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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Emperor in August (Blu-ray)
The Emperor in August (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time // Unrated // August 15, 2017 // Region Free
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at ]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted October 8, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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The Emperor in August Twilight Time Blu-ray Review The Emperor in August is a historical drama focused on Japan's involvement in WWII. The central focus of the film is on Japan's war efforts during the last days of Japan's involvement in WWII right before their surrender. Based on the novel written by Kazutoshi Handô, the film is produced by Hirotaka Aragaki (Dawn of a Filmmaker: The Keisuke Kinoshita Story) and Nozomi Enoki (Shinobi: Heart Under Blade, When the Last Sword is Drawn).

The film primarily focuses on Japanese war efforts connected to Emperor Showa (Masahiro Motoki), Prime Minister Suzuki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), and War Minister Anami (Kôji Yakusho).  The film bounces back and forth between the different areas of Japanese government and army organization. The characters in the film are largely concerned with their political polity: the group identity of Japan's army and what will happen to the Japanese military if they should surrender.

The film is rather cut and dry for a historical drama. At times it feels a lot like reading dry historical textbook material. It's almost like segments of history on film from strictly an educational approach. It's not the best way to approach this kind of material.

This type of filmmaking makes the film harder to enjoy as it's hard to really explore any of the characters or grasp the gravitas of the situation. The film is too driven by a basic approach to the history found in the material. This makes it feel a lot more like a Hallmark Channel original movie or a History Channel special more so than a creative, engaging film exploring Japan's involvement in WWII.

The film does have some commendable production aesthetics. The production design by Tetsuo Harada (Ties) feels authentic and true to the time-period. Costume designs by Masae Miyamoto (Like Someone in Love, Chronicle of My Mother) are certainly befitting the different characters. The music score by Harumi Fuki (Miss Hokusai, Massan) gives some emotional backdrop which works well during some key moments.

Unfortunately, crucial aspects of the filmmaking disappoint. The cinematography by Takahide Shibanushi (Swing Girls, Be With You) looks crisp and stunning at times yet it's digital sheen gives the film a decidedly artificial quality which doesn't benefit it. The film doesn't remotely look like a historical-drama should. It gives the film a too-modern sensibility which is totally wrong for the material.

The film was written and directed by Masato Harada (Chronicle of My Mother, Bounce Ko Gals). Harada's aim seems to be to educate with his historical drama. This might be important to note for history buffs who are simply interested in seeing a film which primarily recounts movements made by Japanese government during the war. However, from a storytelling perspective, it makes the film dry and uninteresting. This film isn't entertaining (which is a key component to any film: even important ones which focus on telling history).

A better film would focus more on the characters involved in war: Grave of the Fireflies tells its humanitarian story through its exploration of the lives of civilian children. Lincoln explores the President and his involvement in bringing forth revolutionary legislation with a personal edge. Yet The Emperor in August is too focused on text-book details to remember to be character-driven or emotionally rewarding for audiences. It makes the film become more of a chore for viewers to sit through than an engaging experience worthy of exploration. One would be better off picking up some history books and reading the material than sitting through this dry and by-the-numbers drama.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

The Emperor in August arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation. It is in the original 2.35:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. The video quality excels with an excellent high-definition presentation. The video has crisp colors along with clean, vivid cinematography. The photography looks excellent throughout with no major drawbacks. The film has a nice crisp digital cinematography which looks modern throughout. There is no banding to be seen or other detrimental video drawbacks. In other words, this is a stunning presentation of the film.

Audio:   

The film is presented with DTS-HD Master Audio Japanese 5.1 surround sound as the primary audio. English subtitles are provided. An optional 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio stereo audio presentation is also included.

The audio presentation is decidedly disappointing. Although the dialogue is crisp, clear, and easy enough to understand the sound mixing itself leaves something to be desired. Several sequences have stereo-like sound with the surround sound mix and are far too focused on just the dialogue. There are also several scenes in which the presentation goes from being very quiet to over-the-top loud with ridiculously bombastic sound effects during action. During these sequences, the film becomes too loud. And at other times, it's again soft. The audio is not as well mixed as it could have been despite good audio fidelity.

An optional Isolated Score Track is included.


Extras:

This release includes a booklet featuring an essay on the film written by Twilight Time writer Julie Kirgo.

On disc supplements include the following:

Original Theatrical Trailers

Final Thoughts:

The Emperor in August is a dry historical drama which doesn't work as well as it should. The film suffers from poor storytelling. Though it may cover a lot of historical ground in a short period of time the film is sadly disconcerting as it fails to focus on the characters or drama explored. This is a by-the-numbers historical drama which doesn't manage to engage like it should.

Skip It.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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