Thursday 2 November 2017

On Blu-ray - David Hare extols the Criterion edition of ROSSELLINI'S WAR TRILOGY (1945-48)

Marina (Maria Michi, left)) is about to administer medically enabled cocaine hydrochloride in Rossellini's wonderful 1945 melodrama Roma Citta Aperta (1945). Lucky girl! 

The screens are from the new Criterion Blu-ray box set of Rossellini's War Trilogy The set largely replicates the contents of the BFI's excellent Blu-ray box from a couple of years ago, including a long video essay on the films and the director at this period of his career by Tag Gallagher, Into the Future.
"cocaine hydrochloride"

In a major difference however the transfers are all in various ways superior to the HD masters which the BFI used for its own box, all very good but here I believe, surpassed as they only rarely are by a superb 4K restoration of original elements for Roma, and a masterful Bologna level quality1080p encode by L'Immagine Ritrovato. The BFI were not able to access this particular 4K in 2013 to encode for their set, owing to copyright and other pettyfogging entanglements which were absolutely no fault of their own, but which they had to live with. 

Among these compromises was a less intensively restored 2K to 1080p master for Roma. There is less discrepancy however in the visual quality of the two remaining pictures, Paisa (1946) and Germany Year Zero(1948). 

So if you are purchasing for the first time take the Criterion option which is Region A fixed. 

I think the films firmly belong in every serious collectors' library.
Last screen saved for the Baddies (right), notably Harry Feist as the apparently gay Gestapo officer, Major Bergmann and his evil lezzo companion in crime, Ingrid (Giovanna Galetti, left). These two gay characters, while admittedly used stereotypically and within the context of a larger than life melodrama provide what to me is the one slightly off note to total endorsement of the movie. I know both Tag and cineaste Jim Quandt make a very fair stab at addressing Rossellini's perceived homophobia within these two characters. Quandt's essay is included in the booklet that comes with both boxsets. They are small players in a bigger picture of course.

Quandt again comes to the party later in defence of Rossellini with his comments on Journey Into Italy in the Ingrid Bergman boxset where he points out the fairly reasonable deduction that Ingrid's "uncle", whose house they are trying to sell in Italy after his death, by virtue of his single status and his impeccable taste in decorating the house, must be a homosexual, someone whom Ingrid and certainly Dame George Sanders would have admired. It seems a reasonable ploy to me and Tag has made the comment often and privately that Rossellini was no bigot when it came to sexualities.

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