Tonda Couple (1980)
Tonda Couple, which was Shinji Somai’s first film, turned out to be just the kind of sweet and innocent drama/comedy that I was expecting. It’s often silly and never very deep but it’s a lot of fun, even without subtitles. In fact, I nearly starved while watching this (and not because of the R2J prices) because I was very hungry but way too excited to take a break and go get food. Well, I got my chance after the halfway, which leads us to the problem part. While the first half is excellent, the second is notably worse. Somai gives more room to the supporting characters we get less scenes with the main couple together. The movie doesn’t exactly turn bad, just less great. There’s still many good scenes and I like the ending.
Hiroko Yakushimaru and Shingo Tsurumi are excellent choises for the leading roles with both doing great job. Tonda Couple never turns into a Hiroko show like Sailor-fuku did, instead both leads are equally charming. The film is also loaded with Somai’s trademark long takes… even more so than the other Somai films I’ve seen. I really love these long takes and it’s great to see there’s a director who doesn’t believe in fast editing and hasty pacing. Many scenes and shots featured here are also similiar to what Somai would later use in his other films. The one-take kitchen scene for example remided me of Hiroko wandering in her appartment in Sailor-fuku, and there’s several nice single shots that Somai re-used in Taifu Club.
The dvd included in Kadokawa’s Hiroko Yakushimaru box set is apparently identical to the old Toho dvd. How a Toho film ended up into a Kadokawa box set I don’t know. This is the 120 minute director’s cut (the shorter cut, which is not available on dvd as far as I know, runs approx. 106 minutes). The non-anamorphic transfer is unfortunately far from good. It’s very soft and some scenes are strangely hazy, like extreme ghosting but so visible that it looks like the characters are leaving a mark into air when they move. You get used to it though and the transfer quality didn’t distract me from the movie after the first five minutes. There’s no other serious problems, the colours seem okay and I don’t recall any major print damage. I viewed the film with all sharpness settings set to maximum and without zooming the image in (leaving black bars on all four sides). There are no subtitles, extras or menus.
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dvd cover front, dvd cover back