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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

World Cinema Foundation - Volume 1 aka Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project [Blu-ray]

 

6 discs (3 Blu-ray / 3 DVDs):

Turkey (Metin Erksan's Dry Summer, 1964)
Morocco (Ahmed El Maanouni's Trances, 1981)
Kazakhstan (Yermek Shinarbaev's Revenge, 1989)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Hitit, Ohra-Sogeav, Kazakhfilm Studios

Video: Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Spine #73-75

All three BDs are: Region 'B'-locked (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: November 25th, 2013

 

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• Video introductions to each film by Martin Scorsese
80 - page book featuring writing by Kent Jones on Revenge, Bilge Ebiri on Trances, archival documentation and imagery, and more!

DVDs of the three films

 


 

Dry Summer aka Susuz yaz

 

Disc:

Runtime: 1:31:38.041 

Disc Size: 22,215,370,513 bytes

Feature Size: 21,617,268,096 bytes

Video Bitrate: 28.28 Mbps

Chapters: 10

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Turkish 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 


 

Trances aka Transes

 

Disc:

Runtime: 1:29:06.875

Disc Size: 22,553,482,532 bytes

Feature Size: 21,798,219,456 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.40 Mbps

Chapters: 13

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Arabic 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 


 

Revenge aka Mest aka The Red Flute

 

Disc:

Runtime: 1:39:35.041

Disc Size: 22,244,057,715 bytes

Feature Size: 21,541,966,464 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.79 Mbps

Chapters: 8

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Russian 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 


 

Description: Founded in 2007 and overseen by Martin Scorsese, the World Cinema Foundation (WCF) has spearheaded efforts to preserve, restore, and annually re - present neglected masterpieces of world cinema, particularly those from areas of the globe that have not traditionally been highlighted in prevailing evaluations of film, or which have lacked the financial, technical, or governmental infrastructure to ensure their preservation.

As the WCF's mission statement announces: "Cinema is an international language, an international art, but, above all, it is a source of enlightenment. There are wonderful, remarkable films, past and present, from Mexico, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and Central Asia that deserve to be known and seen. Composed of filmmakers from every continent, the World Cinema Foundation breathes life into the idea that when a cultural patrimony is lost, no matter how small or supposedly ' marginal ' the country might be, we are all poorer for it. "

 


 

 

The Film:

Winner of the prestigious Golden Bear at the 1964 Berlin International Film Festival, Metin Erksan’s wallop of a melodrama follows the machinations of an unrepentantly selfish tobacco farmer who builds a dam to prevent water from flowing downhill to his neighbors’ crops. Alongside this tale of soul-devouring competition is one of overheated desire, as a love triangle develops between the farmer, his more decent brother, and the beautiful villager the latter takes as his bride. A benchmark of Turkish cinema, this is a visceral, innovatively shot and vibrantly acted depiction of the horrors of greed.

Excerpt from Criterion located HERE

Dry Summer is a film of passion. A passion for water as well as the obsessive passion created by forbidden love. […] Dry Summer is a film of captivity… Authorities at the time objected to Dry Summer representing Turkey overseas, which presented all kinds of obstacles when the film came to the Berlin Film Festival. The film walked away with the Golden Bear, but before success could even be celebrated it was ‘taken captive’ and completely forgotten for the next 45 years. Today, in these times of intellectually dry summers, when greed is driving humanity to the brink of starvation, this film could hardly be more valid. Dry Summer is one of the most important legacies of Turkish cinema, and thanks to restoration it can be re-discovered by the next generations of audiences all over the world. –Fatih Akin, May 2008.

Excerpt from WCF located HERE

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

Dry Summer appears true to the source on Blu-ray from The Masters of Cinema arm of Eureka Cinema in the UK.  Like all in this 3 Blu-ray disc package - it is single-layered. The image is clean - contrast fairly strong with black levels improving in the second half. It's transferred in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Dry Summer will also appear in Criterion's Dual-Format Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project - also on Blu-ray - essentially single-layered (as it will share their dual-layered disc with another feature.) I didn't notice that the digitally reconstruction overtly altered the consistency of the presentation. The 1080P allowed me to greatly appreciate the film. 

 

Notes on the restoration: The restoration of Susuz Yaz used the original 35mm camera negative and the original 17.5 mm sound negative and recaptured the black and white film’s tonal nuances. The film’s producer, Ulvi Dogan, provided the prints. An interpositive preserved at the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung in Wiesbaden was used for the negative’s last missing reel. The opening and closing credits, missing from all available sources, have been digitally reconstructed.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Transferred in a linear PCM 2.0 channel in original Turkish at 1536 kbps. The post-DUB/ing can seem awkward - but you soon get used to it. I trust the uncompressed is a strong replication of the original sound quality - about as limited in dynamic range and as unremarkable, flat, as one might imagine. Despite that it supports the film's dialogue well enough. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

As with all, a Scorsese introduction - usually relating his personal connection to the film and stating its worthiness to be a part of the foundation. The package contains one of MoC's impressive liner notes booklets - in this case an 80 - page book featuring writing by Kent Jones on Revenge, Bilge Ebiri on Trances, photos and archival documentation. This set is 'Dual-Format' and has DVDs of all three films in the package.

 

 


 

 

The Film:

The beloved Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane is the dynamic subject of this captivating musical documentary. Storytellers through song, with connections to political theater, the band became an international sensation (Western music critics have often referred to them as “the Rolling Stones of North Africa”) thanks to their political lyrics and sublime, fully acoustic sound, which draws on the Moroccan trance music tradition. Both a concert movie and a free-form audiovisual experiment, Ahmed El Maânouni’s Trances is cinematic poetry.

Excerpt from Criterion located HERE

“It was in 1981 while I was editing a film, The King of Comedy. We worked at night so no one would call us on the telephone and I would have television on, and one channel in New York at the time, around 2 or 3 in the morning, was showing a film called Transes. It repeated all night and it repeated many nights. And it had commercials in it, but it didn’t matter. So I became passionate about this music that I heard and I saw also the way the film was made, the concert that was photographed and the effect of the music on the audience at the concert. I tracked down the music and eventually it became my inspiration for many of the designs and construction of my film The Last Temptation of Christ. […] And I think the group was singing damnation: their people, their beliefs, their sufferings and their prayers all came through their singing. And I think the film is beautifully made by Ahmed El Maanouni; it’s been an obsession of mine since 1981 and that is why we are inaugurating the Foundation with Trances.” –Martin Scorsese, May 2007

Excerpt from WCF  located HERE

A documentary on the music group Nass El Ghiwane. We eavesdrop on the group, whose troubadour style has won them a large and rapturous following in their home country of Morocco. The debt owed to the musical traditions of their faith and land is freely acknowledged, and vividly brought to mind by the trance-like state their compelling, percussive music induces in their fans. Amid nostalgic and folkloric anecdotes, they bicker over recording contracts. Nothing new here, but interesting.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide  located HERE

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

Trances is a 16mm documentary and has a rougher, vérité feel to the image quality. It shows significant grain and is, predictably, neither glossy nor pristinely sharp but shows some pleasing textures and I would guess the 1.66:1 aspect ratio 1080P transfer is a strong replication of the original appearance after the extensive restoration work involved. This Blu-ray image can surprise with some pleasing detail in close-ups and separation of colors. It supplies a good presentation.

 

Notes on the restoration: The restoration of Transes used the original 16mm camera and sound negative provided by producer Izza Génini. The camera negative was restored both photochemically and digitally and blown-up to 35mm format. The sound negative was restored to Dolby SR and digital.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Masters of Cinema again choose a linear PCM transfer. The original Arabic is mastered in 2.0 channel at 1536 kbps. The sound negative was restored to Dolby SR and digital and the concert footage exports the music with some occasional depth although it suffers from the limitations of the original production. There are no drop-out, pops etc. flaws but is, obviously, not particularly dyanmic. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

As with all, a Scorsese introduction - usually relating his personal connection to the film and stating its worthiness to be a part of the foundation. The package contains one of MoC's impressive liner notes booklets - in this case an 80 - page book featuring writing by Kent Jones on Revenge, Bilge Ebiri on Trances, photos and archival documentation. This set is 'Dual-Format' and has DVDs of all three films in the package.

 

 


 

 

The Film:

The Red Flute (Russian: Mest) and also released as Revenge is a 1989 Soviet drama film directed by Yermek Shinarbayev. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. The film was restored in 2010 by the World Cinema Foundation at Cineteca di Bologna /L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory and released as Revenge.

Excerpt from Wikipedia located HERE

In a rage, a teacher murders a boy. Another boy is bred, for one sole purpose: to avenge his brother’s death. Kazakh master Ermek Shinarbaev’s close collaboration with the Korean-Russian writer Anatoli Kim yielded three great films, the most remarkable of which is this beautiful, profoundly unsettling film. A true odyssey, geographically and psychologically. One of the greatest films to emerge from the Kazakh New Wave, and one of the toughest.
(Kent Jones, May 2010)

In the beginning of the 40s, hundreds of thousands of Koreans that had lived in the Russian Far East since the XIX century were forcibly displaced overnight according to Stalin’s orders. They were regarded as traitors and public enemies. Women, children, old people, were sent away with no explanation. The Korean diaspora, with a population of over a million, has been a forbidden topic for many years. Revenge is the first film telling the story of their tragedy.
(Ermek Shinarbaev, May 2010).

Excerpt from WorldCinemaFoundation located HERE

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

Revenge looks the best of the three films in Blu-ray in The Masters of Cinema's package.  The image is rich and bright - with impressive colors - bordering on vibrant. Contrast is solid and the 1080P produces a beautiful, 1.33:1, presentation. There is no noise, or artifacts, and many scenes have a sense of depth. This Blu-ray has a nice realistic feel with a reasonable film-like sense to it. Visually this gets high marks - notable for the colors and pleasing texture.

 

Notes on restoration: The restoration of Revenge, used the original camera negative, the sound negative and a positive print provided by the Kazakhfilm Studio and held at the State Archive of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Special thanks to director Ermek Shinarbaev for actively participating in the restoration.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Masters of Cinema offer another linear PCM 2.0 channel at 1536 kbps. The original Russian dialogue sounds clean and a few natural sounds (rain, ocean waves etc.) stand-out with some subtle depth. Once again, I noted no flaws and the uncompressed audio seemed to support the film - close to its origin al state. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

As with all, a Scorsese introduction - usually relating his personal connection to the film and stating its worthiness to be a part of the foundation. The package contains one of MoC's impressive liner notes booklets - in this case an 80 - page book featuring writing by Kent Jones on Revenge, Bilge Ebiri on Trances, photos and archival documentation. This set is 'Dual-Format' and has DVDs of all three films in the package.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
While I didn't embrace Trances - as much as I should have - I was blown away by Dry Summer and in particular Revenge.  This World Cinema Foundation Volume 1 package reminds me of what I started DVDBeaver in the first place - to become aware of less-known, but valuable and digitally available, world cinema. I think this was a fabulous choice for The Masters of Cinema (and Criterion's Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project in Region 'A') to release on Blu-ray. It makes me so keen to see more films from the Foundation, exploring cinema that I have never been exposed to - but can genuinely be called masterpieces'. Absolutely recommended! This definitely remands a space in cinephile digital library collections! 

Gary Tooze

November 20th, 2013


 

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.

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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