Having recently bought a new Pioneer BDP-320 Blu-ray player, I've been buying and watching some great films in the high definition format. I've enjoyed lustrous transfers of films such as "Gone With The Wind", "North By Northwest" and "Zulu" over the last few weeks, and so I had high hopes for "Beat" Takeshi Kitano's 2003 film "Zatoichi".
The transfer is deeply disappointing. Having already seen the film in standard definition, there is absolutely no discernable difference between that version and the Blu-ray. Poor contrast levels and picture noise are the ever-present in this version of the film. It's just not good enough.
In retrospect, it's hardly surprising. Artificial Eye relases, along with those from the BFI, are usually lazy and slipshod affairs, with poor transfers and so-so extras the norm. In short, AE are the anti-Criterion. It's sad that people -like me- get sucked in with assumptions of a higher quality from Blu-ray releases merely because some high def releases are very good indeed.
The film itself is reasonable (although Takeshi's 1997 "Hana-Bi" is in another league in terms of quality) and I would probably give it a 3/5, but the transfer just is not. Add to that the usuual bog-standard "making of" documentary and biographies (all which you could find on the internet), and this is one to avoid.