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Customer Review

182 of 193 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Updated for Blu-ray: Much improved picture and extras for new edition of classic film, October 20, 2007
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This review is from: Chinatown (Special Collector's Edition) (DVD)
A remarkable film noir classic, "Chinatown" finally gets the deluxe treatment it deserves on Blu-ray.

Blu-Ray: The Blu-ray looks quite nice. There is grain evident throughout but it isn't obstrusive staying true to the "look" of the original film and films of the time. Detail is quite nice throughout with my only complaint a bit heavy handed DNR on occasion in some scenes but that, again, could be justified if the grain was wildy inconsistent from shot to shot. The transfer walks the fine line of providing us with a sharp looking transfer that doesn't fall into the DNR pit of plastic skin and textures so smooth they rob the film of detail.

It appears that the print used for the previous DVD (and quite possibly the same transfer although I haven't been able to confirm this)was also the source for this edition of the film on Blu-ray. It's also possible this is an older HD transfer (again, I haven't been able to confirm when it was done) which might explain the look of the film for BD. either way, "Chinatown" looks quite good although purists might quibble with the amount of visibile grain and texture at times.

The audio is spectacular for the film.

As near as I can tell all of the extras from the previous special edition have largely been ported over which is good and bad--it would be nice to have some nice extras perhaps something looking at the film within the context of the original proposed trilogy a bit more or with hindsight in relation to the under rated sequelThe Two Jakes (Special Collector's Edition) which seemed to inherent the production trouble that was largely avoided on "Chinatown".

We get the audio commentary with writer Robert Towne being interviewed by film director David Fincher; the feature length documentary "Water and Power" about the inspiration for the film; a half hour documentary "Chinatown: An Appreciation"; "Chinatown: The Beginning", "Chinatown: The Filming" and "Chinatown: The Legacy all addressing the issues surrounding shooting, reception and where it stands in film history and as entertainment. We also get the original theatrical trailer and, although my edition is missing it, reportedly there is a booklet with stills and info on the film.

Bottom Line: Is this worth buying again? It depends on your TV and how good it displays high def and, more importantly, how important THIS film is to you. "Chinatown" has always been one of my Top 10 Films of all time so for me it was a no brainer.

DVD: The latest edition of "Chinatown" has much better contrast, a cleaner, richer looking transfer that more accurately captures a pristine theatrical presentation of the film. The anamorphic transfer has a bit more information on the sides than in the previous edition suggesting that it was cropped slightly differently (and I can't say which is truer to the original this edition or the previous one). Audio features the same 5.1 Dolby Digital mix that was a highlight of the first edition. We also get a cleaned up original mono soundtrack for purists. Both sound very good with the 5.1 featuring a nice dynamic mix.

This new edition is a marked improvement over the previous DVD version(s) and highly recommended.
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Showing 1-10 of 18 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 27, 2007 4:25:28 AM PDT
Thanks for the review-it motivated me to purchase this dvd -Chinatown.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 12, 2008 11:55:19 AM PST
I wouldn't agree with all your comments regarding the "improvements." There's now too much contrast. Some details, such as in the scene where Nicholson meets with John Hillerman in what used to be Mulwray's office, are so dark they look like they're standing in a cave. Something between this remaster and the last one would have been perfect.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2008 8:55:54 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 14, 2008 7:46:50 AM PST
Wayne Klein says:
I didn't say the transfer was perfect nor did I state that it was ideal--I just stated that it was better than the previous edition which was at the other extreme. Personally, you can always alter the contrast on your TV (it looks fine on mine). To each his looks just fine on my DVD, Blu-ray player and upscaled it looks just fine as well. Since the remaster got the OK (if I recall correctly from Polanski and the DP) from those involved in the production, I can only assume that's how they wanted it to look.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2008 6:36:52 AM PST
I didn't say you said the transfer was "perfect." Where do you see that?

Nowhere in the packaging does it say Polanski gave this reissue his okay. Where do you see that?

As for the DP, John Alonzo, he's long dead, so I doubt he gave his okay.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2008 12:18:22 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 31, 2008 1:45:12 PM PST
Wayne Klein says:
"Something between this remaster and the last one would have been perfect."

I was just responding to your post. As you accurately point out Alonzo (a brilliant DP by the way) passed away in 2001 (my mistake). A mind-slip to so speak as I had thought he had passed away in 2007 for some reason.

We all know that Paramount used a medium to ask Alonzo's spirit for the Ok. Seriously, you've already made it clear you didn't like it. I do. It's a matter of opinion. It reminds me audiophiles quibbling over how a remastered CD sounds. As to Polanski giving his OK I seem to remember reading that he saw the new digital high definition transfer before it was produced for the DVD. I didn't state that it was on the packaging just read my post.

Perhaps the Blu-ray will more accurately reflect the film (it's been so long since I saw in theaters I don't recall how dark that sequence looked). I do like this transfer on the whole better than the previous one for the reasons previously mentioned.

By the way, your review on the complete Beethoven String Quartet is right on the money.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 10, 2009 11:39:42 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 8, 2013 5:20:16 PM PST
> By the way, your review on the complete Beethoven String Quartet is right on the money.

Which set of the complete quartets? I've written reviews to many, though I'm in the process of deleting them all. Amazon does not make that easy!

Posted on Jan 15, 2010 7:27:57 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 22, 2010 7:26:13 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2010 8:06:56 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 15, 2010 11:10:43 AM PST
Wayne Klein says:

I respectfully disagree.

Of course this is the case--all DP's and director's know that their work will look different with time however any restoration of a film is just an attempt to give the film the intended look when it was first released because that's the original way that a director or DP meant it to be seen. Most make the attempt to make the film look the best it can possibly look and then move on hoping it will retain most of that quality but they have no influence over presentation beyond the first presentation of the finished work (and even then there are variables). For example, if the film is damaged, scratched, ripped, has a repaired tear, the sound falls out of synch none of these things are elements that a filmmaker can prepare for and they can only hope for the best that it won't happen and that the studio will prevent it from happening by sending out new prints when older ones are damaged.Also, there are multiple copies of this and, again, filmmakers cannot prepare for the variables involved in multiple copies or even which copy is used for a transfer, if the correct aspect ratio is prepared for, etc.

All of that (as we can see from the remaster Blu-ray for "The French Connection" where Friedkin radically altered the look of the film claiming that digital now allowed him to achieve his original vision or even "North by Northwest" where some fans have complained that it is too dark compared to the original DVD--but this darkness masked some of the shortcomings of the sets matching the ideal look based on comparisons to vintage surviving prints) is subjective. The fact is that artists can't anticipate how badly a film will degrade and their ideal presentation will/would be how it looked when they first showed it to audiences.

I doubt that MA believed his artwork would survive and be regarded as well as it is today. He may have hoped that but art is a transitory and temporary snapshot into the past. Nevertheless, our first impression of any work of art will be that which we most cherish even if it wasn't what the artist intended to communicate. To try and recapture that original impression IS important because that's what the artist envisioned when he/she originally created the work. I don't believe an attempt to recapture (and any attempt to do so will be limited by our resources for comparison) the lost image quality of any work of art is futile and we should try and prevent the work from being lost to the ravages of time. An artist can only truly see the work within their time frame, i.e., their lifetime and very few artists probably anticipated their work would survive for a long period of time outside of that lifetime although I'm sure they would hope. They know there are so many variables and to focus on anything but the work within its timeframe would be distracting at the least and futile at the most since they can't influence how suceeding generations see it no matter how hard they try.

Even digital has an element of time to it where the original digital image can be damaged or degraded the point here is that if a film can be restored recapturing some of its original luster, it's imported to try and restore any film to a look as close as possible to the original work.

Any time you present a work of art in another medium that the artist couldn't possibly anticipate you run the risk of altering it in ways they couldn't prepare for. Film restoration for home video and a digital medium the artist could never foresee and therefore couldn't prepare for is essential in trying to preserve some of the original quality of presentation and, in effect, captures a snapshot in time that reflects the artist's intention.

Thanks for your comments.

Posted on Jan 15, 2010 5:38:36 PM PST
L Bastet says:
Great, thorough review It answered all my questions, especially about the extras, which weights the most on my purchase decision. Thanks!!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2010 8:10:04 PM PST
Wayne Klein says:
Thanks for the comment and you're welcome!
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Wayne Klein

Location: My Little Blue Window, USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 179