125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

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Calvin
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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#126 Post by Calvin » Tue Oct 16, 2012 4:40 am

That sounds amazing. I would have liked something that focused on Falconetti but its hard to complain when there's such a sheer volume of content in the booklet. Beggars can't be choosers after all and this does look like a candidate for release of the year
Last edited by Calvin on Tue Oct 16, 2012 5:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

Bürgermeister
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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#127 Post by Bürgermeister » Tue Oct 16, 2012 5:27 am

HA! I knew this book(let) would be a monster. Can't wait to own this.

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TMDaines
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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#128 Post by TMDaines » Tue Oct 16, 2012 12:45 pm

Looks great! I'll definitely be getting this at some point.

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#129 Post by MichaelB » Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:16 am

Bürgermeister wrote:HA! I knew this book(let) would be a monster. Can't wait to own this.
It is indeed a monster - easily one of the best MoC has ever put together.

I've also been exploring a Blu-ray checkdisc over the last 48 hours, and it's a revelation being able to watch the film at 20fps: the pacing is noticeably statelier, befitting the formal nature of the trial, and while it's good of MoC to include it in 24fps as well, I know which version I'll be favouring. And the Lo Duca version is fascinatingly misguided - it's hard to believe that this was the most accessible version for something like three decades.

Oh, and I can confirm first-hand that there are no additional features on the discs besides a brief restoration demo, but with three distinctly different versions of the main feature to choose from, it's not exactly barebones.

Calvin
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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#130 Post by Calvin » Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:06 am

What's your opinion of the scores, Michael?

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MichaelB
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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#131 Post by MichaelB » Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:09 am

I watched the 20fps version in total silence, as per Dreyer's recommendation.

That said, the Mie Yanashita accompaniment sounded perfectly pleasant when I dipped into it. I haven't sampled enough of the Loren Connors track other than to confirm that it is indeed very different.

The Lo Duca soundtrack is horrible (overly familiar classical pieces liberally ladled over the images as though measured by the yard), but MoC can't be blamed for that.

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#132 Post by Calvin » Tue Oct 23, 2012 6:31 pm


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Rsdio
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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#133 Post by Rsdio » Tue Oct 23, 2012 7:03 pm

Wow, I hadn't been following this thread or release as it was just an automatic buy for me so the Loren Connors soundtrack is news to me. Delighted to see more of these adventurous silent scores soming about (after the KTL Phantom Carriage and others) as it's something I've been desperate for for years.

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#134 Post by Drucker » Tue Oct 23, 2012 7:22 pm

Holy shit. I didn't think the screen grabs would wow me, as this is something that is obviously so perfect once in motion but damn I was wrong. That looks amazing.

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TMDaines
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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#135 Post by TMDaines » Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:13 pm

Bravo MoC! Some stunning transfers in 2012 and this may top the lot.

Zot!
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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#136 Post by Zot! » Tue Oct 23, 2012 10:50 pm

Damage is cleared and grain textures are not readily present (more would have been appreciated!), but I was still blown away by the HD presentation.
Interesting comment, as we know MoC is pretty hands off in this regard especially.
Maybe he's just expecting it to be grainier than it actually ever was in the first place? One of those weird Beaver comments that juts out between the otherwise extremely high praise.

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scotty2
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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#137 Post by scotty2 » Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:41 pm

Just out of curiosity, what is the trim size on this package? It looks beautiful but I can't get a sense of its size or how it sits. I gather that it is oblong in orientation.

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#138 Post by MichaelB » Wed Oct 24, 2012 2:12 am

Zot! wrote:
Damage is cleared and grain textures are not readily present (more would have been appreciated!), but I was still blown away by the HD presentation.
Interesting comment, as we know MoC is pretty hands off in this regard especially.
Maybe he's just expecting it to be grainier than it actually ever was in the first place? One of those weird Beaver comments that juts out between the otherwise extremely high praise.
I know restoration supervisor James White very well indeed (until he went freelance last year, he was the man responsible for the vast majority of the BFI's in-house DVD and Blu-ray transfers), and his attitude towards grain is identical to ours, so there's no question of him deliberately scrubbing it out. Or, of course, adding the fake kind to satisfy grain fetishists.

This is one of those happy scenarios where he not only had complete control over the entire process but was working from the best possible source material. The Danish Film Institute was kind enough to ship the famous Oslo print to him, and the entire 2K scanning and digital restoration process was carried out in London under his supervision. And because he had physical access to the print, he was able to compare the end result directly with the original and ensure that the transfer was as faithful to the source as the inevitable downgrades of 1080p resolution and Blu-ray compression could manage.

As for the comparative lack of grain, this is thanks to the Oslo print being the only surviving authentic 1928 nitrate copy of Dreyer's original cut, and the closest to the long-destroyed first negative that it's possible to get. Because it's been preserved in surprisingly good condition, the quality of the image is noticeably higher than that of the dupe copies on safety stock that the vast majority of other 1920s silent BDs and DVDs are sourced from - the sad fact is that technology doesn't always move inexorably forwards, and while later film stocks have significant health and safety advantages, they can't match nitrate where it really counts: the richness and detail of the image. This is presumably why Gary expected the image to be grainier: he's been conditioned to expect late-1920s films to be quite grainy, but this is for reasons that have nothing to do with their original cinematographers or film stocks.

In short, aside from a full-scale photochemical restoration (well beyond MoC's budget), this looks as good as it's possible to imagine - and was a genuine labour of love on James's part. And I'm delighted that it shows.

UPDATE: Gary's slightly modified his original wording, but he's still claiming that "more [grain] would have been appreciated". <headdesk>

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Peacock
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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#139 Post by Peacock » Wed Oct 24, 2012 8:39 am

I thought grain was an inherent part of all film stocks? Sure it can be smaller or larger depending the type of film but yeah...? That said the caps look amazing (although I'm looking forward to seeing the proper Blu-ray.com ones) and probably any lack of grain is due then to compressing the three versions onto one disk. I also doubt Criterion will include the 20fps version so... the MoC will probably be the best we'll get.

I hope James is doing the transfer for Floating Weeds as well.

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#140 Post by MichaelB » Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:07 am

Peacock wrote:I thought grain was an inherent part of all film stocks? Sure it can be smaller or larger depending the type of film but yeah...?
Grain is clearly visible in motion (I'm playing the BD in the background as I write this), but it's finer than the norm for a film of this vintage.
That said the caps look amazing (although I'm looking forward to seeing the proper Blu-ray.com ones) and probably any lack of grain is due then to compressing the three versions onto one disk. I also doubt Criterion will include the 20fps version so... the MoC will probably be the best we'll get.
I can't see that compression issues would have a particularly serious effect on the image quality, bearing in mind that:

1. It's in the original aspect ratio, so it's not using anything like the full width of the native 16:9 frame;
2. The images themselves aren't especially complex from an encoding perspective, since many of them consist of faces framed against pale backgrounds.
3. The 20fps version includes repeated frames, so the file would need less space than its 96-minute running time implies.

Going from the filesizes quoted in the Beaver review and the evidence of the onscreen transfers themselves, I suspect they authored the disc so that the Lo Duca version got the lion's share of the compression, which seems eminently sensible to me. It's a conspicuously dirtier print, so one would expect the file size to be noticeably greater if they'd applied the same degree of compression enjoyed by the others.
I hope James is doing the transfer for Floating Weeds as well.
He is - and he oversaw several of the BFI's Ozu transfers too, including Good Morning - the one that the BFI finally got right on Blu-ray after several less than ideal DVD editions. So it's in very safe hands, though I'm not sure if he's working directly from film elements this time - The Passion of Joan of Arc is a rare exception to the general MoC rule.

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#141 Post by Zot! » Wed Oct 24, 2012 10:38 am

Maybe the confusion derives from that the Criterion DVD is grainier. I haven't seen it in years, but the screenshots seem to indicate as much. Anybody know the origins of that transfer, perhaps from a print? Also, like MichaelB said, the film is not inherently grainy being shot on nitrate stock and under highly controlled studio lighting. Thanks!

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#142 Post by MichaelB » Wed Oct 24, 2012 10:53 am

Zot! wrote:Maybe the confusion derives from that the Criterion DVD is grainier. I haven't seen it in years, but the screenshots seem to indicate as much. Anybody know the origins of that transfer, perhaps from a print?
As far as I'm aware, the Criterion DVD was sourced from the Cinémathèque Française's mid-1980s restoration, which was based on the Oslo print, but replaced its original Danish intertitles with French ones.

Which suggests that the Criterion disc is a generation removed from the Oslo print to begin with, and given the 1999 release it was probably sourced from an SD telecine as well. But regardless of resolution, the telecine was carried out a minimum of 13 years ago, and there have been significant advances in film scanning technology since then.

By contrast, MoC worked directly from the Oslo print itself, and scanned it to 2K earlier this year.

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#143 Post by Brianruns10 » Wed Oct 24, 2012 10:56 am

MichaelB wrote:
Zot! wrote:

As for the comparative lack of grain, this is thanks to the Oslo print being the only surviving authentic 1928 nitrate copy of Dreyer's original cut, and the closest to the long-destroyed first negative that it's possible to get. Because it's been preserved in surprisingly good condition, the quality of the image is noticeably higher than that of the dupe copies on safety stock that the vast majority of other 1920s silent BDs and DVDs are sourced from - the sad fact is that technology doesn't always move inexorably forwards, and while later film stocks have significant health and safety advantages, they can't match nitrate where it really counts: the richness and detail of the image.
This pretty much nails it. Yes, grain is a normal natural part of anything shot on film. But our perception of how much grain should be there has been coloured somewhat. Because often times, especially with silent films, we're seeing something several generations removed from the original, because there were no quality dupe stocks for interpositives, and the negative is long gone, worn out because it was used for the release prints, or destroyed by fire or ignorance. What eventually makes it's way onto DVD is often from a dupe made from a print, or perhaps a dupe neg from an interpos from a protection negative, and all this enhances the grain many fold. So what we think of as a normal level of grain has less to do with how the film originally looked, and more to do with how many generations removed from the original we are.

BUT, with the Oslo print we have a very special and wonderful circumstance. We have an original nitrate print, from the original release run of the first, Dreyer approved edit. And as I mentioned before, due to a lack of quality dupe stocks at the time, that print was almost surely struck from the original camera negative. That is why when the negative was destroyed by fire, the film was thought, lost, because dupes or protection masters were seldom made, and maybe a studio only held one reference print, which probably went up in smoke with the OCN.

And because the negative saw relatively little use during its relatively short lifespan, due to the film's commercial failure and presumed lack of demand for prints, the Oslo print represents a first generation copy of a negative in unusually good condition given the standards and practices of the time. Given all these myriad circumstances that have inhibited the preservation and restoration of so many films from the first fifty years of the cinema, the Oslo print, from an archivist's perspective, is the best possible thing you could have, short of the original camera negative itself. It is as true and precise a representation of the original as can be had, and the clarity and sharpness and tightness of the grain suggests not a heavy degree of digital cleaning and filtering, but the high quality of the original print. We are truly lucky to have this print (for a worse scenario, just look at the state of the rescued material for "Metropolis").

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#144 Post by MichaelB » Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:14 am

Brianruns10 wrote:BUT, with the Oslo print we have a very special and wonderful circumstance. We have an original nitrate print, from the original release run of the first, Dreyer approved edit. And as I mentioned before, due to a lack of quality dupe stocks at the time, that print was almost surely struck from the original camera negative. That is why when the negative was destroyed by fire, the film was thought, lost, because dupes or protection masters were seldom made, and maybe a studio only held one reference print, which probably went up in smoke with the OCN.
Danish censorship records suggest that only two prints were struck of Dreyer's original premiere version, which is corroborated by reports of the film's limited release - all those bookings could easily have been serviced by just two prints. It is virtually certain that the Oslo print is one of those - although its provenance has been lost to the mists of time, packaging materials indicate that it was shipped from Copenhagen in 1928. The other print is presumed lost - and indeed it might even have been shipped to France and physically censored, or destroyed with the original first negative.

The crucial point is that these two prints are the only ones that we can say with certainty reflect Dreyer's original vision - even the first negative may well have been tampered with between the Danish and French premieres. The version shown at the French premiere, although notionally struck from the first negative, was censored at the behest of both the French government and the Catholic Church. Even the mid-1980s restoration as featured on the Criterion edition and elsewhere isn't truly authentic, as the intertitles are modern recreations. You can see this all too graphically in the Beaver comparisons - the French intertitles are clearly modern fonts, while the Danish ones feel far more convincing.
And because the negative saw relatively little use during its relatively short lifespan, due to the film's commercial failure and presumed lack of demand for prints, the Oslo print represents a first generation copy of a negative in unusually good condition given the standards and practices of the time.
One great myth that I encountered quite a few times when researching this film's release history is that the Oslo print was "perfect" or "perfect, with only one splice" - which isn't true in the slightest. But it is in remarkable condition for its age, and it's assumed that it had barely been touched for most of the 50+ years that it sat on a shelf in Oslo.
Given all these myriad circumstances that have inhibited the preservation and restoration of so many films from the first fifty years of the cinema, the Oslo print, from an archivist's perspective, is the best possible thing you could have, short of the original camera negative itself. It is as true and precise a representation of the original as can be had, and the clarity and sharpness and tightness of the grain suggests not a heavy degree of digital cleaning and filtering, but the high quality of the original print. We are truly lucky to have this print (for a worse scenario, just look at the state of the rescued material for "Metropolis").
The Oslo discovery is the kind of miracle that has film archivists pinching themselves to make sure they're not dreaming. Although the Danish Film Institute had assembled what by all accounts was a surprisingly close restoration in the 1960s (certainly a lot closer than the Lo Duca version, off the second negative), there was material in the Oslo print that hadn't been seen since 1928 - the first take of the bloodletting, for instance. There isn't a better print anywhere on the planet, and for MoC to be able to work directly from it without the usual intermediary of a third-party telecine or scan is the kind of luxury that DVD and BD producers all too rarely get.

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#145 Post by jsteffe » Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:00 pm

With the usual caveats that I am no technical expert and that we are looking at screen captures and not the film in motion, to me the improvements are immediate and dramatic. If you look at the full-sized Blu-ray caps there is definitely grain, but it is fine. More importantly, the MoC Blu-ray offers vast improvement in the contrast range - it's much more subtly rendered than the relatively contrasty DVD transfers, and really it brings out the beauty of the film's lighting.

The perceived sharpness of the DVDs may have to do partly with the markedly higher contrast levels in the image and also the reduced size of the image relative to the Blu-ray's frame size. (Reducing the size of an image tends to increase its apparent sharpness.)

The Criterion DVD looked quite good when it came out, but it's hard for me to imagine ever going back to that once I receive this new restoration.

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#146 Post by MichaelB » Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:22 pm

I cannot stress enough that the digital post-production was devoted entirely to removal of the effects of physical damage.

This is the relevant bit of the booklet:
Throughout the restoration process, work was performed carefully to ensure that the film's original grain structure remained unaffected. Although every effort has been made to present The Passion of Joan of Arc in the highest quality possible for this release, some picture issues remain, in keeping with the age and condition of the original film materials. Some incidences of damage or film wear proved too difficult to remove without creating unwanted digital artefacts, so these areas have been left intact.
In other words, if there was the slightest sign that the digital clean-up might interfere with the grain structure of certain shots, they erred on the side of caution.

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#147 Post by Brianruns10 » Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:30 pm

MichaelB wrote:I cannot stress enough that the digital post-production was devoted entirely to removal of the effects of physical damage.

This is the relevant bit of the booklet:
Throughout the restoration process, work was performed carefully to ensure that the film's original grain structure remained unaffected. Although every effort has been made to present The Passion of Joan of Arc in the highest quality possible for this release, some picture issues remain, in keeping with the age and condition of the original film materials. Some incidences of damage or film wear proved too difficult to remove without creating unwanted digital artefacts, so these areas have been left intact.
In other words, if there was the slightest sign that the digital clean-up might interfere with the grain structure of certain shots, they erred on the side of caution.
You know what would be a great idea? You should make the restoration demonstration available online. I'm certain this would quell any doubts about the top flight quality and expert craftsmanship that went into the making of this restoration.

The screengrabs from the 'Beaver are good, but cannot really do justice, since they are necessarily taken out of context. The film must be seen in motion, of course.

It's going to be a brilliant release, and I'll be getting a region free blu-ray player especially so I can watch this one here in the States.

BR

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#148 Post by MichaelB » Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:38 pm

Yes, sadly there wasn't any choice about the region-coding. I assume Gaumont made it a contractual obligation to avoid even the slightest possibility of MoC treading on Criterion's toes.

And I can confirm that the disc definitely is Region B - I tried to play it myself when I was switched to Region A, and got a charmingly worded warning, headlined in Danish and French.

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AK
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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#149 Post by AK » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:55 pm

The release date has been pushed back a week to November 26th. (source: Amazon)

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Re: 125 / BD 50 The Passion of Joan of Arc

#150 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 08, 2012 8:30 am

Singular Image:
This is a frankly astonishing release, offering Dreyer’s cut in two alternative speeds (and with two wildly different scores) and also a third version that did the rounds for several decades while the original was thought lost. Great films deserve great treatment, and this sets a high standard for the presentation of silent cinema.

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