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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Tess [Dual-Format Blu-ray / DVD]

 

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/polanski.htm, 1979

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Renn Productions

Video: BFI / Criterion Collection - Spine #697

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 2:51:17.142 / 2:51:39.497

Disc Size: 45,189,584,408 bytes / 48,734,823,115 bytes

Feature Size: 44,325,525,504 bytes / 29,907,050,496 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.92 Mbps / 18.65 Mbps

Chapters: 9 / 24

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: March 18th, 2012 / February 25th, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3267 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3267 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), English, none

English, none

 

Extras:

On the Blu-ray:

Costume Designs (2013, 2 mins): Anthony Powell's award-winning designs
Trailer (1:48)

 

On the DVD:
Tess: From Novel to Screen (Laurent Bouzereau, 2004, 29 mins, DVD only): Polanski on the adaptation of Hardy's classic novel, with contributions from Hardy scholars and cast and crew
Filming Tess (Laurent Bouzereau, 2004, 26 mins, DVD only): cast and crew discuss the technical challenges they faced
Tess: The Experience (Laurent Bouzereau, 2004, 20 mins, DVD only): those who worked on Tess discuss their experiences
Fully illustrated booklet with essays and credits

 

Once Upon a Time . . . “Tess,” a 2006 documentary about the film (52:47)
Three programs on the making of the film—From Novel to Screen (28:51), Filming “Tess” (26:12), and “Tess”: The Experience (19:39)—featuring interviews with Polanski, actors Nastassja Kinski and Leigh Lawson, producer Claude Berri, costume designer Anthony Powell, composer Philippe Sarde, and others
Interview with Polanski from a 1979 episode of The South Bank Show (50:27)
Forty-five-minute documentary shot on location for French television during the making of the film (48:49)
Trailer (1:51)
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Colin MacCabe

2 DVDs with the feature and extra content of the Blu-ray

 

Bitrate:

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Description: Roman Polanski's (Chinatown, The Pianist) critically acclaimed adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel stars Nastassia Kinski as the ill-fated peasant girl whose beauty is both her fortune and her undoing. Exquisitely photographed and brilliantly acted, Tess explores the painful cruelty of love to create a modern masterpiece.

***

This multiple-Oscar-winning film by Roman Polanski is an exquisite, richly layered adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. A strong-willed peasant girl (Nastassja Kinski, in a gorgeous breakthrough) is sent by her father to the estate of some local aristocrats to capitalize on a rumor that their families are from the same line. This fateful visit commences an epic narrative of sex, class, betrayal, and revenge, which Polanski unfolds with deliberation and finesse. With its earthy visual textures, achieved by two world-class cinematographers—Geoffrey Unsworth (Cabaret and Ghislain Cloquet (Au hasard Balthazar)—Tess is a work of great pastoral beauty as well as vivid storytelling.

 

 

 

The Film:

In Roman Polanski's adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Nastassja Kinski plays Tess, a poor British peasant girl sent to live with her distant and wealthy relatives, the D'Urbervilles. Though Tess' father had hoped that the girl would be permitted a portion of the D'Urberville riches, he is in for a major disappointment: Tess' new housemates are not D'Urbervilles at all, but a social-climbing family that has bought the name. Tess won three Oscars, including a "Best Cinematography" statuette for the late Geoffrey Unsworth and his successor Ghislain Cloquet. The film also served to catapult Nastassja Kinski to stardom.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Roman Polanski's "Tess" is a love song with a tragic ending -- the best kind of love song of all, just so long as it's not about ourselves. He tells the story of a beautiful young girl, innocent but not without intelligence, and the way she is gradually destroyed by the exercise of the male ego. The story is all the more touching because it is not an unrelenting descent into gloom, as it might have been in other hands, but a life lived in occasional sight of love and happiness. Tess is forever just on the brink of getting the peace she deserves.

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

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

Tess gets a 'new 4K digital restoration' Blu-ray from the BFI in the UK.  The 3-hour film is solidly in dual-layered territory and has a strong bitrate. The image quality seems to match the earthy theatrical appearance. There are strong golden hues in the farmer's fields. The 1080P supports the painterly Victorian visuals in the 2.4:1 frame. Ghislain Cloquet's cinematography maintains the formal feel of Geoffrey Unsworth's camera work. The film is never pristinely sharp but exports its film-like thickness. Depth is not readily apparent which may be a function of the style and period 'look'. Much of Tess is shot outdoors where the skies are frequently grey but indoor lit scenes showcase some deft black levels where contrast is more impressive.  This Blu-ray does its job quite well providing a strong replication of the original appearance.

 

Criterion also use the 4K digital restoration, but their transfer has the endorsement of being "supervised by director Roman Polanski". The Criterion has a far lower video bitrate but their black levels look superior. I was able to get exact matches for many below and suggest toggling between the larger captures to get an idea of the differences. The Criterion is darker, skin tones negligibly warmer, and contrast appears tighter producing richer visuals. Most may not notice the differences in-motion - they are slight, but do exist. Despite being less technically robust the Criterion gains a small edge here, surprisingly - IMO.

 

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

 

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Audio :

We get the choice of a pure lossless linear PCM 2.0 channel track at 2304 kbps or a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. The latter had a few notable separations - although nothing as crisp as an uncompressed could have produced. I preferred the stereo which produced some seething depth and improved high-end. Tess has original music by Philippe Sarde (Alice and Martin, Quest For Fire). He is a thoughtful composer and the restrained score benefits the film experience. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Criterion put the 5.1 surround via a lossless transfer at a whopping 3267 kbps. It advances over the less robust Dolby separations on the BFI sounding notably crisper but I was strongly aware of the substantial depth in parts of the Sarde's score. Criterion also offer optional English subtitles and their disc is region 'A'-locked. 

 

Extras :

The Blu-ray disc only has a new 2-minute piece on Anthony Powell's award-winning costume designs and a trailer. But being Dual-Format we also get a DVD which has more extras. Tess: From Novel to Screen is from 2004 and has 30-minutes with Laurent Bouzereau discussing Polanski on the adaptation of Hardy's classic novel, with contributions from Hardy scholars and cast and crew. Filming Tess has Bouzereau again with the cast and crew discuss the technical challenges they faced and the third piece is Tess: The Experience with those who worked on Tess discussing their experiences. The package includes a fully illustrated booklet with essays and credits.

 

Criterion also have the three Laurent Bouzereau programs, from 2004, on the making of the film as found on the BFI 'supplement' DVD - From Novel to Screen (28:51), Filming “Tess” (26:12), and “Tess”: The Experience (19:39)—featuring interviews with Polanski, actors Nastassja Kinski and Leigh Lawson, producer Claude Berri, costume designer Anthony Powell, composer Philippe Sarde, and others. Criterion add Daniel Ablin and Serge July's, 53-minute, 2006 documentary entitled Once Upon a Time . . . “Tess”. It features interviews with director Roman Polanski, actors Nastassja Kinski and Leigh Lawson, producer Claude Berri, costume designer Anthony Powell, and composer Philippe Sarde. Included is a 50-minute interview with Polanski by host Melvyn Bragg from a 1979 episode of The South Bank Show. There is also a 49-minute episode of the French Television program Cine regards interspersing behind-the-scnes footage from the making of Tess in the French countryside with an interview with Polanski. There is also a trailer and the package is a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Colin MacCabe, and like the BFI, is also Dual-Format containing 2 DVDs with the feature and extra content of the Blu-ray.

 

BFI - Region 'B' Blu-ray - LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

 
 
 

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Even at 3-hours Polanski's Tess misses a lot of the classic novel. But as far as adaptations go - this seems the best I have seen so far. The important attributes are included and the entire film has a gracious Victorian presence while still melding with the director's style. Nastassja Kinski is wonderful and the BFI Blu-ray gave me an engrossing and consistent presentation. Recommended!

 

Great package by Criterion - the film is masterful and the story classic. Certainly so rich that you want to see it in 1080P. The Criterion's substantial extras and lossless surround audio may give it enough of an edge to even double-dip, but regardless - the Blu-ray is deserved in any digital collection. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

February 26th, 2012

January 30th, 2014


 

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.

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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)

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Gary W. Tooze

 

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