Magazine article American Cinematographer

Gate of Hell and A Diary of Chuji's Travels

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Gate of Hell and A Diary of Chuji's Travels

Article excerpt

We're to attend a "forget-it" party. Forget everything.

IMAGICA in Japan recently restored several major titles, including such classics as Gate of Hell (Jigokumon) and A Diary of Chuji's Travels (Crnjji tab: nikki: Goyo hen).

Gaie of Heii is the first Japanese feature film shot on EASTMAN Color Negative Film 5248 / Tungsten EI25. Directed by Teinsuke Kinugasa in 19S3, this movie was awarded the Grand Prize in Cannes in 1954 and also won two Academy Awards®.

The restoration was a joint project of Kadokawa Pictures and the National Film Center (NFC) of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, who conducted research and led the project as film archivists. The intention was to faithfully restore the original 1953 look of EASTMAN Color Film.

"We found surviving materials in three-color separation black-and-white master positives, color dupe negatives, and a release print of the film,' explains Mori masa Ishida, IMAGICA Corp. technical advisor. 'Sadly, the original camera negative fiJms wereiost. We compared the three maier ia! s and chose the most informat ion- rich master for each scene. In some scenes, only the release print was available and in those Instances, we had to later erase the English subtitle with Reliance MediaWorks' partnership and support."

After the project planning, the actual restoration process took over six months. "The most difficult part was the re-registration of the RGB separated images," says Kazuki Miura, IMAGICA Corp. archiving specialist. "The films Were shrunk by aging, and could not stabilize with the pin registration of today's scanners."

One of our members came up with the idea of customizing the registration pins of the scanner by physically curving it for this project, and this achieved finer alignment and worked out well throughout the rolls," says Ishida, "Several IMAGICA retirees were brought back for the projects as they were actually involved with the original post production. They helped us to understand the early coior motion picture process."

Originally, three-colorseparation black-and-white master positives of Gate of Hell were not made. For domestic release, direct print films were used. But as the film started getting acclaimed internationally, the studio decided to create dupe negatives for further demand of the release print. "That is why the three-colorseparation black-and-white master positives were very carefully created," notes Miura. "In Japan, as the quality of intermediate films increased, three-colorseparation black-and-white master positives were no longer made after a while."

The next step was grading. Kadokawa and NFC agreed that color should be graded to reproduce the look of 1950 s EASTMAN Color Film. "Fortunately, legendary front-line cinematographer Fuj i o Morita (JSC) who was a camera assistant on Gate of He/I understood the intention of art and color of the film, and was able to supervise the grading to revive the vibrant look," says Ishida. "Kadokawa and NFC were very happy and excited to see the restored EASTMAN Color Film."

Miura explains that because Japanese films are not as internationally viewed as Hollywood content, it is not widely known that Japanese films are being restored on a regular basis. In addition to NFC, major domestic studios have also been investing in their heritage titles over the past seven to eight years.

"The aim of restoration 'varies depending on the country or archivist." adds (snida, "In Japan, the aim is often to revive the original look. This means researching past technologies as well as the intentions of the filmmakers - instead of making improvements or enhancements in addition to the original image, although it is possible with today's technology. …

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