Days of Heaven
The Criterion Collection
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One-of-a-kind filmmaker-philosopher Terrence Malick has created some of the most visually arresting movies of the twentieth century, and his glorious period tragedy Days of Heaven, featuring Oscar-winning cinematography by Nestor Almendros, stands out among them. In 1910, a Chicago steel worker (Richard Gere) accidentally kills his supervisor and flees to the Texas panhandle with his girlfriend (Brooke Adams) and little sister (Linda Manz) to work harvesting wheat in the fields of a stoic farmer (Sam Shepard). A love triangle, a swarm of locusts, a hellish fireMalick captures it all with dreamlike authenticity, creating at once a timeless American idyll and a gritty evocation of turn-of-the-century labor.
Audio commentary with Weber, Jack Fisk, Patricia Norris & Dianne Crittenden
Audio interview with Richard Gere
Video interviews with Bailey, Haskell Wexler & Sam Shepard
A booklet featuring an essay by critic Adrian Martin
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There are a few soft moments in the transfer, but nothing that jars the spell, and I can't imagine a person with sensibilities to enjoy this film will be anything but endeared to the moments when its age shows. Meanwhile the great majority of the time the screen is just stunning.
It seems to me that older color films with a lot of outdoor scenes (The Searchers looks amazing) might make the very best looking blu-rays. The newer special-effects, super-crisp movies are nice, too, and I guess technically more perfect images, but there is something heartmelting about the way the old ones come out.
Highly recommend this blu-ray.
It's very dream-like, surreal, a film I never get tired of watching. If I had to pin it down to two reasons why, it would be the video and the audio.
The cinematography alone makes this movie worth watching repeatedly.
The same superlatives can be used when discussing the soundtrack, a haunting music score that gets better and better each time one views this film. In fact, lately it's the music more than anything else I miss when I go periods without viewing this film.
I find the narration to be unique, an unusual insight into the characters of the film and the thoughts of the little girl (Linda Manz), who does the narrating. The characters that continually fascinate me are Brooke Adams, as the lead female, and Robert J. Wilke, as the farm foreman. I guess it's their faces that intrigue me. Adams' down-turned mouth and sad look and Wilke's wrinklies catch my attention every time.
The story is interesting, generally low-key but with a few quick violent scenes that are quite memorable. More than that, one gets an incredible feel for the land and for the migrant workers of that time period. Another nice aspect of this film is the very small amount of profanity. Kids probably would be bored with this film but at least I wouldn't be afraid to show it to them.
But as many pluses as the story boasts, that haunting music and those incredible visuals are what drive me back for more. Great, great stuff.
I'm only commenting on the transfer - on my DVD player (Pioneer DV-434) at approximately 7:31 there is a digital-glitch that freezes the frame for a split second (the player does NOT go into SEARCH but continues counting properly thus, I place the blame on a poorly encoded transfer - where was their Quality Control?) then, the sound drops out for approximately 2-3 seconds (and the DOLBY DIGITAL indicator on the DVD player also goes out). I notice digital-compression NOISE on the audio track during ALL narration and on nearly ALL audio dialog UNLESS the music or sound-effects mask the noise. You expect this on VHS but on DVD?
I WOULD NOT HESITATE TO PURCHASE THIS FILM, regardless... it IS, as many others have stated, a masterpiece...
As with the films of Godard, Kurosawa, Buñuel etc., you must give yourself over to the directors' vision as auteur. Trust, and you'll be rewarded. If you enjoy films such as: "Last Year At Marienbad", "Vagabond", "Contempt", "Belle De Jour", "The Hired Hand" you will, most likely, enjoy this one.
p.s. Just to be sure it was NOT my DVD player, I sent my first DVD back to Amazon.com and they sent another copy - it performed exactly the same.
You may find it interesting to look up "Days Of Heaven" at imdb.com and click on DVD DETAILS for a more technical analysis.