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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Large Frame Formats > Existentialism > Baraka (1992/MPI Blu-ray)

Baraka (1992/MPI Blu-ray)


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



Ron Fricke’s 70mm masterwork Baraka (1992) gains more and more fans, the more people who see it and now, it is one of the early independent productions released on Blu-ray and it is easily one of the most impressive releases in home video history in this great high definition release of the film.  We first looked at the film on DVD in its first anamorphically enhanced release as replacement for an older letterboxed-only edition, which you can read more about at this link:





However, this is not the first impressive Fricke film to hit Blu-ray, as his shorter, earlier, also impressive Chronos arrived on Blu-ray earlier in the format’s launch and was recently reissued in a better Blu-ray edition by Image Entertainment, which you can read more about here along with Samsara, the film that followed Baraka and was also all shot in 70mm:





Before things became so darker in the world, Baraka took a hard look at it in a way Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (1983) and its two sequels simply could not, shot in 24 countries and looking deeply into how technology and civilization’s speak in wreckless ways slowly but surely wears away at a world that is much more fragile than certain interests might want to admit.  Sixteen years later, its ideas, images and points are truer than ever, have only increased as a vital record of world life and in a vivid format like Todd-AO 70mm a masterwork like no other.  With no dialogue, it uses images to speak about many things and instead of the random, badly edited images we get all the time, adds up to the profound and priceless.


That is why expectations were high for the film when it was announced it would be coming to Blu-ray.  One of the most effective large-frame format films ever made, its potential to be incredible with the kind of playback its visuals offered and the audio was always unique in its great music score by Michael Stearns (who also edits, designs and masters the sound) combine to create the kind of pure cinema we do not see as much as we should and that has been to the detriment of us all.



As it turns out, the 1080p VC-1 @ 35 MBPS 2.20 X 1 digital High Definition transfer more than lives up to expectations and as the first-ever 8K (8,000-lines of progressive scan digital High Definition mastering) in home video history, the results are one of the three most stunning transfers we have ever seen.  Except for minor motion blur and slight detail issues in small spots, it is not just like watching HD in the home at its best, but like watching a film print that is often like looking out the window at the world at large.  Color is remarkable, depth is amazing and you will get amazing shots here that on the best systems, will reproduce light and image in a way no other title ever released in any format ever has, no joke.


It is no surprise to us that it has one thing in common with the only other titles we ever covered to rate as high visually:  all are shot in 65mm negative.  Fricke did his own cinematography with Todd-AO 70mm and there are so many demonstration-quality shots that you cannot stop watching.  The other films that are as stunning are these three 70mm classics, with their Blu-ray review links included:


2001: A Space Odyssey



Grand Prix



Lawrence Of Arabia




Of course, those films are decades older, but large frame formats are always more stunning than regular 35mm shoots for the most part and over and over, it seems they work particularly well with Blu-ray.  There are shots her even the Blu-ray of The Dark Knight will have problems competing with.  Baraka is a film to own this way just on a visual level, but DTS HD Master Audio lossless 96/24 5.1 soundmix is also very impressive for its age, aging well with fine articulation throughout.  The only things holding it back are some compression in patches and a slight sonic ceiling in other parts, but it is one of the best DTS lossless mixes on the market just the same.  Extras include a look into the restoration of the film and making of featurette Baraka – A Closer Look.


All that easily makes this one of the best Blu-ray releases for 2008 and one of the best films in the format to date, a title it will retain for many years to come.  The Blu-ray is getting raves from everyone who covers it and for a change, it lives up to all the hype.  Any serious film, home theater and Blu-ray fan needs to consider this a must-own disc and no serious collection should be without it.


With Baraka, MPI set a new high standard for Blu-ray hi-def the majors are going to find a challenge to follow and match.  Don’t miss it or Samsara and the other hems linked above.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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