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on June 19, 2014
I can't explain why this film is one of my Top 5 favorites of all time. Maybe it's the beautiful cinematography, the stellar acting, incredibly foreboding atmosphere. Something about it just resonates within me and I find myself getting lost in it's beauty, like when you're just waking up from a wonderful dream and you try to stay in that world just a bit longer. This is a gorgeous Criterion edition, it comes housed with a new edition of the original novel, which I'm looking forward to reading soon. I've taken a few photos of the case and contents, so check the item description above for those, I hope it helps.
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on January 15, 2017
Quite a lovely, languid film. Very erotic in a subtle way. The music was what got me--here were these bucolic scenes with thundering, "something is very wrong" music.
It's Valentine's Day, 1900. A group of Australian school girls go on a picnic at Hanging Rock. There's a thread of sexual tension running through the film. One of the girls, the obvious "Queen Bee" is revered by the other girls; one in particular, a girl who is not allowed to go on the picnic because she has been bad. Also picnicking at Hanging Rock are a young English aristocrat with his aunt, uncle and their servant, aged around 20. Again, there is a hint of sexual tension between the young lord and the servant. Then they spot four girls who have broken away from the group to explore, and the lord goes off to follow them.
Soon it's obvious that three of the four girls are lost on Hanging Rock. A teacher goes looking for them and she doesn't return. The rest of the girls and their guardians go back to the school and then the town goes back to search. The young lord is very shaken up over the disappearance of the girls and in an obsessive manner, goes off to look for them. He falls ill and is taken to a hospital.
The film, based on a book by the same name, leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Hanging Rock is considered sacred to the aboriginal people so was it angry gods who stole the girls away? Did the young lord murder them? Did the girls run away together or with lovers?
The movie is disturbing in a quiet way. It's lovely to look at but there is a constant feeling that something is off kilter. This is definitely an "art" film so if you like your plots wrapped up in a tidy package at the end of 90 minutes, this is not the movie for you.
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on February 21, 2015
Years ago I bought the original Criterion Collection DVD edition of "Picnic at Hanging Rock". The back of the DVD box claims the movie is in widescreen format, but it is not. It is letterboxed; widescreen in a 4:3 format. I guess that works with the older 4:3 TVs, but on the new standard 16:9 sets, it leaves black bars on the right, left, top, and bottom of the screen. This new Blu-ray/DVD edition finally gets it right, giving us a true widescreen version of the film. Here are some observations on this new edition:

The new DVD is dual-layer, and slightly larger (7.37GB) than the original Criterion DVD (6.57GB). I note this because very often the DVDs included with BD/DVD sets are single-layer, inferior versions of the DVD compared to DVD-only versions of a film you can buy. I give Criterion credit for not doing this with the DVD here; it is a quality version of the film. The only real difference between the original DVD and the new one is that the new DVD is in 16:9 format, compared to the letterboxed original DVD. The quality of the video is improved over the original, but there is some grain and a lot of artifacts visible.

The Blu-ray disk is also in 16:9 format, of course. The film quality is very good, but not great; I assume that is due to the condition of the master that was used to create the new disks. But the BD version removes all the artifacts seen on the DVD, so it is a definitive improvement in that way. Colors are more vibrant and more detail is visible, too, with very little grain evident. You certainly want to watch the BD disk, not the DVD. I'm being a bit over-critical when I say the video quality is not great. It is so much better than the original Criterion DVD, and really looks fine.

There are two DVDs in this new edition. One contains the movie, the other contains the extras. The Blu-ray disk includes both the film and the same extras that are on the second DVD.

I am a bit surprised that this new set is "director-approved", with the transfer supervised by Peter Weir himself. I say that because Weir changed the format of the film for this new version. The film was originally produced in 1.66:1 format, which is not the same as the 16:9 version we see here. 16:9 fills the whole screen, while 1.66:1 is slightly wider and narrower. If the film were in 1.66:1 format here, there would be small black bars at the top and bottom of a 16:9 screen. Personally, I would prefer that over this modified version. We lose a little bit of information on the right and left sides of the screen, since it had to be slightly cropped to make it fit a 16:9 screen (trust me; I obsessively compared the two versions of the film and confirmed this). I always prefer the original format of a film over one modified in any way. I wish this new BD were in the original format. But that is a minor quibble, since this is a much better version than the original letterboxed DVD, and very little is lost in this new version, certainly nothing of any importance. Finally we get to see the film fill our screens, instead of having a tiny film with black bars on the sides, top, and bottom of the screen!

The audio is improved on the Blu-ray disk, too. The original Criterion DVD had Dolby 5.1 mix; the new BD is DTS-HD Master Audio, which means it is bit-for-bit identical to the studio master. The audio is center-channel heavy, with little to no surround effects, the same as the original DVD. I would have liked more enveloping sound, especially in the outdoor scenes, with insects and birds buzzing around. But again, I'm being a bit picky.

The inclusion of the book the movie was made from is a terrific bonus, too. That alone adds greatly to the value of this edition of the film. I hope this becomes more of a trend for disk releases of films that are made from books, if the authors or their estates allow it.

Of course, my review here is more about the technical aspects of the new BD/DVD set than the film itself. I give this new set 5 stars both for the technical improvements (in spite of my nit-picking), and because this has long been one of my favorite films. it is a great film, one that sticks in your mind long after you've watched it, and one you will want to watch more than once. Finally we have it in a format that it deserves!
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on March 1, 2018
I read a review of the movie in or around 1975 / 76. Didn't get to see the movie until I purchased the DVD 50 years after the novel was written.
Back then, I saw a black and white photo of a scene from the movie in the movie review (featured in a newspaper) and was intrigued by the mystery. I am still intrigued after watching the DVD. Have watched parts of the movie around 10 times since it was delivered to me a few weeks ago - the scenes when Miranda and three other girls were exploring the rocks amidst an eerie humming sound from rocks that look like faces of the Easter Island monoliths. Creepy even in broad daylight. The pan flute music has been ringing in my ears since watching the DVD. The movie has 'hooked' me - I am hooked on a feeling - a creepy feeling.

The DVD comes with special features and we get to see Peter Weir and the actors being interviewed decades after the movie was made.

What I like best about the movie is the unexplained disappearance of three of the girls (two of whom were never found) and the location of the movie - where else but the actual Hanging Rocks. Director Peter Weir was wise to follow the novel. It was also wise for the book publisher to skip 'Chapter 18' that the author Lindsay had written - it would have damaged the appeal of the mystery.
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on July 20, 2014
One of my top ten movies. Multi-level film, artistically filmed with elaborate obsession to details. Is it a gothic horror film, a mystery film or a psychological thriller? Film centers around the disappearance of three school girls and their teacher. Eventually one girl is found but she is unable or unwilling to tell what happened to the other girls and their teacher. The viewer is required to think and decide for themselves what actually happened to the lost women. For me the girls and their teacher didn't disappear but escaped the repressed attitudes of Victorian Australia. Hanging Rock itself is a volcanic outcropping, similar to Devil's Tower in WY which has the mysterious ability to disorientate the hiker and cause you to easily get lost.
The Criterion version of this movie is well worth the cost and contains detailed interviews with the director, art director and actors.
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on July 16, 2017
Beautiful edition of an even more beautiful film! I love Criterion releases but this ranks as among the best - beautiful packaging with the included novel! Also includes the film and all the special features on both Blu Ray and DVD which is very nice. The included essay booklet inside is also beautifully designed and well thought. The Blu Ray restoration is amazing! The film looks like it could have come out within the last few years! If you love Picnic at Hanging Rock definitely pick up this release
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on June 18, 2014
If you are as big a fan of Peter Weir's "Picnic at Hanging Rock" as I am, you will know that it has been long overdue for the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray treatment. Prior to this release, the only editions available in the U.S. were an older Criterion DVD with no special features (save for the trailer) and many other region DVDs with a wealth of special features that were not playable on U.S. DVD players. I was excited to see that Joan Lindsey's original book is included as a part of this edition, which has been previously out of print and difficult to get a hold of. My only complaint is that there are other special features, such as interviews with the girls who played Irma and Edith, available in different edition DVDs that unfortunately were not included on this DVD, so it is not really a definitive edition. Still, the sound and picture quality are beautiful and pristine and the special features are excellent and informative. This is the best Criterion Collection purchase I have ever made and the first time I am aware of their releasing a book along with a movie. Highly recommended for fans of the novel and film, you will NOT be disappointed.
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on July 26, 2016
a breakthrough movie for aussie filmmakers. a fine period piece, really slow but with considerable tension. a bit precious for my tastes but i was still held by the music and imagery
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on November 15, 2015
Decently acted, and very "atmospheric." However, the plot gets somewhat muddled and plodding. A good watch if you are a student of Australian cinema.
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on September 29, 2017
I really loved this movie the first time I saw it. This remastered version is beautiful and well worth it. Also the book is amazing, so if you've not read it, this collection is perfect.
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