H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

Magick Lantern Cycle [Blu-ray]

 

(Kenneth Anger, 1947-81)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Video: BFI Home Video

 

Disc:

Region: FREE (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:48:24.153

Disc Size: 44,567,336,020 bytes

Feature Sizes: vary from 9,266,272,704 bytes to 820,509,120 bytes

Average Total Bitrate: 32.12 Mbps

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 25th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1:33 masked on 1:77:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

None

 

Extras:

Disc one (Blu-ray):
• Fireworks (1947)
• Puce Moment (1949)
• Rabbit's Moon (1950/1971, the rarely seen 16min version)
• Eaux d'Artifice (1953)
• Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)
• Scorpio Rising (1964)
• Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965)
• Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969)
• Rabbit's Moon (1979 version)
• Lucifer Rising (1981)

Disc two (Single-layered DVD):
• Anger Me (2006) - Elio Gelminis documentary on Kenneth Anger (1:11:21)

Extras
• Newly recorded commentaries by Kenneth Anger

Restoration Demonstration (6:05 in HD!)
The Man We Want to Hang (2002 - 13:45 in HD) - Anger's film on the paintings of Aleister Crowley

38-page booklet with essays by Kenneth Anger and Gary Lachman, film credits and text about the transfers.

 

Sample Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Renowned as the author of the scandalous best-selling book Hollywood Babylon, Kenneth Anger is a legend in this own time. The mythology that has grown around him has many sources, from his involvement with the occult, astrology and the pop world of Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull and Jimmy Page, to the announcement of his own death in the pages of the Village Voice, and the destruction, loss and banning of his films. At the heart of all this mythology is a filmmaker of prodigious talent, whose skill and imagination create films of great visual force, influencing filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and RW Fassbinder.

 

 

The Films:

Offering a description of himself for the program of a 1966 screening, Kenneth Anger stated his 'lifework' as being Magick and his 'magical weapon' the cinematograph. A follower of Aleister Crowley's teachings, Anger is a high level practitioner of occult magic who regards the projection of his films as ceremonies capable of invoking spiritual forces. Cinema, he claims, is an evil force. Its point is to exert control over people and events and his filmmaking is carried out with precisely that intention.

Whatever one's view of this belief may be, what is undeniable is that in creating the nine films that he either managed to complete (Fireworks [1947], Eaux d'artifice [1953], Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome [1954-66], Scorpio Rising [1963], Invocation of My Demon Brother [1969], Lucifer Rising [1970-81]) or else released as self contained fragments (Puce Moment [1949], Rabbit's Moon [1950-79], Kustom Kar Kommandos [1965]), Anger forged a body of work as dazzlingly poetic in its unique visual intensity as it is narratively innovative. In many ways, these wordless films represent the resurgence and development of the uniquely cinematic qualities widely considered retarded or destroyed by the passing of the silent era, especially in the area of editing. According to Tony Rayns, “Anger has an amazing instinctive grasp of all the elements of filmmaking; his films actively work out much of Eisenstein's theoretical writing about the cinema…. [Anger] comes nearer [to Eisenstein's theories] than anything in commercial cinema and produces film-making as rich in resonance as anything of Eisenstein's own.”

Excerpts from Maximilian Le Cain's Article on Senses of Cinema HERE

A collection of cult films by experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Includes: FIREWORKS (1947), PUCE MOMENT (1949), RABBIT'S MOON (1950), EAUX D'ARTIFICE (1953), THE INAUGURATION OF THE PLEASURE DOME (1954), SCORPIO RISING (1963), KUSTOM KAR KOMMANDOS (1965), INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER (1969), LUCIFER RISING (1972). Previously only available in individual volumes, this collection presents the entire cycle in one definitive package.

 

 


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

Because of the nature of the production on 16mm we don't have much to go by in terms of determining just how strong the Blu-ray image is unless we do some comparisons to Fantoma's NTSC DVD sets already reviewed by DVDBeaver - The Films of Kenneth Anger, Vol. 1 and The Films of Kenneth Anger, Vol. 2. In all three comparisons we've made below identify that the improvement is quite dramatic in both detail and colors. I noticed this superiority particularly in the contrast of Rabbit's Moon. There are, obviously, fewer artifacts. There appears to be more information in the frame and I suspect the DVDs to be slightly blown-out in spots and even marginally horizontally stretched. Visually, it borders on creating an excitingly new viewing experience. Inside the BFI's enclosed booklet is the following text about the transfers: "The films of Kenneth Anger: Magick Lantern Cycle were transferred in high-definition and supplied for this releases by Fantoma. The picture was further restored using HD-DVNR and MTI restoration systems, removing dirt, scratches, warps, crackle and noise/hiss were also improved. Every effort has been made to present  these films in the highest quality possible., however minor instances of damage are occasionally exhibited due to warping, sprocket wear and frame damage. Selected titles are transferred from UCLA's restoration, as noted in individual film entries. NOTE: Anger Me on the second disc (DVD) was produced on NTSC Digitbeta and has been converted to PAL standard for this release".

James White has overseen the transfer to hi-def and it appears to be the best these films will ever look for your home theater - this includes owning them on 16mm. They appear to have now been successfully archived - presumably forever. Wonderful, and important, work BFI! 

 

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

 

Fireworks (1947)

 

 

Puce Moment (1949)

 

Blu-ray TOP vs. Fantoma NTSC DVD BOTTOM

 

Rabbit's Moon (1950/1971, the rarely seen 16mins version and 1979 version)

 

 

Eaux d'Artifice (1953)

 

 

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)

 

Blu-ray TOP vs. Fantoma NTSC DVD BOTTOM

 

 

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)

 

Blu-ray TOP vs. Fantoma NTSC DVD BOTTOM

 

 

Scorpio Rising (1964)

 

 

Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965)

 

Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969)

 

 

Lucifer Rising (1981)

 

 

The Man We Want to Hang (2002)

 

 

Audio :

No artificial surround boost going on here - its a mono 2.0 track rendered in clean, linear PCM audio at 2304 kbps for both the features and the commentaries. So while not 'demo' material for your audio components - this is a consistent and more resonant track than the DVDs. There are no subtitle but my Momitsu identifies this as Region FREE playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide!

 

 

 

Extras :

The supplements include 'newly recorded' commentaries by Kenneth Anger. Outside the 'cycle' we get The Man We Want to Hang from 2002 running 13:45 and that is also in HD - 1080P. We also get a 6-minute restoration split-window although my eye couldn't identify dramatic differences in the 2 frames. On the enclosed 2nd disc single-layered DVD is Elio Gelmini's 2006 documentary Anger Me. It involves interview(s) with the Avantgarde filmmaker using footage of both Anger's films and other archival segments portraying his childhood until present day. Fans will surely appreciate this latter supplement that runs almost 1 1/4 hours. The PAL DVD is region FREE and it's a shame it couldn't be included on the Blu-ray for convenience. Lastly BFI have included a 38-page booklet with photos, essays by Kenneth Anger and Gary Lachman, film credits and text about the transfers.  

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
As with many Blu-ray film representations I suggest that the impact, in may areas, far outweighs the limits of SD-DVD viewing - beyond even simply judging the screen captures above. Anger's films have a presence that is definitely more directly felt in hi-definition. BFI probably aren't expecting a huge return on this project but I'd like to encourage anyone with even a remote passing interest in Kenneth Anger to indulge. It should qualify in two areas - with almost miraculous transformations of these films for your home theater and in supporting BFI's obvious commitment to this totally unique brand of cinema as well as this new, powerful, digital format. I give this a big thumbs up and it is Feature Blu-ray of the Month for June!   

Gary Tooze

June 2nd, 2009

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)

Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze

 

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