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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Alambrista! [Blu-ray]


(Robert M. Young, 1977)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Filmhaus

Video: Criterion Collection Spine # 609



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

Runtime: 1:36:44.840 

Disc Size: 42,306,901,129 bytes

Feature Size: 28,504,584,192 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.97 Mbps

Chapters: 21

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: April 17th, 2012



Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio Spanish 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps



English (SDH), none



• New audio commentary featuring director Robert M. Young and coproducer Michael Hausman
• New interview with actor Edward James Olmos
• Children of the Fields (1973), a short documentary by Young, accompanied by a new interview with the director
• Trailer
• PLUS: An essay by film historian Charles Ramírez Berg





Description: In Alambrista!, a Mexican farmworker sneaks across the border to California to make money to send to his family back home. It is a story that happens every day, told here in an uncompromising, groundbreaking work of realism from American independent filmmaker Robert M. Young. Vivid and spare where other films about illegal immigration might sentimentalize, Young’s take is equal parts intimate character study and gripping road movie, a political work that never loses sight of the complex man at its center. Alambrista!, winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s inaugural Caméra d’Or in 1978, remains one of the best films ever made on this perennially relevant topic.



The Film:

Young's first feature. Functioning here as writer, director and cameraman, he spent over a year living among Mexican wet-backs in the US Southwest to discover what it actually feels like working illegally, and in voluntary exile, for a society barely conscious of your existence, far less your rights. His discoveries, though nothing new, remain disturbing: workers housed and transported in sub-animal conditions, slowly bled of their dignity and culture.

Excerpt from Timeout Film Guide located HERE

Robert M. Young's "Alambrista!" ("The Illegal") is a small, gentle, beautifully made film about a subject that might, in more conventional hands, have received either harsher or more histrionic treatment. Without sentimentality or rhetoric, it follows a Mexican farmworker on his illegal journey into California, which he soon discovers is hardly the land of opportunity. Roberto (Domingo Ambriz) will inevitably return to Mexico — that much is certain from the film's opening sequence, which shows him in circumstances far more peaceful and accommodating than anything he will find north of the border. Mr. Young accepts at the outset that Roberto's pilgrimage is futile and unavoidable, and then goes quietly about the business of detailing the trip.

Excerpt from Janet Maslin at the NY Times located HERE

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

The image quality of Criterion's Blu-ray of Robert M/. Young's Alambrista! (The Illegal) belies the original production roots. Visually this is extremely grainy and thickly textured.  I think this dual-layered transfer with soaring bitrate is a magnificent representation of the original film. Colors seem brighter and truer than SD could relate and contrast exhibits healthy, rich black levels. There is no noise in the night sequences. This Blu-ray has a consistent realistic feel with zero damage.  By modern standards this is fairly tame visually but as a representation of the original - I doubt it could ever look better. It was quite a joy to see the 1.66:1 1080P transfer supporting the film without glossy or smearing artefacts. This Blu-ray probably looks exactly like the film Alambrista! and it advances well beyond the video-like representation of DVD. A real visual-presentation triumph, in my opinion!
















Audio :

Audio is in a surprising linear PCM 2.0 track at 2304 kbps. It is more robust than one would have imagined with the limits of production notable from the video portion. There is some subtle strength here and dialogue is clean and clear with optional English subtitles. No fatal flaws. My Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked like all Criterion Blu-ray releases before it..


Extras :

Supplements are outstanding starting with a new audio commentary featuring director Robert M. Young and co-producer Michael Hausman divulging many less-exposed details of the story and production. There is a new interview with actor Edward James Olmos as he relates his friendship with director Young. Children of the Fields (1973), is a short documentary by Young, accompanied by a new interview with the director. There is also a trailer and a liner notes booklet with an essay by film historian Charles Ramírez Berg.



Magnificent realist film - a more verité version of El Norte. This is gripping and bonding with the characters seems an effortless, very natural, process. The Criterion Blu-ray is a winner - in many ways. The authentic transfer and supplements (including excellent commentary) are greatly appreciated. We rate this a strong recommendation. Wow - don't let this one get away!

Gary Tooze

April 4th, 2012


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 5000 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.

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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