the border of the screen on occasion. Despite all this, the film is still readably enjoyable, and the print's scratches should only detract from the viewing experience during the film's first 3 minutes, in which these scratches are the most prevalent. The audio here isn't flawless, as it appears scratchy at moments, but overall it has been restored very well and is presented here in mono, as it was on its original release, and contains no popping in the audio track. The actors' performances, including the break through performance by Takashi Shimura, still come through wonderfully on the audio track.

The extras on this disc really shine, and show Criterion's dedication to the title. The original Japanese trailer is intact on this DVD; however, as expected with a trailer for a film more than 50 years old, the trailer appears overly dark and contains numerous scratches, but it's still watchable. Like many of their other releases, English commentary is available to give insight into the film and Akira Kurosawa's techniques. Like their release of Red Beard, Stephen Prince provides the commentary, and while he does a much better job with the commentary this time around, his voice is still rather monotone and dull; however, like before the information presented gives a great deal of insight into the film and Kurosawa himself.

The 81 minute documentary on Kurosawa, titled A Message from Akira Kurosawa: For Beautiful Movies, (which appears on the second disc) is a excellent documentary on Kurosawa, his many films and inspirations, an in-depth look at his last films (Rhapsody in August and Madadayo), and also includes a brief overview of Toho's transformation from PCL where Kurosawa was first hired. A Message from Akira Kurosawa: For Beautiful Movies is done in Japanese, complimented by English subtitles, and is broken into 10 chapters for easier navigation. The best extra on this disc, which is also found on the second disc in the set, is from Toho's own region 2 release of Ikiru from the Masterworks series; a documentary on the film complete with interviews from the cast and staff conducted especially from the documentary, along with footage from previous interviews with Kurosawa and Shimura. Also included is numerous insights into the special effect, sound, camera, and lighting work done for the production. The documentary is done in Japanese, complimented by English subtitles, and is broken into seven chapters for easier navigation. On a final note, the menus found on both discs are very diverse, and wonderfully relate back to Ikiru; furthermore, they all show a great deal of work on Criterion's part, the best being the one for the main menu which is a xray of Kanji Watanabe's (the main character) stomach cancer.

Bottom line, this is Criterion's best release to date, and includes enough extras to warrant Criterion's larger price tag; which is actually the same as Crtierion's previous releases, despite having a great deal more material to watch. One can only hope that Criterion's never ending delay of their Lower Depths release was done so that they could include extras found on the region 2 release.

-Anthony Romero