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

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Mar 16, 2012.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I love Roman Polanski's Chinatown.

    It is, without a doubt, one of the finest films ever made.

    A 1974 production, shot on 5254 in Panavision, and along with The Godfather Part II, which was the final production to go through the dye transfer process, a film that made it through towards the end.

    It was magnificently photographed by John Alonzo.

    But although the color looks beautiful on this Blu-ray, the disc just doesn't look film-like. There's nothing horrific going on here. It just doesn't look correct. Possibly a bit too much softening or de-graining. I can't be certain.

    There are shots of Mr. Nicholson that have no visible grain whatsoever, but grain can be seen, albeit lightly, in the background, and in neutral areas.

    This also doesn't look like a recent transfer, as there is more image movement than one might normally see in a current image harvest.

    The storyline of Chinatown from screenwriter Robert Towne is brilliant, and you'll receive no information in this thread about it.

    Acting is superb,

    Everything is superb. It's one of my favorite films. It just doesn't quite look like I believe it should.

    Do I sound troubled? I am. I cannot tell you have much I wanted to love this Blu-ray.

    That said, and let me make this point loud and clear, 99% of viewers are going to love this Blu-ray. It's colorful, clean, and well...

    pretty.

    From a final user perspective, it has everything going for it. Could it have been better?

    Absolutely.

    Image - 3.5

    Audio - 4.5

    Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. Brianruns10

    Brianruns10 Second Unit

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    Robert,
    I had the great fortune to view an original dye transfer print of this a few years back. It was so gorgeous, I was almost grateful for the brief section (the orange grove scene) that had been replaced by a section of film printed later on eastman stock. Seeing one, then the other then going back again really revealed just how gorgeous the process was.
    Truly a tragedy that dye transfer didn't survive. Every colour film should be printed in it.
     
    cannon1 likes this.
  3. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    RAH, get yourself over to the AFI library and read the interview transcript with Stanley Cortez. About one-fifth to one-fourth of the film was shot by him. For example, the restaurant scene where Gittes questions Mrs. Mulwray. Note how Faye Dunaway is photographed in this scene as opposed to how she's photographed in other scenes. "Different woman," according to Cortez. He talks a little about portraiture. He was replaced by John Alonzo. There is a difference in the footage. Perhaps that's what you're seeing that doesn't add up?
    I'll buy the Blu-ray even though it may have selective DNR because the film is that important to me.
    [​IMG]
    Yeah. Cinema is diminished without it.
     
  4. haineshisway

    haineshisway Screenwriter

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    I'm looking forward to it, but my fear here is that it's the same transfer as used for the last DVD. That's what happened with To Catch a Thief - the latter would have looked hugely better had it had a new, fresh transfer (it looks pretty good as it is). And Chinatown should look amazing and if it doesn't then it seems like they used what they had. Not a good day when the man who was responsible for the beauties that White Christmas, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and The Ten Commandments is let go and it doesn't bode well for the future.
     
  5. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    Chinatown is one of my top 5 films of all time. I'm afraid I'll have to buy it, flaws and all.
    Doug
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    For the record, I'm not suggesting that it not be purchased. I'm just saddened by the fact that what I'm seeing is not what it might have been. And to reference the Stanley Cortez mention, film is film. Different DPs can do many varying things with a long strip of emulsion with holes on the side, but within certain parameters of filtration, optics and processing, 5254 is still 5254, and grain is grain unless one works to heighten it. The basic characteristics of that grain should still be there in a fully exposed, well shot piece of film, regardless of who is calling the shots.

    RAH
     
  7. Mark VH

    Mark VH Stunt Coordinator

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    So, in other words, it's right up Jeff Wells' alley. Lovely.
    In all seriousness, this is a major disappointment. Also a Top 5 film for me, and to hear that it looks like anything less than it should is a real heartbreaker. Sigh, at least we finally got a proper French Connection release. Small victories.
     
  8. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I believe Mr. Wells will love this, and I have great respect for Mr. Wells. We agree on certain things and agree to disagree on others.

    I'm thinking that the base transfer for this release probably goes back to around 2005-6, and was probably the basis for the earlier DVD. Unfortunately, or fortunately, a great deal has occurred technologically since that time.

    As another aside, the jacket in which this Blu-ray is delivered, is one of the prettiest I've seen in some time. Definitely not a throw-away. That said, I would have preferred a new image harvest.

    RAH
     
  9. dpippel

    dpippel HTF Premium Member
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    I was really looking forward to this release and am very disappointed to hear that it hasn't been given the attention that it so richly deserves. I may have to just hold on to my DVD and hope for a proper treatment at some point in the future.
     
  10. Robin9

    Robin9 Screenwriter

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    The DVD is good. I think I'll wait for a future re-release too. (There's certainly no shortage of discs to buy at present!)
     
  11. Lord Dalek

    Lord Dalek Screenwriter

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    Well Chinatown looks very good whenever HDNet runs it so I'm not going to join the shrieking violets club here yet.
     
  12. Paul Rossen

    Paul Rossen Supporting Actor

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    I have the last DVD as well and find it quite good. If the upcoming Blu isn't a major improvement I'll hold onto the DVD and save some $$$$.
     
  13. John Gilmore

    John Gilmore Stunt Coordinator

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    I was looking forward to purchasing this on release-day. I think I might wait for a price drop.
    I hate to bring this up, but 2 years from now (2014) will be the film's 40th Anniversary. Anyone want to wager a bet that a new transfer will be done then?
     
  14. Douglas R

    Douglas R Screenwriter

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    Sounds like the same master used for the HD TV broadcasts, which doesn't look brilliant.
     
  15. JoeDoakes

    JoeDoakes Premium
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    About whom are you speaking?
     
  16. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

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    Why do you think he was talking to someone?
    Looked like a general response to the current topic.
    Crap, never mind I thought it said To whom are you speaking.
     
  17. Guest

    He was let go? Oh, man.
     
  18. haineshisway

    haineshisway Screenwriter

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    Exactly. They had someone who knew what they were doing and now? Oh, well.
     
  19. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Can the name not be shared with the HTF membership?
     
  20. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I would not. He really was their only hope.

    RAH
     

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