A short movie review (of sorts)

Sort of. I've long been a fan of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I first encountered it a decade or so back, catching most of the 1940 Olivier movie on cable. I later discovered that that version made some major changes to the storyline, but it was still a very satisfying telling. In fact, I sometimes debate whether the biggest change there was a good one; certainly, it made one of the major characters must less of an ogre (that would be lady Catherine de Bourgh, for those keeping score at home).

Still, it was not until I encountered the BBC's mini-series retelling, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, that I fully came to appreciate the story. The several additional hours of depth to the story certainly added a great deal. As does, my wife tells me, the scene of Colin Firth bathing. I've since read the book a couple of times, and seen a couple of newer versions ("Bride and Prejudice" is excellent, the Keira Knightley "Pride & Prejudice" not so much. More commentary on one or both of those, later), but none come close to matching this one for the quality of acting and faithfulness to the story.

I held off on buying the laserdisc release when it came out, mostly because it was so expensive, but when it was released on DVD, I got it almost immediately. And when a 10th anniversary edition came out, I didn't mind getting that one as well. I had second thoughts about getting the Blu-ray release that came out recently, but decided that I might as well, since it wasn't too expensive.

I wasn't really expecting a big change in quality, especially given the type of story; you don't expect the additional resolution to make that big of a difference in a character-driven tale. However, they were able to remaster it from the original negatives (according to a bonus video, this wasn't possible until some time last year because of frame misalignments around editing splices. Previous cuts were created from prints), which resulted in noticeably greater detail and much greater color fidelity. Really, the difference in colors was enough to make me feel like I was seeing it for the first time again.

What was very odd, to me, was that the greatest change wasn't in the distant, panorama shots. I expected that those would be where almost all of the improvement was. However, there was almost no improvement there; something in the process brought out a stippling in those shots that cancelled out whatever improvement would have been there. But the foreground (and close background) material? Oh, that was amazing. Seeing clearly through windows, seeing the edges of flames in torches and fireplaces, making out the jewelry that people wore? The detail, combined with the added color depth, was truly astounding.

So if you like the story, and are wondering whether it is worth buying in Blu, the answer is resoundingly yes.

As a side note, though, I do wonder about why remastering via negative wasn't feasible previously. The misalignment issue seems like a fairly trivial one, if you've already got something for scanning the film; just overscan by a significant amount, and remove the extra crap (and rotate, one would presume). I'm sure there's something there I'm missing, but I have no idea what.

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