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Howards End [Blu-ray]
(James Ivory, 1992)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Merchant Ivory Productions
Video: Criterion Collection - Spine # 488
Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 48,366,163,616 bytes
Feature Size: 30,617,640,960 bytes
Video Bitrate: 23.49 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: November 3rd, 2009
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3581 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3581 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
English (SDH), none
• New video appreciation of the late Ismail Merchant by director
Ivory (available only on the Blu-ray edition) - 12:11 in HD!
Description: The pinnacle of the decades-long collaboration between producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, Howards End is a luminous vision of E. M. Forster’s cutting 1910 novel about class divisions in Edwardian England. Emma Thompson won an Academy Award for her dynamic portrayal of Margaret Schlegel, a flighty yet compassionate middle-class intellectual whose friendship with the dying wife (Vanessa Redgrave) of rich capitalist Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins) commences an intricately woven tale of money, love, and death that encompasses the country’s highest and lowest social echelons. With a brilliant, layered script by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (who also won an Oscar) and a roster of gripping performances, Howards End is a work of both great beauty and vivid darkness, and one of cinema’s best literary adaptations.
"Howards End" is one of the best novels of the 20th century. Read
it. This film adaptation, by the team of director James Ivory, writer
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and producer Ismail Merchant, is one of the best
movies of the year - one of the best collaborations ever by these three,
who specialize in literate adaptations of novels of manners ("A Room
with a View," "The Bostonians," "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge").
I had this film on the 2005 DVD - entitled to be part of The Merchant Ivory Collection, but suspect it was Columbia Tri-Star (now Sony) - anyway, I had real trouble with getting through this film. I couldn't even find the DVD to compare - I think I may have given it away. I felt very distant from the DVD presentation and the film's lush visuals in SD weren't drawing me closer to the narrative. I was expecting the same thing on Blu-ray but was happily proven incorrect - I had a great viewing with this Criterion 1080P rendering. Image presentation can enhance not only what you are looking at but how you are feeling about a film. The exquisite frame composition reminded me many times of a canvas painting - rich and textured while the grain gives it a substantial sheen to make it appear somewhat like the work of an impressionist. Criterion have given this very visual film a strong transfer. Outdoor colors are vibrant and true. Skin tones seem a bit warm - although Helena Bonham Carter always looks pale as a ghost. Contrast is at Criterion's high level with the rich black levels bringing up detail. The improved image quality of this hi-def transfer was definitely an integral part of my viewing experience.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
The DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 3581 kbps can easily handle all this, exclusively, dialogue-driven film dishes out. The separation are minimal - crowds, train station, party - where some effect noicesw and talking sneak to the rear speakers but there is no demonstrative depth or punchy bass.Richard Robbins's score is subtly impacting on the film experience and fills the room with a delicate ambience. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being region 'A'-locked.
"Building Howards End" is a 42-minute kind of behind-the-scenes piece with input from many of the cast and some some performers. All extras on the disc are in HD. "The Design of Howards End" runs 9-minutes with production designer Luciana Arrighi and costume designer Jenny Beavan. "The Wandering Company" is from 1984 focusing on the collaboration of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. It's a good documentary running almost 50-minutes. Exclusive the this Blu-ray is a 13-minute featurette with James Ivory paying homage to his partner Merchant. We get a 1992 “Behind the Scenes” featurette for less than 5-minutes, the theatrical trailer and, again exclusive to the BR - a 16 page liner notes booklet with photos and an essay by critic Kenneth Turan.
October 26th, 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 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 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
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze