Posts Tagged ‘Blu-ray Disc’

Spine #856

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Region: Region A

Length:

Before Sunrise – 01:41:05

Before Sunset – 01:20:31

Before Midnight – 01:48:57

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

Before Sunrise – 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Before Sunset – 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Before Midnight – 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate:

Before Sunrise – 35.34 Mbps

Before Sunset – 35.20 Mbps

Before Midnight – 34.05 Mbps

Notes: These titles were previously released in various DVD editions, and Before Midnight was previously available on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Classics.

One Sheets

“We’re lucky on these films because the construction of it is going for a certain kind of honesty. So many romantic films—they’re kind of built on an artifice that we have tried never to really abide by too much. We have some mythic audience in our mind that would appreciate the unvarnished honesty of the darker moments of a relationship. I’d say we can do things that another kind of film couldn’t support.” –Richard Linklater (Backstage, December 06, 2013)

That Linklater should use the word “honesty” so often in his interviews discussing this one-of-a-kind trilogy shouldn’t surprise cinephiles. If a single word could be used to describe The Before Trilogy, that word would probably be “honest.” The cornerstone of the career-long exploration of cinematic time by Richard Linklater, this celebrated three-part epic romance chronicles the love of Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke), from their first meeting as idealistic twentysomethings to the disillusionment they face together in middle age. These three films also stand as a document of a boundary-pushing and extraordinarily intimate collaboration between Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke. It is more than evident that these films are very personal documents to all three participants.

“The lack of vanity with Ethan and Julie is important. In the films—we’re all three of us doing this—we’re taking where we are at that moment and whatever life has thrown at us in the past nine years [and] using that as the clay for what we’re sculpting.” –Richard Linklater (Way Too Indie, May 21, 2013)

Attuned to the sweeping grandeur of time’s passage as well as the evanescence of individual moments, the Before films chart the progress of romantic destiny as it navigates the vicissitudes of ordinary life. It might seem extraordinary to imagine that this near-perfect trilogy wasn’t planned as a trilogy at all. Each film is a singular entity that captures two characters at a very specific juncture of their lives. They stand alone as wonderful films in their own right but expand into something even greater when all three films are united as a singular unit.

“They all feel like they’re of one piece. It was wonderful being in Vienna nineteen years ago. It was wonderful being in Paris making a movie, and Greece was just incredible.” –Richard Linklater (Parade, October 23, 2013)

However, even those who prefer to experience all three films as “one piece” will probably agree that it is impossible to discuss Jesse and Celine’s journey as a couple without examining each film individually.

Before Sunrise Cover

BEFORE SUNRISE – Spine #857

“The movie’s about crossing paths with someone who needs the same thing you do. The question is, could this really be something more, something bigger, eternal? I think it’s something they’ll both know at some point in the future.” –Richard Linklater (Interview, February 1995)

On the surface, Before Sunrise seems to be an extension of Richard Linklater’s independent debut effort. Slacker had a unique structure that found a group of marginalized outsiders talking about a variety of subject. However, Slacker finds its characters talking at each other without ever really interacting. In Before Sunrise, both Jesse and Celine give long philosophical monologs that seem to have much in common with Slacker—but these characters are actually connecting. They listen to one another and relate to what the other is saying.

“I was going for a sincere communication. I felt I had bounced around between no communication and an interior monolog communication that arguably doesn’t stick or only communicates to a certain extent, maybe only makes sense later. I think I liked the idea, starting with Before Sunrise, of people who were trying to connect. It was about being understood…” –Richard Linklater (Film Comment, July/August 2006)

It is evident while watching the film that Jesse and Celine understand one another—even as they might disagree. Their conversation is the basis of their romance, and this might be why the film resonates with audiences. The film opens with a chance encounter between two solitary young strangers. After they hit it off on a train bound for Vienna, the Paris university student Celine and the scrappy American tourist Jesse impulsively decide to spend a day together before he returns to the U.S. the next morning. As the pair roam the streets of the stately city, Linklater’s tenderly observant gaze captures the uncertainty and intoxication of young love, from the first awkward stirrings of attraction to the hopeful promise that Celine and Jesse make upon their inevitable parting.

It is a scenario that was actually inspired by a formative experience that Richard Linklater shared with a woman named Amy Lehrhaupt in 1989 (after shooting Slacker). As a matter of fact, Before Midnight was even dedicated to this woman.

“The whole plot for Before Sunrise was inspired by a woman I met in Philadelphia. I was just hanging out with my sister—who used to live near Rittenhouse Square—and I met this woman at a toy store. I just got to talking to her and then we went out later and hung out the whole night. We walked around downtown from midnight until six in the morning. It was our own nooks-and-crannies tour of Philadelphia. But all the time I was thinking, `There’s a movie here.'” –Richard Linklater (The Morning Call, May 10, 1997)

Unlike Jesse and Céline, Richard and Amy actually exchanged phone numbers—but the different dynamic of their telephone conversations formed an invisible barrier between them.

“It sort of did the fizzle… So in the first movie that was a thing, the idea that they would intellectually kind of get beyond that and say ‘Well, we’re on different continents. What are the odds that it’s gonna work? Let’s just commit to this night.’” –Richard Linklater (Slate, May 30, 2013)

Linklater later learned that she had died tragically before the film even entered production.

“I just found out a couple years ago that she had died young, in a motorcycle accident. I didn’t know… She wasn’t even alive when we shot in Vienna. She died that Mother’s Day weekend. It’s just so sad.” –Richard Linklater (Moviefone, April 23, 2013)

A script had already been written by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan before Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke was signed to the film, but it was reworked after they came onto the project.

“I’m very interested in the reality of these actors on the screen, so I know you can’t just say lines that are written by someone else. The script, the text, has to work its way through the person, and so by having Julie and Ethan kind of work with me in rewriting that script, and personalizing it and demanding they give a lot of themselves, I thought that was the only way that film could ultimately work the way I wanted it to. The script was really [the] first step, but for it to give the effect that I wanted, I was looking for the two most creative young actors to fill those shoes, because I knew what would be asked of them.” –Richard Linklater (NPR, May 30, 2013)

This collaborative process between Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy would extend to the film’s two sequels and this is probably what sets these three films apart from other films. There is a sincerity inherent in the trilogy’s very design that most films could never hope to emulate—and this is a direct result of the collaborative nature of these works. The director and actors have each poured part of themselves into these projects, and their passion and sincerity can be felt in every frame.

Before Sunset Cover

BEFORE SUNSET – Spine #858

“We made the first film and no one ever asked ‘is there going to be another film?’ That was not a logical question. When we were making the second film in Paris, every day we looked at one another and asked ‘how are we getting to do this? This is amazing!’ We’re getting to make this very personal film that no one really even cares about except for three people, and you’re in a good spot if you can ever be making a film like that.” –Richard Linklater (We Got This Covered, 2013)

Before Sunset wasn’t expected and raised a few eyebrows upon its release. Before Sunrise was certainly successful, but it wasn’t the sort of success that demanded a follow-up. Perhaps this is the reason why the film actually works. In the words of Richard Linklater, “Jesse and Céline kind of reared their heads and had something to say.” The film wasn’t made to exploit the first film’s success or to make a lot of money. As a matter of fact, Linklater went forward with the project with a healthy dose of anxiety and doubt about its potential.

“Fear is a real obvious emotion. Leave it alone. Yeah, I know. That was the temptation, I think that’s why it took so long. I’m not going to say the first film’s perfect or anything, but to us, it was really special. So you realize, ‘Oh, you could not only screw that up, you’d screw up the film you’re working on, but [also] screw up the first one.’ But, you know, it’s good. If you’re afraid of something and still compelled to do it, in the arts at least, you should probably still do it.” –Richard Linklater (IGN, July 01, 2004)

Before Sunset again benefits from Linklater’s collaboration with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, but this project allowed the two actors to work with Linklater on the film’s original script instead of altering an already prepared script as they did on Before Sunrise.

“The three of us wrote it. We all [put the pen to paper]. First, we talked about it for years, and then we took a lot of thought and building there, and then we sat down, the three of us in a room, for like three or four days, and worked on a very, very specific outline. I mean, the beginning, the end, what happens in every scene, all the emotional beats. It was very worked out. And then we kind of went our separate ways for almost a year. Julie would send 20 pages, Ethan would send monologs. I was re-writing and writing stuff. It was all on my laptop ultimately. If you did a word count, they would probably exceed me. At some point, we didn’t, if one of us had an idea we were trying to squeeze in the movie and the other two didn’t want to do it, or didn’t understand it or didn’t get traction in it, then it disappeared.” –Richard Linklater (IGN, July 01, 2004)

This method obviously worked for them, because Before Sunset is actually superior to the original film. The story follows Celine as she tracks down Jesse at the tail end of a book tour in Paris, with only a few hours left before his flight back home to the States. Their chemistry is rekindled by increasingly candid exchanges about professional setbacks, marital disappointments, and the compromises of adulthood. Impelled by an urgent sense of the transience of human connection, Before Sunset remains Linklater’s most seductive experiment with time’s inexorable passage and the way love can seem to stop it in its tracks. The entire film has a nuanced sense of urgency and desperation as we find that both characters are less than content with the current state of their lives. Experience has made both characters more interesting, and there is much more for each character to lose (and gain) by being together.

Before Midnight Cover

BEFORE MIDNIGHT – Spine #859

“We didn’t know if we were making a mistake there or not, but we were just compelled to do it. We created these characters, Jessie and Celine, they seemed to be living this parallel life with us but the fact that we did a second film and the way it ended, that ending kind of begs the question. So the three of us, everywhere we’ve gone in the last nine years it’s always that last question on the interview. ‘Oh, one more, do you think Jessie and Celine will ever get together?’ It’s a question that we all lived with. No one wanted the second film or asked about it really. But this one they wanted.” –Richard Linklater (SBS, June 12, 2013)

This bittersweet third entry in Linklater’s Before Trilogy finds Celine and Jesse several years into a relationship and in the midst of a sun-dappled Greek retreat with their twin daughters and a group of friends. The couple soon finds their vacation upended, however, by the aggravations of committed monogamy, which have long since supplanted the initial jolt of their mutual seduction. Marked by the emotional depth, piercing wit, and conversational exuberance that Linklater and his actors had honed over two decades of abiding with these characters, Before Midnight, grapples with the complexities of long-term intimacy and asks what becomes of love when it no longer has recourse to past illusions. There are moments when the film feels like an Edward Albee play, but these darker elements never feel at odds with the earlier films in the series.

“It’s harder to express something interesting and cinematic about being 41. And that territory that we were getting into was just a deeper, touchier subject matter that didn’t lend itself to what the other two films had, which was this kind of connection. This wasn’t about that; it was something else.” –Richard Linklater (The Star, June 06, 2013)

Jesse and Celine spend the majority of the film trying to avoid the ultimate confrontation that serves as the film’s climax—or perhaps they are merely attempting to prolong the inevitable.

“The whole movie builds to that moment. That fight’s been coming the whole movie, and, probably, for nine years. If you really go back, the fault line in their relationship leads to that. But I always call it the ‘hotel-room scene,’ because it doesn’t start off a fight. It’s quite the opposite; it starts off as a love scene, a sex scene. And the pace of the fight was very important. You know, people don’t just start to fight. They try not to fight. They try to resolve it. But they both want to be heard. Jesse and Celine are two master manipulators, and I often make the analogy that they’re two prizefighters; they’re very evenly matched. Slightly different styles, but ultimately, they’re gonna go all 15 rounds. So many times that fight could have ended—if one person would just eat a little crow and end it. But they have to keep going. They have to say one more thing. That’s the difference between courting someone and spending the rest of your life with someone. You can dig in on a subject that’s bugging you, and it can escalate into a fight, or you have to negotiate that space that you’re occupying together. That’s the challenge, and that’s what the movie [is] really about.” –Richard Linklater (Slant Magazine, May 22, 2013)

Before Midnight is the strongest entry in the series—not despite the film’s darker tone but because of it. It is ultimately very rewarding to discover that each film in the trilogy is better and more nuanced than the last. What’s more, the films seem to enrich one another other in a very honest and organic manner. This might be the best character-based trilogy ever produced.

Art

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection includes three different Digi-packs for each of the three films in the trilogy, and each film is given its own respective artwork that is simple but attractive. These Digi-packs are held in a sturdy box with its own artwork. An attractive booklet with an essay about the trilogy by Dennis Lim is also included and can be placed in the Digi-pack for Before Sunrise (the first film in the series). This essay is entitled “Time Regained” and it is an interesting read. The overall effect isn’t unlike the films themselves as the package appears to be quite simple and modestly designed, but the combined effect is surprisingly beautiful.

Menus

The menus for the three discs utilize footage from their respective film with music and sound clips from that particular film. Most will agree that all three of them are simple but attractive.

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Picture Quality:

BEFORE SUNRISE & BEFORE SUNSET

4.5 of 5 Stars

According to the included booklet, the transfer of Before Sunrise and was “created from 35mm interpositives and scanned in 2K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director film scanner. Thousands of instances of dirt and debris were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise management.” Criterion makes the most out of their painstaking work by utilizing a maxed out bitrate and the results are impressive. This is especially true of the daytime exteriors which exhibit a respectable level of clarity and a reasonable level of sharpness. There are no unsightly DNA issues and there is a healthy level of grain that remains stable throughout the duration of both features.

There is a significant increase in visual information at the left and right edges of the frame when one compares the transfer to the previous DVD releases. The level of fine detail is also dramatically increased, and the look of the nighttime scenes in Before Sunrise are dramatically improved upon.  There is no noticeable dirt or film damage to distract the viewer either. Density is improved as well and colors are well rendered and stable (although there might be some slight fluctuation that never becomes distracting). These are solid representations of the original film elements and the shortcomings of this transfer merely reflect those inherent in the source materials.

BEFORE MIDNIGHT

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s booklet tells us that Before Midnight was “shot in 2K resolution on an Arri Alexa camera.” Criterion’s transfer looks to be sourced from the same elements that was used for Sony’s 2013 Blu-ray release (which was apparently supervised by Richard Linklater). Frankly, every aspect of that disc was incredibly satisfying and it is nice to see that Criterion represents it here with an even higher bitrate. Clarity is outstanding and the image looks great in motion. Fine detail is remarkable as well and the image displays strong depth. The picture is stable and has a crispness that should please fans of the trilogy (even those of us who miss the more organic look of the film). If the transfer has a weak point, it is the shifting shadow detail. However, few are likely to notice of be bothered by this as it isn’t at all distracting. This is simply a result of the production elements and should not be blamed on Criterion.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

While Before Sunrise (2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio) and Before Sunset (5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio) are sourced from their original 35mm magnetic tracks and were cleaned of any anomalies such as hiss, hum, crackle, and etcetera, the audio for Before Midnight (5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio) was recorded digitally and mastered from the original audio master files using Pro Tools HD. Despite the discrepancies in the nature of their sources, each track seems to accurately represent the respective film in the matter that Linklater intended without any technical issues to mar one’s listening enjoyment.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has spread nearly four and a half hours of supplemental features across the three discs (and this doesn’t even take into account the commentary track provided for Before Midnight).

Before Sunrise Title

DISC 1: BEFORE SUNRISE

The Space In Between – (43:39)

The highlight of the first disc is without a doubt this discussion between Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy. The conversation is moderated by Kent Jones, who does an excellent job of focusing the conversation while remaining invisible. When Kent contributes to the conversation, it is always interesting and pertinent to the conversation. The conversation was recorded in New York in 2016, with Julie Delpy participating via satellite from Los Angeles. Linklater discusses the encounter with Amy Lehrhaupt that planted the seed for the original film, and they all discuss the collaborative nature of the three films in an extremely relaxed and informal manner. These 44 minutes simply fly by in what seems like an instant. Time is, after all, relative.

3×2 – (39:49)

Dave Johnson (author of Richard Linklater: Contemporary Film Directors) and Rob Stone (author of The Cinema of Richard Linklater: Walk, Don’t Run) have a contagious enthusiasm for their subject that carries the viewer through this scholarly discussion about the three Before films. Even those who disagree with some (or most) of their theoretical insights are bound to find a newfound appreciation for Linklater’s work.

Behind-the-Scenes Footage – (05:57)

While the brief glimpses of “behind the scenes” footage is nice to see, this is really just EPK material built from on location interview footage of Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy delivering the typical general navel-gazing statements about the film. It’s nice to have this included here, but it isn’t particularly insightful or entertaining.

Before Sunset Title

DISK 2: BEFORE SUNSET

Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny – (01:29:52)

What a gift this is for anyone who appreciates Richard Linklater’s cinema! It can be said without any reservations that this feature length documentary about Linklater’s career (up to this point) is the star attraction of this set’s supplemental package. The film was directed by Louis Black and Karen Bernstein as part of the PBS series American Masters. New exclusive interviews with Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Sandra Adair, Matthew McConaughey, Jack Black, Chuck Linklater (Linklater’s Father), Tricia Linklater (Linklater’s Sister), and a number of other participants mingle with archival interviews and footage to paint a more interesting portrait of the director than one expects from such programs. Especially interesting is a glimpse into some of Linklater’s journals, writings, and even financial logs. Less interesting is input from other filmmakers such as Kevin Smith—but this may be due to my innate dislike of this particular filmmaker.

Linklater // On Cinema & Time – (08:28)

This video essay by :: kogonada is certain to divide viewers as to its value. It is certainly enjoyable as a kind of tonal montage of visuals and sound with Linklater’s use of time as its main concern. A telephone interview with Linklater serves as the guiding vehicle, but at no point does it feel as if this essay is intended to inform the viewer or propose any theoretical rhetoric. This telephone audio plays over footage from various Linklater films and other cinema classics from around the globe. Examples include Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (as well as other films in the Antoine Doinel cycle), and several others (we remember spotting some Godard and Ozu thrown in for good measure). The fact that Linklater’s voice has been filtered through the telephone adds to the aesthetic in interesting ways. It works as a celebration of Linklater’s special brand of cinema, but it is bound to disappoint anyone hoping for a scholarly examination of this particular theme.

Behind-the-Scenes Footage – (09:44)

This “behind the scenes” featurette is essentially EPK material, but it does provide more sustenance for information hungry cinephiles than the one provided for the first film. Here, we see glimpses of the cast and crew working behind the scenes mingled with the standard publicity interviews, but these interviews actually manage to be genuinely interesting. This shouldn’t imply that they delve any deeper than is usual, but they do manage to hide the fact that their commentary never really reveals anything terribly worthwhile.

Before Midnight Title

DISK 3: BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Commentary with Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke

This 2013 commentary track was recorded for the Sony Pictures Classics Blu-ray release of Before Midnight—and it was the disc’s most significant supplement. Criterion has wisely carried it over to their release, and fans will agree that it was well worth their effort. The relaxed conversational nature of the conversation makes the information related therein more digestible (despite the fact that much of what we learn here is related elsewhere on the disc). The strength of the track lies in its ability to zero in on specific scenes and details in the film.

After Before – (30:41)

Athina Rachel Tsangari’s After Before is the set’s second best supplement (after Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny) as it provides viewers with a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of the actors as Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke develop their scenes. It really is an invaluable documentary despite its relatively brief duration. One can listen endlessly as these collaborators discuss their creative approach to the three films in this set, but to actually see this work in action is much more revelatory. The “behind the scenes” production footage also adds to the experience. As a side note, Linklater seems to have suffered some sort of foot injury, and one wonders what might have happened to him to cause such an injury.

Love Darkens and Deepens – (39:37)

This lengthy radio interview is actually an episode of a Philadelphia-based radio program known as Fresh Air with host Terry Gross. It is presented with a single still image and so is basically an audio-only presentation. However, it manages to be extremely entertaining and somewhat informative (even if certain information revealed here was discussed in other features in this same set). Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy are all on hand to discuss the trilogy, but the conversation really zeros in on Before Midnight more than either of the other two films.

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Final Words:

This is an essential release for Linklater fans! The Before Trilogy is required viewing for serious cinephiles and Criterion has finally given them the Blu-ray release that they deserve.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:32:34

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: French Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1536 kbps, 16-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 26.86 Mbps

Notes: Arrow Video also includes a DVD copy of the film in this package.

Title

“What pleases is what is terrible, gentle, and poetic.” -Georges Franju

While Spotlight Without a Murder isn’t Georges Franju’s most pleasing film, it is essential viewing for anyone who admires any of the director’s more popular efforts. The story isn’t particularly unique but it captures and holds the viewers interest with confident simplicity. When the terminally ill Count Hervé de Kerloquen (Pierre Brasseur, Goto, Isle of Love) vanishes without trace, his heirs are told that they have to wait five years before he can be declared legally dead, forcing them to devise ways of paying for the upkeep of the vast family château in the meantime.  While they set about transforming the place into an elaborate son et lumière tourist attraction, they are beset by a series of tragic accidents—if they are really accidents.

This was Franju’s third feature length effort after having already made Head Against the Wall and Eyes Without a Face and is a generally playful romp through Agatha Christie territory. Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac—who had penned the source novels for Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo—returned to pen the screenplay for the director after the success of their previous collaboration on Eyes Without a Face. Boileau and Narcejac were obviously well versed in murder-mystery clichés and they gleefully exploit as many of them as possible while also blending Gothic elements into the film’s expertly woven fabric. To be honest, the Boileau-Narcejac connection should be enough reason for serious film buffs to experience this somewhat obscure film—even if opinion will be divided between those who see it as a hidden gem and those who see it as a hidden curiosity.

SS01

The Presentation:

4.5 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 Peter Strain and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. In this instance, it should be said that Strain’s new artwork is gorgeous and certainly superior to the alternative. There is also an attractive booklet that features a few essays that enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the film.

[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:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The included collector’s booklet contains very little information about the work that went into the film’s transfer, but does claim that “‘Spotlight on a Murderer’ was digitally restored by Gaumont from original film elements.” Happily, this vague information doesn’t seem to reflect any deficiencies in the quality of the film’s image. The image quality is always solid and often beautiful. It exhibits rich blacks and natural gradients between the various shades of grey. Contrast is also well handled and there is a natural and well resolved layer of grain that lends a filmic texture to the proceedings. Clarity isn’t particularly consistent, but this seems to be a direct result of the production elements. There aren’t many age relate artifacts, but the ravages of time does occasionally mar what is an otherwise gorgeous image. However, these rare anomalies never become distracting.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 2.0 Linear PCM mono audio supports the film’s visuals admirably. The various elements are all given enough room to flourish. Fidelity is commendable and there isn’t any noticeable distortion. Some viewers might lament the lack of a more dynamic sound mix, but purists will be thrilled to have the original audio reproduced so faithfully in high definition.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Le Courrier du Cinema – (27:14)

This excellent 1960 episode of a French television program documents the film’s production. The show is obviously geared towards promoting the film’s release, but it is rare to see “behind the scenes” documentary footage of films as old as this one. Obviously, this makes the viewing experience a fascinating one (especially if one is a fan of French cinema or Georges Franju). The program includes interviews with Georges Franju, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Pascale Audret, Marianne Koch, Pierre Brasseur, and Dany Saval. It is a shame that the footage isn’t more probing, but it is nonetheless a fascinating and instructive pleasure to watch.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (03:33)

The film’s theatrical trailer is another happy addition to Arrow Academy’s small but satisfying supplemental package.

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Final Words:

This release is essential for admirers of French cinema, Georges Franju, or the old-school mystery genre.

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Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover.jpg

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: May 23, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length:

Noroit02:14:40

Duelle 02:00:41

Merry-Go-Round02:40:20

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

NoroitFrench Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Duelle French Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Merry-Go-RoundEnglish & French Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio:

Noroit1.85:1

Duelle 1.85:1

Merry-Go-Round1.37:1

Bitrate:

Noroit37.31 Mbps

Duelle 37.17 Mbps

Merry-Go-Round 32.98 Mbps

Note: This package includes DVD editions of all three titles.

Jacques Rivette

“[Noroît and Merry-Go-Round] might very well have been released; but it so happened that Gaumont, in its capacity as distribution house, didn’t think they would bring in a large audience. Maybe they’re right, from their point of view… But in a sense—and this is a very selfish point of view—I didn’t really do anything to ensure their release. Because the release for instance of Duelle, which was not an easy film to release, was done so clumsily that I would almost have preferred if the film had stayed in its boxes … I was more handicapped, personally, even purely egoistically, by the failure of Duelle than I was by the non-release of Noroît and Merry-Go-Round. It gives one a stronger sense of rejection, of error of course too. No, what’s really bothersome is that nearly all directors are at the mercy of such things…” –Jacques Rivette (Cahiers du Cinema, May-June, 1981)

When considering the illustrious filmmakers that came out of the French New Wave, it is easy for one to overlook Jacques Rivette’s name on a list that includes François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and Éric Rohmer—but the movement might not even exist without Rivette. Production on Paris Belongs to Us began well before Truffaut, Godard and Chabrol began shooting their films (even if it wasn’t released until 1961).

As a matter of fact, Rivette would often have trouble with the release of his films (as is evidenced by the three films included in this set. In 1975, Jacques Rivette reunited with Out 1 producer, Stéphane Tchal Gadjieff, with the idea of a four-film cycle. He would create a quartet of interconnected films, Scènes de la vie parallèle. Each film would be in a different genre and revolve around two different female characters. Unfortunately, Rivette had a nervous breakdown and succumbed to exhaustion after completing only two of the four films. The second and the third entries of the intended tetralogy were the only films completed: Duelle (une quarantine) sees Rivette in fantasy territory, cross-pollinating Val Lewton, Jean Cocteau, and film noir as the Queen of the Sun (Bulle Ogier) and the Queen of the Night (Juliet Berto) battle over a magical diamond that will allow them to continue their existence in present-day Paris.. Its parallel film, Noroît (une vengeance) is a pirate tale about revenge—and a loose adaptation of The Revenger’s Tragedy. It stars Geraldine Chaplin and Bernadette Lafont.

Rivette was three days into the filming of Marie et Julien—the first film in the series (they were not produced in order)—when he collapsed and the production was shut down. It took a long time for the director to recover and when he was finally able to return to filmmaking, he was able to secure financing to make one of the two remaining films in his series. He decided that if he couldn’t make both films, he wouldn’t make either one of them. Instead, Rivette borrowed some of the elements of Duelle and Noroît and came up with Merry-Go-Round. Joe Dallesandro (The Climber, Trash, Flesh for Frankenstein) and Maria Schneider (Last Tango in Paris, The Passenger) are summoned to Paris, which leads to one of the most surreal and mysterious tales in a career that was dominated by surrealism and mystery.

In his essay about Jacques Rivette, Saul Austerlitz speaks despairingly about this period in the director’s career:

“The next period of Rivette’s career, between Celine and Julie and the renewed triumphs of La Bande des quatre and La Belle Noiseuse (1991), is for the most part disappointing. Duelle (1976) was pictorially lovely, and La Pont du nord (1982) and L’Amour par terre (1984) featured continued reflections on the relationship [between] art and reality, but in comparison to the peaks of Rivette’s filmmaking, these films (and also Noroit [1976], Merry Go Round [1980], and Hurlevent [1985]) are mere footnotes.” -Saul Austerlitz (Senses of Cinema)

Considering that Noroit and Merry Go Round never received a proper release and that Duelle’s release was given extremely problematic and limited distribution, one can understand how a surface level analysis might lead Austerlitz to discount these films. However, he never gives any evidence to support his claims that these films are mere footnotes—and it is our privilege to dispute his claims. These films were perhaps financially unsuccessful, but they are rich and rewarding cinematic experiences that experiment with form, content, and improvisation.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy’s packaging for this release is simple but attractive. Four items are held in a very sturdy box featuring attractive cartoon-like drawings by Ignatius Fitzpatrick. Three of these items are clear cases which hold the Blu-ray and DVD discs. Each case features its own reversible decorative sleeve. The first case houses the discs featuring Duelle (une quarantaine), the second features Noroît (une vengeance), and the third features Merry-Go-Round. The fourth item included in the box is a small perfect-bound book featuring three essays: “Moving Backstage” by Mary M. Wiles, “Rivette x 4” by Jonathan Rosenbaum, Gilbert Adair, and Michael Graham, as well as “Vagabond Charm” by Nick Pinkerton. Each of the essays offers instructive information and analysis that should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the films in this set.

All of these discs contain menus that are somewhat different than those on most Arrow releases, but they are all attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

All three transfers in this set are the result of digital restoration work which was detailed in liner notes included in the back of the collector’s booklet:

“The original camera negatives were scanned, graded, and restored at 2K resolution. The majority of the picture restoration work was conducted on Diamant Film Restoration systems, with Phoenix and Flame software used on selected sequences.

Picture issues such as dirt, debris, and scratches, torn frames, damaged splices, instability, and mold were all corrected or minimized.

Color grading was carried out using a P3 DCI color space. 35mm original prints were used as a visual reference throughout by the colorist.” –Collector’s Booklet

The result is an extremely strong image that reflects the filmmaker’s intention admirably. Colors are beautifully rendered and almost always impressive while black levels are deep and attractive. There might be some very slight crushing, but it is impossible to determine whether this is the result of the original photography or if this is a minor flaw in the restoration. Either way, this is never distracting to the viewer. Fine detail often impressive and the picture is incredibly crisp. One feels that any softness is a result of the filmmaker’s original footage and this usually suits the aesthetic needs of the film. The high bitrate ensures that each film is presented in the best possible manner and fans of the director will be very appreciative.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The mono sound mixes are perhaps less impressive than the image transfers, but they were given the same loving treatment.

“The original magnetic reels were too damaged for use, so the soundtracks were sourced from the original optical sound negatives and, in some cases, digital Betacam tapes produced in the 1990s. The majority of this work was carried out by L.E. Diapason in Paris.” –Collector’s Booklet

Duelle and Noroit are French language tracks and Merry Go Round was made with a mixture of English and French. It is difficult to determine the clarity of the French language elements because English speaking ears are likely to miss nuances in the language. However, it certainly seems like the dialogue is clearly represented in these three audio tracks. The jazz-style music in the three films also sounds fantastic, although Merry Go Round is marred somewhat by anomalies such as the occasional dropout and hiss. The track seems to be slightly muffled at times making this the least impressive of the three tracks. Having said this, these issues never distract the viewer or inhibit their enjoyment of the film.

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Scenes from a Parallel Life: Jacques Rivette Remembers – (51:43)  

Scenes from a Parallel Life is without question the most significant supplement included in this package. The first segment was completed on May 4th, 1990 in Paris by Karlheinz Oplustil while the second segment was completed in 2004 by Wilfried Reichart. These two archival interviews with Jacques Rivette find the director discussing his unfinished Scènes de la vie parallèle tetralogy (including the completed Duelle and Noroît) and Merry-Go-Round. It is essential viewing for anyone remotely interested in the director’s work.

Remembering Duelle – (11:00)

Bulle Ogier and Hermine Karagheuz talk about the production of Duelle (1976) and their work on the project. Of the two participants, Bulle Ogier takes the prize for providing the most information. Hermine Karagheuz seems to have fewer memories but discusses Rivette’s vague approach to directing her in the role. It is a relatively short piece, but it does provide some interesting information that should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the film.

Interview with Jonathan Rosenbaum – (22:25)

Rosenbaum reported from the sets of both Duelle (une quarantaine) and Noroît (une vengeance) and his recollections provide the viewer with some incredible information about the production and some general analysis. This is well worth the viewer’s time.

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Final Words:

This is an important release that showcases three underappreciated film’s by a too-often overlooked voice in the French New Wave. Arrow Academy should be commended for their efforts.

Review by: Devon Powell

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Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: February 21, 2017

Region: Region A

Length:

Betty – 01:43:45

Torment – 01:42:27

The Swindle – 01:45:44

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 French LPCM Audio

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.66:1

Bitrate:

Betty – 32.00 Mbps

Torment – 34.99 Mbps

The Swindle – 34.99 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released in various DVD editions.

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There is a certain amount of guilt in every individual…” –Claude Chabrol (The Magical Mystery World of Claude Chabrol, Film Quarterly, April 01, 1979)

Claude Chabrol is without a doubt one of the most prolific auteurs to come from the French New Wave and has been often referred to as “the French Hitchcock” due to his tendency towards thrillers exposing mankind’s innate duality. There is usually a dark side lurking just beneath the surface of even his most likable characters.

One understands this comparison. After all, Le Beau Serge (1958) was inspired by Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943), and Chabrol had written fondly of Hitchcock’s work in Cahiers du Cinéma. However, this label ignores some fundamental differences between Chabrol and Hitchcock. The most obvious (and perhaps the most important) of the differences lies in their approach to similar material.

Hitchcock’s thrillers focus on placing the audiences in the mindset of his various characters, and a subjective presentation always ruled the day. Chabrol, on the other hand, seems to have preferred a more objective approach to his material. The French auteur has even gone on record about this fundamental difference in their approach to cinema.

“I don’t consider Lang and Hitchcock from a thematic point of view. I consider them in terms of style, and in this I’m much closer to Lang than to Hitchcock. Hitchcock tries to convey a story subjectively—everything is based on the subjectivity of the character, while Lang seeks the opposite, to objectify all the time. I try to objectify too. It’s characteristic of Hitchcock— even the titles of his films always bear on his personal psychology: Shadow of a Doubt, Suspicion, Psycho… They all have to do with personal, individual things. In Lang, it’s Human Desire—it’s never individual. Intellectually—in terms of pleasure derived—I was more influenced by Hitchcock than by Lang.” –Claude Chabrol (The Magical Mystery World of Claude Chabrol, Film Quarterly, April 01, 1979)

It is best to experience Chabrol’s work on its own terms and there is much to experience. His career spanned over fifty years leaving over fifty films in its wake. Like all directors, the quality of his work varies but nearly every film has something to offer the viewer. Most scholars consider the films made from 1968-1978 to be the director’s best, but there are some notable titles that stand out that weren’t made during what is often described as his golden era.

These three films from late in Chabrol’s career are good examples of this:

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BETTY (1992)

In one of Chabrol’s darkest dramas, Marie Trintignant gives an astonishing performance as Betty, a woman whose alcohol-soaked life has finally fallen to pieces.  She soon falls under the care of an older woman (Stéphane Audran) with a similar background, but her benefactor’s sympathies may be misplaced. The film was made 12 years after Chabrol’s marriage to Stéphane Audran had ended, and her performance in the film is every bit as good as those she gave in their earlier collaborations.

The film’s loose narrative was the result of a conversation that Chabrol had with Georges Simenon wherein the writer asked Chabrol why film directors rely so much on plots. Simenon theorized that because the director could rely on the mysteries behind a human face, that a plot wasn’t particularly essential. Simenon finished writing “Betty” at around that same time, and Chabrol decided to put his theory to the test with a film adaptation of the novel. The result is a decidedly nihilistic journey into the misspent life of a self-destructive alcoholic who has a tendency to destroy those that have the misfortune of entering her life.

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L’ENFER/TORMENT (1994)

Henri-Georges Clouzot tried hard to bring L’Enfer to the screen in 1964, but the production faced numerous production problems. Actors became sick, locations became unavailable, and Clouzot was finally hospitalized after suffering a heart attack. This served as a death blow to the production, and the film was abandoned after three weeks of hard work.

Chabrol utilized Clouzot’s script to bring his own film to the screen, and the final result explores the point at which jealousy and obsession turn to madness.  François Cluzet plays Paul, a young husband who, along with his beautiful wife (Emmanuelle Béart) runs a country hotel.  Paul soon becomes obsessed with his wife’s flirtations, but is it all in his head? The film’s story is told with amazing economy and spirals rapidly into a state of manic sexual frenzy. The result is classic Chabrol.

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THE SWINDLE (1997)

Rien ne va plus (a.k.a. The Swindle) is decidedly lighter and more humorous than the other two features included in the set, but Chabrol’s fingerprints can be seen and felt in every frame of the film. Betty (Isabelle Huppert) and Victor (Michel Serrault) are a couple of small-time con artists looking for the next big game in this psychological thriller tinged with wry humor.  Into their web stumbles a naïve financial courier (François Cluzet) accompanying what might be their biggest score yet.

None of the three films are likely to be included in anyone’s list of top 5 Chabrol films, but fans of the director should at least agree that they are amongst the better films that the director made during this particular phase of his career.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray discs are protected by the standard Blu-ray case with film related graphics framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. Inside the case is an eight-page booklet that features a few photographs and credits. Those who have indulged in some of Cohen’s other Blu-ray releases will know exactly what to expect here.

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The three menus utilize footage from the films with excerpts from Matthieu Chabrol score. They are each quite attractive and intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

All three of the new 2K restoration transfers are vast improvements over previous home video transfers, and the improvements go far beyond the significant increase in resolution. The high bitrates also allow for considerable depth, and the three films showcase a level of detail and clarity that will astonish fans who suffered through the previous DVD transfers. Colors are also more vivid and seem to reflect Chabrol’s original intention better than those earlier transfers (which often looked washed out). Better yet, there is an increase in information on all four sides of the frame, which suggests that the earlier DVD transfers were heavily cropped.

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Sounds Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

All three of Cohen’s LPCM soundtracks are clean representations of that film’s original mix. The uncompressed nature of these tracks allows all of the elements to breathe. It is admittedly difficult for these ears to judge the clarity of the French dialogue since I am not a native speaker, but there aren’t any noticeable issues. None of the tracks are particularly dynamic, but they represent Chabrol’s original intentions adequately.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

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Disc 1 (Betty)

Re-Release Trailer – (01:34)

This particular disc only offers Cohen Media Group’s restoration trailer for the film. It is a less-than-essential addition that makes one wonder why they couldn’t include the original theatrical trailer instead (or as well).

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Disc 2 (Torment)

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Wade Major and Andy Klein

This scholarly commentary track with Wade Major and Andy Klein is surprisingly informative and covers a wide variety of relevant topics. The information here provides fans with some historical information and insight into the film that should enhance their appreciation of the film.

Re-Release Trailer – (01:24)

Cohen Media Group has again seen fit to include their restoration trailer for Torment, and it again feels like including the film’s original theatrical trailer would have been more instructive.

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Disc 3 (The Swindle)

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Wade Major and Andy Klein

Wade Major and Andy Klein return again to supply viewers with another interesting commentary track that again supplies quite a bit of background information on the production.

Many Forms of Love: Interview with François Cluzet – (42:32)

Kent Jones conducts this incredibly interesting 40-minute interview with François Cluzet. The interview is in French and presented with English subtitles which make the process of absorbing the information a bit more challenging, but those who make the effort will be rewarded as Cluzet’s memories about his work with Chabrol and the director’s filmmaking style is both entertaining and enlightening.

Re-Release Trailer – (02:00)

Here we again get Cohen Media Group’s restoration trailer.

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Final Words:

Three of Claude Chabrol’s late career films have arrived on Blu-ray with solid restoration transfers and it is a revelation to see the films in high definition. This release comes highly recommended!

Review by: Devon Powell

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Distributor: Warner Bros.

Release Date: February 07, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 02:09:56

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.78:1

Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released in various DVD editions.

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“He could do more with a closed door than other directors could do with an open fly.” –Billy Wilder (about Ernst Lubitsch)

Billy Wilder’s fondness for the “Lubitsch touch” is very much on display throughout the length of Love in the Afternoon, which is the second film that finds Audrey Hepburn under the accomplished direction of Billy Wilder. The director had just begun his legendary writing partnership with I. A. L. Diamond, who would go on to collaborate on eleven future Wilder films. The result is always enjoyable but cannot be considered one of the director’s best works. The reason for this probably lies in the unfortunate casting of Gary Cooper as the film’s masculine lead.

As American playboy, Frank Flannagan, Cooper finds himself decidedly out of his element—especially when paired with a young Audrey Hepburn. Cooper was only 56 at the time, but he looks quite a bit older than this in the film. It is difficult to believe that the Cooper that we are watching onscreen is the ladies’ man that Maurice Chevalier (as Claude Chavasse) discusses during the film’s opening scenes. Wilder’s original choice was Cary Grant, and one feels that he would have been more believable in the role—even if Grant (at age 53) was only a few years younger than Cooper at the time.

Fortunately, the solid script, Wilder’s expert direction, and admirable performances by Hepburn and Chevalier are enough to make one’s viewing experience a pleasurable one.

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in a standard Blu-ray case with a sleeve containing Saul Bass’s original one-sheet artwork, which is enough to make this release look like a rather special one. One wishes that more Blu-rays would be released with their original poser art.

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The menu utilizes this same artwork and are easy to navigate. However, the unusual absence of a chapter menu might annoy some viewers.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

William C. Mellor’s gorgeous black and white cinematography is treated with love and respect in Warner Archive’s wonderful 2K transfer scanned from the original camera negative. Their efforts to clean up the imperfections in the scan was handled with care as the image showcases a very natural grain pattern. The transfer’s high bitrate allows for above average depth and clarity for a film of this age, even if the image is a shade softer than one might expect. It should be made clear that the picture’s softness is a direct result of Mellor’s romantic cinematography and does not reflect any weakness in the transfer. Blacks are deep without giving way to noticeable crush and the various shades of grey are equally well rendered.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The film’s original mono audio track has been carried over to the digital realm and cleaned of any glaring imperfections that might have distracted viewers. The result is a lossless track that accurately replicates what audiences would have heard in 1957. Anyone expecting anything more than this is both unreasonable and slightly ridiculous.

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Special Features:

1 of 5 Stars

Theatrical Trailer – (03:00)

Maurice Chevalier narrates this cute and entertaining marketing artifact and it is nice to see it included on the disc.

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Final Words:

Billy Wilder’s flawed homage to Ernst Lubitsch is a pleasure to watch—even if it isn’t in the same class as his best work.

Review by: Devon Powell

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Distributor: Warner Bros.

Release Date: October 25, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 81 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

English Descriptive Audio

Spanish (Latin) Dolby Digital

French (Canadian) Dolby Digital

Portuguese Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish (Latin), French (Canadian), & Portuguese

Ratio: 2.40:1

Bitrate: 32.81 Mbps

Notes: This release includes a DVD and Ultraviolet copy of the film and Warner Brothers is also releasing a DVD-only edition of the film.

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“People have been afraid of the dark probably since the dawn of time… It’s something even I feel in my bones.  So, rather than deny that impulse, we’re saying, ‘You were right.  You were right to be afraid because there is something there.’  We took that fear and created a monster out of it.”  -David F. Sandberg (Press Book)

David F. Sandberg’s quote cuts through to the heart of his debut feature’s core concept. Children and adults are both liable to imagine all sorts of things once they turn out the lights. People like knowing what lies before them and seek control of their surroundings. It is natural to fear darkness. What child doesn’t imagine malignant forces lurking in the nether regions of their closets or the shadows that lurk beneath their beds? Our imaginations create all sorts of monstrosities… But what if those monstrosities weren’t imagined? What if there is a malignant force that feeds on darkness and finds nourishment in our fear of it?

Lights Out was built on this concept, and it proves to be a relatively solid foundation on which to build a simple horror story. When Rebecca left home, she thought she left her childhood fears behind.  Growing up, she was never really sure of what was and wasn’t real when the lights went out…and now her little brother, Martin, is experiencing the same unexplained and terrifying events that had once tested her sanity and threatened her safety.  A frightening entity with a mysterious attachment to their mother, Sophie, has reemerged.  But this time, as Rebecca gets closer to unlocking the truth, there is no denying that all their lives are in danger—once the lights go out.

David F. Sandberg’s debut feature was created from a screenplay by Eric Heisserer that was based on Sandberg’s own short film.  Marketing materials for the film make an obvious effort to credit James Wan as the creative force behind the film, but it is clear that he is merely the marketing muscle. He served as producer on the project along with Lawrence Grey and Eric Heisserer. This approach must have been reasonably efficient because the film proved to be an overwhelming success at the box office.

Of course, this probably has as much to do with the positive word of mouth that the picture generated amongst young horror audiences. Having said this, it sometimes feels that this period in cinema history is an extremely low ebb for the horror genre. There have been a few brilliant horror entries in recent years, but most have simply been engaging but immediately forgettable. This entry seems to fall somewhere between these two extremes. The film is quite effective and has a hauntingly effective ending that should disturb reasonably intelligent viewers, but it isn’t quite as good as it could have been.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in a standard Blu-ray case with film-related artwork that originated on the film’s American one sheet (this artwork has been altered slightly). The presentation earns points for using the one-sheet artwork for this release because home movie marketing art is nearly always inferior. One can only hope that this becomes a trend.

 The menu utilizes the same image found on the cover but also crudely incorporates a still of the “Diana” entity. This was a mistake because the cover image would have served their purposes and the result would have been vastly superior. It is impossible to understand why anyone would have made such a decision. A loop from Benjamin Wallfisch’s score plays over this tacky image.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Warner Brothers has mastered their video transfer at the relatively high bitrate average of 32.81 Mbps, and this loving care results in a superior image that showcases the sharp detail captured in the film’s digital source materials. Marc Spicer’s lighting is typical of many horror films and features an abundance of shadows amongst pools of light. It is nice to report that these solid blacks seem to accurately reflect the original concept without running into any of the distracting anomalies (such as the crushing of image detail) that this sort of design sometimes creates on home video. The frame showcases quite a bit of depth and the transfer is up to this task as it renders each frame with remarkable clarity. There may be small traces of video noise that seem to be inherent in the source, but this never becomes problematic or distracting.

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Luckily, the 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio is an equally impressive if incredibly subtle sound mix that leans towards a more quietly menacing aesthetic for the most part. The sound design is extremely effective in its creepiness and creates an almost imperceptible paranoia in the viewer (or listener). The mix makes noble use of the various surround channels. It seems to wrap around the viewer as it sets the up for a few jump scares that are more effective due to the contrasting silence. Dialogue is consistently clear and mixed naturally and Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is given room to breathe some extra life into the overall soundscape.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Three “Deleted” Scenes – (1080P)(13:58)

It is always nice to see what is left on the cutting room floor and this selection of deleted footage is obviously a welcome addition to the disc. As a matter of fact, it is a rather substantial supplement that provides a glimpse into a potentially very different film experience.

The first scene finds Rebecca as she is investigating her stepfather’s death. She calls the detective handling the case and he drills her about her mother and her mental health. He implies that her mother might have had something to do not only with her stepfather’s death (which we know isn’t at all true) but also her own father’s disappearance. It is a nice scene but ultimately unnecessary as it never actually leads to anything that happens later in the film.

The second scene isn’t so much a deleted scene as it is an alternate version of a scene that still exists in the final film. Rebecca and Martin discuss who Diana is and her connection to their mother. As presented here, the scene seems to be an extension of an earlier scene that is still in the finished film, but the filmmakers seem to have reshot the scene to occur a short time later and in another room. The alteration was an improvement.

The most interesting and certainly the most substantial deleted scene is the film’s original ending. The film’s ending raised quite a few eyebrows upon its release and for very good reason. David F. Sandberg has discussed the two endings at length in various interviews:

“Originally, we actually shot—not a different ending, but sort of an additional ending. After the whole thing went down at the house, the movie actually went on for almost 10 more minutes where we find out that this didn’t get rid of Diana, you know, and now depression has consumed Martin instead because his mom’s suicide affected him that much. She came back one more time and they dealt with her once and for all. But the interesting thing was that when we showed that to test audiences, they just hated it. They fill out these forms and there were people who wrote just across the entire form, ‘Get rid of the second ending.’ They found that having Diana return made Sophie’s sacrifice in vain. It was really interesting because you hear about test audiences and you think, ‘Oh, it’s going to be all dumb ideas.’ But it was surprising to find that it was actually something thoughtful…

…Because they felt that Sophie was sort of sacrificing herself for her children and to save their lives, and if Diana just came back right after, then, you know, she’d done that for nothing. So what we did was, we tried just cutting off the movie where it now ends and showing it to test audiences again and people loved the movie. The scores went up like 30 percent or something—just from cutting off the last few minutes. But now it was this feeling of, ‘Oh, shit.’ Even though people loved it, it could kind of be interpreted as… that suicide helped them, that it was the solution.” -David F. Sandberg (Interview with A.A. Dowd, A.V. Club, July 30, 2016)

It is difficult to fault the filmmakers for cutting off the film’s second ending because it simply doesn’t work. The original ending feels like the film ends twice. The first ending is what one might call a false happy ending. On the surface, it seems like a traditional “Hollywood” happy ending: evil is defeated and the three principal characters can move on with their lives. However, this isn’t quite true. Rebecca and Martin will always have to live with the pain resulting from their mother’s suicide. What could be more horrific than that? Having said this, it is important to remember that this is a horror film. The disturbing ending is in some ways very true to life. Many people who suffer from depression actually believe that they are doing what is best for their families. This is precisely why calling those who commit suicide selfish is absolutely ridiculous and completely untrue. They simply aren’t of sound mind. It is actually a very powerful ending… but could people misread it? Absolutely. We can only hope that the film’s inevitable sequel will focus on the pain and aftermath caused by the mother’s suicide.

The alternate ending only serves to muddy the waters. The filmmaker’s intentions aren’t at all clear, and everything about the ending feels forced and unnecessary. Actually, it is almost always a mistake to give a film two endings—the single exception might be the double ending included in the original Alien. Knowing where to end a film is important, and knowing not to end a film twice is simply common sense.

Of course, all of this controversy only makes the inclusion of these deleted scenes more substantial. Most would probably say that I scored the supplemental package rather high, but one prefers quality over quantity. Frankly, it has become unreasonable to expect much more than a collection of deleted scenes from a standard studio Blu-ray release in recent years. Actually, deleted scenes are becoming a rare part of the Blu-ray experience. Certainly, the most anyone can expect beyond this is shallow EPK fluff and theatrical trailers. While it wouldn’t have hurt Warner Brothers to include the film’s two theatrical trailers here, one certainly doesn’t miss having to sit through lifeless EPK fluff. The age of comprehensive “making of” documentaries has now passed.

Having said this, there is a glaringly obvious supplemental omission here. Since Lights Out is based on an original short by David F. Sandberg, the fact that the short isn’t included on this disc seems almost lazy. The aforementioned mini-movie is less than three minutes in length, but it would have made for instructive viewing had Warner Brothers seen fit to include it. File this oversight under “missed opportunity.” Had the disc included the short, we would have probably given this package an extra star.

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Final Words:

Those looking for a contemporary horror selection to help them celebrate Halloween could certainly do worse than Lights Out. This Warner Brothers Blu-ray release offers a solid transfer of the film and is the best way to view the film in one’s home environment.

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Review by: Devon Powell

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Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Region: Region Free

Length:

Original Ending: 01:29:59

Alternate Ending: 01:31:17

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Original English LPCM Mono Audio (48 kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.78:1

Bitrate: 34.95 Mbps

Notes: This title has been given an underwhelming Blu-ray release from Image Entertainment and is available in various DVD editions (including an impressive 2-disc edition from Anchor Bay).

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 “Everything you learn and know melts into what you make in a film. But I think Vietnam, more than anything, was the influence on [The Hills Have Eyes], just realizing that you could send out the nicest American kids and they’ll come back having done things they never thought they could do. That the whole nature of warfare, as it began for Americans in Vietnam, was the idea of guerrilla warfare, where there were not only no uniforms [sic], but civilians were used as a device for political gain or sway. Civilians were killed in a routine matter. It was a whole turn where, as brutal as war was, it just felt like it hadn’t quite been that low before. Now it seems to have descended even lower with Palestinians sending their kids out with bombs strapped around their waists. It’s nightmarish, you know. That was the strongest influence on those films, just coming to terms with the death of the American Dream and the loss of American innocence and [a sense of] clear good and evil.” –Wes Craven (KNAC.com, January 1, 2004)

Wes Craven achieved critical and mainstream commercial success with A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Scream (1996), but the 1970s was an interesting era in the history of American cinema. Westerns were violent, bloody, and painted a rather grim portrait of the American dream, while Horror became a home for angry and nihilistic young filmmakers to hold a mirror up to the current culture. Wes Craven was one of these filmmakers, and he made relentlessly unsettling horror films. His seedy $87,000 debut was originally titled Sex Crime of the Century (later titled Last House on the Left), and the film is famous for its unflinching depiction of rape and murder. Here was a filmmaker who thought nothing of breaking the rules. Anything might happen, and the low budget “documentary” approach made it feel uncomfortably real (despite a few questionable acting choices).

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The Hills Have Eyes was made by this same anarchic director for approximately $230,000. Taking a detour whilst on route to Los Angeles, the Carter family run into trouble when their campervan breaks down in the middle of the desert. Stranded, the family finds themselves at the mercy of a group of monstrous cannibals lurking in the surrounding hills. With their lives under threat, the Carters are forced to fight back by any means necessary.

As grueling a viewing experience today as it was upon initial release (although much less shocking in the wake of torture-porn), The Hills Have Eyes was undoubtedly a huge leap forward in the evolution of Wes Craven. He still had a relentless disregard for convention and good taste, but experience had taught him a few things. This film is better made than his previous effort. Arrow’s Blu-ray packaging calls The Hills Have Eyes Wes Craven’s “masterpiece.” This is stretching their credibility rather thin, because while the film is certainly a major entry in the director’s filmography; it is a far cry from his best effort. Having said this, it is essential viewing for avid horror freaks. Skip the remake and watch the original.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

This is the epitome of wonderful packaging. It is such an attractive release that it might be difficult to do it justice here. Three items are held in a very sturdy box featuring artwork by Paul Shipper: The Arrow Blu-ray disc, a collector’s booklet, and a reversible foldout poster featuring both the original one sheet and the new Paul Shipper design.

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The Blu-ray disc is housed in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve that allows fans to showcase either the Paul Shipper artwork or the film’s original one-sheet. It is nice that Arrow has also offered fans the opportunity to utilize the film’s original one-sheet art because we feel that the new art is a bit busy. However, this is a matter of taste and there is little doubt that some will prefer the alternative. In addition to the Blu-ray disc, the case houses six postcards featuring various foreign posters used to market the film upon its original release.

The collector’s booklet includes an interesting essay by Brad Stevens that discusses various 1970s horror tropes employed by the film and a consideration of the entire franchise by Ewan Cant. As is usual, the book is illustrated with related artwork and still photography.

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The disc’s animated menu utilizes footage from the film and is easy to navigate. Everything about this release is remarkable, and Arrow should be commended for their efforts.  

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The Hills Have Eyes was given a 4K restoration that was supervised by producer Peter Locke and this allows for a superior image transfer than those included on the previous Blu-ray release from Image Entertainment. The Super 16mm source and low budget nature of the film’s production seem to limit the results somewhat, but this cannot be blamed on Arrow’s transfer. The important thing is that this is a fantastic representation of the 16mm source. The booklet included with the Blu-ray detailed the film’s restoration process in technical detail:

“The film was scanned in 4K on a Northlight Film Scanner, selecting the reels in the best condition from two separate 35mm CRI elements struck from the 16mm AB Negative reels, which have been lost… Grading was performed on a DaVinci resolve and restoration was completed using PFClean.” –Liner Notes

 In some respects, this restoration transfer should probably receive a five-star rating, because the film probably looks as good as it possibly can on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, the limitations of the source keep it from looking as wonderful as people expect from the format. These expectations brought us down to a slightly unfair four stars. (Note: We had a similar experience grading the disc’s audio transfer.)

This is a much brighter presentation than viewers remember watching on previous home video releases and this allows for a significant increase in detail. Colors are more vivid than one might expect and appear to be relatively accurate if flesh tones are any indication. Purists will celebrate the fact that Arrow hasn’t scrubbed the image of its original grain (and there is a significant amount). Arrow should also be congratulated for rendering the transfer with a much higher bitrate than the Image release. The earlier disc had a bitrate of 17.99 Mbps while this disc nearly doubles this number at 34.95 Mbps. This accounts for the marked increase in detail and clarity. Fans of the film should be smiling.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow has opted to represent the film with a linear PCM track at 24-bits that remains faithful to the films Mono origins. Purists will certainly be pleased with this decision, but there will be a few who might prefer a manufactured surround experience such as the 5.1 track that was included on the original Anchor Bay DVD. These viewers should be informed that Anchor Bay’s 5.1 track was merely blown up mono and never sounded like a legitimate surround experience. In any case, such an experience wouldn’t likely add much to their enjoyment. The film’s gritty aesthetic is part of its charm. Dialogue sounds a bit clearer on this disc than in previous releases and ambiance and music are given room to breathe. One cannot imagine that the film could sound any better than this considering its low budget “grindhouse” origins. Weaknesses in the track result from these origins and cannot be improved upon.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow offers up a fabulous supplemental package that goes beyond anyone’s reasonable expectations. There is no fewer than three feature-length audio commentaries and two full hours of legitimately informative video-based supplements. Disregarding the aforementioned commentary tracks, the disc provides over 2 hours of video-based supplemental entertainment. Other studios need to be paying attention. This is how you do it!

[Note: The only noticeable omission from the earlier home video releases of this film is a documentary on Wes Craven’s filmography. The program basically ran through the Craven filmography and included surface level interview commentary about each film up to that point in his career. However, Arrow Video has more than made up for that minor omission with a set of new superior additions.]

Audio Commentary with Wes Craven and Peter Locke

It is nice to have this engaging commentary from Wes Craven and Peter Locke ported over from the original DVD release of the film. The track repeats some of the information found elsewhere on the disc (including the incredible “making of” documentary), but it is rarely dull. It is probably the strongest of the three commentaries because it offers an account of the production from the actual filmmaker’s perspective.

Audio Commentary with actors Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Susan Lanier and Martin Speer

The actor’s commentary is perhaps less prone to give the listener concrete details about the making of the film, but all four participants are engaged and seem to be having a good time as they share general recollections about their experiences. There are some genuinely interesting anecdotes shared here, although it must be said that many if not all of these are discussed in the excellent documentary or the commentary with Wes Craven and Peter Locke. What stands out is how much fun they seem to be having re-watching the film some 40 years after they shot it. Even those who might be disappointed with the lack of practical knowledge shared here will no doubt enjoy listening.

Audio Commentary by Mikel J. Koven

Mikel J. Koven’s academic commentary offers an examination of The Hills Have Eyes and how the film owes a debt to the legend of Sawney Bean. Koven reads from the earliest published account of the legend in an effort to draw parallels between Sawney Bean and The Hills Have Eyes before drawing direct comparisons between the two. He also discusses the film’s various sequels and remakes in the same context. Those looking for an incredibly dry scholarly analysis of the film need look no further. However, viewers will want to stay on the main road if they prefer technical and anecdotal accounts of the production. What is nice about this track is that it offers the kind of theoretical examination that is missing in the other supplements.

Alternate Ending – (HD) – (11:35)

It’s always interesting to examine alternate endings but—as is often the case—one is glad that the filmmakers didn’t use this inappropriate “happy ending.” It drains the film of its power and the themes presented throughout the film aren’t quite driven home as effectively as it is in the “official” ending. One can even choose to watch the film with this ending instead of the theatrical ending but few will want to do this more than once.

Looking Back on ‘The Hills Have Eyes’(54:35)

This “making-of” documentary features interviews with Wes Craven, Peter Locke, Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace, Janus Blythe, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier and Eric Saarinen. They discuss in candid detail the trials and tribulations that went into the production in relatively comprehensive detail. This documentary was created for the film’s DVD debut and has been carried over to this fabulous disc. It might be the best supplement included here, and it is essential viewing for fans of the film (and for fans of the genre in general).

Family Business: Interview with Martin Speer (16:08)

Martin Speer was conspicuously missing from the “making of” documentary but Arrow makes up for his absence by offering this interesting stand-alone interview. Here he divulges some of his recollections from his experience working on the low budget production such as auditioning, stunt work, working in the elements, and special effects. This is a very nice companion to the included documentary.

The Desert Sessions:  Interview with Don Peak (11:00)

Don Peak is engaging and informative as he discusses writing and recording the film’s score. This short interview is another well-done piece that should be of special interest to anyone who has an interest in film scores. There is really quite a bit of value packed into this eleven minutes.

Never-Before-Seen Outtakes – (18:58)

One feels privileged to have the opportunity to watch this material. There are few truly amusing moments included in this reel of scrap footage but it is certainly interesting to see small glimpses behind the scene of the film.

Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots:

US Trailer – (02:43)

Vintage trailers are always amusing curiosities but what is striking about this trailer is that Wes Craven’s name is already being touted as a selling point due to the surprise success of The Last House On The Left.

German Trailer – (02:46)

This German trailer seems to be the same as the American trailer dubbed in German with “Hügel der blutigen Augen” written under the film’s American title. It is certainly interesting to hear the footage in German.

TV Spots – (01:54)

These TV Spots aren’t dissimilar from the theatrical trailer and utilize much of the same footage. The most interesting of these contain an opening text-based warning: “The following spot is for a new motion picture already acclaimed a terror classic. It might not be suitable for viewers under 17. You have five seconds to make your choice: turn the dial or discover… The Hills Have Eyes.

Image Gallery – (00:40)

The discs image gallery is really pretty standard and contains a collection of stills, advertisements, and posters used in the marketing of the film.

Original Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM Content)

The PDF copy of the film’s original script is an interesting artifact and an instructive reading experience. It is really nice to have it included it on the disc.

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Final Words:

Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes is an essential exploitation film for anyone who has a particular fondness for horror. This is gritty balls-to-the-wall filmmaking with no regard for rules and reverence. Meanwhile, Arrow has been described by cinephiles as “The Criterion Collection of horror and exploitation.” Anyone who has ever wondered why they have such a great reputation should indulge in this great limited edition release as it is a sterling example of why the aforementioned description is absolutely on target.

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 Review by: Devon Powell