Shohei Imamura Masterpiece Collection – Preview

This week Masters of Cinema announced the release of a new boxset titled Shohei Imamura Masterpiece Collection. So what does it contain and is it worth a purchase?

The box contains eight films, all of which have already been released before. The contents are as follows:

盗まれた欲情 / Stolen Desire (1958)
西銀座駅前 / Nishi Ginza Station (1958)
豚と軍艦 / Pigs and Battleships (1961)
にっぽん昆虫記 / The Insect Woman (1963)
人間蒸発 / A Man Vanishes (1967) – DVD only
神々の深き欲望 / Profound Desires of the Gods (1968)
復讐するは我にあり / Vengeance is Mine (1979)
楢山節考 / The Ballad of Narayama (1983)

In the Blu-ray era of Masters of Cinema, only three other boxsets have been released. The first was the three-film Martin Scorsese Presents World Cinema Foundation Volume One boxset, the second was the excellent Late Mizoguchi boxset and the final was the Shoah five-film boxset. All are worthwhile boxes to buy full of new films that hadn’t seen the light of day prior to their release (apart from the Mizoguchi release, which only had four  newly-transferred-to-HD films out of eight).

For those with any or all of the contents of this newly announced box, it no doubt represent a disappointing announcement. I was aware there was a gap in the numbering of the Masters of Cinema Blu-Ray releases, between 120 Medium cool and 129 Dragon Inn, so I was hoping that an eight-film director-centric boxset would be announced. Having just got back into Imamura I was underwhelmed when I realised the boxset would contain eight films, seven of which I already own on Blu-Ray.

That said, the films include one Palme d’Or winner, two Blue Ribbon Best Film winners, Imamura’s debut film and some excellent insights into the career of a film director considered to be one of the greatest ever to come out of Japan. Not every film is amongst his best – notably Nishi Ginza Station is fairly poor – but if you have a copy of both The Eel and Black Rain (not Masters of Cinema) then you’ll have pretty much all of his most important works. It spans his entire career and represents the only way in the UK to get any of his films on Blu-Ray.

Importantly, it is rumoured that this will be the last chance to buy these films as part of the Masters of Cinema releases as they have let the rights lapse on them. If this is true, and you don’t have these films yet, then this is a must-buy.

The Shohei Imamura Masterpiece Collection boxset is available for pre-order now.

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