Flipside 004: Herostratus

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Flipside 004: Herostratus

#1 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:21 am

I'll post the full specs when I get them, but in the meantime Screenonline has entries on the film and director Don Levy.

Also, the transfer supervisor tells me that:
One of the benefits of a film with virtually nil circulation over the years is the fact that the original elements had hardly been touched for 40 years, so our new HD master looks pretty amazing. This film is going to surprise a lot of people.
...and the Blu-ray will definitely be region-free.

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#2 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jul 17, 2009 1:25 pm

Full specs revealed:
HEROSTRATUS (1967)
A film by Don Levy

When Max, a young poet (played by the iconic Michael Gothard - The Devils, The Valley (Obscured by Clouds)), hires a marketing company to turn his suicide-by-jumping into a mass-media spectacle, he finds that his subversive intentions are quickly diluted into a reactionary gesture, and his motivations are revealed as a desperate attempt to seek attention through celebrity.

Unseen since its limited release in 1967, this audacious and prescient - yet criminally overlooked - work by experimental filmmaker Don Levy left a profound mark on the landscape of late-1960s British cinema, with echoes of its visual style evident in the most celebrated work of such notable directors as Stanley Kubrick, Nicolas Roeg and Michael Winner.

Special features:
• Newly transferred to High Definition from the original negative under the supervision of Levy associate, Amnon Buchbinder
• Alternative 1.33:1 full frame presentation (Blu-ray exclusive)
• Interview with Don Levy (1973): the only known recording of Levy discussing Herostratus
Ten Thousand Talents (1960, 24 mins): Levy's student film, set in Cambridge, featuring the voice of Peter Cook
Time Is (1964, 29 mins): Levy's remarkable documentary
Five Films (1967, 9 mins): Levy's hypnotic experiments in film editing techniques
• Extensive illustrated booklet with newly commissioned contributions and original documentation

1-disc DVD: DVD-9 | Aspect ratio 1.77:1 | PAL | Dolby Digital mono audio (320 kbps)
2-disc Blu-ray: BD50 + BD25 | Aspect ratios 1.77:1 + 1.33:1 | 1080 | 24fps | PCM mono audio (48k/24-bit)

UK | 1967 | colour | English, optional subtitles for the hearing-impaired | 137 minutes

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#3 Post by zedz » Sun Jul 19, 2009 8:17 pm

This sounds fascinating. Has anybody actually seen it and can comment?

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#4 Post by MichaelB » Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:15 am


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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#5 Post by perkizitore » Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:56 am


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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#6 Post by peerpee » Mon Aug 24, 2009 2:30 pm

I saw this over the weekend, and was knocked back. It's a mighty piece of work. Experimental art cinema which confronts and influences.

The blurb mentions Kubrick and Roeg, and I got Peter Watkins and Resnais from it too. This film was lightyears ahead of its time, and still is now, really.

This release will levitate HEROSTRATUS very high up lists of influential British films and rightly recalibrate its place in history.

Massive kudos to the BFI for releasing this on two Blu-rays in two ratios -- EXACTLY what the Warners Kubrick releases needed.

How completely sad that, bearing in mind the film's subject matter, the director and male lead ended up committing suicide decades later.

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#7 Post by cdnchris » Mon Aug 24, 2009 3:26 pm

Watched it over the weekend and was rather taken aback by it as well. The imagery and even the use of sound were remarkable and it's all sticking with me. I have to go back and watch it again, maybe the full screen version this time. I also have to go back and watch A Clockwork Orange, which I think owes a lot to this film (not even a minute in I was already thinking of it.)

I haven't actually gone through the rest of the set yet (nor the booklet) but I'm assuming the full screen version is here because it was shot that way and BFI was unsure of what ratio Levy preferred (?)

EDIT: Never mind. He intended the widescreen ratio but it made the rounds in the 1.33:1 ratio.

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#8 Post by MichaelB » Tue Aug 25, 2009 4:55 am

perkizitore wrote:Another review
I'd take Brandon DuHamel's comments with a rather large pinch of salt, as the evidence so far suggests that he knows very little about the telecine and encoding process and his reviews make so many elementary technical errors that his assessments are currently pretty worthless. In his review of Man of Violence, he got DNR mixed up with DVNR, and now he's resorting to blatant guesswork.

Contrary to his claim that "[the picture] also suffers from some slightly heavy-handed digital processing to clean it up", the transfer supervisor confirms that no de-graining or image processing software was used at any stage: what you're seeing is as close to the original negative as current technology is able to reproduce. The variable image quality that DuHamel noted is in fact an unavoidable side-effect of the film's very low budget and a stop-start shooting schedule that lasted several years.

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#9 Post by ellipsis7 » Tue Aug 25, 2009 5:22 am

Intrigued by this - should have my copy by week end...

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#10 Post by perkizitore » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:04 am

MichaelB wrote:
perkizitore wrote:Another review
I'd take Brandon DuHamel's comments with a rather large pinch of salt, as the evidence so far suggests that he knows very little about the telecine and encoding process and his reviews make so many elementary technical errors that his assessments are currently pretty worthless. In his review of Man of Violence, he got DNR mixed up with DVNR, and now he's resorting to blatant guesswork.

Contrary to his claim that "[the picture] also suffers from some slightly heavy-handed digital processing to clean it up", the transfer supervisor confirms that no de-graining or image processing software was used at any stage: what you're seeing is as close to the original negative as current technology is able to reproduce. The variable image quality that DuHamel noted is in fact an unavoidable side-effect of the film's very low budget and a stop-start shooting schedule that lasted several years.
That's why i stated 'another review'. It seems being rushed to publish his review first, he resorted in guessing :-"

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#11 Post by Donald Brown » Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:18 am

One of the feebs at DVD Times has a crack at it.

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#12 Post by closelyobserved » Tue Aug 25, 2009 10:19 am

[quote]One of the feebs at DVD Times has a crack at it.

/quote]

Seems to have had a big effect on him even if he didn't like it.

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#13 Post by cdnchris » Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:06 pm


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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#14 Post by ellipsis7 » Sun Aug 30, 2009 3:09 pm

Marvellous package - really significant and fascinating film! It's like a missing link in the story of British Cinema in the 1960s - influenced itself by Antonioni and Peter Whitehead, HEROSTRATUS clearly influenced Roeg, Kubrick and Lindsay Anderson, to name just a few... Look forward to watch it over again, extras intriguing too, the FIVE FILMS especially sharp...

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#15 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Sep 05, 2009 10:03 am

The film sounds fascinating. My copy is still on order at the moment but on an anticipatory trawl of imdb does this really count as Helen Mirren's first film as the listing on the site suggests? I also note that Levy's short film Opus from the same year was produced for the Central Office of Information. Is there a possibility that this would turn up if the BFI starts releasing sets of the COI films?

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#16 Post by MichaelB » Sat Sep 05, 2009 10:16 am

colinr0380 wrote:My copy is still on order at the moment but on an anticipatory trawl of imdb does this really count as Helen Mirren's first film as the listing on the site suggests?
I believe so, given that the film started shooting in 1964 - when Mirren would have only been eighteen or so.
I also note that Levy's short film Opus from the same year was produced for the Central Office of Information. Is there a possibility that this would turn up if the BFI starts releasing sets of the COI films?
Since the BFI took over administration of the COI catalogue two or three years ago, I'm happy to confirm that BFI/COI DVD releases are a case of when, not if - but bear in mind that the COI made 20,000 films...

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#17 Post by BAD » Mon Sep 14, 2009 4:33 pm

MichaelB wrote:
perkizitore wrote:Another review
I'd take Brandon DuHamel's comments with a rather large pinch of salt, as the evidence so far suggests that he knows very little about the telecine and encoding process and his reviews make so many elementary technical errors that his assessments are currently pretty worthless. In his review of Man of Violence, he got DNR mixed up with DVNR, and now he's resorting to blatant guesswork.

Contrary to his claim that "[the picture] also suffers from some slightly heavy-handed digital processing to clean it up", the transfer supervisor confirms that no de-graining or image processing software was used at any stage: what you're seeing is as close to the original negative as current technology is able to reproduce. The variable image quality that DuHamel noted is in fact an unavoidable side-effect of the film's very low budget and a stop-start shooting schedule that lasted several years.
Well, all reviews are a fine line between guess work and objectivity, unless you actually have access to the original masters, which is the extremely rare exception. But, outside of what is an obvious typo (because I know the difference between DNR and DVNR), maybe you can point to what are all the evidence is in all my reviews, since you suggest I "make so many elementary technical errors that his assessments are currently pretty worthless." and that I know "very little about the telecine and encoding process." Are you basing this solely on two reviews, or the nearly 200 I've written for three different sites? :)

Unlike some other sites and reviewers, I'm open to constructive criticism, it is the only path to improvement. :wink: There's also a feedback forum and a contact form on the site you're welcome to use.

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#18 Post by MichaelB » Tue Sep 15, 2009 5:01 am

BAD wrote:Well, all reviews are a fine line between guess work and objectivity, unless you actually have access to the original masters, which is the extremely rare exception.
Or, alternatively, you could simply ask the people who created the disc - they're not exactly hermits who shut themselves away from the world. Indeed, in my experience (because I usually do this myself with my own professional reviews), they're usually only too happy to be asked, not least because it prevents the spread of misinformation.

And you have to admit that suggesting that a Blu-ray transfer is not just digitally reprocessed but "heavy-handed" at that is seriously misleading, especially given that the target audience is the kind of people who are fussy about such things.

(I don't know whether you were sent an unaccompanied checkdisc or the final package, but BFI DVDs and Blu-rays usually include detailed technical notes on the transfer towards the back of the booklet.)
But, outside of what is an obvious typo (because I know the difference between DNR and DVNR)
Ovbious tpyos are those where the underlying meaning is still perfectly clear. Your typo ended up making another erroneous claim. In fact, while I note that you've since rewritten that paragraph, I would still take issue with the phrase "a lack of excessive processing", as it implies that there was still some DNR applied to the telecine, albeit not to an excessive degree. In fact, there was no DNR applied at all.
maybe you can point to what are all the evidence is in all my reviews, since you suggest I "make so many elementary technical errors that his assessments are currently pretty worthless." and that I know "very little about the telecine and encoding process." Are you basing this solely on two reviews, or the nearly 200 I've written for three different sites?
I made it clear that I based my comments on the two reviews that I cited, which both resorted to erroneous guesswork. I'm sure the other 198 are paragons of the reviewer's art and flawless in every particular - it's clearly a hugely unfortunate coincidence that I stumbled across the two bad apples.

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#19 Post by BAD » Tue Sep 15, 2009 11:37 am

MichaelB wrote:
BAD wrote:Well, all reviews are a fine line between guess work and objectivity, unless you actually have access to the original masters, which is the extremely rare exception.
Or, alternatively, you could simply ask the people who created the disc - they're not exactly hermits who shut themselves away from the world. Indeed, in my experience (because I usually do this myself with my own professional reviews), they're usually only too happy to be asked, not least because it prevents the spread of misinformation.

And you have to admit that suggesting that a Blu-ray transfer is not just digitally reprocessed but "heavy-handed" at that is seriously misleading, especially given that the target audience is the kind of people who are fussy about such things.

(I don't know whether you were sent an unaccompanied checkdisc or the final package, but BFI DVDs and Blu-rays usually include detailed technical notes on the transfer towards the back of the booklet.)
I was in fact sent a pre-release disc.
But, outside of what is an obvious typo (because I know the difference between DNR and DVNR)
Ovbious tpyos are those where the underlying meaning is still perfectly clear. Your typo ended up making another erroneous claim. In fact, while I note that you've since rewritten that paragraph, I would still take issue with the phrase "a lack of excessive processing", as it implies that there was still some DNR applied to the telecine, albeit not to an excessive degree. In fact, there was no DNR applied at all.
maybe you can point to what are all the evidence is in all my reviews, since you suggest I "make so many elementary technical errors that his assessments are currently pretty worthless." and that I know "very little about the telecine and encoding process." Are you basing this solely on two reviews, or the nearly 200 I've written for three different sites?
I made it clear that I based my comments on the two reviews that I cited, which both resorted to erroneous guesswork. I'm sure the other 198 are paragons of the reviewer's art and flawless in every particular - it's clearly a hugely unfortunate coincidence that I stumbled across the two bad apples.[/quote]
I'm not really sure how saying "a lack of excessive processing" implies that there was DNR applied specifically when "processing" could refer to any number of things in the chain. A film being transferred is always going to be processed in some way. Did you ever consider that "a lack of excessive processing" simply implies that although the film was cleaned up it DIDN'T have its grain futzed with. Herostratus was "processed" in that it had DVNR applied (as did Man of Violence). This can sometimes be even worse than DNR (depending on your point of view) as, if improperly used, it can flat out remove objects that BELONG in the picture, rather than simply softening the detail. The question is, is it or is it not excessive? But, no, your two comments did not make it clear that you based your entire assessment on two reviews that you take personal exception to. Of course, since you just seem to be looking for something to find fault with, you'll obviously read everything in a negative way. As for two bad apples, you're entitled to your opinion, but I stand by the reviews, which I say are hardly "bad apples" as you want to claim.

But, you know, I'm sure that you have an absolutely impeccable record when it comes to your own work, a perfect eye, a completely flawless grasp of grammar and can spot a DNR'd or non-DNR'd transfer at a glance, in fact, I'm sure you can even tell the difference between a Super-16 filmed movie heavily processed in the DI stage and an original HD recording, like, say Alien Trespass, right? :)

Anyway, off to spread some more erroneous information to the masses before heading to a press event. Nice butting heads with you. :wink:

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#20 Post by MichaelB » Tue Sep 15, 2009 6:25 pm

BAD wrote:I was in fact sent a pre-release disc.
I guessed as much, because you didn't mention the booklet. As a general rule, it's well worth asking for PDFs from distributors like the BFI, Masters of Cinema, Second Run or Axiom, as their booklets are often very substantial extras in their own right, and this is certainly true of the Flipside releases - the scholarly apparatus is one of the things that makes these releases so quirkily appealing. (The one for Herostratus contains 34 pages of pretty small print)
Of course, since you just seem to be looking for something to find fault with, you'll obviously read everything in a negative way.
Not at all - your review of Separation looks pretty solid as far as the disc is concerned. My only quibble with that one would be that you once again didn't even mention the booklet's existence, much less review its contents. Were you not sent the press release? That at least mentioned that the booklet contained multiple essays, which alone makes it clear that it's not exactly a four-page insert.
As for two bad apples, you're entitled to your opinion, but I stand by the reviews, which I say are hardly "bad apples" as you want to claim.
Well, they both contained misleading information in their original form and they ignored the substantial booklets when rating the extras, even though they contain enough material to fill several meaty video supplements...
But, you know, I'm sure that you have an absolutely impeccable record when it comes to your own work, a perfect eye, a completely flawless grasp of grammar and can spot a DNR'd or non-DNR'd transfer at a glance.
No, not at all - but if I'm unsure, I generally make a point of asking the people responsible, as MoC and Second Run in particular will readily confirm. I don't think blatant guesswork is especially helpful when the Blu-ray medium is still in its relative infancy and people are quick to condemn releases on the basis of perceived flaws which may not be flaws at all (or rather, they reflect issues inherent in the original materials that are impossible to get around without a time machine and a large cheque to hand the director to improve the production values). Mind you, I mostly write for print these days, which means that I don't have the option of quietly correcting things later!

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#21 Post by BAD » Wed Sep 16, 2009 10:48 am

Ah, yes, print, where you do have the luxury of not having a 24/7 news cycle and online PR breathing down your neck to see live links within 10 days or less a lot of times. :wink:

But, as for the booklets, I've just never considered them "supplements" as in they are not on the disc itself, so call it editorial choice that I do not include them in the reviews, but I do suppose that in the case of BFI and Criterion, exceptions can and probably should be made to expand that definition. :)

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#22 Post by bigP » Wed Sep 16, 2009 1:23 pm

BAD wrote:But, as for the booklets, I've just never considered them "supplements" as in they are not on the disc itself, so call it editorial choice that I do not include them in the reviews, but I do suppose that in the case of BFI and Criterion, exceptions can and probably should be made to expand that definition. :)
For the record, I mean no quarrel and I respect that you hold that opinion but I just find that such a ridiculous comment; to be pedantic, anything outside of the film itself is supplemental (even cover art I may add and you can se the thread on this forum to judge the importance of cover art accompanying a release).

BFI, Criterion AND let us not forget MOC and Second Run all provide booklets that are worth every bit the weight of an interview, a commentary, a documentary / making of, etc etc. It's obvious that our opinions differ on the subject, which is just fine, but, to fail to recognise the value of a booklet just because it isn't digital video, audio or even text is crazy. I can only imagine how much time, effort and money goes into the production of these booklets (I'd urge you to see the 'book' that accompanies the MOC Naruse set for starters) and quite often they are included on top of on-disc supplements.

I don't mean to speak for the companies that include such booklets, but, jeez, that's a pretty hard slap in the face.

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#23 Post by peerpee » Wed Sep 16, 2009 2:30 pm

BAD wrote:But, as for the booklets, I've just never considered them "supplements" as in they are not on the disc itself, so call it editorial choice that I do not include them in the reviews, but I do suppose that in the case of BFI and Criterion, exceptions can and probably should be made to expand that definition. :)
Madness.

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#24 Post by MichaelB » Wed Sep 16, 2009 3:34 pm

BAD wrote:Ah, yes, print, where you do have the luxury of not having a 24/7 news cycle and online PR breathing down your neck to see live links within 10 days or less a lot of times. :wink:
Swings and roundabouts - deadlines are absolutely set in stone in a way that they aren't for online media (or rather, you can cheat by uploading something that isn't quite perfect and then adjust it later once you've appeased the PR people*), and of course you have to get it right first time, which certainly isn't a luxury!

*Not that I've ever done that myself, of course. Good Lord, no.
But, as for the booklets, I've just never considered them "supplements" as in they are not on the disc itself, so call it editorial choice that I do not include them in the reviews, but I do suppose that in the case of BFI and Criterion, exceptions can and probably should be made to expand that definition. :)
Frankly, I think it's highly questionable having a policy that doesn't take the totality of the package into account, regardless of label - and absolute lunacy when you're dealing with labels like the BFI, Masters of Cinema, Criterion or Second Run that put a huge amount of effort (and production budget) into producing booklets that sometimes add significantly to original scholarship.

For instance, Masters of Cinema's DVD of Godard's Une femme mariée looks pretty barebones until you open the booklet, a whopping 80-page labour of love that apparently took nine months to assemble. Buy all three volumes in the BFI's GPO Film Unit survey and you end up with the equivalent of a book that must be at least 200 pages even after you've filtered out repeated material - and virtually all the content was specially commissioned.

And the Flipside releases also heavily revolve around the booklets - which are especially important in the case of Herostratus and the Jane Arden/Jack Bond titles because of the lack of critical coverage available elsewhere. In fact, until someone picks up the relevant baton and writes something more substantial, the booklets are currently the definitive critical resources - and we were well aware of this when writing them, so under a lot of pressure to get the facts right, not to mention straightening out a lot of myth and misinformation along the way.

Since you've been sent checkdiscs, have you actually seen any of the BFI booklets? If not, I can very easily email you a sample PDF so you can see what you've been missing.

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Re: Flipside 4: Herostratus

#25 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:20 pm

From HEROSTRATUS I got a little of this reference...

Image

Notably the modern square below beside St. Paul's, also featured in the film, is surely Paternoster Square through which the party revellers drive in the first shots of Antonioni's BLOW UP...

BTW booklets are simply great, disregard the naysayers!...

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