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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

El Sur aka "The South" [Blu-ray]


(Víctor Erice, 1983)


From Vertice in Spain is an OOP Blu-ray (with English subtitles):


Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Elías Querejeta Producciones Cinematográficas S.L.

Video: BFI



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

Runtime: 1:34:54.708

Disc Size: 23,810,845,020 bytes

Feature Size: 20,509,384,704 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.98 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 23rd, 2017



Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio Spanish 768 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit
* LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit (
Víctor Erice interviewed by Geoff Andrew runs with the film)



English, none



Haunted Memory: The Cinema of Víctor Erice (Adrian Martin, Cristina Álvarez López, 2016, 13:04): a video essay celebrating the great Spanish director
Víctor Erice interviewed by Geoff Andrew (UK, 2003, 83 mins, audio only)
Theatrical re-release trailer (2016 - 1:34)
Fully illustrated booklet featuring essays by Geoff Andrew and Mar Diestro-Dópido and full film credits






Description: Estrella Arenas (Icíar Bollaín), a rural Spanish teenager with a rich imagination, dreams of her mysterious father Agustín (Omero Antonutti), a man who in recent years has drifted away from her. Estrella struggles to piece together Agustín's secret history and recalls her family's sudden unexplained move from Seville, Spain, to the northern countryside in her youth. Estrella decides to return alone to the South, a place warped by years of her father's hazy and nostalgic recollections.

Exquisitely beautiful and profoundly moving, with superb performances and an evocative soundtrack, El Sur is regarded as one of the greatest films in Spanish cinema history. Directed by Victor Erice (The Spirit of the Beehive).



The Film:

The sublime The Spirit of the Beehive was a daunting act to follow, but ten years on Erice produced a film to equal that earlier masterpiece. The setting is northern Spain in the late '50s. We look again through the eyes of a child, ever watchful and all-seeing, winkling out the secrets of this world apart, where there is neither Good nor Evil; no heroes, no escape; and life is lived in spluttering bursts of poetic intensity. Erice creates his film as a canvas, conjuring painterly images of slow dissolves and shafts of light that match Caravaggio in their power to animate a scene of stillness, or freeze one of mad movement. The dramatic impact of gorgeous image and tantalising message is enormous.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

...I thought of this because of the way Víctor Erice's marvelously evocative sophomore feature, El Sur, frames so much of the past it dwells on in golden hues, faces and eyes positively radiating out of the darkness (not for nothing does the film begin with what seems to be a sunrise very slowly making its way along a darkened bedroom). But also because El Sur is a memoir, its voiceover spoken by a woman remembering her coming of age as a young girl during the mid-fifties, in the cold, chilly North of Spain, to where her physician father (a wonderful Omero Antonutti) moved from the South in search of a job. And also because this memoir of the inquisitive, gregarious Estrella (played first by Sonsoles Aranguren as a child and then by Iciar Bollaín as a teenager) focuses not so much on the golden moments of a childhood, but on the questions, the secrets, the unspoken family mysteries that the film never truly reveals but whose motives or reasons it hints at repeatedly.

Excerpt from TheFlickeringWall located HERE


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

El Sur gets a Blu-ray from BFI. It is single-layered and while the film itself is absolutely gorgeous - the transfer can look a shade thin at times. When zooming-in the grain is fairly blotchy and there was minor, low-frequency, edge-enhancement (see capture below). Generally, in-motion, the 1080P supports supports the film reasonably well with minor depth and lush colors - in the original 1.66:1 frame.  It's very clean but just doesn't show the texture as consistently/finely as I would have preferred. I don't see egregious digitization but it frequently seems frail. I would assume these niggling points (Erice is one director that we may want to get picky about the hi-def visuals) are irrelevant to many systems. Many will be thrilled to have El Sur available in HD for their home theaters. I don't know that dual-layering, and a higher bitrate, would have improved the transfer appearance (likely the compression) - but it is probable. To have such a beautiful film on Blu-ray or digital at all is a cinephile dream.


NOTE: Per-Olof (thank you!) has sent us four comparison captures of the OOP Vertice (there is, yet, another Spanish Blu-ray from Divisa available HERE). The Vertice looks pretty similar - perhaps a bit brighter - 19.5 GB for the film but similar issues to the BFI transfer.





1) BFI - Region ''B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Vertice Cine S.L.U. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



More BFI captures













1) BFI - Region ''B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Vertice Cine S.L.U. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) BFI - Region ''B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Vertice Cine S.L.U. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Low frequency edge-enhancement when zoomed-in on both



1) BFI - Region ''B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Vertice Cine S.L.U. - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Audio :

BFI use a linear PCM track, authentically mono (16-bit). The are some effect sounds - motorcycle etc. that come through flat with a bit of depth. The score is credited to Enric Granados - a concert pianist from the late 1800s - and I don't know much about him other than he died quite young, (drowned while trying to save his wife after the ship they were sailing on was torpedoed in 1916) but his composures have been used in other films and his pieces utilized in El Sur and quite poignant. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.


Extras :

We get a wonderful 2016 video essay from Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López entitled Haunted Memory: The Cinema of Víctor Erice. They discuss how film clips, especially from old Hollywood films loom large in the cinema of director Víctor Erice - as noted, in El Sur, when characters are seen at a local movie house. It's very insightful. There is also an audio only, 2003, interview with Víctor Erice by Geoff Andrew that runs to the film, and a theatrical re-release trailer. The package contains a second disc DVD and there is a fully illustrated booklet featuring essays by Geoff Andrew and Mar Diestro-Dópido plus full film credits.



Spanish filmmaker Almodóvar selected El Sur as one of his favorite Spanish films of all time. Of course seeing El Sur makes me wonder why The Spirit of the Beehive hasn't reached Blu-ray status yet. El Sur carries the same somber reflections, hushed conversations and a visual expression of youthful innocence. I understand that this was planned by Erice to be a 3-hour film, with the 2nd half having Estrella investigate some of the mysteries of her father - in the south of Spain. The BFI Blu-ray provides seeing the beautiful film in 1080P adding some impressive supplements. Because of the film's scarcity in an English-friendly digital version we still recommend to world-cinema digital librarians everywhere despite my reservations on the image quality. 

Gary Tooze

January 3rd, 2017

From Vertice in Spain is an OOP Blu-ray (with English subtitles):


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
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Gary W. Tooze






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