Carla's Song

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Synopsis

The first collaboration between director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty – a relationship which now extends to fifteen feature films and shorts, including My Name Is Joe and I, Daniel Blake – Carla’s Song tells the story of George (Robert Carlyle, Trainspotting), a Glaswegian bus driver, and Carla (Oyanka Cabezas), a Nicaraguan refugee. Set in 1987, the film follows the pair as they meet, fall in love, and travel to Nicaragua in search of Carla’s former lover, a possible victim of the civil war.

Picture 8/10

Ken Loach’s Carla’s Song receives an all-new Blu-ray edition from Indicator. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on a dual-layer disc with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode. Though a UK release, the disc is coded region free. The version presented is Loach’s preferred (and shorter) director’s cut.

At the moment I’m not entirely sure what Indicator is using as the source for their release. I was expecting an older high-def master but I think this looks quite a ways better than that. Grain is rendered incredibly well here, rendered finely while looking clean and sharp, leading to some strong detail that is especially impressive in the various Scottish and (eventually) Nicaraguan landscapes, whether it be fields or pebble roads. This also lends the image a strong film-like texture, most of the time at least: there’s a flashback/dream sequence that has a bit of a noisier video look to it, with some evident—if mild—combing present.

The colour grading leans a colder, steely blue a good chunk of the film, though it can get a little bit warmer once the setting shifts to Nicaragua, because why wouldn’t it? Despite that slight shift in colour temperature the steely look is still there. Black levels are mostly strong, at least in darker sequences, but they can occasionally appear more along the lines of a dark, mushy gray in some of the film’s brighter sequences.

Restoration-wise there isn’t an issue of note: I actually don’t recall any blemishes of any sort popping up while watching it. It’s a very strong looking presentation and rather nice surprise.

Audio 8/10

The film comes with a lossless PCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack. It’s one of the more active Loach films I can recall and the range is pretty impressive, from quiet talky sequences to more action packed moments with gunshots and explosions (if only a couple). Audio is spread nicely between the fronts with some noticeable movement, and dialogue is very clear.

Extras 7/10

Indicator throws on quite a few supplements for this release, porting material over from older editions and packing on their own, covering the production from a number of different viewpoints. First, carried over from previous editions, is an audio commentary featuring director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty discussing the film’s lengthy and challenging production. Laverty explains how he came to write the script, frustrated by what he saw in Nicaragua while he was there between 1984 and 1987, feeling it was the best way to counter what he felt was the misinformation coming out of the country. The two contextualize the political climate of the film’s period along with events depicted in the film, while Laverty also shares some of his own first-hand experiences. There is also some discussion around the actors (both were especially impressed with Scott Glenn’s willingness) and technical details of the film, which was filmed in order, meaning a flashback sequence in Nicaragua was filmed first, just so actor Oyanka Cabezas would have the memory. Loach also talks about his new edit (for the time, the commentary having been recorded in 2005), explaining why he cut out around 16-minutes’ worth of material. Though the track does feature significant gaps here and there during the later portions of the film it’s a solid director/writer track in the end.

The new material consists of interviews filmed by Indicator for this edition, all of which includes producer Sally Hibbin (18-minutes), editor Jonathan Morris (9-minutes), composer George Fenton (10-minutes), art director Fergus Clegg (14-minutes), sound recordist Ray Beckett (10-minutes), and script supervisor Susanna Lenton (10-minutes). The interviews all expand upon what is covered on the film’s production in the commentary, though naturally from their more focused perspectives with some personal background thrown in. It’s brought up a number of times through the interviews how the film was shot in chronological order, meaning they had to go to Nicaragua TWICE so they could shoot the flashback sequence first before filming the sequences in Scotland. Clegg’s discussion around dressing up Nicaragua’s settings (including the appropriate propaganda art) proves fascinating, along with Morris’ discussion around the film’s editing, which he found to be exciting thanks to some of the action in it, and then the film’s re-edit around 2005. There were also some surprising casting choices around the role that eventually went to Glenn, including Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, and William Hurt. If you were hoping for more technical details around the film from the commentary these interviews end up filling that gap nicely.

Indicator’s disc then includes 12-minutes’ worth of deleted scenes, which I assume all come from the original cut. As Loach explains in the commentary he felt the material he cut out simply wasn’t needed and just padded the film. And that does appear to be the case here, most everything appearing to be footage that just links one sequence to another, as he suggests in the track. The disc then concludes with the film’s trailer and an image gallery featuring a number of production photos along with scans of the film’s press book. Indicator also includes a booklet with the first printing, though I did not receive that here.

Something maybe a little more scholarly may have proven valuable, though to be fair that could be covered in the book by Michael Pattison’s essay (and I’ll assume that is the case). Outside of that Indicator has done an excellent job pulling everybody together to discuss the film’s production, offering insight around how Loach took his documentary-like style and applied it to this film’s subject matter.

Closing

A strong release, sporting an impressive looking presentation and a wealth of material covering the film’s production.

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Directed by: Ken Loach
Year: 1996
Time: 111 min.
 
Series: Indicator
Edition #: 137
Licensor: Film4
Release Date: April 26 2021
MSRP: £15.99
 
Blu-ray
1 Disc | BD-50
1.66:1 ratio
English 2.0 PCM Stereo
Subtitles: English
Regions A/B/C
 
 Audio commentary with director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty (2005)   An Extraordinary Thing (2021, 18 mins): producer Sally Hibbin recalls the challenges of filming in Nicaragua   Two Worlds Collide (2021, 9 mins): editor Jonathan Morris discusses working on an ambitious, international scale   Tuning in to Nicaragua (2021, 10 mins): composer George Fenton details his approach to scoring the film   Background to the Art (2021, 14 mins): art director Fergus Clegg on recreating the late-eighties setting of Carla’s Song   Sounds of Music (2021, 10 mins): sound recordist Ray Beckett discusses the technical aspects of Loach’s documentary style of filmmaking   Keeping Up Appearances (2021, 10 mins): script supervisor Susanna Lenton relates the complexities of shooting the film in sequence   Ten deleted scenes (12 mins)   Original theatrical trailer   Image gallery: publicity and promotional material   Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Michael Pattison, an extract from Paul Laverty’s introduction to his screenplay, Ken Loach on recutting the film, an extract from a report on the Nicaraguan premiere, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits