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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

directed by Jane Campion
Australia/New Zealand/France 1993

"The Piano" plays itself with such contrapuntal richness, it resonates in you forever. Set in 19th-century New Zealand, this saga of will, destiny and passion starring Holly Hunter is an extraordinary symphony of sounds and silence, of lilting pleasure and tangled horror.

There's something mystically compelling about writer/director Jane Campion's 1993 Cannes winner. On one level, it's a fairy tale for adults. But on others, it evokes powerful eroticism, sexual mustiness, emotional anguish and numerous other themes.

Ada (Hunter), a severe-expressioned, handsome woman, has just arrived in New Zealand with 9-year-old, illegitimate daughter Flora (Anna Paquin), luggage and her precious piano in tow. By arrangement, she is to marry Stewart (Sam Neill), a genial, tight-lipped landowner. We know almost immediately that Ada is voluntarily mute. She has chosen not to speak -- as Ada tells us in her "mind's voice" narration -- since the age of 6. She communicates by writing notes (on paper taken from a wallet-sized locket around her neck) or, with her daughter, by signing. The piano -- which Stewart and his Maori helpers balk at moving -- is her voice and identity.

When Stewart refuses to accept the piano, he sets off a protracted war of wills, jealousy and passion. Illiterate Scottish neighbor Baines (Harvey Keitel), touched when he hears Ada play the instrument on the beach, offers land for the piano -- with lessons from Ada. To Ada's horror, Stewart agrees.

Baines's designs, it turns out, are less than musically appreciative. He merely orders her to perform, while he does "certain things" in the ominous background. He bargains further: With each of these bizarre sessions representing one black key, she can earn back the piano. Before the ultimate repossession, however, the emotional climate between them changes.

 
Excerpt from Desson Howe's review at the Washington Post located HERE


Posters

Theatrical Release Date: May 15th, 1993 - Cannes Film Festival

Reviews             More Reviews           DVD Reviews

Comparison:

Artisan- Region 0 - NTSC vs. EiV (UK) - Region 2 - PAL vs. Best Film  (Poland) Region 2 - PAL vs. Optimum (Special Edition) Region 2 - PAL vs. Lionsgate / Miramax - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Andrey Diment for both sets of R2 - PAL DVD Screen Caps!

1) Artisan - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP LEFT

2) EiV (UK) - Region 2 - PAL TOP MIDDLE

3) Best Film  (Poland) Region 2 - PAL TOP RIGHT

4) Optimum (Special Edition) Region 2 - PAL- BOTTOM LEFT

5) Miramax / Lionsgate - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM RIGHT

 

Box Covers

 

Distribution

Artisan Entertainment

Region 0  - NTSC

Entertainment in Video

Region 2  - PAL

Best Film
Region 2 - PAL

 

Optimum
Region 2 - PAL
Lionsgate / Miramax
Region 'A' -
Blu-ray
Distribution

Artisan Entertainment

Region 0  - NTSC

Entertainment in Video

Region 2  - PAL

Best Film
Region 2 - PAL
Optimum
Region 2 - PAL
Lionsgate / Miramax
Region 'A' -
Blu-ray
Runtime 2:00:44 1:54:48 (4% PAL Speedup) 1:55:48 (4% PAL Speedup) 1:55:48 (4% PAL Speedup) 2:00:51.077
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.19 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.34 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.30
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.63
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 24,089,127,227 bytes

Feature: 20,522,575,872 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.49 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate:

Artisan

 

Bitrate:

EiV

Bitrate:

Best Film

Bitrate:

Optimum

Bitrate:

Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround) English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround) English DTS ES, English DD5.1 EX, DUB: Polish DD 2.0

English 2.0, English 5.1

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1808 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1808 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Subtitles None English, none Polish, none English, none English, English (SDH), Spanish, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Artisan Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterbox - 1.85:1
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Production notes
• Theatrical trailer - 4:3, 1:45
• Full-screen and widescreen letterbox formats

DVD Release Date: 1999
Keep Case

Chapters 36

Release Information:
Studio: Entertainment in Video

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1


Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date:  30 August, 1999

Keep Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Best Film

 

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

 




Edition Details:

•Text screens about the actors etc.

 

DVD Release Date:  2002

Click Case

Chapters 20

 

Release Information:
Studio: Optimum
 

 

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

 




Edition Details:
• Commentary by director Jane Campion and Producer Jan Chapman

• 'Making of' (15:07)

• Interviews with Campion and Chapman (1:15:51)

• Interview with Michael Nyman (48:36)

 

DVD Release Date:  February 6th, 2006

Transparent Double Slim Keep Case in cardboard box

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: Lionsgate / Miramax
 

 

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 24,089,127,227 bytes

Feature: 20,522,575,872 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.49 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailer (2:30 in 1080P)

Bookmarkable

 

Blu-ray Release Date: January 31st, 2012

Standard Blu-ray Keep Case in cardboard box

Chapters 16

 

Comments:

NOTE: These Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

ADDITION: Lionsgate / Miramax - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (January 12'): The Blu-ray edition from Miramax/Lionsgate raises some questions. I have concerns that the image may suffer from over-digitization. It can look highly inconsistent - moving from decent-to-strong visuals then migrating to flat, waxy, noisy ones. Compared to the DVDs - this looks most like the Artisan - which I suspect may have utilized the same source - as colors are very closely aligned. Some films just don't achieve highly authentic representations on digital - no matter the resolution - and The Piano may be one of those examples. I recall this as being a very striking film in the theatre but didn't have discerning eyes as to a technical appearance. My Blu-ray presentation was, nonetheless, a positive experience as the potentially flawed video is till far ahead of any of the DVDs - I would just scratch my head occasionally at the inconsistencies.

 

Michael Nyman's original score is one of the more memorable from the 90's and it sounds beautiful via the DTS-HD Master stereo track at 1808 kbps. It may be marginally less robust than I was anticipating but is such a huge part of the film that the uncompressed audio is extremely desirable. Sounds of the film like the rain and crashing waves sound essentially flawless although without surround separations (that I think would have benefitted the viewing experience.) There are optional subtitles and the disc is determined to be Region 'A'-locked.

 

NOTE: Greg tells us in email: "The blu ray failed to include subtitles for a key scene of Ada's sign language and for the Maori dialogue. These subtitles are essential to major plot points and were included in the theatrical run of the film as well as the previous vhs, laserdisc, and dvd editions."

 

The only extra is a trailer but the bare-bones Blu-ray package is reflected in the reasonableness of the price. I'm a big fan of The Piano and, while hoping for a grand dual-layered release with a possible commentary, interviews etc. I have some degree of contentment that I own the film in HD and the price was not exorbitant. From that standpoint - we recommended but discerning fans may wish to inspect the large screen captures.

 

NOTE: The opening credits - where a couple of the large screen grabs were obtained - are pictureboxed.  

***

ON THE DVDs: ADDITION: Optimum - Region 2 PAL - January 07': It is very hard to say with absolute confidence which DVD image is most accurate to the theatrical showing of this film. One thing we can do is dismiss certain images based on deficiencies - artifacts, haze and manipulation. Without reiterating the points made previously I believe the Optimum appears to have the least flaws. It is tight to the screen edges and maintains the 1.85 aspect ratio. It is anamorphic and progressive. It has the least artifacts of all 4 compared. Colors appear true and not overly bright. It is sharp. It looks very good. Both 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 (not original) tracks are available on the Optimum. Both were tested and sounded clean and strong.

NOTE: I am usually not overly sensitive to PAL speedup but did notice Hunter, Neill and Keitel voices sounding a tad higher in pitch than usual.

Fittingly the extras offered on the 2-disc Optimum Special Edition are equally as good. On disc one we are given a full commentary with director Campion and producer Chapman sharing many technical details of the film. They are generous with compliments to cast and crew. It is a fairly extensive and revealing commentary.

Disc 2 has two interviews - first Campion and Chapman - actually individual interviews with Campion's running an hour - Chapman's about 15 minutes. There is some crossover from the commentary. It is quite good relating many more factoids of production/creation. This is actually a supplement licensed from the French TF1 Vidéo DVD package. Next there is a 48-minute interview with Michael Nyman who composed the incredible score for the film. He discusses details like his research into Scottish folk songs for The Piano and admiration for actress Holly Hunters pianist abilities. There is also a relatively short "Making of.." segment with Campion again (about 15 minutes) and a theatrical trailer.

Overall a great release from Optimum- the best DVD release of this wonderful film that I have seen to date.    

NOTE: There is a French DVD (with a strong image) but it has non-removable French subtitles.

***

This is a good example of the lengths that DVD production companies can affect change in film presentation when they adjust color. The three versions, none of which I can recommend, each have a major flaw - "Greenish tinge and artefacts" (Artisan), "Washed out and hazy" (Entertainment in Video) and "Over contrasted and edge enhancement" (Best Film). Although the Artisan Region 0 NTSC is the only one that is not anamorphic (and it is the oldest) it still has the sharpest image quality. the colors of the Region 0 Artisan are the most vibrant. NOTE: the Region 2 PAL DVDs are both slightly horizontally cropped to accommodate the 16X9 enhancement.

NOTE: I have been informed that the UK version of The Piano (EiV) has also an technical problem. The picture "pumps" all the time. Approx. there are 4-5 frames sharp, and after that 1 frame out of focus, and then again 4-5 frames sharp and 1 out of focus. You see it very clearly if you focus on the picture on a wall or when the movement are stopped.

 - Gary W. Tooze



DVD Menus

(Artisan - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT -. EiV (UK) - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE -. Best Film  (Poland) Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)

 

 

Menus - Optimum (Special Edition) - Region 2 - PAL

 

Menus - Optimum (Special Edition) - Disc 2

Miramax / Lionsgate - Region 'A' - Blu-ray


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

 

Blu-ray Subtitle Sample

 

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Artisan - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) EiV (UK) - Region 2 - PAL SECOND

3) Best Film  (Poland) Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Optimum (Special Edition) Region 2 - PAL- FOURTH

5) Miramax / Lionsgate - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Artisan - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) EiV (UK) - Region 2 - PAL SECOND

3) Best Film  (Poland) Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Optimum (Special Edition) Region 2 - PAL- FOURTH

5) Miramax / Lionsgate - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Artisan - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) EiV (UK) - Region 2 - PAL SECOND

3) Best Film  (Poland) Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Optimum (Special Edition) Region 2 - PAL- FOURTH

5) Miramax / Lionsgate - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Artisan - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) EiV (UK) - Region 2 - PAL SECOND

3) Best Film  (Poland) Region 2 - PAL THIRD

4) Optimum (Special Edition) Region 2 - PAL- FOURTH

5) Miramax / Lionsgate - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 


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Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Optimum

 

Box Covers

 

Distribution

Artisan Entertainment

Region 0  - NTSC

Entertainment in Video

Region 2  - PAL

Best Film
Region 2 - PAL

 

Optimum
Region 2 - PAL
Lionsgate / Miramax
Region 'A' -
Blu-ray

 


 

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Gary Tooze

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