Posts Tagged ‘Arrow Academy’

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: March 20, 2018

Region: Region A & B

Length: 01:41:12

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 37.84 Mbps

Title

The early seventies were a period of remarkable activity for Robert Altman, producing masterpiece after masterpiece. At the time he came to make Images, MASH and McCabe & Mrs. Miller were behind him, with The Long Goodbye, Nashville, and 3 Women still to come. Originally conceived in the mid-sixties, Images concerns a pregnant children’s author (Susannah York—who would win the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance) whose husband may or may not be having an affair. Actually, there are several “may or may not” situations in this film, because the protagonist’s mental state becomes increasingly unstable throughout the duration. One can see it as a homage to Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is nearly as brilliant.

The film certainly has a lot going for it. John Williams scored the film (although his score is almost secondary to the sound designs by Stomu Yamashta (The Man Who Fell to Earth), and Vilmos Zsigmond’s brilliant cinematography is always compelling. It is a truly interesting effort—so interesting that one hates to say anything negative about the film. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite live up to its potential.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray disc in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. Surprisingly, the new artwork is more impressive. There is also an attractively illustrated collector’s booklet featuring an essay on the film by Carmen Gray and a pertinent extract from Altman on Altman that is well worth reading. The booklet adds quite a bit of value to the package.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are enticing, attractive, and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

It was impossible to find the old MGM DVD of Images to compare this disc against as it has been out of print for quite some time, but there is absolutely no way that it looked nearly as remarkable as this new 4K restoration transfer. The image is incredibly filmic and looks terrific in motion. What’s more, it showcases an impressive level of fine detail and superb clarity for a film that was intentionally shot with a soft image. Contrast is also well rendered with blacks that are deep without significant crushing. Meanwhile, there is a level of organic grain that never becomes unwieldy. Fans should be pleased.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s English mono Linear PCM audio transfer opts for authenticity over a more dynamic remix (which should satisfy purists). The film’s score and atmospheric sound design is capably handled by the track as is the dialogue which is consistently clear throughout the duration. The flat nature of the track might disappoint those wanting to make adequate use of their high-end systems, but it is more important to represent Altman’s original intentions. In any case, it is a rich track that supports the visuals quite admirably.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger

Readers might recall that this reviewer has a slight prejudice against third party commentary tracks. They sometimes seem to be compiled of nothing more than information gathered from the commentator’s Google or Imdb search. Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger manage to offer a bit more substantial analysis in this particular track. They offer their analysis with a nice helping of trivial information about the film and its place in Altman’s career. It earns its place on the disc and fans of the director should find it more than worthwhile.

Scene-Select Commentary by Robert Altman

Apparently, this scene-select commentary by writer-director Robert Altman was carried over from the original MGM DVD. It is nice to have it here, because hearing a director discuss their film is always instructive. One only wishes that Altman could have given the film a proper feature length track.

Imagining Images – (24:31)

Another carry-over is this nice archival featurette that centers on Robert Altman and Vilmos Zsigmond. One wishes that it could’ve been more comprehensive, but it’s nice to have what’s here.

Interview with actor Cathryn Harrison – (06:04)

Arrow’s brief interview with Cathryn Harrison is a pretty standard reminiscence about her experiences shooting Images when she was only 13 years old. Her memories are happy ones and it is nice to have her perspective on the production.

An Appreciation by Stephen Thrower – (32:26)

Stephen Thrower’s “appreciation” is probably every bit as instructive as the Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger commentary track. It tracks the gestation of the film in Altman’s head, the film’s various influences, the reception of the film upon its release, and much more.

Theatrical Trailer – (03:13)

It is nice to find that the theatrical trailer has been included on the disc as well. It’s always a disappointment when they are overlooked.

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Final Words:

This film has been very difficult to find on home video for quite some time, so the Robert Altman completest is sure to be thrilled with this release. It comes highly recommended to Altman fans and to anyone who finds the premise at all interesting.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: February 06, 2018

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:39:48

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 French DTS-HD Master Audio

2.0 French Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.78:1

Bitrate: 27.99 Mbps

Title.png

First of all, a few readers that aren’t well-versed in their French-cinema history should be told up front that this is not a fictional narrative film classic that has somehow escaped your radar. It is a documentary about a notoriously troubled film production that ended in near tragedy. In 1964, Henri-Georges Clouzot, the acclaimed director of thriller masterpieces Les Diaboliques and Wages of Fear, began work on his most ambitious film yet. It was to be titled L’Enfer (Inferno) and was to star Serge Reggiani as a controlling hotel manager who begins to suspect that his beautiful wife (Romy Schneider) is fooling around on him. There is little indication that his suspicions have merit, but even meritless jealousy can soon turn into obsession. If Clouzot’s project sounds familiar, this might very well be because Claude Chabrol turned the script into his own film entitled L’Enfer in 1994.

Clouzot

Henri-Georges Clouzot

The Chabrol film would have never been made had Clouzot’s vision reached the screen. Unfortunately, this was never to be the case. Despite huge expectations, major studio backing, and an unlimited budget, the production collapsed under the weight of arguments, technical complications, and illness after only three weeks. The details of these three weeks—particularly the trouble that plagued the filmmakers during the shoot—is what this film is really about.

Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea utilize Clouzot’s incredible expressionistic original rushes, screen tests, and on-location footage whilst also attempting to reconstruct his original vision. Interviews, dramatizations of un-filmed scenes, and Clouzot’s own notes are also used in order to create an incredibly informative document. The parallel between Henri-Georges Clouzot’s behavior on the set and the hotel manager’s obsession with his wife is driven home throughout the duration. The result is not only a document of one of cinema’s lost treasures but an examination of a master director’s creative drive that may have crossed the line into obsession.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray disc in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. Surprisingly, the new artwork is more impressive. There is also an attractive 22-page booklet that features a 5 page essay (6 if you count the footnotes) written by Ginette Vincendeau entitled “Welcome to Hell” which is illustrated with several stills.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are enticing attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy’s high bitrate encode offers a better image than the previous Flicker Alley release—but the improvements are decidedly marginal. Since M2K Films was responsible for delivering the master, one wonders if this isn’t simply a superior disc encode of the same master utilized on the earlier release. The quality of the footage is entirely dependent upon the source, although it must be said that Clouzot’s footage is in surprisingly good condition here. There are flaws throughout the transfer but nothing that should distract anyone. Actually, one imagines that few will even notice them.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy has happily upgraded the sound options available on this release as the Flicker Alley version only offered a lossy Dolby Digital option on their release of the film. This particular disc contains two high definition tracks: a 5.1 French DTS-HD Master Audio option and a 2.0 French Linear PCM Audio mix. Both of these choices are clearly superior even if neither track is likely to impress those looking for a truly dynamic sonic experience. It would be ridiculous to expect such a mix considering the documentary nature of the film. Dialogue and music drive the film and this results in a track that highlights Bruno Alexiu’s score with clearly rendered dialogue. Both tracks are perfectly acceptable options.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

They Saw Inferno – (59:43)

This hour long examination of the production is the disc’s strongest supplement and (as the case boldly announces) “provides further insight into the production of Inferno.” The program features a wealth of unseen material from Clouzot’s failed production that is unique to this piece and unused interview footage from Bromberg’s documentary production of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno is utilized in this hour long companion piece to the feature. Many will find it just as fascinating as the main documentary as it delves a bit deeper into the film’s production—or it at east gives a more straightforward account. It is almost like an alternative documentary about the exact same subject but with a radically different approach.

Lucy Mazdon on Henri-Georges Clouzot – (21:48)

Lucy Mazdon is the disc’s resident scholar and expert on the subject of the French cinema. She discusses the career and filmography of Henri-Georges Clouzot and where he fit in the cinematic landscape at the time of the infamously famous troubled production of L’Enfer. She diplomatically questions Bromberg’s documentary and claims that it might be a little “one-sided” in its depiction of the director and that he was perhaps not quite as obsessive as he comes across in the film. However, her admiration for the documentary seems authentic and this is presented more as an unanswerable question about the true nature of that production than an actual criticism.

Interview with Serge Bromberg – (18:09)

More substantial is this English language interview with Bromberg about Henri-Georges Clouzot’s production of L’Enfer, his approach to his documentary about the production, the magnificence of Clouzot’s original footage, and more. It adds a good deal of information to the disc and is well worth watching if you are a fan of Clouzot, French cinema, or Bromberg’s excellent documentary.

Filmed Introduction by Serge Bromberg – (08:57)

Bromberg’s introduction is delivered in French and seems to be carried over from some other home video release of the film. Introductions such as these usually offer the viewer very little and seem to be included simply so that they can list yet another supplement on the back of a film’s Blu-ray (or DVD) case. However, this particular introduction does offer a bit of background information about the genesis of the project and the challenge of convincing Henri-Georges Clouzot to allow him access to the footage and is well worth watching for this reason.

Theatrical Trailer – (01:44)
The film’s original trailer is included and does an admirable job at capturing the interest of anyone who even remotely loves world cinema.

Stills Gallery

Arrow’s stills gallery holds 42 production stills from Clouzot’s failed production. Many (if not most) can be seen within the film itself and the various video based supplements, but it is nice to have them here in order to give the images a more focused contemplation.

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Final Words:

It is impossible to say whether or not L’Enfer might have been Henri-Georges Clouzot’s masterpiece—especially in a filmography that includes Le Corbeau, Wages of Fear, and Les Diabolique—but it would’ve been absolutely fascinating as is this excellent documentary. Arrow Academy has given fans of French cinema an incredible gift with this release.
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Blu-ry Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: December 26, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 02:05:00

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

English Mono Linear PCM Audio

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 34.79 Mbps

Title

“The genesis of The Apartment I remember very, very vividly. I saw David Lean’s Brief Encounter, which was based on a one-act play by Noel Coward—and in the play Trevor Howard was the leading man. A married man has an affair with a married woman, and he uses the apartment of a chum of his for sexual purposes. I always had it in the back of my mind that the friend of Trevor Howard’s, who only appears in one or two tiny scenes, who comes back home and climbs into the warm bed the lovers have just left, would make a very interesting character. I made some notes, and years later, after we had finished Some Like It Hot, we wanted to make another picture with Jack Lemmon. I dug out this notion, and we just sat down and started to talk about the character, started the structure, started the three acts, started the other characters, started to elaborate on the theme, and when we had enough we just suggested it to Mr. Lemmon and to Walter Mirisch and United Artists… In those days it was a very, very risqué project. Today, of course, it would be considered a Disney picture.” –Billy Wilder

In 1960, following the success of their collaboration on Some Like it Hot, director Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Sabrina) reteamed with actor Jack Lemmon (The Fortune Cookie, The Odd Couple, Grumpy Old Men) for what many consider the pinnacle of their respective careers: The Apartment. Winner of five Academy Awards—including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Art Direction (Black and White), and Best EditingThe Apartment features a wealth of Hollywood’s finest talent on both sides of the camera working at the top of their game. By turns cynical, heart-warming and hilarious, the story follows C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon) who works as a lowly drone in an insurance firm who allows the company bosses to walk on him and use his apartment for their extramarital affairs in hopes that it might help him rise through the ranks of the company. When Bud enters into a similar arrangement with the firm’s head-honcho, J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray, Double Indemnity), his career prospects begin to look up. Unfortunately, he discovers that one of Sheldrake’s mistresses is none other than Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine, Irma la Douce), who happens to be the girl of his dreams. The story soon ventures into dark territory as Bud must choose between his career and the woman he loves… and between being a “mensch” and a jerk. Both Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine give performances that were more than worthy of their respective Oscar nominations (the film earned ten nominations), and Wilder perfectly balances the film’s dark themes with human comedy for a completely satisfying cinematic journey.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy really knocked this release out of the park in just about every way and their glorious packaging is certainly no exception. It’s always great to see that it has been shown the proper respect by the good folks at Arrow, and Billy Wilder’s many admirers will want to act fast so that they might reap the benefits. Two items are house in a very sturdy box with excellent artwork by Ignatius Fitzpatrick that manages to best the film’s original one-sheet artwork. It represents the film perfectly!

One Sheet

The Original One Sheet Artwork

The first item in the box is Arrow’s standard clear case with reversible artwork which gives one the choice of showcasing the same newly commissioned artwork utilized on the box and the film’s original one-sheet artwork. This reviewer chose to feature the one-sheet art on the case since the box already features Fitzpatrick’s superior artwork. Either way, it’s great having the choice. The second item in the box is a 150 page book that features three essays, including Sweet and Sour: The Greatness of Billy Wilder’s ‘The Apartment’ by Neil Sinyard, Broken Mirrors: Illusion and Disillusion in Billy Wilder’s ‘Diamond’ Comedies by Kat Ellinger, Shut Up and Deal: The Changing Candor of 1960s Hollywood Cinema… Morality-wise, by Travis Crawford and Heather Hyche. All three of these essays are interesting and offer both analytical musings and concrete information about The Apartment and some of the other films in Billy Wilder’s distinguished filmography. The production stills and artwork included throughout the pages only sweeten the already worthwhile reading experience.

Limited Edition

The disc’s animated menu features footage and music from the film and is easy to navigate.

Menu

Everything about this release is remarkable and Arrow should be commended for their efforts.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s 1080p transfer of their 4K restoration of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment is a thrill to behold. The aforementioned hardbound book includes a brief but detailed paragraph about the work that went into the release:

“…The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director Scanner at EFilm, Burbank. Upon inspection it was discovered that several sections in the original negative had been removed and replaced with a duplicate negative element, resulting in a noticeable shift in quality. These substitutions were not limited to the optical sections, which would have been standard lab practice at the time. Although lab documentation could not be found, these substitutions were likely performed before the film’s original release, as all subsequent intermediary film element also exhibit these changes. The trims from the original negative could not be found as these were likely discarded long ago, but a separate 35mm fine grain positive was sourced and compared against the duplicate negative element for these sections. In each of these instances, the best source element was selected to ensure the highest quality presentation possible.

The film was graded on the Nucoda grading system at R3store Studios, London. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, [and] scratches were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques. Instances of picture instability, warped sections, and damaged frames were also improved.” –Limited Edition Hardbound Book

Despite the obstacles created by the production’s original source elements, Joseph LaShelle’s cinematography hasn’t looked this good on home video—and we include the excellent 2012 Fox/MGM Blu-ray in this statement. It is a pristine transfer of a beautifully shot film that has benefited from the 4K scan as well as the hours of restoration work. Detail is impressive with beautifully deep blacks and a greyscale that runs the gamut. Gradations are smooth and naturally rendered with natural looking contrast. The source itself sometimes lends itself to a softer overall look to certain scenes, but one cannot expect improvement on the original photography (which is always attractive in any case). Clarity is also brilliant for a 60 year old film, and purists will be happy to see that grain reproduction looks natural and organic. There may be a few fleeting imperfections that couldn’t be resolved here (such as the occasional minor scratch), but these are never distracting. The work that has gone into this demo quality transfer will be evident to everyone lucky enough to behold it.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s Linear PCM mono option will impress purists as it is the option most faithful to the film’s original sound design. However, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a more than adequate alternative for those seeking a slightly more dynamic option. Either choice should please the listener. Elements are all well prioritized with frontal dialogue on both options. The 5.1 offers some separation as the surrounds kick in (especially when the score takes over). Atmospherics also give the track a bit of depth. Personally, this reviewer prefers the more faithful mono option—but one shouldn’t fault Arrow for giving fans a choice.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Bruce Bloch

Bruce Bloch’s commentary was featured on MGM’s original Blu-ray release and has been carried over to this much better disc. Film historians often give rather dry but informative tracks and their theoretical analysis isn’t always very astute. While Bloch’s commentary cannot rival the sort of personal commentary that Wilder, Lemmon, or MacLaine might have offered, it is well worth listening to if you admire the film or Billy Wilder’s work. Having said this, there are times throughout the track when he describes the onscreen action rather than offering an analysis of that action or relaying pertinent information about the production or the action onscreen.

Select Scene Commentary by Philip Kemp – (08:37)

Kemp’s track offers commentary from two different scenes from the film. The first sequence finds a woman name Marge MacDougall (Hope Holiday) picking up Bud Baxter (Jack Lemmon) in a bar. The sequence also features the scene in which Ms. Kubelik is offered $100 in lieu of a Christmas gift. The second scene focuses on Baxter as he waits for his date outside the theatre (which houses the stage production of The Music Man). While Kemp’s comments aren’t particularly probing, the commentary offers just enough to be worthwhile. It simply isn’t brimming with actual information or heavy analysis.

The Key to The Apartment – (10:12)

This short featurette is a kind of companion piece to Philip Kemp’s select scene commentary track offers a few interesting words about the film—including a few quotes from archival reviews of the film. He has an unfortunate tendency to read from cards but they do seem to keep his comments on track.

The Flawed Couple – (20:24)

Better is this “video essay” by David Cairns that examines Jack Lemmon’s special place in Billy Wilder’s filmography. The actor made no fewer than seven films together and Wilder was responsible for the first onscreen pairing of Lemmon and Walter Matthau who would go on to become a popular comedic acting duo throughout the rest of their careers. In fact, three of the seven Wilder/Lemmon films were also Lemmon/Matthau movies. In any case, the essay features voiceover audio from Cairns coupled with clips from The Apartment and stills and artwork from some of their other collaborations.

Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon – (12:47)

It is nice to see that Arrow has carried this short appreciation of Jack Lemmon’s unique screen presence over from Fox/MGM’s earlier Blu-ray of The Apartment. It is worth watching as it might give the viewer added appreciation for Jack Lemmon’s unique talents and some very general biographical information. The actor’s son is the primary contributor here and this gives the piece a personal flavor that makes up for a decided lack in actual depth.

A Letter to Castro – (13:23)

Arrow’s new interview with Hope Holiday finds the 87 year old actress looking back on her experiences being cast in and working on The Apartment. She seems to have a special fondness for both Wilder’s direction and Lemmon’s unique acting talents. It is a nice addition to the disc as it expands on the interviews in Inside ‘The Apartment.

Inside The Apartment – (29:36)

Fans should be thrilled to discover that Arrow has carried this wonderful half hour documentary from the earlier Fox/MGM Bu-ray of The Apartment. This disc would’ve been naked without it as it contains a good deal of pertinent information that isn’t included in the disc’s other material—and the information that can be found elsewhere (like Bruce Bloch’s commentary track) is easier to digest here. This is one of the disc’s better supplements.

An Informal Conversation with Billy Wilder – (23:17)

This 1995 interview with Billy Wilder is introduced with a voiceover introduction by an extremely brief introduction by Jack Lemmon. The lo-fi video interview is a part of a series of interviews made for the Writers Guild Foundations’ Oral Histories Series, and it might very well be the crown jewel of the disc’s supplemental package. The program concentrates on Wilder’s writing process (especially his collaboration with IAL Diamond) with a good portion of the conversation focusing in on The Apartment. Any interview with Wilder is worthwhile and this one is no exception! He’s a very straightforward and unpretentious gentleman.

Restoration Show Reel – (02:20)

This is a document of the work that went into the excellent 4K restoration from the film’s 35mm camera negative. The usual before and after comparisons are featured here.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:19)

The film’s theatrical trailer is a nice way to round out the disc’s video supplements—and a happy addition to the package.

Original Screenplay

Those who have a BD-ROM drive on their computers will be able to take advantage of the included original screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. Future filmmakers could find a lot of worse ways to learn the craft of screenwriting than reading this excellent script.

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Final Words:

Why haven’t any of Billy Wilder’s other classic film’s received a Blu-ray release as good as this one? The only other release that approaches this one is Criterion’s edition of Ace in the Hole—and if this release is any indication, Criterion may need to watch their backs. Arrow Academy is formidable competition. The film has never looked or sounded this fabulous on home video and the packaging is absolutely gorgeous. It’s the perfect release, Blu-ray wise.

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This is an edition that has been limited to 3,000 units, so those interested in adding this brilliant release to their collections will want to act quickly!

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 02:07:36

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

2.0 English Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 3434 kbps, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio: 2.0 Italian Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English, English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.90 Mbps

Note: This package also includes a DVD edition of the film.

Title

While The Legend of the Holy Drinker isn’t quite as remarkable as Il Posto or The Tree of Wooden Clogs, it is certainly a worthy (and essential) entry into Ermanno Olmi’s distinguished filmography. This winner of the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival was adapted from a novella by Joseph Roth and tells a relatively simple story that concerns a homeless man named Andreas Kartack who is living under the bridges of Paris. He is lent 200 franks by an anonymous stranger and is determined to pay back this debt. However, his own circumstances and personal demons are an enormous obstacle that proves incredibly difficult to overcome.

In order to realize this life-affirming but incredibly somber cinematic portrait of human frailty, Olmi casted Ruger Hauer as Kartack and was rewarded with an astonishing performance of subtlety and depth that rivals the realistic portrayals that nonfactors had given him in the past, and the supporting cast (which includes Anthony Quayle, Sandrine Dumas, and Dominique Pinon) was equally effective. The final result is a film that recalls the flavor and tonal attributes achieved by the neorealist films of the forties, and this is probably the highest praise that anyone could bestow upon it. What else could one want from a film of this kind?

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by __ and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay written by Helen Chambers (author of Joseph Roth in Retrospect: Co-existent Contradictionse) and a number of archival stills.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The collector’s booklet includes information about the disc’s new 4K restoration transfer, and one’s expectations are immediately ratcheted up after reading it.

The Legend of the Holy Drinker has been exclusively restored by Arrow Films and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1… All restoration work was carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna. The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution on a pin- registered Arriscan and was graded on Digital Vision’s Nucoda Film Master. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches and other instances of film wear were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques. Image stability was also improved…” –Collector’s Booklet

The resulting image has been transferred to Blu-ray utilizing a maxed out bitrate and the result is extraordinary. There is a natural grain texture and the overall effect is extremely filmic. Depth is excellent and contrast is beautifully rendered. The fine detail inherent in Dante Spinotti’s original cinematography is consistently on glorious display—although there is an intentional softness to the image. Colors seem to represent the filmmaker’s original intent (although it is impossible to know for certain). In any case, it all looks rather remarkable.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow gives the viewer the choice of three tracks. There is a 2.0 English Linear PCM audio option, a 5.1 English DTS-HD master audio mix, and an Italian dub in the 2.0 LPCM audio format. Both of the English tracks are superior to the Italian dub, and one doubts if most people will choose this particular option. The 5.1 improves the presence of the film’s music and adds a more dynamic presence to the atmospherics—especially in the exterior sequences. Dialogue is well prioritized and consistently clear in both tracks, and there aren’t any real issues to report about either option. The Italian dub has the synch issues one expects from a dubbed version of a film, and the mix isn’t quite as natural. However, this is nearly always the case with dubbed tracks.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Interview with Rutger Hauer (Actor) – (1080P) – (09:20)

Rutger Hauer’s “exclusive” interview is an interesting but not comprehensive discussion about how the film fits into his career. It is a nice appreciation and a happy bonus for viewers to enjoy, but one does wish that it was a more in-depth examination of his work in the film.

Interview with Tullio Kezich (Screenwriter) – (1080I) – (25:47)

Tullio Kezich’s interview is more detailed examination of the process of writing the film and even goes into some information about the production. It is easily the best of Arrow’s three supplemental offerings.

Theatrical Trailer

Every Blu-ray release should, at the very least, include a film’s theatrical trailer, but this practice seems to be slowly dying off. It is very nice to see that this disc continues the tradition.

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Final Words:

Legend of a Holy Drinker is an extremely interesting film that should appeal to those who enjoy Ermanno Olmi’s other work, and Arrow Academy’s restoration transfer is incredible. This disc earns an enthusiastic recommendation.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: September 05, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:52:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.33:1

Bitrate: 34.96 Mbps

Title

“The struggle for self-determination, the struggle for what a character wants his life to be…I look for characters who feel strongly enough about something not to be concerned with the prevailing odds, but to struggle against those odds.” -Robert Aldrich

“The struggle for self-determination” pervades The Big Knife, a film based on a relatively successful play by Clifford Odets that made its Broadway debut at the National Theatre on February 24, 1949. Under the direction of Lee Strasberg, the stage production would last for 109 performances. The screenplay for the film by Robert Aldrich would be adapted by Odets and James Poe.

Aldrich follow-up to Kiss Me Deadly (which was made that same year) finds Charles Castle (Jack Palance), one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, at a crossroads in his life. His marriage is falling apart and his wife is threatening to leave him if he renews his contract with a philistine producer named Stanley Shriner Hoff. Meanwhile, Hoff knows of several incriminating skeletons in the actor’s closet and threatens to expose them to the world if he doesn’t sign on for future productions with his studio.

The film won the Silver Lion award at the 1955 Venice Film Festival, but the film wasn’t an overwhelming success in its day—and this is despite an excellent tile design by Saul Bass and a strong cast who gives excellent (if sometimes overwrought) performances. The theatricality of both the story and the performances is what ultimately dates the film, and it isn’t one of Aldrich’s best efforts. It is, however, an enjoyable diversion and a solid entry in the filmographies of every participant.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay written by Nathalie Morris and a number of archival stills.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s 2K restoration transfer looks incredible but unfortunately falls short of absolute perfection due to variances in clarity, a few anomalies created by the ravages of time, and what many will perceive to be a thicker than usual layer of grain. However, none of this gets in the way of the transfers strengths. For instance, the level of fine detail is still pretty impressive, contrast is well rendered, and there aren’t any unfortunate compression issues to distract the viewer.

This transfer does seem to have one curious and unfortunate negative aspect in that there is approximately sixty-six seconds of missing footage. This isn’t noticeable unless one compares it to other releases of the film.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

No one should expect this talky film to feature a truly dynamic experience, but the Linear PCM track is reasonably solid despite its narrow range. Dialogue is certainly clean and clear, and there aren’t any age related issues. It might not impress modern viewers, but it serves the story.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Commentary by Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton

As I am not usually a fan of third party commentary tracks, this discussion between Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton has limited appeal despite the fact that they cover a lot of information here. It is better than many similar tracks, but it isn’t as instructive as it might have been if it featured one or some of the actual filmmakers. We do, however, get a lot of general information about such topics as Robert Aldrich’s filmmaking legacy, comparisons to the play, background information about the cast, and other pertinent subjects. It is nice that Arrow goes to the trouble of producing commentaries for these older films (even if some of the participants featured in them can seem rather arbitrary).

Bass on Titles (1977) – (33:46)

If this interesting documentary hadn’t been included, the rating for this aspect of the disc would have been 2 or 2.5 stars. Needless to say, it is the disc’s best supplement. It finds Saul Bass discussing some of his title designs before that particular title sequence (or a clip of that sequence) is shown. Unfortunately, many of his titles aren’t included here at all. This is the programs largest weakness. It feels like a missed opportunity.

Television Promo – (04:59)

Also interesting is this vintage television EPK that serves as a glimpse behind the scenes—but only in the most superficial manner. It is basically an introduction to the film’s distinguished cast, but it is much more interesting than it would be if it wasn’t produced in 1955.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:28)

The trailer typically exploits its successful stage origins and the more sensational elements of the story, and the result is a trailer that never really distinguishes itself. It simply tries to appeal to the more sophisticated “high-brow” viewers who enjoy literate stage plays as they cater to the least common denominator by exploiting the more scandalous plot points. By covering all exploitable territories in a single trailer, the film in question seems to have no distinguishable personality. However, it is certainly interesting to watch.

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Final Words:

The Big Knife isn’t one of Robert Aldrich’s better films, but it is a diverting adaptation of the Clifford Odets stage play. Meanwhile, Arrow’s Blu-ray release is the best it has looked on home video.

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Blu-ray Review

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: August 22, 2017

Region: Region A & B

Length: 01:43:06

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 French Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 34.87 Mbps

Note: This package includes a DVD copy of the film.

Title

The Love of a Woman (L’amour d’une femme) was the final feature of the great French filmmaker Jean Grémillon, concluding a string of classics that included such greats as Lady Killer (Gueule d’amour), Stormy Waters (Remorques), and The Strange Madame X (L’Étrange Madame X).

The film tells the story of a young doctor named Marie. She arrives on the island of Ushant to replace its retiring physician but experiences prejudice from the mostly male population. She works hard to earn their respect and acceptance, and still has time to fall in love with an engineer named André. Unfortunately, André sees Marie’s career as a threat to their happiness and eventually gives her an ultimatum: it is either him or career. She eventually makes the right decision.

Starring Micheline Presle, whose impressive career has encompassed French, Italian and Hollywood cinema, and Massimo Girotti (best-known for his performance in Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione), The Love of a Woman seems ahead of the times for a film released in 1953.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay entitled “The Love of a Woman” written by Ginette Vincendeau.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The Love of a Woman was a restoration by Gaumont pictures, but Arrow’s information about this restoration was rather vague. In any case, the transfer has a filmic appearance with a natural and well resolved layer of grain. Fine detail is at times impressive and always adequate, and the same can be said about the contrast (which leans towards the dark end of the spectrum). There are some unfortunate shifts in clarity making it difficult to make a blanket statement about this aspect of the image, but this never becomes distracting to the viewer. It is certainly a clean image free from the anomalies usually evident in older films (such as scratches, warps, dust, and etcetera). This is no doubt do to the restoration work done on the film.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The Linear PCM rendering of the original mono sound elements sounds great. It’s obviously not the dynamic experience modern viewers have come to expect from a film, but that shouldn’t even be a consideration. The film is dialogue driven and priority is righty given to these elements, and the result is a clean and clear dialogue throughout. The music might have benefited from a more dynamic mix as it can sometimes sound a bit muddled as can some of the more aggressive sound effects. This isn’t really problematic and it never becomes distracting.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

In Search of Jean Grémillon – (01:36:10)

A La Recherche de Jean Grémillon (In Search of Jean Grémillon) is the only supplemental feature on the disc, but it is quality rather than quantity that really counts. This made for television documentary from 1969 serves as a career profile for Jean Grémillon, and it is more instructive than most supplemental packages all on its own. René Clair, Pierre Brasseur, Micheline Presle, Henri Langlois, and several other pertinent participants discuss various aspects of Grémillon’s work.

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Final Words:

The Love of a Woman is a simple but affecting story by Jean Grémillon and should interest devotees of French cinema. Better yet, it has been given a loving restoration by Gaumont and a solid transfer from Arrow.

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