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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Baraka [Blu-ray]


(Ron Fricke, 1992)



Review by Gary Tooze


Studio: MPI

Video: MPI Home Video



Region 'A'

Feature Runtime: 1:36:47

Chapters: 16

One dual-layered Blu-ray

Case: Thin Cardboard book-case style - Eco-friendly packaging (100% recyclable - soy based inks)

Release date: October 28th, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.2:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1


DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (96K/24 bit), Dolby Digital 5.1



Baraka: A Closer Look (1:16:25 in HD!)
Baraka: Restoration (7:05 HD!)
Comes in Eco-friendly packaging (100% recyclable - soy based inks)


Product Description: Shot in breathtaking 70mm in 24 countries on six continents, BARAKA is a transcendent global tour that explores the sights and sounds of the human condition like nothing you ve ever seen or felt before. These are the wonders of a world without words, viewed through man and nature s own prisms of symmetry, savagery, harmony and chaos.

BARAKA produced by Mark Magidson and directed and photographed by Ron Fricke, award-winning cinematographer of KOYAANISQATSI and creators of the IMAX® sensation CHRONOS has now been fully restored from its original camera negative via state-of-the-art 8K UltraDigital mastering to create the most visually stunning Blu-ray ever made.




The Film:

Film technology and global consciousness have both come a long way since the quaint old days when "This Is Cinerama" was the leading edge of wide-screen film spectacle and the Seven Wonders of the World were touted as the hit parade of international tourist attractions.



Just how far things have progressed is demonstrated by "Baraka," an awesome cinematic world tour directed and photographed by Ron Fricke, which opens today at the Plaza. Shot on 6 continents and in 24 countries, the 70-millimeter film, which has a portentous world-music score by Michael Stearns and no dialogue, is an aggressively spectacular exercise in planetary consciousness-raising.

The film, which begins with an image of a solar eclipse, is structured like an epic poem: it begins in heavenly climes, descends into hell, recapitulates its opening themes and ends with a celestial starburst. A succession of pictures of religious shrines and holy places intermingled with scenes of natural wonders gradually gives way to the portrayal of squalor, urban freneticism and ecological horror before the film regains the high ground.

Excerpt of Stephen Holden's NY Times review located HERE


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

The Blu-ray is advertised as "FULLY RESTORED - THE FIRST MOVIE EVER TRANSFERRED IN 8K ULTRADIGITAL HD!" Rendered from restored 70mm elements this Blu-ray makes a bold statement when it claims to be the 'most visually stunning' ever. But I'd be hard-pressed to argue. Technically it does have the best images I have ever captured on this new format. Detail, contrast, color - everything is in the extreme high-end. I was certainly 'wow'ed' and I believe I've now found the perfect demo disc for when guests head over. It works out well as they can still hold conversation and eventually when their eyes drift to the screen - I'm sure they will be as hypnotized as a I. I can't elucidate much further on the visual expertise than simply pointing you to the full resolution screen caps (obtainable by clicking the reduced image below). I suggest the first and last as possibly the strongest testament to this zenith extreme of this Blu-rays clarity and dimensionality.

















Audio & Music:  
It's a lossless
DTS-HD Master track taken from the original 24-track source. Simply put - it sounds as good as it looks. Michael Stearn's seething score has a delightful marriage with the moving images culled from 24 separate countries. It melds with the expressive visuals creating a balanced symmetry that works with perfect harmony for the overall presentation. The sound quality is impressive and it floats to all corners of your Surround speaker system utilizing rifts I don't recall hearing ever before. Magnificent. There are no optional subtitles
as there is no narrative dialogue.


Two extra features and they are both in HD. Baraka: A Closer Look runs about 1 1/4 hours and examines the production intent, concepts and creation process. It's very thorough and informative but the star of the package remains the main feature. Still many will want to indulge to learn more about the evolution of this extensive project. We are also give a short 7 minutes on Baraka: the Restoration. This focuses on exactly what you might expect with details given on how it was restored and the attempt at as pure an HD image as possible - striving, in a daunting task, to duplicate the theatrical.


Bottom line:
Not dissimilar to Fricke's
Koyaanisqatsi in that the flowing images, despite their interest and educational value, can make one weary and unsettled. It's a wonderful concept and I wouldn't know how to improve the presentation excepting possibly making it shorter and more compact. As I've already extolled though - this is perfect demo material. It's filled with highly impressive images, makes no demands on limited attention spans and the flow can be interrupted without guilt. Despite attrition factors - it really is quite perfect. And this Blu-ray
is immaculate - ready to be re-visted again and again. For adopters of this new format Baraka may have a current strangle-hold on being the most essential disc to own.

Gary Tooze

October 20th, 2008





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