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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Cortesie per gli ospiti" )

 

directed by Paul Schrader
US/UK/Italy 1990

 

Mary (Natasha Richardson) and Colin (Rupert Everett) attempt to reinvigorate their flagging relationship with a romantic trip to Venice. Soon, though, they find themselves drawn into a complex web of deceit, passion, perversion and sexual intrigue, subtly spun by mysterious Robert (Christopher Walken) who resides nearby in palatial splendour with his wife Caroline (Helen Mirren).

***

The relationship of divorced Mary (Natasha Richardson, A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY) and her boyfriend Colin (Rupert Everett, CEMETERY MAN) has gone stale. Even away from her children in Venice, the two wander oblivious to the sights and pick at each other (some wonderful exchanges courtesy of Harold Pinter; the novel just gives us the gist of their situation at the opening) over meals at outside cafes. One evening, they get up too late to have dinner and get lost in the labyrinthine alleys of the city looking for a cafe and run into dapper, white-suited Robert (Christopher Walken, THE DEAD ZONE) - who, unbeknownst to them has been following and photographing them - who leads them to a bar. Over breadsticks and wine, he amuses and terrifies them with an anecdote from his childhood (the subject of a recurring monologue narrated by Walken throughout the film). Too drunk to find their hotel, they sleep in an alley and run into Robert again the next day. He insistently invites them to his grand mirrored and mural-glutted palazzo of an apartment where they meet Robert's meek, seemingly terrified wife Caroline (Helen Mirren, PRIME SUSPECT). After a tense dinner with the older couple, Mary and Colin find their sex lives reinvigorated even as they continue to grow emotionally distant. Their ultimate decision of whether to stay together or not when they return to England is irrelevant as Robert and Caroline have something more ominous in store for them.

Harold Pinter took Ian McEwan's masterful novella and smoothed out little details that wouldn't necessarily transfer to the screen convincingly, gave it a concrete location (Venice, the back of my copy of the book suggests it could easily have been Amsterdam), and added his own layered dialogue; thus freeing director Paul Schrader (CAT PEOPLE) to concentrate on the spectacular visuals (gold-toned photography by Dante Spinotti, costumes by Giorgio Armani, and Gianni Quaranta's amazingly detailed reproduction of a Venetian palazzo). After his work for David Lynch, Angelo Badalementi provides an atypical orchestral score accented with Turkish motifs. The film's sting-in-the-tail ending is unpredictable and leaves the viewer with unanswered questions to mull over long after.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 29 March 1991

Reviews                                                                  More Reviews                                                          DVD Reviews

 

Comparison:

MGM - Region 2,4 - PAL vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the MGM DVD Screen Caps!

(MGM - Region 2,4 - PAL - LEFT vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - RIGHT)

Box Covers

 

 

 

Coming to the US by Criterion, on Blu-ray in August 2020:

 

Distribution

MGM

Region 2,4 - PAL

BFI
Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:40:21 (4% PAL speedup) 1:45:37.729
Video

1.83:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.72 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.85:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 31,999,812,870 bytes

Feature: 29,486,028,096 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.74 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate:

 

BFI Blu-ray

 

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono; German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono; French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

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

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

Subtitles English (HoH), German (HoH), French, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Portuguese, none English (HoH), none
Features Release Information:
Studio: MGM

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.83:1

Edition Details:
� Theatrical Trailer

DVD Release Date: 1 March 2004
Amaray

Chapters 16
 

Release Information:
Studio:
BFI

 

1.85:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 31,999,812,870 bytes

Feature: 29,486,028,096 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.74 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by director Paul Schrader, newly recorded for this release
• Prospectus for a Course Not Given: The Paul Schrader Film Masterclass (1982, 100 mins, audio only): Paul Schrader provides an illuminating precis of the film he had recently presented in America
• Paul Schrader Guardian Interview (1993, 85 mins, audio only): the director discusses films and filmmaking with critic Derek Malcolm
• Venice in War Time (1918, 1:06), The Glass Makers of Murano, Venice (1928, 3:35), City Lights (1964, 3:08): fascinating glimpses of Venice in archive film
• Theatrical trailer (1:29)
• Fully illustrated booklet with full film credits and new writing by Director of Photography Dante Spinotti, film historian Dr Deborah Allison, Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington, and Little White Lies essayist Paul Fairclough

DVD


Blu-ray
Release Date: September 24th, 2018
Custom Blu-ray box

Chapters 12

 

Comments

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

ADDITION: (October 2018) BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray: BFI have brought Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers to Blu-ray adapted from Ian McEwan's novel of Harold Pinter's play. The 1.85:1 image is housed on a dual-layered Blu-ray with a supportive bitrate. The image quality is very strong - a notch ahead of the 2004 MGM PAL DVD. It's very crisp without a preponderance of depth. I see no digitization and hardly any speckles at all. It's a solid HD presentation in-motion - colors are rich and true - adept contrast. No complaints at all.

BFI use a linear PCM 2.0 channel track (24-bit). There isn't much aggression in the soundtrack but has a score by
Angelo Badalamenti - who has done a lot of compositions for David Lynch including Twin Peaks- Fire Walk With Me, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, Wild at Heart and The Straight Story among others. He's also done the score for Schrader's Auto-Focus, and other films like 44 Inch Chest, The Edge of Love etc. It sounds fairly subtle here but suits the film well via the uncompressed. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles on this Region-B locked Blu-ray.

BFI add many extras but significantly notable is a new audio commentary by director Paul Schrader who is always interesting in his in-depth observations. Plus there are two other audio extras featuring Schrader that play to the film; Prospectus for a Course Not Given: The Paul Schrader Film Masterclass runs 1-hour 40-minutes from 1982 where Schrader provides an illuminating pr้cis of the film he had recently presented in America. The Paul Schrader Guardian Interview is from 1993, and runs 1.5 hours having the director discusses films and filmmaking with critic Derek Malcolm. There are some less-relevant shorts; Venice in War Time (1918, 1:06), The Glass Makers of Murano, Venice (1928, 3:35), City Lights (1964, 3:08) showcase Venice in archive short film. There is a theatrical trailer and gallery plus the package has a fully illustrated booklet with full film credits and new writing by Director of Photography Dante Spinotti, film historian Dr Deborah Allison, Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington, and Little White Lies essayist Paul Fairclough. Also included is a second disc DVD.

The Comfort of Strangers has Pinter's style all over it with unusual, often awkwardly honest conversations between the characters. Schrader has made another fascinating film with beautiful scenery and it stands up over multiple viewings. This BFI
Blu-ray is a wonderful package with commentary, many extras - this is recommended far beyond simple fans of Schrader but those who can appreciate deeply nuanced cinema. Your digital collection is weaker without it.

 -Gary Tooze

ON THE DVD: MGM's DVD of this forgotten early nineties Paul Schrader film is a beautiful if slightly soft (perhaps intentionally so) 16:9 presentation which is sharper than I remember the previous NTSC tape release being. The image is not flawless. There are speckles throughout but Spinotti's cinematography is well-rendered. The only extra is a theatrical trailer (hopefully Schrader and Pinter will have some input if an official US DVD ever comes out though I believe MGM only owns the European rights). Like MGM's disc of Ken Russell's GOTHIC which I reviewed some time ago, this disc has English, French, and German menu languages and audio tracks as well as subtitles in several other languages suggesting that DVD release of the film in those countries are the same presentation. Although the cover states that the English, French, and German audio tracks are mono, the often-erroneous imdb.com lists the film a stereo release (which makes sense since it was made in 1990 even if a lot of Italian non co-productions were still being mixed in mono at the time). All three language tracks are 2.0 224 kb/s which is a tad extravagant for 2.0 mono (I'm not sure if the directional sounds I'm hearing on my headphones are from the original mix or my software player). The Australian DVD has the same audio and subtitles options.

There is a fullscreen American DVD (probably out of print) that may be unauthorized and likely sourced from Paramount's OOP VHS release. The film was released theatrically by the now defunct Skouras Pictures in the US. I can't confirm it but I seem to remember that the US version of the film credits Natasha Richardson before Rupert Everett (MGM's DVD version credits Everett before Richardson).

NOTE: Program unable to graph bitrate.
 
 

 -Eric Cotenas

 


DVD Menus
MGM - Region 2,4 - PAL
 

 

BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 


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

 

Subtitle Sample - BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

(MGM - Region 2,4 - PAL - TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)


(MGM - Region 2,4 - PAL - TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)


(MGM - Region 2,4 - PAL - TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)


(MGM - Region 2,4 - PAL - TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)


(MGM - Region 2,4 - PAL - TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)


(MGM - Region 2,4 - PAL - TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)


 

More BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Captures

 


 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray

 
Box Covers

 

 

 

Coming to the US by Criterion, on Blu-ray in August 2020:

 

Distribution

MGM

Region 2,4 - PAL

BFI
Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 


 



 

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