A Few Words About A few words about...™ The Grand Illusion -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Jul 26, 2012.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I believe I've noted in the past, with a certain tone of chagrin, that "film restoration" is seemingly one of the most overused terms when it comes to entities releasing catalog, or even worse, classic cinema for home theater use.

    There are certain films that I love, others that I like, and a certain number that don't really show up on my radar. But when a film meaningful to me arrives as "restored," my antennae are read to go. I should also say that it's unfortunate that I prepare myself for the worst, especially for films that I love.

    Case in point.

    Lionsgate's new Blu-ray of the great Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion (1937), via the current rights holder StudioCanal.

    My first thought, and concern, was how did Lionsgate get this classic away from The Criterion Collection? Shortly after that thought came another. How badly will they mess it up?

    The tale of LGI's original camera negative is both circuitous and long. The negative was stolen by the Nazi's during their occupation of Paris in WWII, and taken to Berlin as war booty. From there it made it's way to the Moscow archive. In the late 1950s Renoir made a search for his original nitrates from the pre-war era, and while some examples were located, LGI was among the missing, and presumed destroyed.

    What had survived were dupes and alternate versions. None wonderful, some terrible. There was a French restoration based upon held elements, from which was derived a very decent version of the film, but obviously not original.

    Returned by the Russians, Renoir's original negative made it's way to the La Cinematheque Toulouse, where it apparently sat for a time, until a search and inventory was performed. It was then transferred to a proper nitrate vault for safety, and virtually immediately thoughts of restoration began.

    This is usually the moment when things go wrong.

    Very wrong. Brings to mind The Alamo.

    Dependent upon who is behind the restoration, the purpose of said restoration, and then intent, financing, and respect of the film, everything is up in the air.

    I've sampled enough to Grand Illusion, a film that I've seen dozens of times, to realize, even at the main title, that I was seeing something extraordinary, for the first time.

    Beautifully scanned, with absolute respect for the look of cinema, blacks, shadow detail and the use of gray scale. Digital clean-up -- where anything can go wrong -- audio restoration.

    I could go on.

    Suffice to say that not only have I come away thrilled, but those antennae that I mentioned earlier are eagerly awaiting the next joint effort between Lionsgate (which has gained an entirely new respect from these quarters) and StudioCanal.

    There are very, very slight scratches visible on the very far right side of the frame in some scenes.

    And I like this.

    When I see this, it tells me that whomever was overseeing the project, was not only in sync with those overseeing the video master and final work toward Blu-ray, but understands what they're looking at, and has respect for the film and the filmmaker.

    I can't tell you how many people would say to themselves... "Oh, a little scratch."

    And then crop the right side of the frame, losing important information.

    Okay. Simple. Blunt.

    Lionsgate's new Blu-ray of Renoir's Grand Illusion is as perfect as it can possibly be. No downsides. Just gorgeous!

    One of the greatest and most important films ever made, has received absolutely proper treatment.

    $26 on Amazon.

    Run. Do not walk, and order this film.

    A brilliant motion picture of the highest order, and a perfect Blu-ray in every respect.

    Image - 4.75

    Audio - 4.5

    Very Highly Recommended!

    RAH
     
  2. Doctorossi

    Doctorossi Supporting Actor

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    :dance:
    La Grande Illusion is in my personal top 20 and I'm counting the seconds until this disc arrives at my doorstep.
    Thanks for the report, Robert!
     
  3. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    A Lionsgate restoration that Robert Harris actually not only likes, but LOVES?!? Hell has, indeed, frozen over!!!
     
  4. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    This is just a port of StudioCanal's European disc, right? Still, kudos to Lionsgate for not going in with blunt instruments on the encode and botching everything up.
     
  5. Doctorossi

    Doctorossi Supporting Actor

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    It's the same transfer (and, probably, encode) from the European disc, but this release is without a couple of brief extras items that the European disc includes.
     
  6. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    Well if LionsGate can't be praised for the restoration, I guess they can at least get a pat on the back for not screwing up the port-over! :D
     
  7. Filmgazer

    Filmgazer Agent

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    I enjoyed reading your enthusiastic review of "La Grande Illusion" on Blu-ray from Studio Canal. But I was surprised that you didn't mention the apparent lack of film grain in the transfer. I'm basing this on the screen-grab comparisons in the review at www.dvdbeaver.com. Especially when compared to the same shots from the previous DVD from Criterion, there seems to have been a possible over-use of DNR on the part of Studio Canal. Could you take a look at the screen-grabs and comment on this please, as I certainly value your expert opinion. Thanks very much!
     
  8. Derrick King

    Derrick King Supporting Actor

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    Since StudioCanal has finally figured out how to correctly do Blu-ray, it'd be nice if they'd go ahead and redo RAN and CONTEMPT
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    You're correct.

    The Criterion SD release has heavier grain. If that happens to be your preference, I'd steer clear of the Lionsgate release. Much finer grain structure.

    Which also appears to be accurate. Eye of the beholder.

    RAH
     
  10. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    This comparison might prove useful. I have Studio Canal's UK BD release - exactly the same transfer as the Lionsgate disc - and it is absolutely gorgeous.
     
  11. Filmgazer

    Filmgazer Agent

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    Thanks for the quick reply and hearty recommendation!
     
  12. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Oh, but heavier GRAIN is always better. Must have that ugly HEAVY grain even if it was not part of the original negative. Bring on that GRAIN, baby :) Seriously, I can't wait to see this, and thank HEAVEN for little grain - as it should be. Fine grain. Just like - FILM.
     
  13. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    But always keep in mind, if duping...

    Little grains get bigger every day...

    RAH
     
  14. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    :)
     
  15. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    A few years back StudioCanal decided that it wanted to consolidate its licensing rights to one company in each territory to better brand themselves worldwide. Therefore, all titles StudioCanal had licensed to The Criterion Collection, which included Grand Illusion, were discontinued and Lionsgate became the distributor for all films to which StudioCanal has rights to in the US.
     
  16. Ignatius

    Ignatius Stunt Coordinator

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    Good to see Lionsgate actually releasing something from StudioCanal. Pity they licensed the collection and then sat on it. And even better to see that they don't appear to have tampered with the master they were given.
    The fear of DNR combined with the persistent use of dupes seems to have led to a sense that heavier grain conveys a sort of "authenticity". I do admit that I like the tactile quality that heavier grain lends to some films, but the original intent is always more important than my personal preferences.
     
  17. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    The Fear of DNR. DNR has become the "communism" of now.
     
  18. Doctorossi

    Doctorossi Supporting Actor

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    The question is begged... who is the HUAC of "the wax scare"?
     
  19. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Contrary to popular belief, Lionsgate has "sat on" very little from the StudioCanal Collection. Lionsgate can only release titles that a) StudioCanal has released, and b) they have the rights to release in the US.

    SC has released (or announced) the following in Europe, but only the bold titles are ones with LG having US rights:

    3 Days of the Condor (US: Paramount; BD available)
    Belle de jour (US: Criterion; BD available)
    Breathless (US: Criterion; BD available)
    Le cercle rouge (US: Criterion; BD available)
    Contempt
    The Deer Hunter (US: Universal; BD available)
    Delicatessen
    The Elephant Man (US: Paramount; no BD yet)
    The Go-Getween (US: Sony; no BD yet)
    The Graduate (US: MGM; BD available)
    Le grande illusion
    The Ladykillers (1956)
    Last Year at Marienbad (US: Criterion; BD available)
    The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (US: Criterion; no BD yet)
    Mulholland Drive (US: Universal; no BD yet)
    The Pianist (US: Universal; no BD yet)
    Pierrot le fou (was released by Criterion but is now OOP; probably waiting for availability of Criterions to go down)
    Port of Shadows (recently announced for EU release in October)
    Ran
    Senso (US: Criterion; BD available)
    That Obscure Object of Desire (recently announced for EU release in October)
    The Third Man
    To Be or Not to Be (1942) (US: Criterion; no BD yet)
    The Trial (1962) (recently announced for EU release in October)



    For the record, that's 6/7 of the currently released SCC European titles that Lionsgate has released out of the ones that legally can, with 3 more announced in Europe (who seem to get them a few months earlier on average). Then there are 14 titles that Lionsgate cannot release because SC does not have US rights.



    Keep in mind that Le grande illusion is coming out a few months after several of its EU releases. Port of Shadows, That Obscure Object of Desire and The Trial will hopefully get US releases by Q2 of 2013.



    There are other StudioCanal owned titles that they've released/announced that are not part of the SCC that Lionsgate does have the right to release. They are:



    Brighton Rock (1947) (MOD DVD-R released in US by LG)


    The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (No US release from LG)


    The Four Musketeers (1974) (DVD released in US by LG)


    Kind Hearts and Coronets (DVD released in US by LG)


    The Lavender Hill Mob (DVD released in US by LG)


    The Man in the Whiote Suit (DVD released in US by LG)


    The Man Who Fell to Earth (No US release from LG)


    The Three Musketeers (1973) (DVD released in US by LG)



    There might be a couple others of these non-SCC titles that I missed.
     
  20. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    If it's about branding, it's funny they prefer Lionsgate to Criterion...
    I look forward to the rest of the SC Hitchcock titles coming out someday. Ironically I just bought the Criterion DVD of this for under $10 this week, so I guess I got a deal on an OOP from someone looking to upgrade.
    Looking forward to viewing all that grain*!
    *"All That Grain" is the lost Bob Fosse musical about film restoration
     

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