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Separation
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New full-feature audio commentary by Jack Bond and Sam Dunn.
  • Beyond Image (Mark Boyle & Joan Hills, 1969, 14 minutes) - a rare liquid light film co-created by leading British artist Mark Boyle, whose visual effects are used throughout Separation. With music by The Soft Machine.
  • Trailer for Anti-Clock (Jane Arden/Jack Bond, 1979, 3 minutes).
  • Fully illustrated booklet with essays by William Fowler, Claire Monk, Maria Walsh: biographies and credits.

Separation

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jack Bond
Starring: Jane Arden
1968 | 93 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: £24.99 | Series: BFI
BFI Video

Release Date: July 20, 2009
Review Date: July 29, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

Separation, scripted and starring Jane Arden, concerns the inner life of a woman during a period of breakdown - marital, and possibly mental. Her past and (possible?) future are revealed through a fragmented but brilliantly achieved and often humorous narrative, in which dreams and desires are as real as the 'swinging' London (complete with Procol Harum music and Mark Boyle light show) of the film's setting.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

BFI Video presents Jack Bondís Separation in the aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 on this single-layer blu-ray disc, not 1.33:1 like it says on the back of the box. The image is presented in 1080p and while this is a UK release the disc is region free and should play on all Blu-ray players (it works in my PS3.)

Like with other BFI titles Iíve been visiting on Blu-ray Iím absolutely stunned by the picture quality of the transfer found on here. Iíve never heard of the film (or any of the other Bond/Arden titles BFI is releasing, including The Other Side of the Underneath and Anti-Clock) and in my attempt to research the film to learn more about it I found next to nothing. So I feel safe in saying that the title is obscure to most cinephiles but you wouldnít know it from the transfer. More love has gone into this than most high-def transfers for newer films. It looks surprisingly good when you consider everything. The restoration has been rather vigorous and the print presents very little in the way of damage or blemishes. The digital transfer itself is quite solid with a striking, sharp image. Grain is present though never felt all that heavy and contrast and gray levels are fairly good despite the fact that I felt blacks were a little too deep at times. The few colour sequences in the film present nice colour saturation and they look accurate.

Itís quite good and I was shocked and pleased with it. I honestly canít say this film (or the other two accompanying releases) will find a mass audience but BFI has put an incredible amount of care into it.

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

BFI includes a lossless mono track thatís also a bit of a surprise. Itís quite sharp and has quite a punch to it, a big surprise when you take in the low budget, indie nature of the film. Dialogue is crisp and clean and the music sounds quite good, if a little distorted. Considering the nature of the film the track goes well and beyond what it calls for.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

BFI Video includes only a couple of significant supplements for this rather fascinating film which is a tad disappointing at first glance but in the end I was rather thrilled with what we get here.

We first get an audio commentary with director Jack Bond and DVD/Blu-ray producer Sam Dunn. Notes in the booklet point out that there was no intention originally to do commentary tracks for the films but after spending time with Bond during and after the telecine session he convinced him to sit down to record a track for this film. Iím ever glad he did because this is one of the more interesting commentaries Iíve heard in a while. Bond first states heís never had any intention to talk about any of his films and avoids it if he can and he does stick somewhat to that. He doesnít actually talk about what the film is about or whatís going on in the film itself per se, instead covering a bit about the production itself and comments at times on what went into certain sequences as they come up. Not so surprisingly he doesnít remember why he did a lot of the things he did in the film (heís a little fuzzy on why he stuck in colour sequences or why he uses repetition in another) and he actually questions some of his choices. He does offer some surprising revelations (for me anyways) like the film was actually tightly scripted (with an improve bit here and there) and that this wasnít a form of guerilla filmmaking, everything being done by the book, permits and all. I was also amused at the two excitedly pointing out certain people who briefly appear in the film only because they just happened to be there (ďMichael York!Ē) He has plenty of anecdotes, most about Jane Arden herself, covering how they first met and then talking about their work together and her life. He also takes the blame for the obscure nature of the film, admitting he repressed this film (and the other two BFI is releasing along with this one) after Ardenís suicide in 1982. It is a rather wonderful track, and while it doesnít make the film really any clearer itís fascinating nonetheless, and one of my favourite tracks this year.

The only other significant feature is Beyond Image a short 14-minute experimental ďliquid lightĒ film, a fairly psychedelic form of art (for those unfamiliar you can read more about it here.) This was made by Mark Boyle who also provided similar effects for Separation. While I find these types of films visually interesting theyíre not my thing, though this one does have some rather wonderful effects in it.

Finally we get a trailer for Bondís film Anti-Clock, which BFI has also released on Blu-ray and DVD. Why they only included the trailer for that film and not The Other Side of the Underneath (or this) is odd, though it could be because there are not trailers for the other films.

And like with other BFI releases Iíve looked at this Blu-ray comes with an impressive booklet with 32-pages of content and photos. There are a couple of analytical essays by Claire Monk and Maria Walsh, notes on the commentary by Sam Dunn, and biography/filmographies for both Jane Arden and Jack Bond. You also get a reprinting of an article stating how the film was banned from a festival ten minutes before its premiere, and then thereís an anonymous piece about the filmís premiere elsewhere. The booklet then closes with an essay on Beyond Image, the short film included in the supplements. As Iím slowly learning BFI Video does some of the best accompanying booklets for their releases. An outstanding resource for the film.

That unfortunately concludes. And while Iím still not completely sure what is going on throughout the film (though I have my ideas) I still loved going through the commentary and the booklet. These two things alone cover the film decently enough.

8/10

CLOSING

Because of the obscurity of the title I do feel I have to comment on the film itself. I didnít know what to make of it at first and, well, Iíll be frank: I was beyond confused and started to understand the rather odd critic blurbs thrown in throughout the booklet and on the packaging. Some patience paid off, though, because the film actually began to come together for me. In the end its in the same vein as films like Last Year at Marienbad (and it even has somewhat of a ďloveĒ triangle in it) and newer ones like Mulholland Drive with a mix of past, present, future, memories, dreams, and none of it all that easy to distinguish, however I donít think the ending leaves any question as to what the film is really about (unlike the other two titles I mention.)

Considering the obscurity and possible low appeal of the title one has to commend BFI video for the effort they put into this and to the fact they felt it deserved a Blu-ray version. And it certainly looks wonderful on the format, Jack Bond himself amazed on the commentary at how good it looks. And while itís slim on supplements the booklet and commentary are wonderful on their own, and somewhat help ones appreciation and/or understanding of the film. Itís an absolutely fascinating and impressive Blu-ray edition.




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