Tuesday 30 August 2022

On Blu-ray - David Hare welcomes further restoration work on LA REGLE DU JEU (Jean Renoir, France, 1939)

If you buy this and begin to watch, do not expect to see anything as remotely beautiful as a Warner Archive 4K scan and restoration of a Black and White 1939 movie.

Warner would have made a scan of an original nitrate neg, and access to a multitude of other elements - interpositive, fine grains etc - which enable, simply perfection.
Neither the original neg, nor any first generation element of Renoir’s 1939 La R├Ęgle du Jeu has survived. The most recent restoration which is presented here had to be scrounged from much later elements and we are left with a less than perfect composite.
Putting on this new 4K UHD delivers a series of shocks. Never before has the exact quality of the surviving elements been so nakedly on display. What you are seeing, thanks to the optimum resolution and quality of the UHD format is as close to 35mm projection as possible. It is in effect the same. Then you begin to notice how much
“darker” is the image, after the last Blu-rays. And that’s where this new disc really takes off. Sharpness is variable, as it must be and always was given the appalling condition of the elements. But composition and depth are here in spades. HDR has been applied with great skill to extract every last grain of grayscale, shadow detail and degrees of light as they can exist in the 35mm format.
Whether you think this exercise is worth it or not is a quandary. I vote yes, but others may not. Criterion/Janus is one of the stakeholders in this 4K release and when/if they choose to release this in 4K is yet to be seen. The French disc from ESC label only carries a short extra, with none of the plenitude of supplements on the older Criterion (and BFI) Blu's.

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