This 4-disc set of early Mizoguchi films is proof of the fact that Blu-ray releases are no guarantee of quality. One should of course be prepared to make allowances for source material of this age, but these Artificial Eye versions of OSAKA ELEGY and SISTER'S OF THE GION are inferior to those in Criterion's 4-disc MIZOGUCHI'S FALLEN WOMEN.
By comparison, these lack contrast, the subtitling is inferior, and both suffer from what I can only describe as a kind of digital banding (which I presume might be a compression anomaly). This banding becomes particularly evident in low-light shots and dark sections of the frame. Thankfully, it isn't apparent on UTAMARO AND HIS FIVE WOMAN or THE STORY OF THE LAST CRYSANTHEMUM, but given the underwhelming standard of the transfers, one might as well opt for the less expensive DVD versions (for what it's worth).
Despite my disappointment with this set as a whole, I am at least very pleased that UTAMARO and CRYSANTHEMUM (two very fine Mizoguchi films) are now available on DVD. Until new prints are found, or a company like Criterion or The Film Foundation decide to restore them, these are probably as good as we're likely to see.
While I'm having a moan, I may as well take a swipe at Artificial Eye's short branding animation that automatically plays after their discs are loaded. If it was silent (like the Criterion one), it wouldn't be an issue, but the annoying accompanying music is very grating, especially when the same clip is played (and cannot be fast-forwarded) immediately prior to the film playing. Grr. It's irritating when companies over-market themselves to those who have already bought into what they offer. In terms of generating brand awareness and loyalty, it must be somewhat counter-productive.