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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Dawson City: Frozen Time [Blu-ray]


(Bill Morrison, 2016)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Hypnotic Pictures

Video: Kino Lorber



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

Runtime: 2:00:52.286

Disc Size: 49,104,293,955 bytes

Feature Size: 37,877,551,104 bytes

Video Bitrate: 33.98 Mbps

Chapters: 9

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: October 31st, 2017



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3636 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3636 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1850 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1850 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English, None



Dawson City: Postscript (9:54)
Interview with Bill Morrison (8:49)
Eight Selections From Dawson Film Find (D.W. Griffith, Pathe news etc.)
Trailer (2:13)





Description: This meditation on cinema’s past from Decasia director Bill Morrison pieces together the bizarre true history of a long-lost collection of 533 nitrate film prints from the early 1900s. Located just south of the Arctic Circle, Dawson City was settled in 1896 and became the center of the Canadian Gold Rush that brought 100,000 prospectors to the area. It was also the final stop for a distribution chain that sent prints and newsreels to the Yukon. The films were seldom, if ever, returned. The now-famous Dawson City Collection was uncovered in 1978 when a bulldozer working its way through a parking lot dug up a horde of film cans. Morrison draws on these permafrost-protected, rare silent films and newsreels, pairing them with archival footage, interviews, historical photographs, and an enigmatic score by Sigur Rós collaborator and composer Alex Somers. Dawson City: Frozen Time depicts the unique history of this Canadian Gold Rush town by chronicling the life cycle of a singular film collection through its exile, burial, rediscovery, and salvation.


A thrilling adventure through American history, Dawson City: Frozen Time pieces together the bizarre true story of a collection of some 500 silent films. Dating from the 1910s and 20s, they were lost for over 50 years until being discovered buried in a subarctic swimming pool deep in the Yukon Territory in 1978. Director Bill Morrison (Decasia) uses this extraordinary footage as a conduit to explore the complicated past of Dawson City, a Canadian gold rush town and First Nation hunting camp that was transformed and displaced. Dawson City: Frozen Time is a triumphant work of art that chronicles the life cycle of a singular film collection through its exile, burial, rediscovery, and salvation, discovering another world in the process.



The Film:

Dawson City” tells a number of stories: about how the addition of certain chemicals to cotton created an explosive (nicknamed gun cotton) that was developed into celluloid motion picture film; about a settlement of Native Americans that was muscled out of existence by white settlers trekking north during the gold rushes of the mid- and late-19th centuries; about the boom and bust cycles of Dawson City itself, which burned to the ground once a year for the first nine years of its existence.

It tells the stories of famous fortunes made in this vicinity, including that of one Frederick Trump, the president’s grandfather. Future pioneers of Hollywood, such as the actor-director William Desmond Taylor and the theater entrepreneurs Alexander Pantages and Sid Grauman, somehow got their starts in this remote locale. As silent motion pictures became a worldwide attraction, Dawson City became the end of the line for film distribution routes.

Excerpt from The NY Times located HERE

It's been called the King Tut's Tomb of silent cinema, a celluloid find at one of the world's far corners that dazzled the film universe, but to accomplished, ambitious moviemaker Bill Morrison, it was something more: the chance to tell the story of a lifetime, to spin a wondrous, almost indescribable tale, a complete astonishment from beginning to end.

The thrilling documentary “Dawson City: Frozen Time” is indescribable not because it's ambiguous (it's totally straightforward) but because it does so many things so beautifully it is hard to know where to begin.

An aesthetic knockout that's crammed with wild tales, amazing facts and unconventional personalities, a documentary that's also a detective story, a history of a particular place that turns into an examination of an art form as well as a gloss on the political history of the 20th century, “Dawson City” begins and ends in its namesake tiny gold rush town just south of the Arctic Circle in Canada's unforgiving Yukon Territory.

Excerpt from The LA Times located HERE

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

The dual-layered Kino Lorber Blu-ray with a high bitrate of Dawson City - Frozen Time looks amazing in 1080P. The static black and white, or sepia, photos have deep rich black levels and look so impressive. The 'found' films have varying degrees of damage - mostly on the edges. These incredible images - transferred to Blu-ray augment the fascinating stories of discovery and historical content. Stunnning!




























Audio :

Kino give the choice of DTS-HD Master tracks in a robust 5.1 surround or 2.0 channel stereo - both 24-bit. There are some background sounds - birds etc. but little narration - having the silent images show brief titles devoid of extensive details. There is a score by Alex Somers. There are optional English subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

Aside from a 10-minute Dawson City: Postscript and 9-minute interview with Bill Morrison - the amazing extras surround eight selections From Dawson 'Film Find' including 1912's Brutality by D.W. Griffith, Pathe news etc. There is also a trailer and the package has a 24-page booklet with an essay by Lawrence Weschler and Alberto Zambenedetti plus photos.



Dawson City - Frozen Time is a brilliant film experience. We know 90+% of all Silent Era films have been lost and this discovery opens up an entire world - a fascinating time - and a riveting history. An overwhelming feeling of clandestine privilege overcomes you when you watch this. The Kino Lorber
Blu-ray is an absolute must-own even beyond Silent film fans. There is no one better than Bill Morrison to oversee this magnificent production. VERY strongly recommended!  NOTE: At the writing of this review it is 44% OFF at Amazon. Buy with extreme anticipation!!

Gary Tooze

October 24th, 2017



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