Sunday, November 23, 2003
NY Times on Bad DVDs of Good Films
Here's a good though somewhat dismaying article by Fred Kaplan in The New York Times: When Bad DVDs Happen to Great Films (link requires registration).
Bernardo Bertolucci's "Last Emperor" is a gorgeous film. It won nine Oscars, including the 1987 Academy Awards for best picture, best director and best cinematography. And the DVD, from Artisan Home Entertainment, is one of the most dreadful ever made. Colors are faded, images blurry; if a shot is filled with lines (say, the slats of a roof), they shimmer like hula hoops. It is tragically, agonizingly unwatchable.
Francis Ford Coppola's "Godfather" and "Godfather, Part II," which take up three DVD's in a five-disc boxed set, don't look quite that bad, but — given that they're among the greatest, most beautifully photographed films of all time — the results are dismaying. Images are faded in some scenes, way too dark in others and often speckled with weird distortions. For instance, in the opening shot of "Part II," the close-up of Al Pacino against a dark backdrop, it looks as if mosquitoes are swarming down his face. The movie looks better when it's televised on HBO.
Paramount is making new digital masters of the "Godfather" films for reissue, as single-film discs, late next year. Steve Beeks, Artisan's president, says a new version of "The Last Emperor," mastered from Bertolucci's personal print, will come out next year as well. Neither re-do is likely to carry a banner boasting vast improvement. That would be tantamount to admitting that something was wrong with the lavishly promoted originals.