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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Classic > Epic > French > British > Japan > StudioCanal Collection Blu-ray Wave One: Godard’s Contempt (aka Le Mepris)/The Ladykillers (1955)/Kurosawa’s Ran/Lionsgate)

StudioCanal Collection Blu-ray Wave One: Godard’s Contempt (aka Le Mepris)/The Ladykillers (1955)/Kurosawa’s Ran/Lionsgate)


Picture: B/B-/B-     Sound: C+/C+/B-     Extras: B/B-/B-     Films: B/B-/B-



It is good to see classic films get top rate treatment, or at least one hopes as much.  While Criterion set the standards for special editions that everyone follows and many have tried to duplicate their special editions since the old 12” LaserDisc days, none have managed to take hold with their special editions.  The Weinstein Company tried the Miriam Collection and Le Studio Canal now launches The StudioCanal Collection with three key world cinema classics.


In two cases, we previously covered the following on DVD versions at the following links:









That leaves Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 epic rendition of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Ran, as one we did not previously cover, but it is here now and we will look at each.


Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (1963) was his first film in color and in CinemaScope, though it was really shot with the superior single-lens Franscope format.  A look at filmmaking gone wrong, the film shows off sex symbol Brigitte Bardot as a terribly overproduced version of The Odyssey goes before the camera as a doomed-in-advance disaster.  By this time, big money producers were trying to cash in on authentic international film movements (French New Wave, Italian Neo-Realism) and Godard answered with the sly deconstruction all the way to having the great filmmaker Fritz Lang play himself and hire Jack Palance as one of the actors in the film as a reference to Lang’s Highly critical look at Hollywood, The Big Knife which had Palance as a lead.  Though not always a consistent film, it has a whole new context when you think of all the bad digitally plastered, overproduced Hollywood films we are seeing today and was visually groundbreaking in its time.  It still looks really good today and this 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition transfer is easily the best of the three Blu-rays in this wave and you can see the amazing work of Director of Photography Raoul Coutard at its effective best.  The film, could use some work, but this is superior to the decent Criterion DVD transfer we covered years ago.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 2.0 Mono tracks show the age of the audio, with the French sounding the best and all needing some work.  The combination is really good and extras include a booklet inside the Blu-ray case with tech facts and essay by French film scholar Ginette Vincendeau.  The Blu-ray itself adds a Godard/Lang interview entitled “The Dinosaur & The Baby”, Conversation with Fritz Lang, “Once Upon A Time There Was.. Contempt” documentary, separate “Contempt... Tenderly” documentary and fine introduction by world-class film scholar Colin McCabe.


You may only know The Ladykillers as a more recent film by The Coen Brothers, but it was The Coen Brother’s remake was highly disastrous, their worst work, is easily dismissed and more obviously so when you see this original film version.  Considered the best (or among the best) of the Ealing Studio Comedies, I prefer The Lavender Hill Mob and The Man In The White Suit, but this is still a classic comedy and you could say it is very British, so some may find it hard to follow at first.  Director Alexander Mackendrick did a fine job handling the film and does not always get the credit it deserves, but he should.  Any film that has Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers alone should be enough to want anyone to see it, but Cecil Parker, Danny Green and Herbert Lom are among those who join them in this witty heist comedy.  From robbing banks to old ladies, there is no stopping them, but complications will ensue just the same.


The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition transfer is better than the previous Anchor Bay DVD, but is an older transfer and you can see that from the start in the credits when you cannot read the fine print.  Color is good, but the picture does not pick up after the credits as is sometimes the case and we get uneven performance throughout as a result.  I was expecting performance on the level of the recent Red Balloon Blu-ray, but it was more often like the Blu-ray for the animated Gulliver’s Travels.  This too is a real dye-transfer Technicolor film and Director of Photography Otto Heller, B.S.C., uses the narrow frame to fine effect.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 2.0 Mono tracks also show their age and are not always as warm as I had hoped.  Extras include James Mangold interview on the film, trailer, Terry Gilliam intro, feature length audio commentary track by Ealing Studios scholar Phil Kemp, “Forever Ealing” Documentary, “Cleaning Up The Ladykillers” featurette, filmed interviews with Allan Scott, Terence Davies & Ronald Harwood on all of it, plus a booklet inside the DVD case is included with tech facts and essay by French film historian and scholar David Parkinson.  Hope more Ealing films get this treatment.


Finally but not least is Kurosawa’s Ran (1985) originally issued in the U.S. by the now-defunct Orion Classics.  Made between Kagemusha (1980) and Dreams (1990, both reviewed elsewhere on this site), it was a big deal and hit in its time and is a very unique take on King Lear, yet it works well enough despite its long length.  Not everything works, but most things do as Kurosawa transplants the tale to 16th Century Japan.  Kurosawa veterans Masato Ide and Hideo Oguni co-wrote the screenplay with him and it is as big an epic as any of Kurosawa’s films.  Some people love it, others have mixed feelings more than this critic, but this is a master filmmaker late in his career still at his peak of power with new ideas and approaches to offer, so you can imagine what the 182 minutes holds for patient viewers.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is odd in that Kurosawa would shoot scenes to flatten depth, yet you have an epic with hundreds of people in it.  He used three Directors of Photography to capture everything and all of them (Asakazu Nakai, Takao Saito, Shoji Ueda) worked with him before.  Their work meshes nicely and so much so that 70mm blow-up prints were issued of the film in its original release.  You would not necessarily know that from watching this often strained transfer, which would have never made it as a print for blow-up.  It must be an older HD master because this should be clearer for a 35mm shoot and for the kind of detail Kurosawa’s films still had.  Color saved this from being worse, but I am tempted to lower my rating, but because of the style, will not.  There was a 6-track Dolby magnetic 4.1 stereo mix for the film and we get a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mix that has its moments, but recreates the older soundfield instead of thinning out the sound for a new one.  Extras include a documentary on Samurai art called “The Samurai”, “Akira Kurosawa: The Epic & The Intimate” documentary and “Art Of The Samurai” documentary that is actually about the art of war, while the Blu-ray case includes tech facts and essay film scholar David Jenkins.



It is no secret that Criterion was to originally issue these on Blu-ray, but Le Studio Canal decided to become proactive and do them on their own as they do overseas and the results are not bad, but might have been a bit better in Criterion’s hands.  However, these are the best editions of these films to date and with their plethora of extras, should please fans just the same.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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