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Don't hesitate, it's Magnifique!,
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This review is from: Le Mans [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)Being an owner through the years of 3 previously available versions (Beta; LaserDisc; DVD) of this film, the primary question whenever a Blu-ray edition is announced of a catalog title produced 40 years ago, is whether the upgrade is worth investing in one more time. All too often has been the case during the early adoption phase of any new format, the answer at best, is maybe. Improved but due to the source materials and/or mastering methods used, perhaps not fully utilizing the capabilities available with the new technology during any expected learning curve.
While my media center isn't what one would consider esoteric, it is for most purposes a capable and representative home theater environment for many featuring a 65" Panasonic plasma display (custom settings but not fully calibrated), Pioneer Elite A/V receiver outputting to a matched JBL 7.1 speaker system about a year technologically obsolete this date.
Being a long time Porsche automotive enthusiast, a fan of both Steve McQueen and the 24 Hours of Le Mans motor race, I have certainly enjoyed multiple viewings of this film through the years and quite familiar with it both visually and sonically from beginning to end. There are multiple reviews available on different websites so with rare exception, the comments I express here will be limited to my personal opinions of CBS/Paramount's effort with this new offering.
Right on schedule, my new Blu-ray copies of Le Mans and Grand Prix arrived in the mail together as these two films were once again, "connected at the hip" as they have been through the decades. For the less than $18 you can acquire this Blu-ray from Amazon during its initial release period, my title for this post says it all: "Don't hesitate, it's Magnifique!"
One expects an improved image on Blu-ray but I was stunned at how cinematically the final image was. There is almost a perfect level of visual grain from beginning to end that creates what is so missing in many of today's CGI based motion pictures. The look of film! Special effects were all done in camera and look absolutely real in 1080P high definition. The colors are rich and vibrant even considering the conditions the 1 million original feet of film was shot using now, 4 decade old techniques. Flesh tones are spot on with Blacks deep and rich though there is occasional clipping during some of the night time scenes. The Gulf Blue on the Porsches are dead accurate having seen the actual 917's at their namesake's museum in Zuffenhausen.
The clarity in some shots are truly amazing in the level of detail shown and even exposing close ups (06:23) that were originally shot with the camera's zoom lens I suspect, unintentionally mis-set at its starting rack focus point. What some have described as "soft." As many times as I have seen this film, the greatly enhanced picture (at times, video bandwidth indicating 30-33 mbs+ output) allowed me to see unexpectedly, background detail that had escaped notice during my many previous viewings such as the Black paint flaking off the right windshield pillar in Delaney's Porsche (24:21) or the exposed rivets/screws in same location on the Ferrari 512's (23:23). Racecars are typically well worn devices and seeing detailing such as this adds greatly to the realism the film is attempting to create.
I also noticed for the very first time, B&W portraits of both Michael Delaney (McQueen at 59.28) and his main rival driving for Ferrari in the story, Erich Stahler (Siegfried Rauch at 1:00:24) hanging on the walls (Michael to the right of the sliding entry door; Erich's to the left of where Michael sits with Lisa) of the cafeteria where McQueen has about as much dialog as there is in any one section of the entire film. If CBS/Paramount used compression, it was very slight and one never sees any halo edge effects. They allowed the transfer to breathe and the visuals certain confirm that.
As impressive as the visual transfer is short of a full frame by frame restoration which means there were occasional scratches in the final print though few and far between, the new lossless 7.1 audio mix is its equal. The panning from one side of the room to the other (as well as rear to front) matching the cars going right to left on the screen was truly immersive during the driving sequences. While I wasn't expecting my subwoofer to be exercised anywhere close to Tron: Legacy, very pleasantly surprised whenever LFE was used. For someone that used to clean out record grooves with liquids and brushes before playing to minimize background noise (ticks, pops) while maximizing available dynamic range, two sections of the film truly validates the life like audio free from recording hiss offered here even when sourced from older analog masters. The first takes place at the start of the race from 25:54 when Michael closes the rear window in his 917 and one hears the rhythm of a beating heart increasing in rate until the flag is dropped to start the race (28:00). The second is a repeat of this same sonic theme after the Ferrari 512 crashes off the race course with the driver attempting to escape the pending explosion (1:08:10-1:08:47). With the noise floor so low, listen for the very subtle atmospherics throughout these and many other scenes which in a 7.1 system absolutely helps to create a sound field that has great width and depth completely enveloping the viewer. Consider it 3D for your ears and extremely effective. Overall, for the era this film came from, CBS/Paramount did an excellent and highly effective remix.
In the end, what most amazed me during my nearly two hours watching Le Mans again, was how completely and unexpectedly I had been pulled back into this racing spectacle during my viewing. The clarity of an updated Blu-ray worthy transfer, a new 7.1 lossless soundtrack, the perceived shortcomings from a lack of any dialog beyond the PA announcer in the background all contributed to producing for me, Steve McQueen's vision for his film: The physical and emotional experience of actually participating as a driver in the 24 Hours of Le Mans from the comfort of one's own neighborhood (home?) theater. Isn't that ultimately, the intended purpose of every motion picture.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 10, 2011 3:15:50 PM PDT
Well I guess you liked it!
Posted on Jun 7, 2012 10:27:08 AM PDT
Jimmy Mac says:
Well said-especially your last paragraph. "The King of Cool" as he would want to be remembered. Excellent Film.
Posted on Oct 26, 2012 2:15:23 AM PDT
Kenneth Wills says:
Greatest racing movie of all time. My only complaint is audio distortion at race start ... It's been there since the git-go and it's still there. I've probably watched the movie 200 times and find new stuff all the time. Two different 917's for the winner ... whose car was both dirty and super clean at the finish. Anyhow, when I want to drop out, I go for a ride with Steve. When I really want to drop out, I take my Porsche Boxster S on a drive to the California coast via an Internationally known secret road with hundreds of turns and few humans.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2012 2:19:18 PM PDT
Thank you. Hope you enjoy the film as much as I have.
Posted on Aug 3, 2013 7:40:57 PM PDT
William I. Brown says:
Beautifully written! I know many of the 917 greats and call each a friend: Herrmann, Elford, Redman, Attwood, Bell and Piper. They've all signed countless books, models, slot cars and photos for me. I usually see Vic or Brian at Summit Point, WVA each year. Sure hope they do another Rennsport soon. Major Wm Brown in Bedford, VA
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