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Gate of Hell (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

 Unrated   Blu-ray
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product Description

A winner of Academy Awards for best foreign-language film and best costume design, Gate of Hell is a visually sumptuous, psychologically penetrating work from Teinosuke Kinugasa (A Page of Madness). In the midst of epic, violent intrigue in twelfth-century Japan, an imperial warrior falls for a lady-in-waiting, even after he discovers she is married, he goes to extreme lengths to win her love. Kinugasa�s film is an unforgettable, tragic story of obsession and unrequited passion that was an early triumph of color cinematography in Japan. SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES � New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition � New English subtitle translation � PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film historian Stephen Prince


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tragic Obsession in 12th-Century Japan Nov. 30 2003
By M. Hart
Format:VHS Tape
In 1953, Teinosuke Kinugasa (1896-1982) directed and co-adapted the historical play entitled "Jigokumon" (English transliteration of the Japanese title), which was written by Kan Kikuchi (1888-1948). The film's name (the same as the play) translates into English as "Gate of Hell", and was released theatrically in the U.S. in 1954. The story takes place in 12th-century Japan during the Heian period and at the start of a revolt. During the confusion and fear running rampant through the royal palace in Kyoto, a lady of the court, Lady Kesa (Machiko Ky˘), is rescued by a soldier named Moritoh (Kazuo Hasegawa, 1908-1984). After the revolt fails, Moritoh is told that he can have anything that he wants, and what he wants is Lady Kesa to be his wife. He is quickly told, however, that she is already married to Wataru Watanabe (Isao Yamagata, 1915-1996). Rather than seek something different, Moritoh becomes dangerously obsessed with Lady Kesa.
Filmed in beautiful & vibrant color (probably one of the first color films from Japan), the cinematography in "Gate of Hell" is exquisite. The story is by no means dated, though it does become somewhat predictable. Still, it is both compelling and engaging and the acting is superb, especially Machiko Ky˘. Memorable scenes in the film include the confusion at the royal palace, Laky Kesa hiding from traitorous soldiers, Moritoh meeting Lady Kesa and her aunt after the revolt, Moritoh given the choice of his heart's desire, the horse races, Moritoh at the home of Lady Kesa's aunt, and the ending scenes. The makeup used on Moritoh could have been better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a classic Jan. 26 2004
Format:VHS Tape
Perhaps in its time, Gate of Hell was a moving, stirring drama, but for me this movie was a mediocre, if not at times crude, movie.
After remaining faithful to his lord, and distinguishing himself in combat, Moritoh Endo is permitted to name his own reward. He requests to marry Lady Kesa, the wife of the Imperial Gate Guard, but this wish is refused. For the rest of the movie, he obsesses about her, and tries to win her by force, which of course ends tragically.
Machiko Kyo as Lady Kase does stand out, but overall there is nothing exceptional about this movie. The quality of the video is not that great either.
Unfortunately, I'd have to say that the movie was somewhat of a disappointment.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  34 reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tragic Obsession in 12th-Century Japan Nov. 30 2003
By M. Hart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
In 1953, Teinosuke Kinugasa (1896-1982) directed and co-adapted the historical play entitled "Jigokumon" (English transliteration of the Japanese title), which was written by Kan Kikuchi (1888-1948). The film's name (the same as the play) translates into English as "Gate of Hell", and was released theatrically in the U.S. in 1954. The story takes place in 12th-century Japan during the Heian period and at the start of a revolt. During the confusion and fear running rampant through the royal palace in Kyoto, a lady of the court, Lady Kesa (Machiko Ky˘), is rescued by a soldier named Moritoh (Kazuo Hasegawa, 1908-1984). After the revolt fails, Moritoh is told that he can have anything that he wants, and what he wants is Lady Kesa to be his wife. He is quickly told, however, that she is already married to Wataru Watanabe (Isao Yamagata, 1915-1996). Rather than seek something different, Moritoh becomes dangerously obsessed with Lady Kesa.
Filmed in beautiful & vibrant color (probably one of the first color films from Japan), the cinematography in "Gate of Hell" is exquisite. The story is by no means dated, though it does become somewhat predictable. Still, it is both compelling and engaging and the acting is superb, especially Machiko Ky˘. Memorable scenes in the film include the confusion at the royal palace, Laky Kesa hiding from traitorous soldiers, Moritoh meeting Lady Kesa and her aunt after the revolt, Moritoh given the choice of his heart's desire, the horse races, Moritoh at the home of Lady Kesa's aunt, and the ending scenes. The makeup used on Moritoh could have been better.
The film won several awards including an Oscar for Best Costume Design, an Honorary Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the prestigious Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in France. Overall, I rate "Gate of Hell" with 4 out of 5 stars. Hopefully, the film will be fully restored and released on DVD one day. I highly recommend the film.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meditate....on the Ending of the Film Feb. 15 2013
By Gerard D. Launay - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
This film wowed the critics when it first came out in the 1950's. The extraordinary medieval costumes and exquisite color compositions dazzled the audiences. Today, even Martin Scorsese ranks the movie among his top 10 of foreign films. It must have influenced so many Japanese directors when they attempted to create their own epics.

Obviously, I prefer the masterpieces of Kurosawa or Kobayashi or Mizoguchi. This is a very good film rather than a great one. Nevertheless...this movie grows on you. Other reviewers discuss the basic plot: Moritoh, a warrior who quashes a revolt, is to be rewarded for his bravery by the emperor's regent. He is asked to choose any gift from the emperor. During the revolt, he encounters the beautiful Lady Kesa, who is kind to him. Like a fool, he demands that he be given Lady Kesa as a wife, even though she is already married to a lord of higher class. Everyone asks him to desist.. but pride, madness, and desire prevent him from doing so. He vows to destroy anyone who stands in his path and goes so far as to kidnap his prize. On the other side of the wall, rather than defend his wife from such outrageous conduct, Lady Kesa's intellectual husband takes no violent action to protect her.

The scenes are enhanced by the exaggerated dramatic, strong movements of Moritoh against the delicate movements of Kesa. Notwithstanding, she is just as strong a character as he is. I give this movie 5 stars because I felt this was Machiko Kyo's best performance. Every gesture of hers can be studied for meaning.

The ending of the film grabs me so much because it is pregnant with so much significance. Don't rush to judgment - think about it. There are secrets to the ending.

Postcript: The Blu-Ray quality is marvelous - don't even think about seeing the movie in any other format. I also love the glorious poster artwork on the cover of this Criterion Edition.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great film, but desperatly needs restoration. Dec 30 1999
By Jules Carrozza, the Japanese film king - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
I first saw this at a revival in the early eighties and couldn't believe how beautiful it was. Then I got this video and was suprized that it wasn't nearlly as beautiful as I remembered. The reason wasn't a bad memory, but the original prints used for showings have rotted in film vaults, and have become blurry, faded, and scrathy. I was very disappointed that Home Vision didn't present this digitally remastered and restored with new computer subtitles (the subtitles are quite crude). That's the reason I didn't give this five stars other than that, this is one of Japan's greatest masterpieces. The ending is pretty sad but has a beautiful ending. The degree that Moritoh will go to get Kesa is trully horrifying and Moritoh transforms from a herioc samurai warrior and hero of the film to a maniacal barbarian and villian. Recommended, but maybe the more picky film viewer who has an outburst everytime a scratch line goes down a film should perhaps wait until this is restored to the experiance it once was.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rushed and premature, but still good. Jan. 3 2008
By Robert Beveridge - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
Gate of Hell (Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1953)

The 1950s in Japan were a great time for costume dramas. Witness Gate of Hell (Jigokumon), Teinosuke Kinugasa's multi-Western-award-winning (Oscar: Best Foreign Film and Best Costume Design, New York Film Critics' Circle: Best Foreign Film, BAFTA Best Film, Cannes Grand Prize) flick about obsessive love and its inevitable end.

Moritoh (Genji Monogatari's Kazuo Hasegawa) helps put down a revolt, and is rewarded with anything he desires. What he desires is the beautiful Kesa (Ugikusa's Machiko Kyo), but he finds out that Kesa is already married to another samurai, Wataru (Isao Yamagata of The Seven Samurai). This knowledge doesn't faze Moritoh in the least; he sets about trying to win Kesa's love by proving himself a better warrior than her husband.

It is a good film, but it could have been a better one. Midnight Eye's summary of the film says that "Kinugasa himself was fully aware of his picture's dramatic weaknesses, and blamed intervention from his producer, an under-developed script and a rushed working schedule due to a release date fixed in advance. Whilst impressive in its performances, and the ambition and scale of its production, with a little more attention to plotting, one gets the feeling that it could have been a truly great film." This is quite the case. While it is undeniably a stunning picture, even by today's standards-- the rather primitive film stock (this was Japan's first color film) does nothing to mask the intricacy of the set design, the brilliant, almost expressionist color scheme, or Kinugasa's excellent eye when it comes to action scenes-- the plot is presented in almost stop-motion fashion, with one excellently-acted scene after another, but nothing to tie them together.

This does not, by any means, mean you should avoid this movie. Any film containing Machiko Kyo, possibly the single most beautiful actress working in filmdom in the 1950s, and certainly one of the handful of the most talented, is well worth watching. Hasegawa makes Moritoh into a figure who is less frightening than pathetic, a man who is driven solely by his demons, who has entirely lost his soul to obsession, while Yamagata plays Wataru as a blissfully ignorant chap who is given every opportunity to see tragedy rushing towards him, but refuses until it's on his doorstep staring him in the face. It could have been great, but because it's not doesn't mean it's not good. ***
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still stunning after all these years (SPOILER ALERT) April 22 2006
By SonzTwin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
I saw this last night on TCM, which, BTW, is a rare treasure on the medium of the "idiot box". Isn't it remarkable that this movie is 53 years old, and it still sparkles? What an accomplishment! It had the ingredients of a truly great film - complex characters that are developed fully and efficiently, great story-telling with attention to details, and good acting - a little stylized, but keep in mind that that impression might be due partially to Westerners unfamiliarity with Japanese culture, and partially to how the definition of "good acting" has evolved.

I love the film's nobility and moral rectitude. Those were the days when (and we were in a culture where) "doing the right thing" was the expected norm. It was seen in Moritoh's loyalty at the price of - at least it seems at the time - expediency, which was preceded by Kesa's unflinching sense of duty and willingness to lay down her own life. This is the beauty of Kesa's "soul" that Moritoh found out all-too-late he failed to see, which manifested itself as bookends in the plot, but is in fact the moral center of the movie. Such ideals are no longer frequently or fully embraced these days. Look at how we glorify criminals in shows like The Sopranos and Thief. I also liked how the plot falls together: Kesa's readiness to sacrifice herself at the outset of the story made her self-immolation at the end of the film ring true. The little details: remember the talk of chestnuts when Moritoh first saw Kesa with her aunt? We saw later on those very chestnuts hanging on the swaying trees during Moritoh's unfortunate night time visit. When Wataru and Kesa took what turned out to be their last walk in the garden under a full moon, it was all peace and serenity. The very same setting is transformed sinister and ominous just moments later, with the moon now hidden by clouds, as Moritoh slowly emerges out of the darkness in the background - a truly masterful and memorable scene in the history of cinema.

The theme of "folly" pervades the movie: we see a lot of it just from one character, Lord Kiyamori - and he's a top dog and a leader! His son had to advise him to act quickly to quash the uprising when we first see him. He then failed to reward Kesa, who is every bit as deserving as Moritoh of recognition. Even if you chalk that failure up to the times and the culture, you can't excuse his Jephthah-like stupidity and arrogance in giving Moritoh pretty much carte-blanche in his wish for a reward. What's more, we have his incessant and insensitive teasing - instrumental in precipitating the tragedy, in that it made the proud Moritoh all the more determined to have Kesa. Was Wataru cowardly, foolish, or both, when he "threw" the race? Lest you missed it, there's the cruel irony of Moritoh's comment after his brother's treachery resulted in his execution, "My brother was a foolish man". Moritoh proved to be no Solomon.

I thought it was a little frustrating to watch Kesa's helplessness when Moritoh blackmailed her. Surely there's another way out, woman! But I suppose that's part of the tragic theme: all the characters had strengths as well as tragic flaws. At the risk of second-guessing the director of a great movie, I felt that he could have kept the identity of the person in bed a secret until the moment of truth, but I'm sure I need to remind myself that this is not meant to be a thriller. I'd like to watch this movie again, maybe along with a movie it reminds me of: Kurosawa's Ran.
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