A Few Words About A few words about...™ Chaplin -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Feb 18, 2011.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    It was only after I sampled about half an hour of Liongate's new Blu-ray of Chaplin, and left surmising that the transfer was not new, that I noted the "15th Anniversary Edition" heading at the top of the packaging.


    And that explains what I was seeing.

    Chaplin, far more than most of the newest Blu-ray releases has the look of film, of cinema.


    And I'm presuming that it looks that way because the selected film element was not treated as data, but rather, was most likely prepared for HD. Not 2 or 4k, ie transferred on the likes of a Rank.


    What this means, is that there is just the slightest bit of bob and weave in the image. And it is this that is the trademark of film, as opposed to a rock steady 4k harvest image. There is also just the tiniest bit of softness in grain, something that looks far more natural than the needle sharp imagery we now get from a 4k scan.


    I looked back over the now eighteen year old reviews, and many were not kind. Meticulously mounted, and directed by epic filmmaker Richard Attenborough, it seems that the problem that many had with the film was that it glossed over Chaplin's live, as opposed to digging deeply for treasure. How does one tell the story of one of the most beloved entertainers, who spent decades making films (1914-1967), this on top of an earlier music hall career.


    Possibly because I love film, possibly because I have no problem accepting some of the assumed shortcomings, I love this film.


    And then there is the piece de resistance.


    Mr. Downey.


    Although he was in a number of earlier films, this one was 1992, it is this film that allows him to stake his claim to stardom. For those who only know of his work from the latest Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes, you're best to go back and visit this wonderful film.


    Did I mention the Robert Downey, Jr. is PERFECT! Just amazing.


    As to the other players, they all acquit themselves beautifully. From the young Moira Kelly to the seasoned Anthony Hopkins. And then, there is Geraldine Chaplin, playing her own grandmother.


    Did I mention that the film was photographed by Sven Nykvist? Anyone unfamiliar with the name should research it, or spend 30 days in solitary.


    Enough words.


    Go out. Buy this Blu-ray. Enjoy the bob and weave, the beautiful colors, densities and black levels. Grain levels are fine and natural. Two track DTS Master Audio.


    Highly Recommended.


    RAH
     
  2. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Whew! I feel better now.


    (My former review colleague, Jeff Kaufmann, reviewed the disc for Blu-ray.com, and his evaluation was cited in contrast to mine. He didn't think much of the image.)
     
  3. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    I look forward to seeing this again, it's been a long time. Also don't forget that Milla Jovovich is in this and looks fabulous.
     
  4. John Stockton

    John Stockton Second Unit

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    Thanks Robert. Now I can purchase this with ease of mind.


    I usually read all the reviews I can find before purchasing a title, but the one thing that always tips the lever is your input. The negative reviewers most likely never saw the film in its theatrical run and have little to no idea how it should look. From your words, it sounds like that this disc accurately represents "Chaplin" the way it played in 1992.


    I also like to point out that both Robert Downey Jr and John Barry were snubbed at Oscar time because of some bullshit politics.


    Downey was denied because the Academy wanted to pay back Al Pacino for all the years they had neglected him.


    John Barry was denied because he had recently won the Oscar two years earlier for Dances With Wolves
     
  5. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Robert,


    Thank you for this review.


    Since seeing this film for the first time on DVD a few
    years back, I have become an instant fan of it...


    ...so much so that I immediately jumped on the
    opportunity to purchase it on Blu-ray. Last evening

    I watched it again and thoroughly enjoyed it the
    second time as much as the first. Very difficult to

    keep a dry eye during the film's final 10 minutes.


    Downey is exceptional. He has become one of

    my favorite actors. Real shame he was snubbed

    by the Academy for this performance.


    The Blu-ray looks incredible. I am happy you
    mentioned black levels here because they do look

    amazing.
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I suggest that interested parties visit Michael Reuben's review here:


    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/forum/thread/308749/htf-blu-ray-review-chaplin


    The arrival of Chaplin on Blu-ray also makes a wonderful jumping off point toward starting a collection of
    Sir Charles' film on Blu-ray.


    There was never a quality version of his work on standard def -- the Image set was the best, but that was

    produced from the masters created for laserdisc, and although gorgeous and beautifully produced at the time

    did not measure up to current standards. The Warner set is be avoided at all costs.


    But here's the easy way to get started. Chaplin made a myriad of short films between 1914 and 1916 for

    Keystone and Essanay, along with an occasional longer release in 2-3 reels, before moving to two-reelers

    between 1916-17 -- the Mutuals, many of which survive as original negatives.


    From the late teens into the early 1920s, he created over a dozen works raging from short films to productions

    of about an hour.


    It was in 1923 that the feature length era really began, and between that time, and his final appearance in Universal's

    1967 A Countess from Hong Kong, his output was a scant ten productions.


    Criterion has opened the door to Chaplin on Blu-ray with their recent release of Modern Times (1936), still basically
    a silent film with sound passages.


    Shortly we'll be seeing the brilliant The Great Dictator ( 1940), and hopefully things will move on from there.


    With extremely high quality material available on even the early films, a Blu-ray set would be in order.


    Currently, one can purchase Kevin Brownlow & David Gill's 156 minute mini-series Unknown Chaplin on standard def,

    and there is nothing that deals with Chaplin's production methods better than this series.


    Now we have to sit back and wait for the doors to open.


    RAH
     
  7. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Here's another enthusiastic endorsement for Unknown Chaplin. These three programs give more insight into the genius that was Chaplin than anything else I can think of (apart from the films themselves which are simply matchless).
     
  8. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    I allowed this to pass me by in 1992, but after reading the above, I'm in. Thank you.
     
  9. John Stockton

    John Stockton Second Unit

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    Robert


    Do you plan to do A few Words...for the movie "10". That is another Blu-ray which is getting a lot of negative reviews out there, and I am just wondering what your thoughts are about the transfer.
     
  10. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    My colleague Timothy E thought it looked like . . . film. Not to pick on anyone in particular, but I often get the sense that too many Blu-ray reviewers have forgotten what film looks like, especially in the era before digital intermediates began to homogenize everything.
     
  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I'm seeing nothing negative. Looks terrific. Much like film.
     
  12. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Always great to hear additional confirmations on the quality of a seemingly controversial transfer/encode on Blu, especially from RAH.


    Thanks much, RAH (and Michael also).


    _Man_
     
  13. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    Just ordered this and Pleasantville based on your comments (each is a blind buy for me but I've yet to be disappointed by a blind buy based on your reviews). Looking forward to their arrival.
     
  14. John Stockton

    John Stockton Second Unit

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  15. Timothy E

    Timothy E Supporting Actor
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  16. runnersdialzero

    runnersdialzero Stunt Coordinator

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    Does anyone know why the scene where Chaplin meets his brother at the train station is edited? Chaplin's brother tells Charlie, "I don't see anybody starin' at you." And then the scene ends on the Blu Ray. I'm pretty sure Charlie retorts with, "That's because I don't look like me."


    Can anyone get the old Artisan DVD out and check? If they did edit it, then why?
     
  17. AppleSpider

    AppleSpider Agent

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    I think you may be misremembering. The train station scene ends at 44:00 at the point you mention, then at 44:30, after the brother repeats the remark, that's when Charlie replies as you recall. I've never seen the film before, but I doubt that the same retort would've been used twice so close together. But maybe it was.
     
  18. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    For a whole host of reasons (none of them very good, I'm afraid--mostly "the movie got shoved onto an overfilled shelf and largely forgotten" kind of excuse), I only just now got around to watching this film. I understand some of the criticism--at least that which notes that no one single film can truly do justice to a life like Chaplin's--but Downey, Jr. is outstanding and, overall, the film is wonderful. It also does something very important--it makes me want to order as many Chaplin films as I can afford to acquire (starting with the Criterion blu-rays, of course). As with Pleasantville (noted in my earlier post many months ago), this blind buy based on Mr. Harris' recommendation did not disappoint.
     
  19. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    I agree that it's a very good film. Saw it in the theaters 20 years ago...How is the picture quality?
     
  20. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    It looked fine to me--like film (I must point out that I am not an expert on video quality--more of an audio person--and that I don't always notice some of the more subtle things that videophiles point out as shortcomings, though I've become a more "informed" viewer over the years, thanks in no small part to reading Mr. Harris' comments). I have never expected that all BDs should look as razor-sharp as current productions do--that is rather absurd in my view. To me, noticeably better than the DVD is sufficient for me to consider a purchase or an upgrade--or, in rare cases, if the extras are compelling. I understand and fully sympathize with Mr. Harris' view that BD should aim a lot higher than simply "better than the DVD", but if there is not a huge price difference and a BD is "better than a DVD", that is usually what I will get (some improvement is better than no improvement--to me).
     

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