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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Making "Kes," a new documentary featuring Loach, Menges, producer Tony Garnett, and actor David Bradley
  • The Southbank Show: "Ken Loach," a 1993 profile
  • Cathy Come Home (1966), an early television feature by Loach, with an afterword by film writer Graham Fuller
  • Alternate, internationally released soundtrack, with postsync dialogue
  • Original theatrical trailer

Kes

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Ken Loach
Starring: David Bradley, Freddie Fletcher
1069 | 110 Minutes | Licensor: MGM Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #561
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: April 19, 2011
Review Date: May 1, 2011

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SYNOPSIS

Named one of the ten best British films of the century by the British Film Institute, Ken Loach's Kes, is cinema's quintessential portrait of working-class Northern England. Billy (an astonishingly naturalistic David Bradley) is a fifteen-year-old miner's son whose close bond with a wild kestrel provides him with a spiritual escape from his dead-end life. Kes brought to the big screen the sociopolitical engagement Loach had established in his work for the BBC, and pushed the British "angry young man" film of the sixties into a new realm of authenticity, using real locations and nonprofessional actors. Loach's poignant coming-of-age drama remains the now legendary director's most beloved and influential film.

Forum members rate this film 8.8/10

 

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PICTURE

Kes, previously unreleased on home video in North America, makes its debut from Criterion on Blu-ray, presented in a new 1080p/24hz transfer in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on this dual-layer disc.

The booklet makes a note that Criterion and MGM went to a lengthy amount of work restoring the film, using various sources, primarily the original 35mm negative and the colour reversal internegative, both of which still showed extensice damage. What we get is still a little problematic but all things considered it’s probably come off better than it has any right to.

In general the digital transfer itself looks good and I couldn’t detect any problems in this regard. Definition is adequate, varying in sharpness at times, but this is more a byproduct of the actual filming or conditions of the materials. The picture can look a little blown out at times with blinding whites but judging by the fact that images of the film shown in archival materials in the supplement show the same look I can only guess this is intentional. The colour scheme is muted and bland but this is the intended look, and the colours look accurately rendered if a little on the warmer, yellow side.

The film’s grain structure remains intact and looks natural, but it can get severely heavy here and there, and minor blemishes are still present. Other than that, though, the restoration has been thorough and impressive.

Materials probably still limit the image and can’t be completely overcome, but the digital transfer itself does render the film perfectly, keeping it looking like a film.

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

Criterion includes two lossless PCM mono tracks: the original track and a dubbed track for international markets. Both lack fidelity, come off tinny, and do show their age, but the original track presents cleaner, more natural sounding dialogue. Unfortunately for most in North America it can be hard to understand what is being said. The dubbed track presents dialogue that is easier to hear, but the dialogue is obviously dubbed and never seems to fit with the scene, sounding far flatter.

In the end it will come to personal preference as they both have their pros and cons (I preferred the original track but did have to turn on the subtitles.)

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Kes marks the entry of director Ken Loach into the collection and with this release they not only offer a look into the making of the film but they also offer a decent retrospective of sorts on Loach’s career.

Making Kes is a fairly simple 45-minute making-of documentary featuring interviews with Ken Loach, producer Tony Garnett, director of photography Chris Menges, and then actor David Bradley. It begins with a brief look at the “angry young man” films of the 60’s, the influence of the Czech film movement on Loach and crew, and their desire to portray the “working class struggle.” From here the participants then all recall the production, from initial funding, which was incredibly difficult, but director Tony Richardson, coming off of the success of Tom Jones was able to talk United Artists into funding the project. There’s anecdotes on casting, working with the kestrel, and putting together the ending, which involved surprising the young Bradley. They also talk about the problems with actually getting the film distributed (the dialect limiting it even further,) its eventual impact, and its place in British film history. A typical talking-heads documentary, the production history was at least compelling making this piece worth viewing.

Also included is a 1993 episode of The South Bank Show which looks back on Loach’s career. Running 49-minutes and divided into 10 chapters, it starts by looking at Loach’s early career making films for BBC television (including a rather lengthy look at the film Cathy Come Home also included as a supplement on this disc) and then looking at the rut he experienced in the 80’s. This is where the piece becomes especially intriguing, with Loach talking about various documentaries he had made that were banned, possibly because of their politics. Here Loach and host Melvyn Bragg talk about a piece they worked on together for Bragg’s show, about a miners’ strike, which was ultimately not shown. They talk in great detail of “butting heads” during editing. It’s a good episode, featuring interviews with directors Stephen Frears and Alan Parker, as well as a few other participants, but is shines most during this section.

And as mentioned previously Criterion includes an early Loach film, made for the television program The Wednesday Play, called Cathy Come Home. The 77-minute film, which can have a documentary feel despite being a scripted piece, follows a young couple who just seem to run into problem after problem, getting screwed by a system that leaves them basically homeless and fighting to keep their children. It’s pretty quick, barreling through the story (moving a little more frantically than I’m used to from Loach’s films,) and offers an early look at Loach’s interest in the social conditions of the less fortunate and the working class. The feature is presented in 1080i but looks to be upscaled from a standard-def transfer.

An 11-minute afterword is also presented here, featuring writer Graham Fuller, who talks about Loach’s early television work, specifically Cathy Come Home, and the realist, documentary style this film and others went for. Decent insightful feature but not necessary viewing.

The disc then closes with a 3-minute theatrical trailer.

Graham Fuller then provides an excellent, lengthy essay on Loach’s career and Kes, going over Loach and Garnett’s working relationship in decent detail.

Overall all Criterion has gathered together a rather satisfying collection of materials, the inclusion of Cathy Come Home the most interesting one.

7/10

CLOSING

Kes makes an impressive debut on home video in North America, Criterion giving the film a strong visual presentation (despite some of the limitations of the source) and an excellent collection of supplements. The disc comes highly recommended.


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