A slow week for library releases (Is there some kind of Oscar moratorium?) allows me to roll the clock back to late November, when AnimEigo released the first four of Yoji Yamada’s “Tora-San” films in a handsome, well-produced box set. Only 44 left to go!
Like all of that excellent company’s releases, the Tora-san films come with extensive cultural notes, this time in an accompanying booklet (with an affectionate Donald Richie essay), audio commentary by Stuart Galbraith IV, and subtitles that do their best to explain arcane references and the tortured puns that seem to be central to Tora-san’s comedy. I can’t say that these are films that mean much to me personally (I’ve sampled them sporadically over the years, without making a systematic survey), but clearly they constitute a genuine culture phenomenon, with meanings and associations that are not immediately evident to my western eyes. Perhaps some of the Asian film experts who post here can expand on their significance.
My New York Times review is here.