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

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Jul 3, 2010.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    While the depth of their characters remains sublimely equal, from a technical perspective The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus could not be more different.


    For The Red Shoes the filmmakers searched out the most perfect practical locations on the continent and filled in with studio material shot at Pinewood.


    Black Narcissus on the other hand, is almost entirely fabricated within the walls of Pinewood, using process shots and matte paintings to create its unique world in a "palace" built within the plateaus of a mountain at the top of the world.


    One might compare these two productions with Laurence Olivier's King Henry V, which with the exception of a handful of sequences was shot (wartime) within the hopefully protective studio walls.


    Color, again from the painterly camera of Jack Cardiff, plays a huge role in ways that need to be experienced and not explained, for much of it is pure and visceral.


    An extremely erotic film, far more is occurring just beneath the surface than out in the windy world that is its location.


    Here again is another of what I consider to be a perfect film from The Archers. There are more, which hopefully will find their way to Blu-ray, allowing the uninitiated to revel for the first time in their brilliance.


    Black Narcissus comes to Blu-ray with a different technical path than The Red Shoes.


    While Red Shoes was scanned from its original negatives in 4k, with all restorative efforts being performed at that resolution, Black Narcissus was scanned from a new Eastman interpositive, which I presume was derived optically from the original three-strip material. There is no mention of registration or fit of the records, which could have been dealt with via delicate re-alignment within the optical camera, or alternatively massaged once the interpositive reached the digital domain. Either way, there are no real problems.


    What is interesting here, is to be able to contrast and compare the two methodologies on Blu-ray. And although Blu-ray is heavily down-rezzed from 35mm, those with larger displays should be able to pick out some of the differences. I'd be most interested in seeing these varying attributes discussed. I'll offer nothing more at this point.


    Suffice to say that both The Red Shoes -- which I've spoken of as a perfect Blu-ray, as well as Black Narcissus, which while not "perfect" is still beautiful are terrific Blu-rays.


    Would I have liked to see Black Narcissus go the digital route?


    Without question, as it also could have reached perfection.


    What a wonderful way to being a Powell / Pressburger collection.


    Highly Recommended.


    RAH
     
  2. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Looking forward to this; without wishing to go too far OT, ITV DVD have produced a sublime HD master of The Battle of The River Plate, and it's scheduled to be released in Germany on BD later this year. Hopefully we'll also see it in the US/UK in short order.
     
  3. dpippel

    dpippel HTF Premium Member
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    Thanks for your impressions Robert. I'm also really looking forward to this release. Black Narcissus is probably my favorite Powell and Pressburger film and I'm eager to see what Criterion has done with it on Blu-ray.
     
  4. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Quote:


    Pleased to hear it. Hopefully they scanned from original 8 perf.
     
  5. David Wilkins

    David Wilkins Supporting Actor

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    Robert,


    I'm curious to hear your input about what has been described as "pulsing" or "color breathing", as mentioned in a couple of other threads here, including the HTF BD review. It would be interesting to hear from an authority, as to what caused the issue, and if it could have been remedied.
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The "breathing" could be caused by several factors. A build-up of protective lacquer on the original elements, discoloration or damage to the element through deterioration, or poor processing of a dupe.


    Regardless, it could have been dealt with digitally -- as were problems on The Red Shoes.


    But that involves investment, and apparently either BN is considered a secondary film, or within the restoration concept for the library, thought only goes into work one title at a time, rather than how to handle the collection as a unified work, using funds to best advantage, with a solid overview.


    Short answer, no reason for "breathing," as it could have been dealt with.


    RAH
     
  7. David Wilkins

    David Wilkins Supporting Actor

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    Interesting and informative as always. Thanks, Robert.
     

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