Monday, November 29, 2004

Gone With the Wind: DVD comes of age

The new Warner's four-disc special edition DVD of Gone With the Wind is a triumph. I'll omit discussion here of the tons of extra material included, other than to point out that the feature-length documentary is one of the best ever made about a film--the screen tests alone are worth the price of admission. There's so much other stuff that it would really require a review of its own.

All that would be for naught if the visual reproduction of the film was lacking. Fear not. This is by a wide margin the best-looking Gone With the Wind ever seen on home video. Prior to this one, the CAV laserdisc edition took the honors; the previous DVD came early in the format's history, and was ruined by over-enthusiastic application of edge enhancement. What's edge enhancement? If you don't already know, I'll spare you, because it's one of those things that will bother you for the rest of your life every time you see it. Ignorance in this case can be bliss.



The good news is that I can't detect any of that here. Nor can I see any evidence of DVNR (digital video noise reduction). The techniques for "cleaning up" old films have obviously progressed beyond those, and what we have here is a video reproduction of a movie that even projected to over 100 inches (on the Plus Piano DLP) looks gloriously film-like. No phony "sharpening," no goosing of contrast or color, no elimination of film grain in the interest of "clean" reproduction. Cleanliness may be next to godliness when it comes to transfer of video material, but where film is involved, eliiminating grain is tantamount to throwing out the baby with the bath water.

The color scheme of the film is on the warm, creamy, brownish, pastel-ish side, which I believe to be true to the film-makers' intentions. GWTW is not Singin' In the Rain--eye-poppingly garish color wasn't the aim here. That said, the eye is constantly seduced by small, vivid details--the emerald green of Scarlett's Parisian bonnet, the brownish red of her hair (I find hair color a reliable gauge as to color accuracy), the baby blue of Bonnie Blue Butler's eyes. The photography is stunning, and on a big screen--which is really the only fair way to watch this film--the whole thing conveys a sense of hugeness that has virtually no equal in film.

The package is worth the price for the extra material alone. (On laser, the documentary was actually sold as a separate set.) For the movie, it's worth twice the price--that's how good this transfer is.

A truly sensational piece of work. I can't imagine this film looking any better in the here and now.

MK

2 Comments:

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