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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Shooting Stars [Blu-ray]

 

(Anthony Asquith, A.V. Bramble, 1928)

 

    

  

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: British Instructional Films (BIF)

Video: BFI

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:41:14.083

Disc Size: 40,037,821,438 bytes

Feature Size: 28,716,566,976 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.01 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 21st, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

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
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3676 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3676 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)

 

Intertitles:

English

 

Extras:

Pathe's Screen Beauty Competition (1920, 2:00)
Around the Town: British Film Stars and Studios (1921, 2:30)
The Lovely Hundred (1922, 0:25)
Secrets of a World Industry - The Making of Cinematograph Film (1922, 7:49)
Meet Jackie Coogan (1924, 10:41)
Starlings of the Screen (1925,15:29)
Opening of British Instructional Film Studio (1928, 3:44)
Stills and Special Collections Gallery (2016, 6:22)
Original screenplay (downloadable PDF, DVD only)
Illustrated booklet with essays by Bryony Dixon, John Altman, Henry K Miller and Chris O'Rourke, and full film credits

DVD included (region 0)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Shooting Stars is a must for any Silent cinema fan. Offering a rare insight into the workings of a 1920s film studio, there are location scenes, comic stunts and an on-set jazz band which demonstrate just what life was like in the early days of cinema.

Despite the directing credit going to veteran filmmaker A V Bramble, Shooting Stars is universally acknowledged to be the directorial debut of rising talent Anthony Asquith. Asquith wrote the original story, deliberately choosing the subject of movie-making itself as his theme, and the dynamic cinematographic style and professional approach to the design and lighting was introduced by Asquith himself, based on his experiences at Chaplin's studio. The script is sophisticated, incorporating iconic counterpoint and containing very few inter-titles, a trope of Asquith's work.

Presented on DVD and Blu-ray in a new restoration by the BFI National Archive, this key film of the Silent era marked a step change in the quality of British features on a par with Hitchcock's work at Gainsborough, and anyone enamored with the glamour of film will relish the knowing humour and style of this long-unseen classic.

 

 

The Film:

Respectfully acknowledged in academic studies, Shooting Stars has nevertheless suffered for being book-ended by Hitchcock classics and ignored during the resurrection of other treasures from the 'golden age' of late British Silent cinema, belying its importance in terms of both technical and thematic innovation. It marked the fiction feature debut of British Instructional Films, whose change in direction fostered a remarkable sense of freedom. Now also recognised as Anthony Asquith's directorial debut, the film was credited to supervising veteran A.V. Bramble, though Asquith was given an authorial credit beneath the title for his script, a spiky satire of the domestic film industry.

In a virtuoso opening sequence, star couple Mae Feather and Julian Gordon enact a romantic scene for their latest 'epic,' but as the camera pans back the artifice of moviemaking is exposed, as is the fragile state of the couple's marriage, establishing the film's key theme of 'real life' versus 'the movies'. As Mae flounces off set, the sequence grows in ambition, demonstrating Asquith's technically intrepid style, with a camera high in the rafters tracking her through the cavernous studio.

Excerpt from BFISCreenOnline located HERE

The film was an immediate success in Europe, and it established Asquith, who did most of the directing, as one of the most interesting people working in the British movie industry at the time.

The film was reviewed by two movie critics of the London office of Variety, and they both expressed two entirely opposite views of the film. The favorable review was by an American, and the unfavorable review was by an Englishman.

The English critic said," Acting and photography are both good. The rest is inexcusable." The American critic said, "The viewpoint of the writer is that the picture is too modern for the average moving picture patron, who is confronted with the difficulty of carrying in his mind a story within a story and then part of another story within the inside story."

Excerpt from SilentsareGolden located HERE

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

Shooting Stars is restored (2K resolution) and gets a new Blu-ray transfer from BFI.  The 1 3/4 hour film is housed on a dual-layered disc with a strong bitrate. Contrast and black levels are not as rich as I was hoping but I understand the surviving sources used - one reel of negative, two nitrate prints and a master positive (theatrical, French etc.) - were the best available. The 1080P supports a decent image in-motion although less than pitch in terms of black levels but still imperfect. The frame rate has been adjusted to 24 fps without noticeable artefacts (ghosting, combing etc.). There are some scratches and marks - nitrate decay, but some detail in close-ups is impressive.  I don't doubt that this Blu-ray is the best that could be done to bring the film to us. It's wonderful and I think we should be appreciative.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

BFI allow the option of a linear PCM 2.0 channel at 2304 kbps (24-bit) or a more robust DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 3676 kbps (24-bit). They differ in a few spots but are generally the same. The jazzy score was composed and orchestrated by John Altman and performed by the Live Film Orchestra - commissioned by the BFI. It sounds excellent and richer and deeper in the surround.  There are English Intertitles (see sample) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE.

 

Extras :

BFI add a number of extras - many short clips like the 2-minute Pathe's Screen Beauty Competition from 1920, Around the Town: British Film Stars and Studios from 1921, 25-seconds of The Lovely Hundred (1922), 1928's Opening of British Instructional Film Studio as well as longer Silent era pieces like Secrets of a World Industry - The Making of Cinematograph Film from 19223 running just shy of 8-minutes and a 10-minute short of Meeting Jackie Coogan as well as Starlings of the Screen from 1925 (15-minutes). There is a new 6-minute Stills and Special Collections Gallery and from the included DVD you can access a PDF of the original screenplay and the package contains an illustrated, 30-page, booklet with essays by Bryony Dixon, John Altman, Henry K Miller and Chris O'Rourke, and full film credits.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Once again the BFI bring us a masterpiece from the Silent Era to Blu-rayShooting Stars is essential cinema for those keen on this genre. It's rare in that few have ever seen this gem. The BFI Blu-ray package offers a lot of value and certainly something you can re-visit and cherish through the years. This is easy to put in the 'must-own' and 'don't hesitate' category for Silent aficionado digital librarians everywhere (it's region FREE!). Recommended! 

Gary Tooze

May 4th, 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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