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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > British > A Room With A View (HD-DVD and Blu-ray)

A Room With A View (HD-DVD and Blu-ray)

 

Picture: A- ††††Sound: B+ ††††Extras: B ††††Film: A-

 

 

James Ivoryís 1985 A Room With a View embodies E.M. Forsterís novel about the difficult decisions of a young Englishwoman and her entrance into adult-life and choosing the man she desires the most.Of course this takes place during the early 1900ís in a time when that decision could inevitably change your life in very important ways, including social class.Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) portrays the indecisive young woman who in engaged to Cecil (Daniel Day Lewis), who seems like a good match and would give her a good life, but she spends some time in Florence, Italy where she meets George Emerson (Julian Sands) who catches her attention and begins to make her question her own heart.

 

ďHe's the sort who can't know anyone intimately, least of all a woman. He doesn't know what a woman is. He wants you for a possession, something to look at, like a painting or an ivory box. Something to own and to display. He doesn't want you to be real, and to think and to live. He doesn't love you. But I love you. I want you to have your own thoughts and ideas and feelings, even when I hold you in my arms. It's our last chance...Ē

 

This is one of the most memorable lines in the entire film as they are uttered passionately from a desperate George has he pleas to Lucy for a chance to make things work.In many respects this film takes what could perhaps be a short film and turns it into a lengthy emotional rollercoaster as we become most involved with the characters.Perhaps what makes this film also work well is that it teeters on a comedy and a drama and this helps keep the material fresh.Day-Lewis is brilliant in his role and this reminds me of his amazing work that he would provide a few years later for Martin Scorsese in The Age of Innocence, another great period piece.As if his acting isnít good enough, so is Carterís and Sands, but the ensemble cast also includes other amazing British actors like Maggie Smith and Judi Dench.

 

When I first saw this film years ago I wasnít really expecting to like it, in fact I almost assumed that I wouldnít.I was familiar with some of the other Merchant/Ivory productions and was relatively found of Howardís End and Remains of the Day, which both feature the amazing Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham Carter would also star in Howardís End, but I was absolutely swept away by A Room With a View and it definitely lived up to much of the critical acclaim that followed it.Oddly enough it wasnít really until the last quarter of the film that I really became engrossed with the material and appreciated the brilliance behind the script and the development of the characters and how the novel came to life in a very fresh way, but that was no doubt attributed by the fine acting and the execution in the high quality production.

 

When the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD of this film was finally released by Warner I was highly impressed with several things, the first thing that struck me was the remixed and remastered 5.1 soundtrack, which was and still is one of the best mixes for a film of this type available, by that I mean a dialogue-driven film of this age.I was actually stunned by just how three-dimensional the traveling dialogue seemed.The anamorphic 1.66 X 1 transfer of the film was good too, although a tad on the softer side, but relatively pristine in condition.Although the transfer appears more like a 1.78 X 1 image and it worked fine for the time being.

 

Now letís jump ahead to the two High-Definition releases of this film, which I must say this is a surprise title to see both formats this early on, but I am quite happy given that itís a favorite of mine.Both the Blu-ray and the HD-DVD present the film in 1080p with the 1.66 X 1 aspect ratio looking more like 1.78 X 1 as it was on the DVD.However, both HD looks jump off the screen with fantastic color depth, fidelity, and an impressive amount of detail and definition.Needless to say they make the DVD obsolete for sure.The softness that was evident on the DVD is no longer an issue and while the transfer does bear some grain, it isnít overly polished up in order to sharpen the image, which is a good thing because this preserves the films intentions.It should be noted that the film does have a rather medium palette of colors, which gives the film itís early 20th Century look with muted colors and more medium tones overall, but both HD discs perform well in still delivering a vibrancy to these tones, although the HD-DVD tends to be a bit sharper, while the Blu-ray seems more color-rich.I honestly would have a hard time choosing a winner between the two, both are excellent, so itís really dependant on which player you own, or like me I have the LG player that handles both formats.

 

The same thing goes for the audio, which after hearing how good the DVD was, I had a hard time envisioning what these two discs could offer, but I am nearly speechless in what an amazing job the DTS HD High Resolution 5.1 mixes could be that is offered on both discs.I attempted to go back and forth to see if there were any subtle differences between the two formats and itís nearly impossible to say, although if anything the Blu-ray might be a bit more compressed, but itís so miniscule that it really isnít a factor.I can only hope that more period pieces and other films that are dialogue-heavy will arrive on the HD formats this good, it will certainly bring a whole new level of appreciation into the home viewing experience.

 

The extras are also identical on both discs and the same as the features that were present on the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, which provides a commentary track by actor Simon Callow, Director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant, and cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts, the rest of the supplements are more like promotional pieces, photo galleries, a special on Merchant/Ivory and a section on E.M. Forster, all of which are great additions to the film and give a further glimpse into the production of this great film.

 

Hopefully we will see Howardís End and Remains of the Day on an HD disc soon after the success of this film on HD-DVD and Blu-ray!

 

 

-†† Nate Goss


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