City Girl meanders onto our Blu-ray discs with an incredible 1080p, MPEG-4/AVC coded transfer using the original aspect ratio of 1.19:1.
City Girl is now just over 90 years of age, the original, silent print being lost for many years and you would be correct in thinking that little could be done by transferring that release to the new high def format. How wrong you would be. This transfer is an almost pristine piece of work. Yes there are still some debris or marks on the film, some slight camera wobble but let's take this into context; that context is its age.
A subtle level of grain is apparent, although it's never intrusive, and it's light enough to question whether some DNR has been applied to this release. There are no hints of that scourge of digital transfers though as skin, clothing and structure textures look spot on. Also being a Masters of Cinema release you can pretty much rely on those technicians to produce the best version available without outside tinkering.
Blacks are solid with decent shadow detail. Look at Kate's apartment, the farm loft where the workhands sleep for instance, whilst the glorious brighter outdoor shots of Lem and Kate sprawling through the wheat fields shows no hint of bloom and an incredible depth of frame for a picture so old. The encoding itself shows no anomalies with no blocking on show through swathes of shadows and little to no haloing around objects contrasted against brighter backgrounds. Without a doubt this is the best transfer you'll ever see for this very fine film.
Christopher Caliendo composed a new score for this release in 2008 and that is what we have here on the audio side of things. It's presented in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and you could argue that it's a little overkill for what is required. Welcomed, of course, but as there's little to nothing that I could discern from the surrounds then perhaps a 2.0 track would have been better suited?
All of the score emanates from the frontal array with some slight panning to left and right from the strings, piccolos or low oboes. That frontal stage is wider and deeper than I had expected and this was justifiably welcomed.
The middle and higher tones are the order of the day, with some subtle use of LFE when the storm gathers pace during the last third of the film. There's no clipping at the upper end of the scale and this is perhaps the best that could have been expected from this new track. It doesn't intrude by firing on all your speaker cylinders as they would have detracted from the main film itself. As such this is a respectful track, well defined and represented.
Unfortunately there's only a couple of extras included in this release. First up, on the disc itself we get a fast paced, don't hold your breath commentary from film scholar David Kolat. David rattles through the movie, hardly pausing to take breath, and offers up a wealth of detail not just about Murnau or City Girl but the mood and movement of Hollywood at the time of this initial release all those years ago. It's one of the best historical chat tracks I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Informative, yet not dry, and the time passes by in an instant. It'll take all of your concentration to keep up with the wealth of facts he dishes out.
Along with that we get a 28 page booklet containing some stills from the movie and a short essay by Adrian Danks. Much of what Danks says is mentioned in the earlier commentary but it's still worth a read.
I would have preferred some additional material, even the 40 minute featurette on 4 Devils as was included with Sunrise. Unfortunately though this was not to be and as such the marks for the extras section are reduced accordingly.
Eureka, yet again, go from strength to strength with their Masters of Cinema releases. AVForums have had the pleasure of reviewing their discs for some time and each release just seems to be better than the last. They are uncovering hidden gems from years past and they should only be applauded for their continuing efforts.
This disc is no exception and only proves the rule. The film is one of a series of films made by Murnau which everyone deserves to watch. It contains the elements of the work he was expanding upon in Germany, it has the all of his hallmarks and is a little more accessible than some of his earlier releases. The audio is good, well defined and not intrusive on Murnau's delightful imagery, and the video is a prime example of how to take a film almost a century old, treat it with love and care and bring an almost pristine version back to our screens.
Those silent films from yesteryear are not everyone's cup of tea in a world bristling with the latest and, at times, not so greatest CGI induced special effects. Modern cinema all stems from here though so it's always interesting to go back to its roots and see those initial buds blossom into what we have today. An exceptional film from an exceptional film maker. There are a number of Murnau classics that you really should watch and own. This is one of them.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.