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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

directed by David Lean
U.K. 1946

From Nol Coward’s play Still Life, legendary filmmaker David Lean deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance in the dour, gray Britain of 1945. From a chance meeting on a train platform, a middle-aged married doctor (Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (Celia Johnson) enter into a quietly passionate, ultimately doomed love affair, set to a swirling Rachmaninoff score.

***

 After a chance meeting on a train platform, a married doctor (Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (Celia Johnson) enter into a muted but passionate, ultimately doomed, love affair. With its evocatively fog-enshrouded setting, swooning Rachmaninoff score, and pair of remarkable performances (Johnson was nominated for an Oscar for her role), David Lean’s film of Nol Coward’s play Still Life deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance, and has influenced many a cinematic brief encounter since its release.

Posters

Theatrical Release: February 11th, 1946 - UK

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Comparison:

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Carlton - Region 2 - PAL vs. ITV - Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs.  Criterion (David Lean Directs Noel Coward) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) - Region 'B' Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray  RIGHT

 

Box Covers

Distribution

Criterion Collection Spine # 76

Region 1  - NTSC

Carlton 
Region 2 - PAL

ITV (UK)

Region 'B'  - Blu-ray

Criterion Collection From the "David Lean Directs Noel Coward" Spine 76

Region 'A'  - Blu-ray

Sold as a package Criterion are releasing David Lean Directs Noel Coward! - Spine 603

In the 1940s, the wit of playwright Nol Coward and the craft of filmmaker David Lean melded harmoniously in one of cinema’s greatest writer-director collaborations. With the wartime military drama sensation In Which We Serve, Coward and Lean (along with producing partners Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan) embarked on a series of literate, socially engaged, and enormously entertaining pictures that ranged from domestic epic (This Happy Breed) to whimsical comedy (Blithe Spirit) to poignant romance (Brief Encounter). These films created a lasting testament to Coward’s artistic legacy and introduced Lean’s visionary talents to the world.

(click titles for DVDBeaver reviews)

Criterion (without the extras) also available in The Essential Art House - 50 Years of Janus Films - a 50-disc celebration of international films collected under the auspices of the groundbreaking theatrical distributor. It contains Alexander Nevsky (1938), Ashes And Diamonds (1958), L'avventura (1960), Ballad Of A Soldier (1959), Beauty And The Beast (1946), Black Orpheus (1959), Brief Encounter (1945), The Fallen Idol (1948), Fires On The Plain (1959), Fists In The Pocket (1965), Floating Weeds (1959), Forbidden Games (1952), The 400 Blows (1959), Grand Illusion (1937), Hxan (1922), Ikiru (1952), The Importance Of Being Earnest (1952), Ivan The Terrible, Part II (1958), Le Jour Se Lve (1939), Jules And Jim (1962), Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949), Knife In The Water (1962), The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943), Loves Of A Blonde (1965), M (1931), M. Hulot's Holiday (1953), Miss Julie (1951), Pandora's Box (1929), Pp Le Moko (1937), Il Posto (1961), Pygmalion (1938), Rashomon (1950), Richard III (1955), The Rules Of The Game (1939), Seven Samurai (1954), The Seventh Seal (1957), The Spirit Of The Beehive (1973), La Strada (1954), Summertime (1955), The Third Man (1949), The 39 Steps (1935), Ugetsu (1953), Umberto D. (1952), The Virgin Spring (1960), Viridiana (1961), The Wages Of Fear (1953), The White Sheik (1952), Wild Strawberries (1957), Three Documentaries By Saul J. Turell plus the hardcover, full color 240-page book.

Runtime 1:26:15 1:22:27 (4% PAL speedup) 1:26:27.041 1:26:47.243
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.17 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.13
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Disc Size: 16,061,894,524 bytes

Feature Size: 13,827,992,064 bytes

Video Bitrate: 15.33 Mbps

Single-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 Video

Disc Size: 46,851,987,670 bytes

Feature Size: 25,626,550,272 bytes

Total Bitrate: 35.00 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes

Bitrate:

Criterion

 

Bitrate:

Carlton

Bitrate:

ITV Blu-ray

 

Bitrate:

Criterion Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) - Film and Director Commentary

English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English, and none None English, and none English, and none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Discographic Information:
DVD Encoding: Region 1
Layers: Single

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder

• Restoration Sample (1:59)
• Restored Theatrical trailer (2:49)

• 2 page insert essay by Adrian Turner
• Luminous Digital Transfer With Restored Image And Sound
 

DVD Release Date: June 27, 2000
Keep Case

Chapters 20

Release Information:
Studio: Carlton Visual Entertainment Ltd

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Discographic Information:
DVD Encoding: Region 2
Layers: Single

Edition Details:

• "A Profile of Brief Encounter" documentary (24:48)

• Still Gallery (9)
• Un Restored Theatrical trailer (2:31)

• 8 page insert with bios by Robyn Karney and Photos
• Biographies (Celia Johnson, Noel Coward, Trevor Howard, David Lean)
 

DVD Release Date: 19 February, 2001
Transparent Keep Case

Chapters 15

Release Information:
Studio:
ITV DVD

 

Disc Size: 16,061,894,524 bytes

Feature Size: 13,827,992,064 bytes

Total Bitrate: 15.33 Mbps

Single-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 Video

 

Edition Details:
• A
Profile of Brief Encounter (24:05)

• Restoration Featurette (3:27)

• Stills Gallery

• Theatrical Trailer
 

DVD Release Date: February 2nd, 2009
Thick (UK) Blu-ray Case

Chapters 8

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

 

Disc Size: 46,851,987,670 bytes

Feature Size: 25,626,550,272 bytes

Total Bitrate: 35.00 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 Video

Edition Details:
• 1995 Audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder

• Barry Day (Oct 2011) - 16:21
• A Profile of 'Brief Encounter' (24:32)

David Lean: A Self Portrait (58:24)
Trailer (3:03)

A booklet featuring essays by Ian Christie, Terrence Rafferty, Farran Smith Nehme, Geoffrey OBrien, and Kevin Brownlow
 

Blu-ray Release Date: March 27th, 2012
Custom Blu-ray Case

Chapters 9

 

Comments: NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray - March 2012: This is part of Criterion's 4-Blu-ray Box set; David Lean Directs Noel Coward (described above) - with Brief Encounter and the other 3 films only available in the package at this time. The Criterion advances over the UK Blu-ray in most important areas. The Criterion contrast is richer - where the ITV may have had some brightness boosting. Or it may be how the single-layered, significantly lower bitrate, interprets the image. This is most visible in the picture with Celia Johnson sitting in the chair and the very last capture comparison. Criterion's frame information is more proportionate (not horizontally stretched like the ITV). It also shows more grain and texture. It is slightly darker and in-motion it is really no competition with Criterion being the hands-down winner.

Where ITV had a standard Dolby stereo - Criterion remain authentic with a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps. This is notable in depth right from the opening with the train sounds and, of course, the Rachmaninoff score is notably tighter, crisper and has exports desirable depth. Fans of the film will notice the difference and the impact of the uncompressed audio on the viewing experience. There are optional English subtitles on the Region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.

Criterion include the informative 1995 audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder, plus some new supplements. Barry Day who did work for The Noel Coward Reader and is author of Coward on Film: The Cinema of Noel Coward. In this October 2011 interview he discusses some intricacies in Brief Encounter. We also get the same A Profile of 'Brief Encounter' that is included on the Carlton and ITV discs. It was made in London in 2000 and features interviews with screenwriter-producer Ronald Neame, actress Margaret Barton, and actress Celia Johnson's daughter Kate Fleming - among others. David Lean: A Self Portrait is an excellent hour-long 1971 Thomas Craven documentary looking at the career of David Lean. It features and extensive interview with the director who discusses his work and approach to filmmaking. There is also a 3-minute trailer and a liner notes booklet in the package featuring essays by Ian Christie, Terrence Rafferty, Farran Smith Nehme, Geoffrey OBrien, and Kevin Brownlow.

An amazing package - and this is just one film of the boxset. We will cover the rest throughout the week. Lean fans should relish Criterion's impeccable treatment of Brief Encounter on Blu-ray.

***

ADDITION: ITV - Region 'B' Blu-ray: There are a few disappointing aspects to this new Blu-ray from ITV in the UK. This looks like it may be the first Blu-ray from that company that is region 'B' locked - making it unplayable on most standard Region 'A' and 'C' Blu-ray players. It is undoubtedly restored, and looks much cleaner, but I have a few issues with the transfer. The feature is only 13 Gig of the single-layered disc and the image quality seems a big inconsistent with contrast appearing much stronger at certain times but more bland in others. In some scenes the ITV Blu-ray seems horizontally stretched (or vertically squished) which may be noticeable to some from the screen grabs below. On the positive very minor grain is present and all the light scratches removed. In toggling back and forth between the hi-def and the Criterion DVD, I'd say that the 1080P image is a bit sharper, less noise and in general terms is simply better (contrast, cleaner, tighter) but is certainly imperfect. I'd say from my expectations that this is somewhat of a disappointment. I'm certain it could still look even better with a Criterion dual-layered Blu-ray transfer. Perhaps one day.

Audio may be marginally improved as well, but I can't make a definitive statement about that. It sounds quite clean with audible dialogue. The Blu-ray also offers optional English subtitles.

Extras are only in PAL but aren't a bad lot at all with 25 minutes of A Profile of Brief Encounter (also found on the Carleton) with historical input from many participants and fans. There is a 3.5 minute 'Restoration Featurette', a Stills Gallery and Theatrical Trailer. There is no commentary or new featurette material.

As I commented, I am a bit disappointed but still believe this to be the best image presently available. As consistently regarded as one of the top 10 British films of all time lets hope a more competent Blu-ray (Criterion?!?) comes along sooner rather than later. 

****

ON THE DVDs (written in 2002): Well, it appears as the film progresses the Carlton quality decreases (or the Criterion improves). I don't have any explanation for this, it is just something I observed. The Carlton is darker and less sharp. Criterion for the image all the way. The Criterion commentary is extremely illuminating so it just beats out the nice 25 minute documentary on the Carlton in the Extras department. Overall the Carlton is not a bad disc, especially for the money, its just that the Criterion is great disc. I am glad I saw the documentary on the Carlton and I suppose die-hard fans of the British icon film will want both editions. Who can blame them, but the definitive version is certainly the Criterion. 

- Gary W. Tooze


IYV Blu-ray Extras

 


Menus

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Carlton - Region 2- PAL - RIGHT)


 

Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray

 


 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) - Region 'B' Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) - Region 'B' Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) - Region 'B' Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) - Region 'B' Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Carlton - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) ITV (UK) - Region 'B' Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 


 

More Blu-ray captures

 

1) ITV (UK) - Region 'B' Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 

 

 

1) ITV (UK) - Region 'B' Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 

 

1) ITV (UK) - Region 'B' Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 

 

1) ITV (UK) - Region 'B' Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 


Box Covers

Distribution

Criterion Collection Spine # 76

Region 1  - NTSC

Carlton 
Region 2 - PAL

ITV (UK)

Region 'B'  - Blu-ray

Criterion Collection From the "David Lean Directs Noel Coward" Spine 76

Region 'A'  - Blu-ray

Sold as a package Criterion are releasing David Lean Directs Noel Coward! - Spine 603

In the 1940s, the wit of playwright Nol Coward and the craft of filmmaker David Lean melded harmoniously in one of cinema’s greatest writer-director collaborations. With the wartime military drama sensation In Which We Serve, Coward and Lean (along with producing partners Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan) embarked on a series of literate, socially engaged, and enormously entertaining pictures that ranged from domestic epic (This Happy Breed) to whimsical comedy (Blithe Spirit) to poignant romance (Brief Encounter). These films created a lasting testament to Coward’s artistic legacy and introduced Lean’s visionary talents to the world.



 


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Gary Tooze

Many Thanks...