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

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 4, 2009.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I find it hard to believe that I've just typed this heading.

    F. W Murnau's Sunrise on Blu-ray!

    And what a magnificent Blu-ray it is.

    This particular song of two humans went through a major restoration in 2003 when Fox joined with several world archives to pool film elements, select what were perceived as the best, and create new archival masters. Fox released the film as a special edition and a part of their Classics series shortly thereafter.

    But now, via Eureka and Masters of Cinema in the UK, we have one of the greatest motion pictures of the silent era lovingly re-mastered in high definition to breathtaking results. Created from the finest surviving elements, MoC has given us not one, but two versions of the film -- the long established Movietone version, and a new Czech silent version, which upgrades the image quality to a great extent. The downside of the Czech material is a loss of footage. Rather than detail the restoration process for you, I've asked permission to copy the restoration notes as included in the accompanying booklet, and will hopefully add them in due course.

    Rather than go on about the greatness and importance of this film, I'll simply state that it remains one of the most beautiful, most important, and most moving motion pictures of any era. It has lost none of its power in the intervening eight decades.

    The Movietone version includes both the original mono score, as well as score by the Olympic Chamber Orchestra, and to top it off a feature length commentary by cinematographer John Bailey (The Big Chill, Silverado). My call is to view the film three times, once with each of the scores, and finally with the master's class commentary by Mr. Bailey.

    I love this film! I adore this Blu-ray!

    Is it the Best or most important Classic Blu-ray release of 2009?

    Quite possibly.

    This is a release that is a necessity in every serious cinema library.

    Here's a link to MoC's catalog PDF:

    http://www.eurekavideo.co.uk/moc/MoC_CATALOGUE_2009_web.pdf

    Extremely Highly Recommended.
    RAH
     
    Mark Walker likes this.
  2. Guest

    The obvious thing to say about the versions is that the Czech silent version has better picture quality but less footage; and that the sound movietone version is the original theatrical version, shown at its American premiere.

    So I chose the sound version to watch first. A) because I feel like its the original version B) so I could be pleasantly surprised by the extra detail in the Czech version.

    I took great heart in the notes on the transfer process in the MoC booklet; and what a classy package. This is easily the best blu ray I own. For RAH to say its a contender for best classic blu ray of the year, after the praise lent to The Wizard of Oz (and Gone with the Wind is still to come... fingers crossed!) is high praise indeed.
     
  3. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    I searched Amazon and don't see it listed.
    Is there more info on the release of the blu-ray.
    A date?

    Also is this the same movie Fox released a few years ago as part of their numbered (number zero) classic collection as a mail in offer?
     
  4. Guest

    UK release Travis. Region-free. Amazon.co.uk.
     
  5. BillyFeldman

    BillyFeldman Supporting Actor

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    I watched some of it the other night and concur about the quality. I love the Movietone version - and find it's image quality lovely. I don't really have a need for the Czech version.
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    With permission graciously granted by Eureka / MoC, here is the background of the restoration history of Murnau's Sunrise:

    The following text by David Pierce details the history of the 2003 Sunrise film restoration. Pierce is the former curator of the National Film and Television Archive (NFTVA) and these notes were prepared for a British Film Institute screening in 2003.

    Unlike many other films of the silent era that disappeared soon after their release, Sunrise has never been "lost," as the film has been available from the Museum of Modern Art Dept. of Film's Circulating Film Library since 1936. However, the original negative for Sunrise and most of the other silent and early sound films produced by the Fox Film Corp. were destroyed in a disastrous fire on July 9, 1937 at Fox's storage facility in Little Ferry, NJ.

    Prints of Sunrise shown in recent years have not been satisfactory -- either contrasty and washed out, or grey and lacking any true blacks, removing all of the photographic elements that are the film's strength. All of the copies suffered from an overly noisy soundtrack.

    As the 75th anniversary of the Academy Awards approached (2003), the BFI's NFTVA, the Academy Film Archive, and Twentieth Century-Fox joined together to re-examine Sunrise, and create new preservation elements on the film.

    The film survives in two versions -- the American and European release editions. Sunrise was filmed as a silent, and the commercial need to add a Movietone soundtrack blocked a portion of the left side of the image, placing the compositions slightly off-balance. The European release of Sunrise was silent, so the image was intact. However, this edition used footage filmed by a second camera from slightly different angles, and the editing of the shots was different.

    The best surviving elements of Sunrise have been two di-acetate (non-flammable) prints with the Movietone soundtrack made in 1936, held by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the NFTVA. The UCLA print had to be destroyed in 1992, suffering from advanced decomposition due to vinegar syndrome.

    In 1995, Kevin Brownlow and David Gill of Photoplay Productions prepared a new print of Sunrise as the Channel 4 silent form showing at the 1995 London Film Festival. After examining material held at Twentieth Century-Fox and archives around the world, they chose to work from 35mm material held at the NFTVA. The print was made from a fifth-generation negative that the NFTVA had acquired from the Museum of Modern Art, with sections copied from the 1936 di-acetate print. This project included a stereo recording of a new performance of the Hugo Riesenfeld original score conducted by Carl Davis.

    The NFTVA 1936 print had begun to deteriorate when examined in 2002, so in discussions with Michael Pogorzelski, Director of the Academy Film Archive, and Schawn Belston, Executive Director, Film Preservation, Twentieth Century-Fox, the restoration partners decided that this project should focus on full preservation of this 1936 di-acetate print, including the first restoration of the original soundtrack.

    Upon examination, it was apparent that the original negative to Sunrise was heavily worn when this print was made in 1936, so much of the wear -- scratches and an occasional splice -- were printed in. For some reason, possibly to keep the film in synchronization, each intertitle was preceded and followed by four of five black frames, which were subtly disconcerting during projection. In addition, the surface of the emulsion had begun to oxidize.

    Under the supervision of Technical Manager DR Joao Oliveira, the NFTVA borrowed and examined other nitrate copies of Sunrise. A nitrate negative provided by the Cinematheque Francaise turned out to be a fifth-generation copy made in the late 1940s from a well-worn nitrate print. The Narodni Filmovy Archiv in Prague loaned a nitrate silent print made in 1927. This full-aperture print has Czech titles and inserts, uses second camera footage and uses some shots not present in the American release version. It is also missing almost a reel of footage. A fine-grain master positive held by Twentieth Century-Fox (and thought to descend from the UCLA di-acetate print) was examined by the Academy Film Archive, and determined to be fourth generation.

    The restored version is based on the surviving 1936 print. The new negative was made on a step contact printer to retain maximum sharpness. The 1936 print was somewhat low contrast, so following consultation with Murnau scholar Luciano Berriatua, the contrast of the new negative was adjusted to match the Czech print.

    The 1936 print had four shots with damage, so those shots were carefully replaced with duped sections from the Fox fine-grain by YCM Laboratories in Los Angeles. The original intertitles were scanned by Cinesite, digitally cleaned up and stretched to fit the original length of the titles, allowing elimination of the black frames in the 1936 print. The music score was copied from the 1936 print by 4MC in London. The sound restoration was supervised by the Academy Film Archive at DJ Audio in Los Angeles. Care was taken to leave the flaws and limitations inherent in the original Movietone process, and only remove the ravages of time.

    The project has resulted in the creation of three preservation negatives, two fine-grain protection masters, and new prints. The result is the best possible using the technologies available in 2003.
     
  7. John_S

    John_S Stunt Coordinator

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    I've placed my order-- thanks for the info. I wouldn't have wanted to miss this!
     
  8. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    I pre-ordered this the day it turned up on Amazon UK. It's exciting to have Sunrise on BluRay because I think it's the entire purpose of the format. DVD can't cope with thick film grain and flicker because of the MPEG II constraints. With the codecs and resolution available on BluRay, there's room for it to breathe. It's great to see such a film-like image. There's a shot of O'Brien and Gaynor in the boat near the end with moonlight glimmering in the water around them. It's almost hypnotic here... the DVD doesn't have the same impact. The Movietone track sounds surprisingly good, too.

    I've imported most of MoC's other Murnau releases due to PAL ghosting issues on Kino's editions. While just as much credit is owed to Transit Film and FWMS, I'm impressed by the care put into the releases. Great transfers and scholarly presentations. Even better that nearly all of their releases are region free.

    I look at the ravages Sunrise has received over time as a blessing. Much like Vampyr, all the multi-generation damage and graininess only enhances the film more. Sunrise really has stood up flawlessly and just as impressive as it must have been in 1927.
     
  9. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Thanks for sharing the good news
     
  10. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    Is this the version

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B002J91V3A/ref=s9_sima_gw_s0_p74_i1?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0PVCSMPW3S21XACCGMKV&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=467128533&pf_rd_i=468294

    Because it says it is R2. My Blu-Ray isn't region free.
     
  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The region information on Amazon is incorrect. The disc is open region.
     
  12. JediFonger

    JediFonger Producer

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    thanks Robert =).

    FW Murnau is my fav. silent film director of all time. i've see everything he's done on DVD except for 3 titles that was released recently. here's hoping the rest of his catalog ARRIVES on Blu-Ray asap! =).
     
  13. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Stunt Coordinator

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    Now please PLEASE can we get FAUST on BD with its original orchestral score!! By the way, is it true this SUNRISE blu ray is Region Free?
     
  14. Brian Borst

    Brian Borst Screenwriter

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    Yup, Eureka tries to release all of their Blu-rays region free, and so far only For All Mankind is region locked (because Criterion released the American version).
     
  15. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Hmmm... I'd add this to my just reactivated Blockbuster rental queue, but seems they don't carry this title at all (whether this UK BD or some DVD version).

    _Man_
     
  16. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    The dvd was a limited edition mail away dvd and isn't the blu-ray not a U.S. release, so BBO likely won't carry it.
     
  17. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Stunt Coordinator

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    Beautiful BRD, I've watched my copy three times already. The frame seems a little tortured from stabilization, as if being forced to stay within the 1.20:1, but that's better than having it just all over the place, and mercifully the flicker has been evened out. But the filmic quality still exists; grain, billions of tiny hair-line scratches, an anomaly here and there, it's like watching a very good print. Sound is very good, especially for such an ancient optical track, but does need to be turned down a bit.

    This is what Blu-ray is all about - classics.
     
  18. Dick

    Dick Producer

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    All right, I'll risk sounding dense. Isn't this a PAL release? Wouldn't I need a converter?
     
  19. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    HD is a single worldwide standard and doesn't have NTSC/PAL concerns. Sometimes SD bonus content on some European releases are in PAL, but the vast majority are in NTSC.

    I can't speak for this release's bonus content, but the film itself should be able to play on any BD player since it is open region.
     
  20. Worth

    Worth Screenwriter

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    That's true for the most part, but there are a handful of 1080i/50 European releases - which could be considered HD-PAL - that won't play on most North American players, even if the discs themselves are region-free.
     

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