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directed by Jane Campion
UK/USA 1996

 

American Isabel Archer (Nicole Kidman, EYES WIDE SHUT) has come to England as a guest of her late mother's sister Mrs. Touchett (Shelley Winters, A PLACE IN THE SUN) after her father's death. She bewilders her aunt and uncle (John Gielgud, GANDHI) by refusing an offer of marriage from Lord Warburton (Richard E. Grant, HENRY & JUNE) and her American journalist friend Henrietta (Mary-Louise Parker, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES) by refusing the proposal of suitor Casper Goodwood (Viggo Mortensen, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE); but Isabel sees marriage as separating herself from "the usual chances and dangers, from what most people know and suffer" and her sick cousin Ralph (Martin Donovan, NADJA) convinces his dying father to provide for Isabel to meet the requirements of her imagination. Isabel's "handsome fortune" makes her useful to fellow ex-patriot Madame Merle (Barbara Hershey, INSIDIOUS) who arranges for her to cross paths with rakish Gilbert Osmand (John Malkovich, THE SHELTERING SKY) during a trip to Florence. Osmand seduces Isabel - all of the film's eroticism occurs on a mental plane - weds her, and soon proves to be cruel and unfeeling. Isabel sees a chance for happiness for her stepdaughter Pansy (Valentina Cervi, ARTEMISIA) with penniless art collector Edward Rosier (Christian Bale, AMERICAN PSYCHO), but Osmand would rather she marry Lord Warburton (who has come to Italy to be near Isabel). Casper Goodwood has accompanied Ralph, whose condition has worsened, to Italy in order to convince Isabel to leave Osmand, but Isabel seems determined to live with her choices; but then, she discovers the depths of Osmand's and Madame Merle's manipulation.

Director Jane Campion's follow-up to THE PIANO was never going to be a great romance regardless of the source material (in his book on Campion, Alistair Fox said that the director had become disillusioned with romance in her personal life after the film and felt that she had done a "con job" on herself and others by "no more than a wish-fulfillment fantasy that was likely to have 'fucked up heaps of women' " by generating false expectations), and Henry James' source novel is not a romance; but did it have to be such an overall dreary and hopeless experience? Kidman's glum Isabel wanders around the entirety of the film with very little of a spirit for Osmand to break, with her stubborn determination to live with her choices - albeit in picturesque surroundings - seeming merely masochistic (and not in an entertaining way). Despite Hershey's multi-faceted Oscar-nominated turn, the depiction of her intrigues with Malkovich's Osmand feel very sub-DANGEROUS LIAISONS (with Malkovich playing virtually the same character, or at least the same mannerisms and inflections). Much of the impressive supporting cast is underused, but Gielgud, Donovan, Cervi, and Mortensen all get good moments (as well as Shelly Duvall as Osmand's dotty sister who has a rare moment of clarity with Isabel late in the film) while Winters is interesting in a period setting and Grant is bland when he tones down his acting style (he might have been more entertaining as Osmand). The film has improved somewhat with age - especially once one no longer expects another THE PIANO - and the once-laughable modern prologue (the soundtrack cue for the sequence is titled "My Life Before Me") is now one of the more interesting sequences (especially when one pays attention to the opening dialogue about the expectation of love as finding the "clearest mirror, the most loyal mirror"). Janet Patterson's costumes and production design, the cinematography of Stuart Dryburch (whose canted camera angles on some of the location exteriors were not so much a stylistic touch as a way of keeping modern details out of the shots), and Wojciech Kilar's (BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA) score are the film's strongest technical aspects.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 17 January 1997 (USA)

Reviews          More Reviews           DVD Reviews

Comparison:

Polygram - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Shout Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas and Gary Tooze for the Screen Caps!

(Polygram - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Shout Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT)

Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

Polygram

Region 1 - NTSC

Shout Factory
Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:24:20 2:24:38.127
Video

2.38:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 3.8 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,151,089,530 bytes

Feature: 40,380,635,136 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 29.95 Mbps

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

Bitrate:

 

Polygram

 

Bitrate:

 

Shout Factory Blu-ray

 

Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1; French Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3496 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3496 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1644 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1644 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Subtitles English (CC), Spanish, none English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Polygram

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterboxed - 2.38:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical Trailer (4:3; 2:25)
• Cast and Filmmaker Biographies:
• - Jane Campion
• - Nicole Kidman
• - John Malkovich
• - Barbara Hershey
• - Sir John Gielgud
• - Mary Louise Parker
• Polygram Video Sampler (4:3; 2:32)
• Fullscreen version on side B

DVD Release Date: November 19th, 1997
Amaray

Chapters 18

Release Information:
Studio: Shout Factory

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,151,089,530 bytes

Feature: 40,380,635,136 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 29.95 Mbps

 

Edition Details:
Trailer (2:29)

Jane Campion and Portrait of a Lady (55:01 in 1080P)

 

Blu-ray Release Date: December 11th, 2012
Standard Blu-ray case

Chapters

 

Comments

ADDITION: Shout! Factory Blu-ray (November 2012): Shout! Factory's new 1080P transfer looks quite strong. It is significantly brighter than the, now ancient, Polygram SD DVD. Beside the non-anamorphic image the Blu-ray is negligibly cropped. There are fewer (actually no) artefacts and colors are more realistic - contrast creates pleasing detail. The disc is dual-layered and supports a healthy bitrate.

Audio is lossless and more than capable of handling the film's dialogue and Wojciech Kilar's score as well as the Schubert and Bach used in the film. There are optional Englishn subtitles.

The 55-minute documentary, Jane Campion and Portrait of a Lady, was released by Polygram on VHS separately and also included on Polygram's SHORT CINEMA JOURNAL 1.2 DVD, and later on Warner's SHORT: INTERNATIONAL RELEASE #2 DVD).

Excellent, impressive, film and hi-def release...

 -Gary Tooze

***

About the Polygram DVD: Predating Artisan's TERMINATOR 2 DVD (the first stateside RSDL dual-layer release), Polygram fit this two-and-a-half-hour film on one side of a single-layer DVD (a fullscreen version is included on the second side) by encoding it with a low bitrate. Presumably utilizing the same master as Polygram's concurrent laserdisc release, the non-anamorphic image preserves the film's color schemes and lighting levels (in Virginia Wexman's book JANE CAMPION: INTERVIEWS, Campion said she and DP Stuart Dryburgh aimed to make it the interiors in Italy "as dark as possible and have exterior shots almost overexposed to obtain those incredible contrasts") but otherwise looks flat with very evident edge-enhancement halos. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track was fine for the time (but no doubt pales next to the lossless track on the Shout Blu-ray). The only extras are a trailer (which tries to make the film seem less dreary), cast/crew bios, and a "Polygram Video Sampler" which promotes the digital wonders of DVD. Subsequent overseas DVD releases of the film have been anamorphic, but opened up to 1.78:1 (the film was shot in Super 35mm).

 -Eric Cotenas

 


Menus
(Polygram - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Shout Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT)


 

 
 

 


 Screen Captures

 

Shout Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

(Polygram - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Shout Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 


(Polygram - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Shout Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 


(Polygram - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Shout Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 


(Polygram - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Shout Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)


(Polygram - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Shout Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)


(Polygram - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Shout Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)


(Polygram - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Shout Factory - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

 


 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray

 
Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

Polygram

Region 1 - NTSC

Shout Factory
Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 




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