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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Swedish PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New visual essay by Bergman scholar Peter Cowie
  • Brief 1967 video interview with director Ingmar Bergman about the film
  • Rare English-language audio interview with Bergman, conducted by filmmakers Olivier Assayas and Stig BjŲrkman

The Magician

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, , Naima Wifstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Bibi Andersson, Gertrud Fridh, Lars Ekborg, Tovio Pawlo, Erland Josephson, , Sif Ruud
1958 | 101 Minutes | Licensor: Svensk Filmindustri

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #537
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: October 12, 2010
Review Date: October 12, 2010

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SYNOPSIS

Ingmar Bergman's The Magician (Ansiktet) is an engaging, brilliantly conceived tale of deceit from one of cinema's premier illusionists. Max von Sydow stars as Dr. Vogler, a mid-nineteenth-century traveling mesmerist and peddler of potions whose magic is put to the test by a small town's cruel, eminently rational minister of health, Dr. Vergerus. The result is a diabolically clever battle of wits that's both frightening and funny, shot in rich, gorgeously gothic black and white.

Forum members rate this film 8.3/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterion finally gets around to releasing Ingmar Bergmanís The Magician, presenting it on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The transfer is also presented in 1080p/24hz.

What we get is a rather stunning looking image, and despite Criterionís run of great transfers recently I was still very surprised. The picture is incredibly sharp with excellent definition in every object that appears in the frame. Grain is visible and looks natural, but amazingly never gets all that heavy, even in darker sequences (which there are plenty of.) The transfer also shows no visible artifacts. The print is in excellent shape and I honestly canít say I noticed a single mark other than some general wear at the bottom of the screen on occasion. If I had one complaint it might be that there are moments where contrast looks to have been boosted presenting some mildly blooming whites. Iíve never seen the film screened (only on VHS and a sampling found in supplements for Criterionís previous editions of The Seventh Seal) so this could be intentional, but despite whatever it is itís actually not too big a concern. Generally contrast and gray levels are clear and distinct.

In all Iím very pleased and more than thrilled by what we get. Though Iím still surprised it took so long for Criterion to release this on DVD, in the end itís probably a good thing, because we now get this incredible restoration and transfer on Blu-ray. In general it looks absolutely stunning.

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

Criterion presents a lossless Swedish PCM mono track. Itís flat, and music can sound edgy (especially the humourous little piece at the end) but overall itís very clean, dialogue sounds crisp and clear, and thereís no discernable damage or background noise present.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This is where the edition disappoints unfortunately, presenting less than 40-minutes worth of material, and I hope Criterion at some point will start doing the tiered pricing with Blu-ray that have done with DVD for years.

First, Criterion presents a section devoted to Ingmar Bergman interviews, first presenting us with a Swedish television interview, recorded in 1967. It runs only 3-and-a-half minutes and presents Bergman talking a little about Persona and then The Magician, explaining how the film was about the relationship between the artist and his audience, fitting in a story about a Chinese woodworker to bring it together.

The next interview found here is a great one between Bergman and filmmakers Olivier Assayas and Stig BjŲrkman. This 20-minute piece, which is in English (but thankfully still presents English subtitles because itís impossible to hear at times,) focuses primarily on Bergmanís early life and his stage work, including his beginnings as a play writer. They move on to film where Bergman talks about some of his favourite French directors and their films, Pepe le moko being a personal favourite of his. It then closes in the last couple minutes with the three talking a little about The Magician, which Bergman recalls as a fun shoot.

The final disc supplement is a 15-minute video essay by Peter Cowie, who has also done essays and other work for previous Criterion editions of Bergmanís films, including an excellent essay that appeared on both editions of The Seventh Seal. This essay focuses solely on The Magician, with some minor mentions of other films in comparison, and the themes that are found in it, such as the themes of art and science, but primarily how the film represents the relationship between the Bergman and his audience, with the character of Vogler (the magician played by Max von Sydow) representing the director. He breaks down a few sequences and looks at the symbolism and gestures within them. An excellent piece, peeling back some of the layers to the film that are not readily evident.

Criterion does include a fairly thick booklet, first presenting a piece by Assayas on Bergman and this film, which I assume was written around the time he had interviewed Bergman since itís dated as having been written in 1990. Itís then followed by an essay on the film by Geoff Andrew, wonderfully breaking down the film, and then it finally closes with an excerpt from Bergmanís book Images: My Life in Film, where he recalls the production, the cast, and his intent with the film, addressing his critics and audience (or lack thereof I guess.) In all the bookletís a great read and possibly this releaseís strongest supplement.

Though the supplements are actually quite good, for what is a premium price (MSRP of $39.95) there is a slim number of items here.

5/10

CLOSING

If thereís one thing that might hold me back from giving the edition a hearty recommendation itís the price. Like the early days of DVD Criterion still isnít doing a tier-pricing system for their Blu-ray releases, all of their releases so farósave for the Jimi Plays Monterey/Shake! Otis at Monterey lone releaseórunning $39.95 no matter what. Considering the DVD is less than $25 and contains all of the same things thatís a bit of a gap.

But then at the same time this release isnít like Criterionís original DVD editions of Amarcord or The Lady Vanishes, two releases that were around $40 but contained little-to-nothing in the way of features and also presented crummy transfers. This edition at least has supplements excellent in quality and the transfer is absolutely stunning.


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