Special Edition, The Criterion Collection
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The pinnacle of the decades-long collaboration between director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, Howards End is a thought-provoking, luminous vision of E. M. Forster’s cutting 1910 novel about class divisions in Edwardian England. Emma Thompson won an Academy Award for her dynamic portrayal of Margaret Schlegel, a flighty yet compassionate middle-class intellectual whose friendship with the dying wife (Vanessa Redgrave) of rich capitalist Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins) commences an intricately woven tale of money, love, and death that encompasses the country’s highest and lowest social echelons. With a brilliant, layered script by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (who also won an Oscar) and a roster of gripping performances, Howards End is a work of both great beauty and vivid darkness, and one of cinema’s greatest literary adaptations.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• High-definition digital transfer, supervised by cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts, with uncompressed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack
• New appreciation of the late Ismail Merchant by director James Ivory
• Building: Howards End, a documentary featuring interviews with Ivory, Merchant, Helena Bonham Carter, costume designer Jenny Beavan, and Academy Award–winning production designer Luciana Arrighi
• The Design of: Howards End, a detailed look at the costume and production designs for the film, including original sketches
• The Wandering Company (1984), a 50-minute documentary about the history of Merchant Ivory Productions
• Original 1992 behind-the-scenes featurette
• Original theatrical trailer
• PLUS: An essay by critic Kenneth Turan"
Stills from Howards End (Click for larger image)
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I've seen this film dozens of times and never before had I noticed how many beautiful and stunning scarfs and shawls Margret dons throughout the film. Let alone the glorious Wedgewood, China, and amazing works of art that inhabit all the sets.
However, when I first started the Blu Ray I was horrifed and thought it was an exceptionally poor transfer. It was as grainy as a beach, with white dots littering the screen. I was able to resolve this by changing my TV's settings to appreciate the picture. My TV comes with a range of preset brights/huges/and balance controls - which of course you can use to set your own as well. I usually have mine set to "vibrant." However, this was too much for the delicate film work here and had the film screaming bits of grain and white flashes at me - a switch to my TV's "cinematic" preset made the Blu Ray brilliantly rendered. If you find the Blu Ray lacking, play with your picture settings. If you're like me, you have your colors and brightness up rather high and this film requires darker settings - I guess its like the equalizer settings on your stereo, you wouldn't use the same settings for rock-n-roll and classical. I'm not a techie so I don't know how correct my assessment is, but I do now that once I made the adjustments, the film was still in absolute high definition, and far more stunning and visually engaging than the DVD.
Faithful to the book there is nary a detail left out, a few minor details are juxtaposed here or there for a tighter film fit - In my judgment this is the most faithful and positively perfect rendering of a classic book to film ever attempted. The script is expertly crafted, and it is cast under the divine intervention of kismet. Thompson and Hopkins have undeniable chemistry. The film is quite simply a masterpiece and it is a rare example of film's capacity to harmonize with other art forms. The written word is brought to life, the soundtrack is exquisite, and the locations are teeming with exuberance and life.
Yet this film is most certainly not for everyone, as evidenced by the many "It's boring" reviews here. There is no instant fix, explosions or romantic endings. Like any work of literary fiction, plot is not the catalyst here - the human experience is exposed through patient character development letting you experience E.M. Forster's most poignant commandment: "Only connect."
But, having labored mightily to calibrate both my LCD tvs properly, I must add my voice to those who have problems with this transfer.
None of my other Blu-rays seem to have such soft processing nor do they seems as unfaithful in terms of color.
I remember an astonishingly beautiful film. Perhaps the actual film stock M/I used was subpar, turning many fleshtones pink and lacking the warmth one would expect from proper color temperatures. It's a disappointment from Criterion.
It's always possible that a cost-conscious producer made the original decision to utilize inferior film stock, but I somehow doubt it.