Years after releasing their initial World Cinema Project box set (featuring a number of overlooked films from around the world recently restored by Martin Scorseseís Film Foundation) the Criterion Collection finally brings us their second volume featuring another six films. The fifth film in the set is Lutfi O. Akadís Law of the Border, presented here in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Opting to release the set only in a dual-format edition (there are no separate DVD or Blu-ray only editions), Law of the Border shares the same dual-layer Blu-ray with Taipei Story but receives its own dual-layer DVD. The Blu-ray presents the film in 1080p/24hz while the DVD presents a standard-definition version utilizing the same master.
Of the films in the set I actually expected Limite to be in the worst shape (and it actually looks pretty good, all things considered) but unfortunately that classification will sadly have to go to Law of the Border, though through no fault of anybody involved in this restoration.
The digital presentation and encode itself is fine, I canít fault it for anything. Short of a few sequencesósome short and some longer, and which Iíll get to lateróthe image is pretty sharp, with a nice rendering of the finer details, both in long shots and close-ups. There are no digital anomalies hurting the image or holding it back. The final image looks quite filmic and natural and handles the source as well as it can.
All of the issues come down to source materials. Scratches and tram lines are very heavy, and there is plenty of dirt and marks as well, constantly raining through. On top of that splices are visible at times, there are chemical stains, along with plenty of other large marks. Itís really rough, but thatís still not all of it.
The worst part, and the part that actually does harm the film, is not only the fact there are missing frames but there appears to be large chunks of the film missing. Some of this has been remedied, though not entirely and not in the most ideal way. Most of the film, scanned and restored at 2K resolution, comes from a positive print provided by the daughter of the filmís producer, but some of the parts missing have been replaced by a Betacam video source where possible. In the accompanying introduction Scorsese mentions a reel was missing and that a video source had to be used to help replace this. I was a bit confused by this comment as it sounded, to me, that Scorsese was saying that a whole reel was replaced with video footage, though I donít think thatís the case. Iím wondering if he meant a reelís worth of material was missing because the video inserts appear in random intervals throughout, not in one lengthy sequence, either for a few seconds or even a few minutes (the entire opening looks to come from a video source).
The video source is obvious because the quality of the image degrades much further, looking softer and fuzzier, lacking that filmic texture. Black levels become murkier and contrast levels look really off. These moments donít look good.
The video material is usually inserted after a cut, though one scene early on degrades suddenly and severely in quality mid-shot. Impressively this edit flows pretty seamlessly. Unfortunately the video material couldnít be used to fill in some of the jarring and distracting missing frames (there are a lot of sudden jumps, even ones where characters magically transport from one side of a character or object to the other) and there are still entire sequences missing. Itís this latter issue that actually hurts the film. There are some off edits and midway through there is a really weird series of cuts that suggests weíre missing a couple of scenes, and we settle on a scene where it feels like weíre coming into the middle of it, or at least late into it. Thereís also another really odd cut from one unrelated scene to the sudden image of a character (avoiding spoilers) collapsing after being shot in what looks to be some sort of stand-off, but the context of the whole event is gone. Itís here where the film enters its climax and it feels like weíre missing the context as to what finally pushed all of this to get going (after a slow build). Iím not actually sure how much is missing, and maybe itís not a lot, but it really feels like weíre missing a good chunk.
I wonít blame you if you think Iím complaining and trashing this restoration, but thatís not really the case. Iím trying to forewarn those coming to this for the first time that the film is in rough shape. The shame of it all is that there isnít much that can be done, and in all honesty weíre lucky to be even getting what we do get. The filmís star, Yilmaz Guney, became a sort of enemy to the new Turkish government after a coup díťtat in 1980 and his films, whether he directed them or starred in them, were actively sought out and destroyed. Most of his work prior to the 80s was destroyed and is now more than likely gone forever. Amazingly a print of Law of the Border managed to survive, the one used for this restoration, but it was in horrendous shape and was missing large sections. The damage is so severe that chances are any attempts to remedy all of these scratches and marks would harm the image even more, leaving us with a digitized mess, which for me would be far worse.
Nope, it doesnít look particularly great but sadly this is it. Thereís nothing outside of this. It does look rough, and its missing sections can be frustrating, but the only other option outside of this is no film at all and Iíd rather get what I can (though I donít comment on the films usually this one, despite the choppy narrative that remains, is probably the most fun out of all the films in the set). The damage is heavy, and the video source doesnít look very good, but at the very least the digital presentation is rock solid and doesnít add on to the shortcomings already there. 5/10
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.
The set presents six films, each film coming with an introduction and then another video supplement. This review will focus specifically on the features included with Law of the Border.
Like the other titles there are only a couple of supplements. Scorsese offers his lengthiest introduction here (over 2-and-half minutes) covering how he came to discover the film before explaining the dire condition of the source materials. This film also comes with one of the better interview segments found in the set, this one with producer Mevlut Akkaya. Akkaya talks about the film, offers some political background, which clarified a couple of things for me, and then talks at great length about the filmís star, Yilmaz Guney, and what happened to most of him and most of his work of the 1980 coup. He also offers his appreciation for the restoration and rescue of the film, which was almost lost forever. Itís only 17-minutes long but itís a really good feature. 3/10