422 The Last Emperor

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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david hare
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#151 Post by david hare » Sun Feb 10, 2008 10:11 pm

Gregory wrote:Then again many major artists seem to think of their works as in-progress until they die, and nothing any of us can say or do will change this. I don't have a problem with such tinkering in theory (it's up for debate how often this kind of thing yields worthwhile results) as long as the version with which the artist was originally satisfied remains equally available.
And there's the rub! In this context the five box four version (plus Workprint) Blade Runner is a peerless example of a work of 25 years of tinkering which has however really paid off. If nothing else the new color timing and printing seem to massively enrich the movie with an entirely deeper palette of secondary color -BUT it is at least accompanied by the 82 and 92 versions, all three of which are pretty similar in terms of pared down primaries and grayness. And one simply can't argue about the added refinements to the image and soundtrack. The contrast of the versions is fascinating. And while I've never had much time for Ridley per se, this is one movie which must be the happiest "accident" of inspired collaboration - Cronenweth, the Prod designers (and the whole era of early Metal design from which the conceptual architecture sprung) Vangelis' very early, groundbreaking synths, and the earliest (to my knowledge) film adaptation of Philip Dick, via - as it turns out - William S Burroughs for the title!

Blade Runner seems to be a high level pop icon par excellence which was destined for this process of multiple refinements. Although I cannot imagine it ever looking and sounding any better.

As for Storaro, what if anything has Berto had to say about the whole shebang? On AR grounds alone I dont have a gripe with Emperor (considering I now realize we originally saw it anyway in 2.2) but that color! Look again at 1900 or Apoc or Tucker or Sheltering Sky - agree with schreck, the guy seems to have lost his marbles.

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MichaelB
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#152 Post by MichaelB » Mon Feb 11, 2008 3:26 am

HerrSchreck wrote:there's also the issue of who the film belongs to. If a painter has sold his canvasses to someone (or the museum) it no longer belongs to him. If Storaro doesn't own the rights to the film why is he given carte blanche for modification? If a painter owns all his own paintings (the way zappa owned all his masters, and tried-- once, to furious howls which forced him to reverse him self-- to add new bass & drums to we're only in it for the money) he can wheedle till the cows come home.
Which is why I won my argument with the Quay Brothers over including their first film Nocturna Artificialia on their DVD - they were dead against it, but the BFI owned it outright, so they couldn't do anything to stop me. (We did compromise by tucking it away on the extras disc, though, and I kept my promise not to cut out the bits in the interview where they slagged it off).

On the other hand, they were able to veto the inclusion of other early titles - and I've no idea if these will ever see the light of day again.

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david hare
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#153 Post by david hare » Mon Feb 11, 2008 3:52 am

Surely the casa impossiblis of all this crap is the fucking estate of Gregory Markopoulos, now managed by his fucking "partner" - in the lengthy vein of fucking Maria Riva, Beatrice fucking Welles, fucking Mylene Bresson, Ava fucking Astiare, et al...)

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HerrSchreck
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#154 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Feb 11, 2008 4:27 am

This is truly the first topic I really wish the CC producer who handled this project (or whoever okayed the modif) would come onto the forum and have a brief Q&A.

Interesting on how its a film I don't really care much for. But given their propensity for "director approved editions"/"cinematographer-supervised telecine" (creating the possibility of getting "pushed around" a bit so to speak by revisionist desire via changing artistic temperaments of aging artists), and stated desire to restore these vintage films as much as possible to their premiere condition (against which this release leaves a black mark), it's a possibly hot topic vs their mission statement.

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MichaelB
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#155 Post by MichaelB » Mon Feb 11, 2008 6:24 am

HerrSchreck wrote:Interesting on how its a film I don't really care much for. But given their propensity for "director approved editions"/"cinematographer-supervised telecine" (creating the possibility of getting "pushed around" a bit so to speak by revisionist desire via changing artistic temperaments of aging artists), and stated desire to restore these vintage films as much as possible to their premiere condition (against which this release leaves a black mark), it's a possibly hot topic vs their mission statement.
An exemplary current example is the new Second Sight DVD of Joseph Losey's Don Giovanni, which I believe is a clone of the French edition.

They provide ample evidence (in the form of facsimiles of blistering letters setting out numerous objections) that Losey hated the original Dolby Stereo mix, and there's no doubt at all that the two new mixes sourced from the original 16-track master (one replicating the original speaker configuration, the other a truly mindblowing DTS 5.1 96/24 remix, both supervised by the original sound recordist) are vastly superior for all sorts of reasons...

...but they also included the original Dolby mix, for the benefit of people who don't like post-original-release tinkering.

(That said, the PAL transfer process has pushed it up a semitone, while the two new mixes have been pitch-corrected, so it's not a perfect replica of the original 1979 version).

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david hare
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#156 Post by david hare » Mon Feb 11, 2008 4:18 pm

Why on earth couldnt they have pitch corrected the two channel track? I can even do this with the "truePal" faclitiy on my crappy version of WinDVD.

BTW the rise in pitch is actually closer to a full tone! Once you've heard it - like the opening jitterbug sequence in Mulholland Dr - it's like chalk on a blackboard. (And I only have relative pitch not perfect pitch - or as someone said perfect bitch.)

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MichaelB
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#157 Post by MichaelB » Mon Feb 11, 2008 6:44 pm

davidhare wrote:Why on earth couldnt they have pitch corrected the two channel track? I can even do this with the "truePal" faclitiy on my crappy version of WinDVD.
I've no idea - maybe they assumed that anyone who wanted to listen to the original Dolby Stereo even after hearing about Losey's total contempt for it (expressed at the time of the original mix, not years later in a fit of revisionism) was probably so tin-eared that they wouldn't notice?

Or maybe the phasing problems in the original track (a side-effect of using a miking technique for the live recordings of the recitatives that the Dolby system didn't get on with) sounded even worse after pitch-shifting?

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tavernier
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#158 Post by tavernier » Tue Feb 12, 2008 3:12 pm

If you want to buy it a week early, Landmark Theatres is selling it Feb. 19:
LANDMARK THEATRES TO OFFER EXCLUSIVE ON BERTOLUCCI’S ‘THE LAST EMPEROR’ DVD

LOS ANGELES (February 12, 2008) – Landmark Theatres patrons will get an exclusive, one-week opportunity to purchase Criterion’s 4-disc special edition release of Bernardo Bertolucci’s gorgeous epic, THE LAST EMPEROR before its wide release on February 26. Landmark, known for its in-theatre retail sales of uncommon and hard to find DVDs, books and CDs, will stock THE LAST EMPEROR at its theatres nationwide one week early, starting February 19.

Bernardo Bertolucci's THE LAST EMPEROR won nine Academy Awards® unexpectedly sweeping every category in which it was nominated—quite a feat for a challenging, multilayered epic directed by an Italian and starring an international cast. Yet the power and scope of the film was, and remains, undeniable—the life of Emperor Pu Yi, who took the throne at age three, in 1908, before witnessing decades of cultural and political upheaval, within and without the walls of the Forbidden City. Recreating Ching dynasty China with astonishing detail and unparalleled craftsmanship by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti, THE LAST EMPEROR is also an intimate character study of one man reconciling personal responsibility and political legacy.

The film was previously only available in a basic, one-disc version, and has been out of print for years. The new release features four discs of material, including an all-new, restored high-definition digital transfer of the film, supervised and approved by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, commentary by director Bernardo Bertolucci, producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Mark Peploe, and composer-actor Ryuichi Sakamoto, multiple documentaries, interviews with Composer David Byrne and Bertolucci, and more.

The DVD will be available for purchase at all participating Landmark Theatres locations for $49.99 (nearly $10.00 off the SRP) starting February 19.

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Barmy
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#159 Post by Barmy » Tue Feb 12, 2008 3:22 pm

Yes, it's certainly worth paying $8 over the amazon price to get it a week early. #-o :| =P~ :?

EDIT: plus presumably you have to pay sales tax. :shock: :evil: :twisted: :roll:
Last edited by Barmy on Tue Feb 12, 2008 6:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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domino harvey
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#160 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 12, 2008 5:37 pm

This is an outrage! How dare they change Criterion's vision of it streeting on February 26 by cropping a full week from the release date!

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zedz
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#161 Post by zedz » Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:15 pm

This film is really not a favourite, so I've only just looked at the Beaver comparison caps, but I have to agree that, on the basis of these, the Criterion colour scheme looks nothing like what I saw on the big screen. In fact, none of the comparisons remotely resembles the colours I recall - certainly not the queasy green-dominated R2.

Maybe it looks better in action. If you remove the eye-candy factor from this film there's not much left, in my opinion, so if those caps are representative this release isn't doing anybody any favours.

kevyip1
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#162 Post by kevyip1 » Thu Feb 14, 2008 12:51 pm

The Optimum disc is not included in DVDBeaver's comparison, but I own the Optimum disc, and I can tell you it looks very similar to the French Gaumont disc. IOW, Criterion's picture quality is clearly the winner and is a revelation, and now I'm strongly inclined to purchase this somewhat overpriced disc set. The cropping is a concern, and, yes, the colors don't look exactly like what I recall seeing in the theater, but this is, after all, a Bertolucci/Storaro approved transfer, and I trust their judgment over my 20-year-old recollection.

Also, Gary Tooze told me the great making-of documentary on the Optimum disc is also available on the Criterion disc.

Gary also said the Bertolucci/Thomas/Sakamoto audio commentary on the Criterion disc contains a mixture of comments from the Optimum disc and newly-recorded comments.

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exte
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#163 Post by exte » Thu Feb 14, 2008 8:06 pm

I'd gladly add this to my collection, but not for the price they're asking. Can't they have just a solo disc version to sell as well? Jeez...

kevyip1
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#164 Post by kevyip1 » Thu Feb 14, 2008 10:17 pm

I don't like the laserdisc pricing either ($69.99 SRP), but the picture does look better than the other DVDs. Let's hope the extras are good.

Some of you criticized Storaro's "revisionistic" attempt. The photography was perfect as it was in the first place, so why do you think he would feel the need to revise it? It looked beautiful when I saw it in the theater 20 years ago, and the Criterion screencaps show that it still looks beautiful. Yes, the colors look different from what we recall, but they still look good, certainly the best they ever look on DVD. The greyishness is indeed more pronounced in some screencaps, but the redness and flesh tones also look better. This is a FLAT OUT better video transfer than the Optimum disc, and I'm amazed none of you can see that.

The Storaro interview discusses only the cropping issue (and I did say earlier that I was concerned by it). My comments were mainly about the color scheme on the Criterion disc, which some of you wrongheadedly criticized. The colors looked good 20 years ago and they look good now. They look the best they've ever looked on DVD; you people have to admit at least that.

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jsteffe
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#165 Post by jsteffe » Fri Feb 15, 2008 1:47 am

Yes, it looks better than it has ever looked before on video, and I'll even cut Storaro a little slack as to how he wants his own film to look on DVD. Perhaps there were some very precise color effects he wanted to achieve then that he can only do now, though I'm skeptical of that.

What I can say is that the film doesn't look like I saw it in the theater when it came out. I saw it shortly after it opened in Los Angeles, at one of the theaters in Universal City in a 70mm blowup. The projection was, for that time, state-of-the-art. I sat slack-jawed most of the time--I remember very clearly thinking to myself "This is the most beautiful color film I have ever seen." It had such vividness and tactility, especially in the Forbidden City segment at the beginning of the film. Yes there were weaknesses in the acting, but the photography and production design were unparalleled.

Also, the color scheme was definitely different during the prison "re-education" portions of the film. The colors were not so obviously desaturated, and there were more pronounced blue-gray undertones in the image.

I need to withold final judgment until I see the DVD itself, but the screencaps just don't begin to convey that unforgettable richness. I'm afraid the dazzlement might have vanished in the telecine lab.

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TheRanchHand
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#166 Post by TheRanchHand » Wed Feb 20, 2008 4:42 pm

Just picked a copy of this up here in Los Angeles. Looks like it came out a little early. :D

HUGE box. Even looks thicker than The Seven Samurai. Will try and watch the film over the weekend. Haven't seen it in about 10 years so looking forward to it.

kevyip1
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#167 Post by kevyip1 » Thu Feb 21, 2008 3:01 pm

TheRanchHand wrote:Just picked a copy of this up here in Los Angeles. Looks like it came out a little early. :D

HUGE box. Even looks thicker than The Seven Samurai. Will try and watch the film over the weekend. Haven't seen it in about 10 years so looking forward to it.
Must be a really thick book(let). I'm still amazed by this royal treatment given to this title. They probably want to trump the UK Optimum edition and the earlier R1 edition.

Still, this should've been a blu-ray release. It's just sad that an SD release comes out right at the moment Blu-ray won the format war.

I emailed Mulvaney about the possibility of a blu-ray, but no reply yet. No reply is good! That means they are probably thinking about it. If there was no possibility, they would've replied me right away.

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#168 Post by starmanof51 » Thu Feb 21, 2008 3:18 pm

kevyip1 wrote:I emailed Mulvaney about the possibility of a blu-ray, but no reply yet. No reply is good! That means they are probably thinking about it. If there was no possibility, they would've replied me right away.
It's nice that they do sometimes respond to inquiries but frequently they don't. Don't take the lack of a quick response or lack of any response at all to signify anything other than luck of the draw.

In the meantime I've ordered a used copy of the Optimum for a relative pittance and am content.

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Ivy Mike
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#169 Post by Ivy Mike » Thu Feb 21, 2008 6:05 pm

Saw this at the Egyptian the other night and am strongly considering picking up the DVD. Unfortunately, I have never seen the film before, and so I wouldn't be too familiar with changes in the coloring (noticed the cropping on shots that people have discussed so far) - that's too bad if the color was substantially changed, although I must say the cinematography was still incredibly impressive.

Where in L.A. did you pick it up, and for how much? I think I'll save money and grab it from Deep Discount, but just curious. It would be nice to have this one on high def, but I can't imagine that's gonna happen anytime soon, even with the format war over now - will be interesting to see how and when Criterion decides to go forth with high def plans.

PNeski
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#170 Post by PNeski » Fri Feb 22, 2008 7:25 pm

It's funny that there's a lot about what Storaro did with the color in this thread. While I think he's nuts to crop everything to 2.01, even if the "last Supper" is that aspect ratio, none of his other paintings are that size, the New DVD is worth getting just for the extras, which are great!

As for the color, I think its better most of the time. The Pal versions (English+French) are better only in certain scenes, and are too yellow, While Storaro might have lost his mind about composition (check the third book in his series, which is full of double exposures), I feel he still knows what he's doing when it comes to everything else like color and light.

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#171 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Feb 25, 2008 10:27 am

Home Media Magazine has an article on a screening of the film with some of the folks from Criterion showing up.

Narshty
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#172 Post by Narshty » Mon Feb 25, 2008 4:49 pm

It's Peter Becker's favourite film? Really?

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Darth Lavender
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#173 Post by Darth Lavender » Mon Feb 25, 2008 5:17 pm

For what little it counts; I definitely remember seeing this on VHS and noticing how green the prison scenes were.

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Jean-Luc Garbo
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#174 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Mon Feb 25, 2008 9:40 pm

Narshty wrote:It's Peter Becker's favourite film? Really?
Evidently he must have been bugged by the OAR as much as Storaro.

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TheRanchHand
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#175 Post by TheRanchHand » Tue Feb 26, 2008 12:19 am

Where in L.A. did you pick it up, and for how much? I think I'll save money and grab it from Deep Discount, but just curious.
Sorry, just caught this. I saw it in a Best Buy on the Westside. But noticed it was only in that one. I have caught some early releases (up to two weeks for Grey Gardens and Drunken Angel) at Barnes And Noble.

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