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100 Years of Olympic Films, 01: Stockholm 1912
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Stereo
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
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100 Years of Olympic Films, 01: Stockholm 1912

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Adrian Wood
2017 | 170 Minutes | Licensor: International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $399.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: December 5, 2017
Review Date: December 11, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

Spanning fifty-three movies and forty-one editions of the Olympic Games, 100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912–2012 is the culmination of a monumental, award-winning archival project encompassing dozens of new restorations by the International Olympic Committee. The documentaries collected here cast a cinematic eye on some of the most iconic moments in the history of modern sports, spotlighting athletes who embody the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”: Jesse Owens shattering world records on the track in 1936 Berlin, Jean-Claude Killy dominating the Grenoble slopes in 1968, Joan Benoit breaking away to win the Games’ first women’s marathon in Los Angeles in 1984. In addition to the impressive ten-feature contribution of Bud Greenspan, this stirring collective chronicle of triumph and defeat includes such documentary landmarks as Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia and Kon Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad, along with captivating lesser-known works by major directors like Claude Lelouch, Carlos Saura, and Miloš Forman. It also offers a fascinating glimpse of the development of film itself, and of the technological progress that has brought viewers ever closer to the action. Traversing continents and decades, reflecting the social, cultural, and political changes that have shaped our recent history, this remarkable movie marathon showcases a hundred years of human endeavor.


PICTURE

The first dual-layer disc of the Criterion Collection’s massive box set 100 Years of Olympic Films presents, for the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, The Games of the V Olympiad Stockholm, 1912. The restoration was conducted in 4K and was scanned from surviving 35mm nitrate negative elements and acetate duplicates made in 1962. The film has been encoded at 1080p/24hz and is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

This film was actually constructed by Adrian Wood—who also worked on the restorations—in 2016 using the materials filmed for news reports at the time. Since then the materials have been used to create various films through the years, including a 50th anniversary film in ’62, though it appears that a lot of these no longer exist. It was decided that for this project the material should be constructed in a chronological manner based on historical records.

When first diving into this set I wasn’t sure what we were going to get, especially for the silent films, but I doubt I would have ever expected anything like what we get here. What we get is an absolute knockout, just jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The history of the footage, as covered in the included book, indicates these materials have been passed around through the decades and probably haven’t been properly stored due to this fact but there isn’t much of a sign of that here. The restoration work has really taken out a lot of the damage (at least what damage I would assume would be there) and we’re really only left with minor scratches, a few bits of dirt, and missing frames; there really isn’t all that much there in the end worth noting. And though multiple sources have been used quality drops aren’t that severe. In all the detail levels are very high throughout, from close-ups to long shots and the textures are great, where you can make out individual blades of grass and even dirt on the track. Some moments go a little softer, which I assume are sourced from the duplicates, but even then details are still impressive.

Of course all of that hard work would be for not if the encode itself is tainted but I’m happy to report the digital presentation itself is also top notch. This really does look like a film throughout and there are no digital issues to report. Film grain is nicely managed, getting a bit heavy in places depending on the materials, but always rendered perfectly. Contrast is nice and through most of the film the gray scale looks wonderful, with smooth tonal shifts. Some of the material that probably comes from the duplicate elements aren’t as smooth in their transitions but still don’t come off too bad. Surprisingly the image is progressive despite what appears to be varying frame rates for the footage itself. Some sequences can look a bit choppier than others (notes in the book about the restorations point out that notes about the appropriate frame rates for the 1912 through 1928 films could not be located) but I didn’t detect any digital issues related to this. In all this presentation, which comes from footage well over 100 years old, manages to look better than some of what we get for the 1936 Olympics winter games (the disc I’m currently on as I write this).

In the end this is a wonderful way to start this set and this has already raised my expectations for the rest of it. A lot of work has obviously gone into this and the results have paid off exponentially.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The footage is silent but Criterion includes a lossless PCM 2.0 stereo surround track featuring a new score composed by Donald Sosin. The score is fine itself, about what I would expect for a silent film I guess (and as the notes point out, makes use of national songs and Swedish music of the time), and the track presents it very well. It’s crisp and clean with adequate range. It’s not overly showy but it’s effective.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The only disappointing aspect to this set is that there are no on-disc special features to speak of. The set does come with an incredibly thorough 216-page hardbound book, featuring material on the restorations by Adrian Wood along with essays covering the films, all written by film scholar Peter Cowie. It also filled with photos from the various events. For this film Cowie explains its construction and gets into detail about some of the more impressive footage that was captured. (The grade given here refers to the supplements for the set as a whole, which, in this case, is just the included book.)

5/10

CLOSING

When I popped this disc in I wasn’t sure what I was going to get with it or the rest of the set, but things start off swimmingly. Again, there is a little disappointment about the lack of on-disc features but the presentation on here is really extraordinary. Hopefully a good sign of things to come.




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