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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Arabic Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • Arabic PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 3 Discs
FEATURES
  • Introduction by Martin Scorsese
  • "On Trances" interviews

Trances

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By:
1981 | 88 Minutes | Licensor: World Cinema Project

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $124.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #689
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: December 10, 2013
Review Date: December 23, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

The beloved Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane is the dynamic subject of this captivating musical documentary. Storytellers through song, with connections to political theater, the band became an international sensation (Western music critics have often referred to them as "the Rolling Stones of North Africa") thanks to their political lyrics and sublime, fully acoustic sound, which draws on the Moroccan trance music tradition. Both a concert movie and a free-form audiovisual experiment, Ahmed El Maa^nouni's Trances is cinematic poetry.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Ahmed El Maanouniís Trances, the fifth film in Criterionís World Cinema Project box set, is presented in this new dual-format edition in its original aspect ratio of about 1.66:1. The high-definition version shares the same dual-layer Blu-ray disc with The Housemaid, while the standard-definition version receives its own dual-layer DVD. The DVDís presentation has been enhanced for widescreen televisions. The Blu-rays transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.

Of the six films in the set this one offered the biggest surprise. The lone documentary (with some ďreenactedĒ scenes here and there) was also shot in 16mm and because of this I was expecting it to be the most problematic, but itís easily one of the most impressive looking of the bunch. Though source and shooting conditions hinder it a bit, I felt the transfer looked brilliant, and it looks like a projected film through much of its run. Long shots can look a bit fuzzy but it looks to be more a condition of the shoot. Close-ups, on the other hand, are crisp and highly detailed. Grain is heavy but natural, with no pixilation or rendering problems. Colours are also unexpectedly rich, and black levels are also inky and deep.

The DVDís transfer also looks very good but doesnít handle the filmís grain as well as the Blu-rayís. Itís a little more compressed, but for a standard-def presentation it looks as good as one can expect on the format.

The material recorded specifically for this film presents only a few minor blemishes. Archival footage is scattered about, looking to come from either older 8mm or 16mm footage, or even television, and this material is in far worse condition, laced with stains, scratches, debris, and, in the case of television footage, pixilation and a general fuzziness. Past these minor issues, though, the presentation looks fantastic, the biggest surprise in the set.

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.

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AUDIO

Trances has one of the better audio deliveries in the set. In lossless 1.0 PCM mono on the Blu-ray and Dolby Digital 1.0 mono on the DVD, audio quality has a decent amount of range and depth, surprising for a documentary film, even though it does contain plenty of concert footage. There can be a slight edge at times, and there is the occasion where audio seems to flatten out (I suspect just a condition of the source or filming) but these issues are minor and few. A light bit of static seems to sneak into the background, but itís faint and easy to ignore. In all it goes above and beyond what I would have expected.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Martin Scorsese provides another 2-minute introduction where he talks about the filmís restoration (the first film to be restored in the project) and how transfixed he was by it when he first saw it. On Trances presents interviews with Scorsese, musician Omar Sayed, producer Izza Genini, and director Ahmed El Maanouni (and a narrator,) and covers the filmís production and the band Nass El Ghiwane, also giving a brief history of the band and its members. Itís not altogether that lengthy (it runs only 18-minutes) but itís probably one of the more substantial and in-depth supplements in the whole set, offering a bit more context behind the film.

Thanks to the decent set of interviews Trances possibly delivers the strongest set of supplements out of all of the films in the set, though that is ultimately very faint praise.

5/10

CLOSING

A decent collection of interviews make the supplements a little more substantial in comparison to the other films in the set, but its audio and video presentation is one of the stronger ones.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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