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-
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.
cases, we previously covered the following on DVD versions at the following
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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