Inland Sea, The/B,B
Image/1992/56/FS 1.33

     The Inland Sea is a poetic vision of Japan seen through the eyes of writer and Kurosawa film expert Donald Richie. Based on the book Richie wrote in the early sixties, the extensive narration is derived from that text.  Richie himself narrates this journey through the inlets of Japan's bucolic Inland Sea.

A  group of Japanese tourists gather at a temple replica. ©Image

     This is a very personal view of Japan, it's people and its landscape. Richie is a fine, clear and patient speaker. There's an undercurrent of the elegiac in Richie's prose, but overall this a pragmatically poetic vision. Richie includes scenes of modern Japan encroaching into the landscape of the Inland Sea islands. Coffee shops and enclosed shopping streets share space with timeless shrines.
     I donít think there is anything especially magical about the filming. Itís often picturesque. There are lots of long shots of island formations within the seascape. A few old temples are visited as Richie tries to bring himself closer to the essence of the Japanese. Richie calls the Japanese a sea people, finding them out of their element in the cramped confines of the big cities. I did not find that I discovered anything on this journey with Richie. A grander scope, particularly in the photographic department, might have made a more dynamic film. The music is evocative of the mystery of Japan. Kurosawa collaborator Takemitsu wrote the score, highlighting the stark landscapes with his style of simple and magical chords.
    The DVD is a solid, yet uninspired transfer. Images are clear and clean, but lack a sense of visual power. They are obviously limited by the roar material. There are no evident disruptive artifacts. Color is clean. A tad more contrast would have been preferable.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 surround is minimally enveloping. Richie's narration is clear and the spare tones of Takemitsu's score float above the views, hanging and haunting.




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