Home Page  
 
 

SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Stereo
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interviews with Beresford, producer Michael Fitzgerald, and actors Maynard Eziashi and Pierce Brosnan
  • Trailer

Mister Johnson

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Bruce Beresford
Starring: Maynard Eziashi, Pierce Brosnan, Edward Woodward
1990 | 102 Minutes | Licensor: Janus Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #774
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: September 22, 2015
Review Date: September 20, 2015

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

Share:

SYNOPSIS

A decade after he broke through with Breaker Morant, Australian director Bruce Beresford made another acclaimed film about the effects of colonialism on the individual. In a performance that earned him the Berlin Film Festival's Silver Bear for best actor, Maynard Eziashi plays the title character, a Nigerian villager eager to work as a civil servant for the British authorities, including a sympathetic district officer (Pierce Brosnan), in the hope that it will benefit him in the future. Instead, his ambition leads to his tragic downfall. Mister Johnson, based on the 1939 novel by Joyce Cary, is a graceful, heartfelt drama about the limits of idealism, affectingly acted and handsomely shot.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Presented on a dual-layer Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection, Bruce Beresfordís Mister Johnson receives a new restoration and transfer. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with a new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation, ultimately sourced from a new 4K scan of the original negative.

The film has had a rough distribution history in North America thanks to its original distributor, Avenue Pictures, going bankrupt just before its theatrical release. Since then itís received various home video releases on VHS and DVD that were of questionable quality (overseas the film was distributed initially by Fox, so I can only assume it received a more fair release).

Thankfully none of its problems with distribution hindered the film as it looks as though the initial source of the transfer, the original negative, has been well taken care of. There is a noticeably heavy yellow tint to the film, which is more than likely intentional to give it a warm feel, but the print is in otherwise pristine shape and the restoration work seems to have pinpointed every blemish and corrected it as I donít recall seeing a single spec of dirt or mark throughout the entirety of the film. While there are optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired, subtitles for translations are appear to be burned in.

The digital transfer is rather strong itself. The image delivers some very fine details and textures remarkably well, best displayed in the fine textures of Johnsonís white suit, the whites nicely balanced (though again still a bit yellowish) to the fine textures donít get washed out. Black levels are decent though detail can disappear in darker scenes or darker areas of the screen, but colours on the whole are nicely saturated. Close-ups do present a great amount of clarity, and even long shots look strong. The film has a very fine grain structure but itís present and looks natural.

In all itís a wonderful looking transfer, Which is pleasant to be seen for a film that seemed doomed to be forgotten. I think those just discovering the film will be pleased with it.

9/10

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.

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

AUDIO

The film sports a terrific sounding 2.0 lossless PCM stereo soundtrack. Music fills out wonderfully and is sharp and clear, delivered with excellent fidelity and range. Dialogue is also crystal clear and easy to hear but some of the broken English, referred to as ďPidgen EnglishĒ in the features, can be of course harder to make out, but usually subtitles (burned in) accompany these moments. A few celebration scenes are also fairly loud and robust, and again range and fidelity are both excellent. An excellent track overall.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

More of a companion release to Beresfordís more popular (and more critically acclaimed) Breaker Morant, Criterion doesnít go all out in the way special features the way they did for that film (which is probably one of their better put together packages in a while) but still manage to provide some great material, starting with a new interview with director Bruce Beresford. I was surprised mostly to hear the long history of the project. Since the novelís publication in 1939 there has been an apparent desire to bring the story to screen, primarily by John Huston who tried to get funding though sadly never could primarily because the title character was black. It wasnít until after his death that the production really started to come together and Beresford was brought in, after his previous film, Driving Miss Daisy, won the Best Picture Oscar. He talks about some of the fine lines he had to balance on, like how he presented both the Nigerians and the colonizing English. He didnít want to vilify the English entirely but at the same time wanted to show they did indeed mess up things in the continent, and he wanted to make sure to get the appropriate point of view of the villagers. He addresses the bungled theatrical release but admits that it was hard to sell in North America, particularly to African American audiences who werenít too fond of the presentation of the main character. It only runs 15-minutes but itís a fairly thorough overview of the film and Beresfordís intentions with it.

Expanding on what Beresford discusses is producer Michael Fitzgerald. He talks a little more about the long gestating project and Hustonís involvement, ultimately feeling Huston, who was very fond of the novel and its character, would have been more than happy with I, and then the ordeal of filming on location in Nigeria, which many considered insane at the time. Whatís most interesting here, though (other than the fact Fitzgerald and not Beresford had final cut) was the casting of Maynard Eziashi. Taking advice from Huston on how one should cast the man and not the part, Fitzgerald was won over by Eziashi for the title role, despite the fact he had next to no acting experience. Beresford wanted another actor (itís suggested it was a bigger name though itís not mentioned here who that might be) but Fitzgerald was dead set on Eziashi, so much so that he threatened to shut the production down if Beresford didnít relent. The backstory to the film is rather intriguing so Fitzgeraldís presence and input is most welcome on this edition. The interview runs about 11-minutes.

Maynard Eziashi then talks about his experience on the film. He states he had no clue about what he was getting into: he thought he was playing a side character, not realizing he was actually playing the title character and carrying the film. Though it was probably overwhelming at first he had his fellow actors and Beresford really help him along. He shares some amusing anecdotes (particularly how his family participates in the film) but the best aspect is when he talks about his character. He gives the idea he had little issue about the naivetť of the character, which plays into what the story is going for, showing how English imperialism did more damage than good, but admits at first he did take issue with the friendship that forms between his character and the incredibly racist shop owner played by Edward Woodward (talking with a lower class accent that I was surprised to learn on this release was actually his own natural one). He then realized that his character didnít take offense to his comments because Johnson saw this man as being beneath him on a class level. Itís a fabulous interview thanks to the insights he offers on the character. It runs 12-minutes.

Lastly Criterion gets a new interview with Pierce Brosnan. He thinks highly of the film, its story, its character, and its critical look at English colonialism, and has always been disappointed by the less-than-stellar release the film had (he seems to hope this release will help it). On top of that he talks about coming on board and shooting the film, working with Beresford and Eziashi. Unfortunately the interview is pretty brief, at 9-minutes, and is loaded with a lot of clips from the film, so itís even shorter. Hopefully they also retained him for an interview on a possible reissue of The Long Good Friday.

The disc then closes with the filmís theatrical trailer and the included insert features an essay by Neil Sinyard, looking at the film as an adaptation and its central character.

Sadly itís lacking any historical context or scholarly material, other than the essay, unlike Criterionís Breaker Morant release, which seemed to cover more aspects of the film and its subject in its supplements. Having said that, though, I enjoyed going through the supplements and getting more background information for the film.

6/10

CLOSING

A film that seemed to get lost in the cracks in North America finally gets a respectable release on home video, Criterion delivering a top notch audio/visual presentation and a decent (if subdued) smattering of supplements.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

Share: 



Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca  




Join our Facebook Group (requires Facebook account)

This site is not affiliated with The Criterion Collection