This classic noir is notable for a number of reasons
You're out of practice aren't you - dancing I mean. I can help you get in practice again Johnny - dancing I meanDown on his luck gambler, Johnny Farrell, nearly falls foul of a fast one, but is rescued by a mysterious stranger who asks him not to ply his trade in a nearby underground casino. Paying no heed, Johnny cheats his way to winning on the blackjack table only to be hauled in front of the owner, who turns out to be one and the same man: Ballin Mundson. The two form a close working relationship with Farrell soon becoming the right-hand man, but a spanner is thrown into the works when Mundson returns from a trip with a hot new wife, Gilda, and it is clear that Farrell and her have a very strong past connection. With Mundson double crossing the German mob and under investigation from Argentinian intelligence and catching his wife with Farrell; he takes off in a plane faking his own death. This leaves Gilda and Farrell to marry, but from some misguided loyalty to Mundson, Farrell treats Gilda terribly keeping her in isolation. Just when things look to be at their lowest ebb, Mundson returns to exact revenge!Charles Vidor’s classic noir is notable for a number of reasons: first and foremost is the sultry Rita Hayworth in the titular role, she positively sizzles. Whether it is her sexually charged song and dance numbers, her purring at the camera or her wild and crazy tantrums at her predicament, she simply owns the camera and every scene she is in. Secondly there's Polish-born Rudolph Maté’s vivid and organic cinematography which adds richness, depth and a character to the noir which might otherwise been quite ordinary. Thirdly is a script that's sharp, witty and clever enough to keep you coming back to more. And we ought to mention the score and the songs, which also add a layer of beauty to this beloved classic. Indeed there is a lot to praise save one aspect that might turn a modern audience away. Whilst the film is very modern with its characterisations, pacing and editing what it can’t hide is its acting, which for the time is fine, but has been parodied to such a point that it is, at times, difficult to defend. “Johnny!”
Picture QualityThe disc presents a full screen 1.33:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region locked to B.
“This UCLA Film and Television Archive 2K restoration of Gilda was produced in cooperation with Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Library of Congress, and The National Film and Television Archive U.K.”
What is most apparent about the transfer, apart from the amount of work needed to clean up the image, is that age hasn’t, in a lot of cases, been the print’s friend. But, in other cases, it has. And sometimes in the same scene. Detail, when good, shows up some decent skin texture and some clothing weave, even in soft focus (used to extenuate Hayworth’s sex appeal) has good edges, or the roulette table numbers and chips. However, when the image is somewhat less good, the detail can suffer becoming rather soft and indistinct.
When the print is good and the settings are correct, there is a tremendous greyscaleBrightness and contrast are the most to blame, when the print is good and the settings are correct, there is a tremendous greyscale, with rich deep blacks and smooth clean whites. But when things go south the contrast can give rise to some very crushed blacks; check out the dark suits that look more like shadows than something with definition, and this tends to dull the frame and reduce the depth dramatically. Whites, in the same situation, don’t fare any better with clipping on shirts for example.
The original print also has its issues, there's still the occasional blemish including specks and tram lines, as well as the occasional brightness fluctuation. The frame is nice and stable though and the grain level reasonably consistent, save those instances when things take a nose dive. At least there is no evidence of any digital tinkering; the print retains a strong organic feel. Now I realise this paints a poor picture, however, I should stress that the image, while somewhat inconsistent, remains bright, strong and clear for the most part. It has also been preserved in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Sound QualityJust the one track: English LPCM 2.0 mono. The clean up on this track has fared very well with no instances of hiss, pop, crackle or distortion. It is also very clean and bright which leads to quite a natural sounding track, free from over-heavy low end and never tinny or shrill. Dialogue is clear and audible, the score and musical numbers are well layered and have some depth. It is a clean representation with nothing lost, even if, by necessity of age and format, the whole is a tad flat.
ExtrasAudio Commentary – With film critic Richard Schickel, it's a patchy affair that really tails off towards the end; he talks about scenes, plots, characters, tensions for the first half and then has little to say with very long pauses in-between. A shame as his delivery is keen and is observations insightful. Originally recorded in 2010.
Interview – With film noir historian Eddie Muller, filmed new for this release, who discusses the themes of Gilda, the relationships, subtexts and the Hollywood era it was filmed in, along with a bit about character motivations and more in this short (20 minute) but informative feature.
Hollywood and the Stars: "The Odyssey of Rita Hayworth" – Is an episode of this 1964 TV show concentrating on the star, her life and legacy.
Martin Scorsese and Baz Luhrmann – Again recorded in 2010, these two directors discuss the film and Hayworth’s star appeal.
Blu-ray VerdictGilda is a classic Hollywood film noir starring Rita Hayworth in the titular role. The film tells the story of a love triangle between a down-and-out gambler making it big, a casino owner, and Gilda, the woman who has a past with one and trying to make a future with the other. Its rich and evocative cinematography, as well as the sultry score and Hayworth’s sizzling performance catapult this film into classic Heaven. Modern audiences may find the acting and dialogue somewhat stilted and indeed comical due to parodying of such titles; but look past this to the richness that lies below.
Hayworth’s sizzling performance catapults this film into classic Heaven
As a Blu-ray package, the set from Criterion is, once again, a belter; the picture has been restored to a rich and organic looking film print, it is not without its problems (damage, inconsistent grain (original print) and contrast issues with both crushing and clipping) but manages to overcome these shortcomings. The LPCM 2.0 mono soundtrack is free from damage, clean and clear with only age related flatness to dampen it. The extras are a mix of new and old, but all are worth taking a look at.
You can buy Gilda on Criterion Blu-ray here
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