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Faces
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Alternative opening sequence (DVD only, 22 minutes)
  • Alternative opening sequence audio commentary by Peter Bogdanovich and Al Ruban (DVD only, 22 minutes)
  • Seymour Cassel interviewed by Tom Charity (DVD only, 47 minutes)
  • Fully illustrated booklet featuring interviews and new essays from Tom Charity and Al Ruban

Faces

Dual Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: John Cassavetes
Starring: John Marley, Gena Rowlands, Lynn Carlin, Fred Draper, Seymour Cassel, Val Avery
1968 | 130 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: £19.99 | Series: BFI
BFI Video

Release Date: April 23, 2012
Review Date: April 22, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

Chairman of the board, Richard (John Marley) and his wife Maria (Lynn Carlin) seek solace from their disintegrating marriage in the arms of other lovers in John Cassavetes' astonishingly powerful 1968 feature, Faces. Shot in searing high-contrast black and white 16mm, Cassavetes dissects the suffocating milieu of middle-class Los Angeles where hollow laughter and drunken frivolities mask loneliness and social alienation. Nominated for 3 Oscars - an unheard-of achievement for an independent film at the time - Faces employs a freewheeling, realistic approach, and showcases some of the finest performances ever seen in American cinema.


PICTURE

The BFI presents John Cassaveteís Faces on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of about 1.66:1 on a single-layer disc. The transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz. Though a UK release the disc is region free and should play on all Blu-ray players.

Filmed on different 16mm film stocks on next-to-no budget in an incredibly quick, very loose manner, the film itself will limit the presentation in some ways. First off the film is very grainy, and I canít stress that enough. The level of grain can also vary from scene to scene, apparently a condition of differing film stocks used throughout the shoot. The transfer handles this mostly well, but if youíre looking for it youíll notice blocking patterns and pixilation in areas of the screen at times. Nothing too bad but itís there. Surprisingly damage is pretty light, with a few scratches, tram lines, and marks remaining but nothing that badly harms the image. The level of detail is strong but again itís limited by the source and just how the film was shot.

Unfortunately I canít say this release offers a significant upgrade over the previous Criterion DVD. It does look better in terms of its digital presentation: the Criterion DVD had some obvious compression noise that could be slightly enhanced when blown up on a bigger television (the film grain, ironically, hid most of it, though.) Compression is definitely not a real issue here. Contrast and gray levels also look better here, and black levels are especially nice. But in terms of details the Blu-ray isnít much better and thatís just possibly a limitation of the source and itís not going to get much better than this.

In all, despite its limitations it looks good. It also appears BFI took a mostly hands-off approach to the film and I think that has benefitted it a great deal.

7/10

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 filmís audio was recorded in a fairly haphazard manner with cheap equipment, including bargain-bin clip-on microphones. Because of this the lossless PCM mono soundtrack is never as clean or clear as one would hope and though it has been remastered it canít add on what isnít there: the track is still flat, lifeless, and at times hard to hear. Also itís noticeable that dialogue is out of synch, apparently a condition of post-production looping. As to how it sounds in comparison to the Criterion DVD I couldnít detect a difference, but maybe someone with more critical ears will be able to detect one. Still, In all itís about as good as I imagine it can get for the time being.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

BFI includes a few supplements, though theyíre slim in comparison to Criterionís batch on their DVD. Sadly the supplements are only available on the DVD included in this set (which also presents a standard-definition version of the film) and are in PAL, so despite the fact this is technically an all-region release, people who cannot play back PAL content will have issues watching the features here.

Moving on the first supplement is the alternate opening, which was also found on the Criterion DVD. It runs a little longer here, at under 21-minutes in comparison to over 17 on the Criterion disc, but I think this is because it runs a little longer at the end of the piece. As to the alternate sequence itself it actually alters the timeline a bit and presents sequences in a different order. It actually opens with Richard and Maria joking around in bed together, then cuts to the film screening, and then cuts to an additional scene that takes place in a bar where Richard and his buddy actually pick up the Gena Rowlands character, which was not in the finished film. There were apparently other differences in the film (obviously since some scenes here do appear elsewhere) but the opening was the most significant difference. It would have been interesting to see the complete extended version, but apparently Gena Rowlands put a stop of this with Criterionís DVD and I assume didnít allow it to appear here. At any rate, itís sad itís not presented in high-def, instead presented in standard definition in a lousy interlaced transfer, looking the same as the one found on the Criterion DVD.

BFI did take an extra step, though, and have actually included an audio commentary for the alternate opening, which features Peter Bogdanovich and Al Ruban. Ruban recalls the screening of this version of the film in Toronto and reflects on the shoot in general, including his use of the camera. Bogdanovich is just kinda there, offering the odd comment and question here and there. Itís okay, nothing special, but itís at its best when Ruban talks about Cassavetesí directing style, especially an amusing anecdote on Cassavetes directing Seymour Cassel, who just wasnít getting into character.

The best feature, though, would be an interview with Seymour Cassel, recorded in 2005. Running 47-minutes the actor talks in great length about Cassavetes and the shooting of Faces as well as its release. He shares great anecdotes about his work with the man, who he obviously has great respect for (I recall other interviews with him where, when Cassavetes comes up, he instantly begins to beam.) A wonderful inclusion and possibly my favourite item on here.

And thatís it for disc supplements unfortunately. But we do get another one of BFIís incredible booklets. Tom Charity provides a great essay on the film while Al Ruban reflects on the filmís production and eventual premiere in Montreal. For archival material we get a reprint of a great interview between Cassavetes and David Austen followed by a reprint of a review for the film by Jan Dawson. The final piece is a bio about Cassavetes.

Criterionís DVD still bests this release in the way of supplements, but BFI offers their own strong material, with the interview with Cassel being the best item.

6/10

CLOSING

Itís a nice edition for the film from BFI. For those that donít own the film yet this Blu-ray offers a solid presentation for the film and some decent supplements. In comparison to the Criterion DVD it does offer a slight improvement in its look, but I canít say itís a significant one: at best compression noise is less of an issue and it does look a little more film like, otherwise the differences are negligible.




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