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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

Howards End [Blu-ray]

 

(James Ivory, 1992)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Merchant Ivory Productions

Video: Criterion Collection - Spine # 488

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 2:15:57.648

Disc Size: 48,366,163,616 bytes

Feature Size: 30,617,640,960 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.49 Mbps

Chapters: 24

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 3rd, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

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)

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• New video appreciation of the late Ismail Merchant by director Ivory (available only on the Blu-ray edition) - 12:11 in HD!
• Building “Howards End,” a documentary featuring interviews with Ivory, Merchant, Helena Bonham Carter, costume designer Jenny Beavan, and Academy Award–winning production designer Luciana Arrighi (42:36 in HD!)
• The Design of “Howards End,” a detailed look at the costume and production designs for the film, including original sketches (8:57 in HD!)
• The Wandering Company, a 50-minute documentary about the history of Merchant Ivory Productions (49:37 in HD!)
• Original 1992 behind-the-scenes featurette (4:31)
• Original theatrical trailer
• 16-page liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Kenneth Turan (available only with the Blu-ray edition)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

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.

 

 

The Film:

"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").

"Howards End" is such a good story, partly because Forster himself was a master storyteller who was particularly gifted at strong endings, partly because the splendid cast embodies the characters so fully that the events actually seem to be happening to them, instead of unfolding from a screenplay.

Emma Thompson is superb in the central role: quiet, ironic, observant, with steel inside. Helena Bonham Carter has never been better than she is here, as the hothead who commits her mind and body to the radical new social ideas of the times. Anthony Hopkins gives a heartbreaking performance as a man who wants to change and wants to love, but finally cannot quite bring himself to break through the hidebound reactionary impulses which protect him from his better nature. And Vanessa Redgrave, as the dying Mrs. Wilcox, casts a spell over the whole movie; if we do not believe in her values, and understand what she sees in Margaret and why she wants her to have the house, we miss the whole point.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE

 

 


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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

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.

 

 

Extras :

"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.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
After my first, unpleasant, digital viewing of this film in 2005 I was suspicious and a bit disappointed that Criterion chose Howards End for a coveted spine number. But this high-definition transfer made the Ivory film grow on me and I began to appreciate what a beautiful piece of work it truly is. In a work it is 'magnificent'. Outside of a theatrical viewing this Blu-ray is the only way to watch this sumptuous adaptation of the literary classic. Another Criterion strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

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 HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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