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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Losing Ground [Blu-ray]

 

(Kathleen Collins, 1982)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Milestone Film & Video

Video: Milestone Films

 

Disc:

Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:25:38.216

Disc Size: 24,773,342,055 bytes

Feature Size: 23,885,131,776 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.99 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: April 5th, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Commentaries:

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

 

Subtitles:

English, None

 

Extras:

Blu-ray 1

• Commentary track by Professors LaMonda Horton-Stallings and Terri Francis
2015 Theatrical Trailer (2:03)

Blu-ray 2 (48,267,082,923 bytes)
The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy (1980, 0:49:15.786, 29.98 Mbps - Color) Kathleen Collins and Ronald Gray's first film with optional commentary with Kathleen Collins and Henry H. Roth
Video Interviews with Ronald K. Gray (46:33), Seret Scott (40:17) and Nina Lorez Collins (26:24)
An Interview with Kathleen Collins by Phyllis R. Klotman (1982, Color, 22:42, Courtesy of Indiana University Black Film Archive)
Transmagnifican Dambamuality (1976, 7:04, B&W) Gray's celebrated lost student film

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: At the time of her death from cancer in 1988, Kathleen Collins was just 46 years old, but she was already an internationally renowned playwright, a popular professor (at New York’s City College) and a successful independent filmmaker.


Her second film, Losing Ground tells the story of a marriage of two remarkable people, both at a crossroads in their lives. Sara Rogers, a black professor of philosophy, is embarking on an intellectual quest to understand “ecstasy” just as her painter husband Victor sets off on a more earthy exploration of joy.


Celebrating a recent museum sale, Victor decides to rent a country house where he can return to more realism after years working as an abstract expressionist. Away from the city, the couple’s summer idyll becomes complicated by Sara’s research and by Victor’s involvement with a young model. When one of her students casts Sara as the woman scorned in a film version of the song “Frankie and Johnny,” she experiences a painful emotional awakening. While dealing with strong individuals and feelings, the film is also charming--Collins described it as a comedy about a young woman who takes herself too seriously.


One of the very first fictional features by an African-American woman, Losing Ground remains a stunning and powerful work of art. Accomplished actors Seret Scott (who appeared in Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby and Ntozake Shange’s play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf”), Bill Gunn (Ganja and Hess) and Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead) star.


Funny, brilliant and personal, Losing Ground should have ranked high in the canon of indie cinema. But the early 1980s was not an easy time for women or independent filmmakers and the film was never theatrically released. It was shown once on PBS’s American Playhouse, and then it effectively disappeared. Twenty-five years after her mother’s death, Nina Collins rescued the original negative and created a beautiful new digital master of her mother’s film. Losing Ground now looks and sounds as fresh, bracing and complex as it did when it was first filmed. It is a testament to Kathleen Collins’ incredible talent and a lasting treasure of African American and women’s cinema.

 

 

The Film:

Losing Ground is a amusing but standard menage a trois, set in a small college town. The principle difference between this and other such films is that all the characters are African-American. Artist Bill Gunn is married to philosophy professor Seret Scott. She prides herself on being broad-minded and liberal; so why is she so peeved that Gunn is using the gorgeous Maritza Rivera as his model? Although there are no star names, and though it might be well nigh impossible to find, Losing Ground is well worth your while.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

This low-budget 1982 drama was one of the first features directed by an African-American woman, but it's much more than a historical footnote. Formally and intellectually ambitious, it moves daringly between Bergmaneseque psychodrama and probing conversations on philosophy, race, and religion. A black philosophy professor at a New York college (Seret Scott), working on a paper about "ecstatic experience," starts to reevaluate her life and realizes that for years she's lived without passion. Writer-director Kathleen Collins charts the character's emotional breakdown subtly and perceptively, never drawing easy conclusions about her life. Bill Gunn gives a powerful performance as the woman's husband, an arrogant abstract painter; his unpredictable, deeply sympathetic work recalls such John Cassavetes films as Faces and A Woman Under the Influence and makes for a compelling frisson with the cerebral script. With Billie Allen and Duane Jones.

Excerpt from Dave Kehr at the Chicago Reader located HERE

 

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

Losing Ground has arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Milestone Films. This “lost” classic gets a restoration from the original 16mm negatives, as well as remastering the original soundtrack to create new digital masters. This first Blu-ray disc is single-layered only housing the 1.33:1 film (with optional commentary) and a trailer. A second Blu-ray contains the bulk of the extras and another Kathleen Collins first feature The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy (also in 1080P.) The transfer has a very high bitrate and supports the film's textures and richness of the outdoor colors. It looks lovely - with reasonably clean visuals (maybe a few speckles) and contrast that reflects the limitations of the production format. The Blu-ray gave me a pleasing presentation - looking strong in-motion - as a solid representation of its original appearance.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The audio has also been restored and is transferred her via a linear PCM 2.0 channel track at 1536 kbps (16-bit). It has the original production imperfectly audible dialogue but is clear and clean. This was the first film music composed by Michael Minard (who, surprisingly, has did the score for the slasher film The Mutilator). It has some surprisingly crisp moments. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

 

Extras :

Milestone stack the release firstly offering a commentary track by Professors LaMonda Horton-Stallings and Terri Francis giving deeper insight into the film's subtle features, intents and themes. There is also a 2015 re-release theatrical trailer also on the first Blu-ray.

The second Blu-ray contains the 50-minute, 1980, The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy; Kathleen Collins and Ronald Gray's first film and it also includes an optional commentary with Collins and Henry H. Roth discussing the production roots etc. We get video interviews with cinematographer Ronald K. Gray for over 3/4 of an hour, director / actor/ playwright Seret Scott for 40-minutes and Nina Lorez Collins - daughter the late writer director Kathleen Collins - shedding light in a few areas about the film's rediscovery, restoration and her mother for just shy of 1/2 an hour. There is also a vintage 22-minute interview with Kathleen Collins by Phyllis R. Klotman from 1982 and Transmagnifican Dambamuality Ronald K. Gray's celebrated, 1976, 7-minute lost student film about the struggle of a teenage boy to assert himself amid the frenetic activity of a large family.

Blu-ray 1

 

Blu-ray 2

 

BOTTOM LINE:
As I was watching Kathleen Collins' Losing Ground - before I read any reviews - I thought of Cassavetes - inexpensive, indie, cinema vérité-leaning straying from some of the bleak and hollow forms of many more-modern artistic expressions - deep human emotions. Milestone should really be highly commended for bringing this to Blu-ray as they did with Shirley Clarke's Portrait of Jason and The Connection. I doubt I would ever be exposed to Losing Ground or The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy if not for their efforts! We should feel so fortunate to be able to see these films looking so authentic in the comfort of our home theaters where you might be fortunate to have the opportunity to see it in a very limited Festival run or retrospective. It's brilliant, rarely viewed, and unique, cinema and it gets our highest recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

April 3rd, 2016

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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