The Conformist

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released from Arrow and the films on them.

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MichaelB
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Re: Arrow Films

#26 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:59 am

The fact that the transfer was Storaro-approved bodes well.

I know this sentence makes me look as though I've taken leave of my senses, but he doesn't seem to have fiddled with the aspect ratio this time (even Storaro would find it hard to get away with cropping one of the most perfectly-composed films in cinema history from 1.66:1 to 2:1!), and that seems to be the major downside of getting him involved.

Incidentally, I can thoroughly recommend The Tin Drum as well - I've never seen it looking so good, and there's plenty of meat in the extras (even though the Schlöndorff commentary isn't new - going from his references to David Bennent having just turned thirty, I'm guessing it's a port from the long-OOP Kino release).

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Der Spieler
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Re: Arrow Films

#27 Post by Der Spieler » Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:18 pm

MichaelB wrote:I've checked with Arrow - it's definitely Region B: an unavoidable contractual requirement.

As with Ashes and Diamonds (albeit the other way round), the region coding of the checkdiscs didn't match the one of the final product.
Thanks for asking them. I won't get my hopes too high for a region-free Conformist then.

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MichaelB
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Re: Arrow Films

#28 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:32 pm

Der Spieler wrote:I won't get my hopes too high for a region-free Conformist then.
Since Italian rightsholders are notoriously fond of insisting on region coding (pretty much all the BFI's Italian Blu-rays are Region B), and since Paramount owns the US rights, I'd say it's very unlikely indeed.

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Der Spieler
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Re: Arrow Films

#29 Post by Der Spieler » Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:37 pm

Well I do have a region-free player! I'm just less inclined to buy a locked release since I can't play it outside my house. For something I really want like MoC titles or The Conformist, I normally buy regardless.

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MichaelB
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Re: Arrow Films

#30 Post by MichaelB » Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:38 am

I have some very good news - a Blu-ray checkdisc turned up this morning, and unless Arrow decide for some unfathomable reason to apply DNR and re-encode the main feature after authoring the disc, menus, etc. (which would be demented), you can all relax.

I don't have the technology to do direct frame grabs, and experiments with an SLR looked hideous (it blew the highlights out in a massively distorting and unhelpful way), but you can rest assured that the picture is far closer to the Cineteca Bologna grabs than it is to the Raro ones. Obviously, you have to make allowances for compression (I'm guessing the Cineteca Bologna grab is from an uncompressed source), but there's no question that Arrow have made every effort to retain the feel of the original picture grain.

And the aspect ratio is indeed the correct 1.66:1 - and since Storaro himself supervised the transfer, the colour timing should be bang on. I certainly don't miss the yellow subtitles of the Paramount DVD!

So it's all looking very promising indeed - and I should have explored the entire disc within the next 24 hours or so.

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ellipsis7
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Re: Arrow Films

#31 Post by ellipsis7 » Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:53 am

Fantastic news, sounds as if Arrow are playing a blinder on this one, pity about the Raro!...

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Re: Arrow Films

#32 Post by j99 » Tue Jan 17, 2012 9:27 am

"audio commentary by Italian cinema expert David Forgacs"

I like this extra. His commentaries are superb.

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MichaelB
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Re: Arrow Films

#33 Post by MichaelB » Tue Jan 17, 2012 9:32 am

Going from his track record so far, Forgacs is one of the most reliable DVD commentators out there - he really knows his stuff.

His commentary on The Leopard (for the BFI) famously wiped the floor with Peter Cowie's Criterion equivalent. Cowie's fine on Sixties European cinema, but Forgacs' extensive knowledge of Italian history and culture is far superior - unsurprisingly, since Italian language, literature and history form the bedrock of his day job. But unlike a lot of academic commentators, Forgacs also knows how to make a track engaging and interesting, so I'm really looking forward to this one.

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TMDaines
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Re: Arrow Films

#34 Post by TMDaines » Tue Jan 17, 2012 10:42 am

His BFI Film Classic on Roma citta' aperta is also excellent.

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Jean-Luc Garbo
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Re: Arrow Films

#35 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Tue Jan 17, 2012 1:31 pm

I'm looking forward to that Forgacs commentary now. I was going to wait for a new R1 edition, but this one seems worth getting now.

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MichaelB
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Re: Arrow Films

#36 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:18 am

Well, David Forgacs has played another blinder - I really can't fault this commentary at all.

As usual, there's tons of information and close analysis - it was clearly very carefully planned, but his delivery and timing are so impeccable that it never sounds as though he's simply reading from a script. It's obvious that he's mined the novel, the film (and other Alberto Moravia adaptations such as Godard's Contempt), the work of its contributors (down to the minor single-scene actors), the historical setting (in France as well as Italy) and even the history of the film's locations to exhaustion beforehand.

He's particularly good on the cinematic references that might be hard or impossible for non-Italian viewers to spot, whether it's a sequence clearly intentionally designed to evoke the so-called "white telephone" comedies of the 1930s or one of several cameos by elderly Italian actors, deliberately cast by Bertolucci to evoke memories of the decade. Or things like the name Manganiello - the character in the novel had a different name, and while the name itself is a legitimate Italian surname, a 'manganiello' was also a stick that Fascists used to beat their enemies. Or that Brigitte Bardot was seriously considered for the Dominique Sanda role, but Bertolucci ultimately felt that she couldn't convincingly convey an appropriately transgressive personality. (Sanda was almost totally unknown at the time: Bertolucci had spotted her in Bresson's Une Femme douce). Or that Lino the chauffeur speaks Sicilian, not Italian - which is how Clerici recognises his voice some 26 years later. And there are loads of throwaway aperçus, such as "Quadri's apartment exudes a sense of opulence, but also a certain dreamlike strangeness, particularly in this extraordinary piece of interior architecture, a sort of cross between the belly of a whale, a vagina and the nave of a church".

Almost every minute there's a new revelation of a similar nature - with the result that although I'm very far from a newcomer to this film (this must be my sixth or seventh viewing), I learned loads. And, frankly, it's worth buying the Blu-ray just for this, though I also enjoyed the 52-minute RAI TV retrospective Bertolucci documentary (not least for all the interviews with him from the early 1960s to the late 1990s, in which he morphs from fresh-faced near-teenager to Grand Old Man of world cinema).

Now that I've watched it in full (albeit with the commentary track on), I can confirm that the transfer is indeed as good as yesterday's initial rummaging suggested - the grain is clearly visible throughout, beautifully silky on flesh, appropriately dusty in the "myth of the cave" sequence. The one issue I have with it, which is clearly inherent in the master and not remotely something that Arrow can do anything about, is that occasionally there'll be a tiny and almost imperceptible "jump" before a cut to another shot, suggesting that the source was the spliced camera negative - though presumably Vittorio Storaro doesn't consider this a significant drawback given the major advantage of going right back to celluloid basics. (And frankly, this transfer confirms all over again that if he'd never shot anything else in his entire career, his position amongst the world's top ten cinematographers would be rock-solid from this one film).

Incidentally, the running time is 112 mins 51 seconds, versus the Paramount DVDs 111 mins 19 seconds - but a closer examination reveals that they're the same cuts of the film: the Arrow version runs longer because the music plays out over a black screen, whereas the Paramount DVD fades it out over a shot of their logo.

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TMDaines
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Re: Arrow Films

#37 Post by TMDaines » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:45 am

Thanks for the detailed review, Michael. I'm usually one to wait for a price drop but I may have to get this ASAP, especially as I'm doing a presentation on the film in a month and a bit's time

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ellipsis7
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Re: Arrow Films

#38 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:30 am

Forgacs certainly seems to have risen to the occasion - look forward very much to this release, and hearing his piece... Interested also if it will revive the old style versus substance debate that often hung round the this film... At one stage it was considered the very apotheosis of high cinematic art, drawing many admirers and not a few imitators, but since its star has somewhat waned... Seeing it again on Blu, rather than the old Paramount DVD, will give us all an opportunity to reassess...

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Re: Arrow Films

#39 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:42 am

Well, Forgacs finds plenty of substance - and one of the great virtues of his commentary is that it implicitly addresses the style/substance issue throughout, by highlighting the kind of details that someone of Bertolucci's nationality and age (and older) would be expected to pick up on. The film is crammed with much subtler references to the Fascist period than, say, Clerici's inadvertent Fascist salute while gesturing to Quadri, but non-Italian critics understandably tend to pick up on that and similarly blatant stuff.

And the HD transfer makes a huge difference - I've seen it in 35mm at least three or four times, but not for a good dozen years (at least), and it really emphasised that the DVD, while welcome, was no real substitute.

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Re: Arrow Films

#40 Post by j99 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:49 pm

I don't think I've ever looked forward to a commentary as much as this one after that review. Pity it's been put back, even if the reason is sound.

"His BFI Film Classic on Roma citta' aperta is also excellent".

Has Forgacs ever done a commentary for this film, for a Region 1 release for example?

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ellipsis7
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Re: Arrow Films

#41 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:02 pm

No, to my knowledge the commentaries he's done are...

OSSESSIONE/Visconti/BFI (a 2 hander with Lesley Caldwell)
THE LEOPARD/Visconti/BFI
RED DESERT/Antonioni/BFI & Criterion
THE CONFORMIST/Bertolucci/Arrow

It's worth noting that, in addition to the excellent BFI Classic ROME OPEN CITY, Forgacs had more material that he couldn't fit in that slim volume, which forms a 25 page chapter in ROME OPEN CITY/Ed. Sidney Gottlieb/Cambridge UP, entitled "Space, Rhetoric and the Divided City in 'Rome città aperta'"...
Last edited by ellipsis7 on Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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TMDaines
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Re: Arrow Films

#42 Post by TMDaines » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:34 pm

That reminds me. I should probably borrow my university library's copy of BFI's Ossessione.

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Jean-Luc Garbo
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Re: Arrow Films

#43 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:35 pm

ellipsis7 wrote:No, to my knowledge the commentaries he's done are...

OSSESSIONE/Visconti/BFI (a 2 hander with Lesley Caldwell)
THE LEOPARD/Visconti/BFI
RED DESERT/Antonioni/BFI & Criterion
THE CONFORMIST/Bertolucci/Arrow
Wow, I've heard the commentary on the Criterion, but I'd forgotten that he was on Red Desert. I guess Criterion knows what to do when they release Conformist. Thanks for the summary, Michael. I'm even more excited now to hear it.

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Re: Arrow Films

#44 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:05 pm

MichaelB wrote:He's particularly good on the cinematic references that might be hard or impossible for non-Italian viewers to spot, whether it's a sequence clearly intentionally designed to evoke the so-called "white telephone" comedies of the 1930s or one of several cameos by elderly Italian actors, deliberately cast by Bertolucci to evoke memories of the decade...
This makes me wonder whether any UK distributors* (or Criterion in its Eclipse strand) might release some of the 'white telephone' films since, even if they are slight pieces of work, being a popular commercial vein of filmmaking they seem to have influenced a number of films in response (it would also help to illustrate the contrast with neo-realism as well) - for instance during the Kim Newman and Alan Jones commentary on Argento's The Bird With The Crystal Plumage they playfully describe that (and some of Mario Bava's films) as being 'red telephone' films - in a similar vein of showing well off, urban characters, only in the horror films they get horribly murdered as well!

*I know we have Master of Cinema's edition of La signora di tutti, but we can always do with more!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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TMDaines
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Re: Arrow Films

#45 Post by TMDaines » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:45 pm

It's interesting: I don't think there is a single English-friendly release of any "white telephone" films. I'm not sure how well La signora di tutti fits into that mould either. Most are much more light hearted "distractions". Good examples are the Camerini and De Sica collaborations from the 1930s as well as De Sica's Teresa Venerdi'.

Some people have made some English fansubs for some of the works though if you do have a real want to watch them.

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ellipsis7
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Re: Arrow Films

#46 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:31 pm

Strikes me as an interesting and important strand for Eclipse, a selection of 'white telephone' films, a corrective to mainstream received wisdom something like the Matarrazzo, however without the single 'author' umbrella that allowed that set, which might present difficulties...

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Re: Arrow Films

#47 Post by j99 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:54 pm

ellipsis7 wrote:No, to my knowledge the commentaries he's done are...

OSSESSIONE/Visconti/BFI (a 2 hander with Lesley Caldwell)
THE LEOPARD/Visconti/BFI
RED DESERT/Antonioni/BFI & Criterion
THE CONFORMIST/Bertolucci/Arrow

It's worth noting that, in addition to the excellent BFI Classic ROME OPEN CITY, Forgacs had more material that he couldn't fit in that slim volume, which forms a 25 page chapter in ROME OPEN CITY/Ed. Sidney Gottlieb/Cambridge UP, entitled "Space, Rhetoric and the Divided City in 'Rome città aperta'"...
Thanks for that ellipsis. I've heard The Leopard and Red Desert commentaries but not Ossessione, so will try and track that one down.

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MichaelB
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Re: Arrow Films

#48 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:57 am

MichaelB wrote:The one issue I have with it, which is clearly inherent in the master and not remotely something that Arrow can do anything about, is that occasionally there'll be a tiny and almost imperceptible "jump" before a cut to another shot, suggesting that the source was the spliced camera negative.
In fairness to Arrow, I've just checked my old Paramount DVD, and it has exactly the same issues. I suspect I simply didn't notice in the past because I watched it on a much smaller screen at the time.

I really don't miss those yellow subtitles!

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Re: Arrow Films

#49 Post by bainbridgezu » Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:41 pm

Beaver on The Conformist.

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MichaelB
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Re: Arrow Films

#50 Post by MichaelB » Mon Feb 20, 2012 3:05 am

Yes, that's very fair.

Incidentally, I don't think it's so much a case of a new subtitle translation as the same translation that's had a subsequent going-over by David Forgacs. The giveaway is that some of the more idiosyncratic bits that Forgacs ended up changing were also on the Paramount DVD. But the Arrow subtitles should offer by far the most accurate translation that the film has had to date - I saw Forgacs' notes, and they were impressively thorough, with a detailed explanation for the reason behind every proposed change (even if the change in question was merely one word).

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