But on the other hand can going too soft in a review lead to negative reactions from an audience that a flaw hasn't been mentioned and associated scepticism that can cause damage to casual audiences perceptions about the rest of the catalogue? To use Tartan again would four star reviews for The Eye or Phone lead disappointed audiences to steer clear of Bangkok Dangerous and Ring assuming that they would be similar in quality? At what point can you not defend a film any more, for as much good will in the world towards the distributor?
Sorry to take so long to reply to this - I've literally only just spotted it!
It's not exactly a secret that I know Nick, the Second Run guys and the entire BFI DVD Publishing department personally, but I also review their DVDs for Sight & Sound
(Up to a point, anyway - for obvious reasons, I draw the line at anything I'm personally involved with, which is why Kim Newman reviewed the BFI's Quay and Svankmajer boxes and Michael Atkinson will be reviewing Second Run's Valerie and her week of Wonders
But they know full well that if the discs are flawed then I will
mention it, and possibly in more detail than I might have done otherwise given that most of my pieces are short capsule reviews so I can't go into the kind of exhaustive detail that online reviewers can indulge in.
For example, I said that the cropped aspect ratio in Second Run's Passenger
might be a deal-breaker, that Romeo, Juliet and Darkness
was VHS quality, that MoC's Silence
had burned-in Japanese subtitles, and that Nuits Rouges
was non-anamorphic. I also probably wouldn't have bothered mentioning the very minor picture glitches towards the end of the BFI's Teorema
if I hadn't been conscious of the fact that the DVD's producer is a good friend of mine.
Great reviews help but how much are they just playing to the converted?
They can make a big difference. Second Run certainly reckons that my full-page rave of Marketa Lazarová
(a film that was to all intents and purposes unknown in the UK this time last year) had a huge impact on sales - but in situations like that where distributor, editor and reviewer are absolutely in sync regarding their opinions of both film and DVD, it's a pleasure to help. Especially given the very real possibility that that might be the highest-profile coverage it gets in print media.
And "the converted" might be aware of the film, but not necessarily that there's a brand new special edition on the horizon. Especially since smaller distributors can't afford big marketing/awareness-raising campaigns.