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Citizen Cane region 2 SE - buy it! (1 Viewer)

andrew markworthy

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Those who have the excellent R1 release of Citizen Kane may be wondering about the new R2 release. All I can say is buy it. Here's why:

A different transfer from the R1 version. It's basically a 'digitally slightly cleaned up' version from an interpositive that's been lying in the BFI film vaults. I'm not a film restoration fiend, but IMHO it looks more like a film than the R1 version, that's a bit *too* clean (almost to the point of being antiseptic in places). Sound also is good without being synthesised.

A different commentary track - not better than the R1, but different.

A *superb* 1 hour documentary on the making of the movie. It's basically film-making 101 level, but what's wrong in that? It gives you the clearest, most sensible introduction to the movie I've seen without giving away any major spoilers. Plus, there's some excellent visual illustrations of the special effects, etc.

A break-down of the budget for the making of the movie, and some good written biographies of the principa actors and crew.

Well worth getting.
 
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andrew markworthy

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Not only is the rain there, but on the new edition you can see exactly how the confusion arose over the R1 edition.

For those wondering what Cees and I are going on about, in the scene in Bernstein's office (Chapter 9 in the R2 edition, I think Chapter 10 in the R1) there is rain coming down pretty heavily outside, which you can see through the window - or at least, you *should* be able to see it. In the R1 version, you can see the rain coming down in the top third of the window, but after that the rain seems to disappear. The allegation is that the digital clean-up was over-zealous and erased the rain, thinking it was visual noise.

Okay, cut to the chase - in the new R2 version you can see *exactly* what's going on. Outside is a light source that makes the upper third of the rain brighter, so it's far easier to see. The lower two thirds are visible, but in contrast, this portion is much dimmer than the top third (indeed, you see rather more of the rain running down the window). I think that what Greg Tolland (the cinematographer) was trying to do here was to give an impression of an illuminated sign or logo outside the window, as you see on the side of big corporate HQ buildings. These are always placed high up on buildings, and of course Bernstein, being the big cheese, will have an office high up the building. I think this is yet another example of the meticulous planning that went into CK, right down to the subtle reinforcement by visual cues. It didn't have to be there, but it just adds that slight extra edge.
 

Cees Alons

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Andrew,

Thanks.
And.. one sold to older gentleman there in the back, wearing glasses and a tiny moderator badge.
:)

Cees
 

Gordon McMurphy

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Thank God for the rain! :D

Yes, I watched the DVD last night and I love it. Superb transfer. The contrast is far more accurate in this new transfer than the Lowry-Warner effort - which is, in it's own right, a superb transfer also, but finally the feel of the cinematography is restored. Just look at the scene in the screening room after the "March Of Time" newsreel: in the Lowry-Warner transfer, there is far too much contrast-boosting and the stunning shadow detail is almost oblitorated, but in the Universal transfer, all the of the smokey darkness is retained - excellent!

The Universal transfer also proves that grain is indeed good, as in a side-by-side comparison, the Lowry transfer is, well... grainless - and 'lifeless' in a way; 'antiseptic' may indeed be the word, but the Uni transfer is far more 'film-like' and 'alive'.

But the sound on each DVD is equally superb: free of excessive hiss that plagued the film on VHS/TV for decades and is extremely clear and dynamic for a 60+ year-old mono film.

As Andrew notes, the extras on the Universal are exemplary. I've never been a big fan of Barry Norman, but he nails the film's enduring power and appeal to film buffs here and I really like Ken Barnes' commentaries and his comments and insights here are excellent - a welcome companion piece to Bogdanovich's and Ebert's.

Nice, solid cardboard keepcase for the Universal edition with a fine booklet with notes on the film.

A must-have for fans, in my opinion.


Gordy
 

James Reader

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I'm not sure where they're getting the "unrestored" footage in the restoration featurette. The previous Universal release was bad, but not that bad! Did they feel the need to drag it over the floor first?

However, this bodes well for King Kong, whenever Universal decides to release a special edition over here.
 

Douglas R

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I'm not sure where they're getting the "unrestored" footage in the restoration featurette. The previous Universal release was bad, but not that bad! Did they feel the need to drag it over the floor first?
Exactly what I thought! This is a rather dishonest example of a before and after restoration.
 

Sergio A

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I must admit, I feel there's a lot wrong with this DVD - first off it doesn't include the RKO logo at the beginning!

Also there's quite a bit of print damage towards the end that could have been dealt with much more successfully, even if they didn't have quite asmuch money to spend as Warners did on the R1 release.

I found the commentary and the "making of", without wishing to be unkind, to be very typical of the previous homily-ridden audio efforts by Ken Barnes. They're fine if you've never seen the film beforeor ever read a word about it, but beyond that it feels almost amateurish in its simplicity and in its frequent recourse to very broad generalisations. It really feels like it's aimed at 15 year olds -there's nothing basically wrong with that of course, but i don't think it was intentional.

In particular, the documentary covers all of the same ground that the BBC covered in their excellent THE MAKING OF CITIEN KANE from ten years ago, only in less depth - as they licensed quite a lot of BBC material for the Welles and Wise interviews, why didn't they just get the whole documentary instead? (It probably was waay too expensive, but I can't help thinking that there's a perception that you can't have a ten-year old supplement on a brand new DVD and a fear that it will be less saleable as a result, even though it's supporting a 60-year old movie with practically all of the main participants long gone).

I'm still glad I have it, but personally I prefer the R1, although the radio plays are anice feature (Barnes' area of expertise is in fact in the music recording industry)
 

Hendrik

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"...first off it doesn't include the RKO logo at the beginning!..."

...erm... IIRC there never was an RKO logo at the beginning - the movie starts straight away with the MoT newsreel...

. . . . . .
 

andrew markworthy

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They're fine if you've never seen the film beforeor ever read a word about it
Sergio, what's wrong with that? The whole package is primarily based around introducing newbies to this movie. Are you saying that a classic film such as CK shouldn't try to explain what is a pretty complex film to newcomers?

I agree that the BBC programme from a few years back was good, but it requires a prior knowledge of the movie to get the most out of it. However, the current Barry Norman documentary is arguably a far better introduction if you know nothing, or very little, about the film.

And, notwithstanding your comments on the occasional lapse in quality, I think this is a far better transfer than the squeaky clean R1 transfer. It at least looks like a *film*.
 

Douglas R

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erm... IIRC there never was an RKO logo at the beginning - the movie starts straight away with the MoT newsreel...
That's not right. The R1 starts with the RKO logo. The MOT newsreel doesn't start until after the titles and the scene of Kane's death.

I've been comparing the R1 and the R2 versions and I'm mystified as to why people should prefer the picture quality of the R2. The R1 version is far sharper with much better contrast, although I accept that on the R2 you can now see the rain falling down the window. The R2 may look more like film but that happens to also include numerous defects such a shaky image, scratches, too much contrast and far too much grain. The R1 version looks stunning and that's the one I will watch in future.
 

James Reader

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Well, see the current John Landis/Animal House thread over on the main software board.

It's not "far too mcuh grain" if that is what the film looked like when originally presented. I, of course, don't know how the film looked when it was first released - I doubt many people do.

However I'm in the camp that sharper doesn't mean better in some cases. I am content to sit on the fence regarding the Citizan Kane releases. But I doubt the film looked like the Lowry restoration at any point in it's history.

Either way, coming from Universal UK, Citizen Kane (r2) is a stunning release and Universal should be praised. When all is said and done, they've spent money on making a "Special Edition" release (including restoration) for a release that will only be released in the UK.

I think the quality of this release bodes well for the future, and who knows, perhaps Universal UK will release a 70th Anniversary Edition of 'King Kong' which will be worth owning while we wait for the R1 Warner release.
 

Gordon McMurphy

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However I'm in the camp that sharper doesn't mean better in some cases. I am content to sit on the fence regarding the Citizan Kane releases. But I doubt the film looked like the Lowry restoration at any point in it's history.
I agree wholeheartedly. The Warner edition has extreme contrast-boosting and the fact that all grain has been removed is indicative enough of Lowry's OTT approach to 'restoration'. The Universal edition captures the film's dark, foreboding quality far better. Sure some scenes are grainy, but 35mm prints of the film have always had some grainy shots. I'm not knocking the Warner/Lowry transfer - it has it's strengths, but the Universal transfer is more to my tastes.


Gordy
 

Sergio A

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I must say, the responses to the R2 version are really fascinating - I hadn't realised how much people seem to criticise the Lowry approach.

Personally, I have all the transfers that they have workedon (that I know of)- ZHIVAGO, GONE WITH THE WIND(R2 only), SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, MILDRED PIERCE, LITTLE WOMEN, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, SUNSET BOULEVARD, ROMAN HOLIDAY - have I missed anything? I'm sure I have...

The Universal/Laureate "restoration" seems to have simply taken a decent print from the BFI and run it through fairly standard DNR, and chopped off the RKO logo in the bargain. There's a fair amount of debrisand frankly quite a bitof frame jitter which I found dishartening.

Laureate specialises in releasing Public Domain titles in the UK (usually in NTSC to get round the fact that PD doesn't actually exists as such in the UK) and I really do think that there's a sort of cheapness about the new DVD frankly - the documentary is also very badly edited.

Also, wasn't it a bit cheeky to use the same font for the menu screen that was used by Warner for the R1..?

It does look very good, but the issue of grain is one I find a bit off- I've seen CITIZEN KANE probably half a dozen times on the big screen and I think that the R2 version is "grainier" than any of the theatrical releases I have been to - besides which, you project a 35mm frame to several hundred times its size, and you bet it's grainy. However, it's not if you view it on a steenbeck for instance, and i think that THAT should be the standard for when you're watching iton a television, even a nive 36" screen.

Having said that, I also agree with Robert Harris' insistance that inherent grain NOT be removed- it's a question of degree surely. And while I mention Mr Harris, anybody know why the original soundtrack to VERTIGO wasn't included on the DVD? Now THAT was something I really found irritating.
 

Gordon McMurphy

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And while I mention Mr Harris, anybody know why the original soundtrack to VERTIGO wasn't included on the DVD? Now THAT was something I really found irritating.
Because it doesn't exist anymore. I'm no expert on the film (any takers?! :D ) but I believe a lot of the sound elements were 'gone' by the time the restoration research began. New tracks for foley effect and the score had to be created, ie. newly recorded in a studio. I don't really know why 5.1 was chosen as the new mix and the original (mono?) mix was not also created. Someone here will know the answer! ;)


Gordy
 

Damin J Toell

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Because it doesn't exist anymore. I'm no expert on the film (any takers?! ) but I believe a lot of the sound elements were 'gone' by the time the restoration research began. New tracks for foley effect and the score had to be created, ie. newly recorded in a studio. I don't really know why 5.1 was chosen as the new mix and the original (mono?) mix was not also created. Someone here will know the answer!
There was indeed an original mono mix available, and it was included on the digital tracks of the restored laserdisc that Universal released. They declined to include the mono track on the DVD in order not to annoy LD purchasers; by leaving something exclusive to the LD, it was presumably meant to make LD purchasers not feel as upset for having spent so much more.

DJ
 

Gordon McMurphy

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Was that the offial line from Universal?! :D

What was the source for the original mono track for the Laserdisc?

Great film - great restoration - great DVD transfer. But if I hear one more person ask for an anamorphic reissue...! ;)


Gordy
 

Damin J Toell

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Actually, on the DVD, we wanted the studio to put what was left of the original mono track optical on one track and run the stereo on the other. But they didn't want to do that, because it wasn't on the laserdisc.
Right. So the mono track wasn't on the laserdisc, and then it wasn't included on the DVD so that the DVD wasn't somehow "better" than the LD (again, so as not to upset LD purchasers). If it had happened, however, the source would've apparently been the surviving 35mm optical tracks presented as is.

DJ
 

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