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A few words about...™ Chinatown-- in Blu-ray

A Few Words About

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#1 of 100 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted March 16 2012 - 05:40 PM

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

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#2 of 100 OFFLINE   Brianruns10

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Posted March 16 2012 - 05:54 PM

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 It was so gorgeous, I was almost grateful for the brief section (the orange grove scene) that had been replaced by a section of film printed later on eastman stock.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.

#3 of 100 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted March 16 2012 - 08:04 PM

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.

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Truly a tragedy that dye transfer didn't survive. Every colour film should be printed in it.

Yeah. Cinema is diminished without it.

#4 of 100 OFFLINE   haineshisway

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Posted March 16 2012 - 09:39 PM

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 of 100 OFFLINE   Douglas Monce

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Posted March 17 2012 - 02:11 AM

Chinatown is one of my top 5 films of all time. I'm afraid I'll have to buy it, flaws and all. Doug
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#6 of 100 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted March 17 2012 - 03:50 AM

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

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#7 of 100 OFFLINE   Mark VH

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Posted March 17 2012 - 04:50 AM

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 of 100 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted March 17 2012 - 04:59 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark VH /t/319347/a-few-words-about-chinatown-in-blu-ray#post_3907744 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.
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

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#9 of 100 OFFLINE   dpippel

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Posted March 17 2012 - 07:23 AM

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.

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#10 of 100 OFFLINE   Robin9

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Posted March 17 2012 - 08:53 AM

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.
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 of 100 OFFLINE   Lord Dalek

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Posted March 17 2012 - 09:15 AM

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

#12 of 100 OFFLINE   Paul Rossen

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Posted March 17 2012 - 10:21 AM

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!)
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 of 100 OFFLINE   John Gilmore

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Posted March 17 2012 - 10:30 AM

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?
John

#14 of 100 OFFLINE   Douglas R

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Posted March 17 2012 - 10:42 AM

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

#15 of 100 OFFLINE   JoeDoakes

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Posted March 19 2012 - 07:24 AM

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.
About whom are you speaking?

#16 of 100 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted March 19 2012 - 02:15 PM

About whom are you speaking?
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.
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#17 of 100 Guest__*

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Posted March 19 2012 - 02:19 PM

He was let go? Oh, man.

#18 of 100 OFFLINE   haineshisway

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Posted March 19 2012 - 03:23 PM

He was let go? Oh, man.
Exactly. They had someone who knew what they were doing and now? Oh, well.

#19 of 100 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted March 19 2012 - 03:45 PM

 /t/319347/a-few-words-about-chinatown-in-blu-ray#post_3908315 About whom are you speaking?
Can the name not be shared with the HTF membership?  

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#20 of 100 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted March 19 2012 - 04:06 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Frezon /t/319347/a-few-words-about-chinatown-in-blu-ray#post_3908544   Can the name not be shared with the HTF membership?  
I would not.  He really was their only hope.   RAH  

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence






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