Friday, 13 February 2009
RED DESERT ON BLU-RAY
My limited experiences with Blu-ray have so far provided some great viewing experiences with such visually arresting films such as 2001 and THE DARK KNIGHT; both of which also provide much to stimulate the brain and emotions, as well as delivering the most glorious imagery. While such films are correctly identified as 'reference quality' material, there are other films which also show off the quality of Blu-ray for less spectacular reasons. David Fincher's ZODIAC is one such title, which benefits from a lovely transfer, and Michelangelo Antonioni's RED DESERT - his first colour feature - also benefits hugely from the format.
il deserto rosso stars Monica Vitti as Guliana; a woman haunted by the spectre of a car accident, who is unable to escape from the stark confines of an overpowering industrial landscape. Consumed by worries for her sons health, and unable to fully engage with her husband and the attentions of a would-be lover, Guliana sinks deeper into her malaise while remaining fully aware of the world around her. THE RED DESERT is a totally absorbing, deeply enriching experience, with Vitti delivering an emotionally driven performance, which richly rewards multiple viewings. Just turn down the sound, and watch her reactions and draining display of mental anguish.
Although his film sometimes seems both overplayed and underplayed at times, Antonioni makes the harsh surroundings seem at one with his characters, with rich, meaningful dialogue that lays feelings bare and brings the past to life.
The BFI Blu-ray may well prove a slightly disappointing experience for first-time viewers expecting rich colours in every scene, and that's understandable. However, given the damage to original film elements, this is a quality restoration with desaturated colours and industrial greys showcasing the director's intentions. The BFI did use DVNR to remove scratches and dirt, but grain is still present, thus preserving this film to the best of their capability.
Admirers of this film will surely have their appreciation heightened by an endlessly informative commentary track from David Forgacs, and the retail DVD includes a booklet. Maybe this won't find its way onto that many 'Best Of The Year' lists. Maybe it should.