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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Melodrama > Stage > TV > Anthology > War > Plague > Religion > Sweden > Relationships > French > Living (2022/Ikiru remake/Sony Blu-ray)/Noon Wine (1966/MVD/Liberation Hall DVD)/The Seventh Seal 4K (1957/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/The Student and Mr. Henri (2015/Icarus DVD)

Living (2022/Ikiru remake/Sony Blu-ray)/Noon Wine (1966/MVD/Liberation Hall DVD)/The Seventh Seal 4K (1957/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/The Student and Mr. Henri (2015/Icarus DVD)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B/C/B/C+ Sound: B/C+/B/C+ Extras: C-/C/B/D Main Programs: B-/C+/B+/B

Now for a new set of dramas, including an upgraded classic and a remake of another classic...

Oliver Hermanus' Living (2022) is an English-language, British-produced remake of Akira Kurosawa's drama classic Ikiru with the great Bill Nighy as a swamped-at-work civil servant whose life is empty and after all these years of his work taking away from his life, happiness and individuality, is just starting to get truly fed up when he gets a diagnosis of very bad health issues that means his life is coming to an end.

With a few (or few) people for inspiration, he decides to make the rest of his life count in ways he had not expected before it is too late. Like its predecessor, the film takes its time to ask some important questions about life, existence, happiness, love and how we spend our lives and time. Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains Of The Day) delivers a well-updated screenplay without making any stupid errors way too many horrid 're-imaginings' have in the last few decades, Nighy more than holds his own and though we encounter some things we have seen and heard before, they also bear repeating. The result is an increasingly rare small film that more than delivers.

Tom Burke, Aimee Lou Wood and Alex Sharp lead the supporting cast.

A Making Of featurette (A Life Semi-Lived) and trailers are the only extras.

Sam Peckinpah's Noon Wine (1966) is an installment from the ABC-TV anthology series ABC Stage 67 (the tenth of only 26 episodes produced, including the great Evening Primrose adaption with Anthony Perkins, reviewed elsewhere on this site) is also written by the legendary director, based on the book by Katherine Anne Porter. Jason Robards is an 1890s Texas farmer whose farm is failing, in part because he is not hands-on anymore.

His wife (Olivia De Havilland) has fallen out of love with him and things look bad, but a stranger/drifter named Olaf (Pier Oscarsson of The Girl Who Played With Fire, Barabbas, Chez Nous, Endless Night, The Last Valley, The Night Visitor, Honeycomb) offers to help out and slowly starts bringing the farm back to functionality and profitability. Unfortunately, he as a few secrets that will soon come back to haunt him and them all.

Peckinpah made this between two of his classics, Major Dundee and The Wild Bunch, so he manages to squeeze the story into the space of less than an hour make it surprisingly as compelling as he is efficient with it. Under seen if that for years, its nice to have it in print in any form and this one includes the option (like many more recent Tonight Show staring Johnny Carson DVDs) of watching it with the original TV commercials.

Besides being nicely shot, especially with its limited budget, it has a great supporting cast including Theodore Bikel, Ben Johnson, Robert Emhardt, L.Q. Jones, Peter Robbins (the original voice of the animated Charlie Brown) and Joan Tompkins. Definitely recommended, though I wish it were longer.

Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal 4K (1957) is one of the most commercially and critically successful of all the bold, groundbreaking, original films the legendary Swedish filmmaker ever made, put him, his cast and art house cinema on the map and remains one fo the most iconic films of its kind in all of cinema history.

As The Crusades and a huge plague kill millions of people with no hope, a knight (the mighty Max Von Sydow) takes a break at a local beach to play chess alone and rest up, but before he can gather himself together, The Grim Reaper aka Death (Bengt Ekerot, creepy as ever in a brilliant performance) shows up to challenge him. The deal is then struck that, as long as the Knight can beat Death at chess, he gets to live. This leads to a larger narrative of other people and events that start and never stop until the film ends.

Remarkably, Bergman's screenplay has no faults, dead moments, false notes or wasted time as he delivers some big statements about life and living, including delving into spiritual faith and being so densely visual and period-correct that it puts dozens of multi-million dollar films to shame. It had been a long time since I had seen the film and though I like it, I cannot match the superfans who love it and all of Bergman's other works. Still, it is a serious, must-see film for any film fan worth the claim. The old beer commercial that once asked 'why are foreign film so foreign?' was made when you did not have 4K discs, enough Criterion Collection releases (or their imitators, some of whom are actually good) or the high fidelity of image and sound you can now get at home. That's why a classic like Seventh Seal (or Fellini's 8 1/2) are as accessible as ever.

You'll see why Sydow landed up having a career in big commercial films like Flash Gordon (1980), Never Say Never Again and was the perfect choice as THE priest to take on Satan in William Friedkin's The Exorcist. With a great supporting cast that includes Bibi Andersson, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Gunnar Olson, Erik Strandmark, Maud Hanson, so many others and that we all just went through a pandemic, there has never been a better time to see The Seventh Seal!

Extras (partly per the press release) include another great, high quality, illustrated booklet on the film with tech information and an essay by critic Gary Giddins, while the discs add an introduction from 2003 by director Ingmar Bergman, a Feature-Length Audio Commentary and video afterword by Bergman expert Peter Cowie, Bergman Island (2006), a feature-length documentary on Bergman by Marie Nyrerod, an audio interview from 1998 with actor Max von Sydow, a tribute to Bergman from 1989 by filmmaker Woody Allen, Bergman 101, a selected video filmography tracing Bergman's career, narrated by Cowie and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Set in Paris, Ivan Calberac's The Student and Mr. Henri (2015) is a dramedy that tells the story of Constance (portrayed by Noemie Schmidt) as she embarks upon a journey into adulthood. Constance, desperate to forge her own path in life, wants more than just working at her father's produce stand. Belittled for not successfully completing university, she opts to leave home and rent a room in Paris, wherever she can get one.

Selected randomly by Mr. Henri, a crotchety old man (portrayed by Claude Brasseur) to be his tenant, Constance is thrilled to have a place to stay, though seems reluctant to accept the space when told to produce a security deposit plus first and last month's rent. Henri, undeterred, offers a solution: free room and board if she agrees to seduce his son, Paul (portrayed by Guillaume de Tonquedec), who is married to Valerie (portrayed by Frederique Bel) ...and Henri doesn't approve.

Constance, torn between being true to herself and finding a way to survive, reluctantly agrees, though the journey to drive the couple apart teaches her more about herself than she'd anticipated. In the process, she also endears herself to Henri, who adopts her as a surrogate daughter of sorts, who gets to know her true passion is music and makes her his own musical protege.

Overall, the character development of everyone, Constance, Henri, Paul, and even Valerie, is not a steady, progressive indicator of growth. Rather, each character seems to be rooted in his or her own ways and then suddenly transforms. Paul, dedicated husband, suddenly is open to the possibility of an affair. Henri, crusty old man, suddenly is a caring, concerned father figure and mentor to Constance. And even Constance, so uncertain of herself, is suddenly self-assured and confident, under the tutelage of Henri.

Not quite comedic, it's difficult to find these sudden transformations believable, and the viewer is left with a sense of dissatisfaction. After all, real life certainly doesn't unfold with such magical transformations, and much of the action is relatively banal, making it hard to be invested in the storyline. In its favor, though, the story does not have a fairytale ending for all characters involved, which more accurately reflects a 'true to life' unfolding of events that is more believable.

The film is in French and includes English subtitles. A Distrib Films film, it runs for a total of 99 minutes.

There are no extras.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.33 X 1, black & white, Ultra High Definition image on Seventh Seal is the best I have ever seen the film outside of a 35mm print, with only some minor damage, issues and maybe some slight digital tampering, but the lack of HDR is odd and the 4K scan was only just done in 2018. Why not include that or even better Dolby Vision? I don't know, but Criterion has handled the film since the old 12-inch analog LaserDisc days, so they are as familiar with it as any film they've ever handled. It should be noted that Criterion had no HDR of any kind either for their definite release in 4K of Romero's Night Of The Living Dead (1968, also reviewed on this site).

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on the regular Blu-ray version is not bad, but still not as good as the 4K and both have Swedish PCM Mono sound off of the original magnetic soundmaster. It is a little rougher on the regular Blu-ray, more refined and distortion free on the 4K version and now sounds as good as it ever will.

The 1080p 1.48 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Living does nothing innovate or unusual with its odd aspect ratio, mostly offering compositions in the black-style 1.33 (or 1.37) X 1 block style aspect ratio. Color and definition are just fine, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is well recorded and presented. Only expect so much from a dialogue-based film, though.

The 1.33 X 1 image on the Wine DVD is from a second-generation source, thus the roughness, ghosting, video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, cross color, faded color and even a bit of tape damage holds the image back, but we do get the original commercials. We'll guess the original 2-inch color videotape is in the ABC archives somewhere. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound fares a bit better and is pretty clean and clear for its age.

The anamorphically enhanced image and lossy Dolby Digital sound on Henri are about as good as the film is going to get for this older format.

- Nicholas Sheffo and Christen Stroh (Henri)


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