A classic film but a disappointing Blu-ray
Darling Film Review
Darling is biting comedy that satirises the ‘swinging sixties’ whilst taking notes from the French ‘new wave’.Although the film has undoubtedly dated to a degree and some of its attitudes towards gender, sexuality and race would be unacceptable these days, it still retains an undeniable energy and charm fifty years later. This is in a large part thanks to a daring and very funny script from Frederic Raphael, who won an Academy Award for his efforts.However the film’s biggest asset is Julie Christie’s wonderful performance as Diana Scott, the care-free model who sleeps her way to the top at the height of the swinging sixties. Christie deservedly won an Academy Award as Best Actress for the role and the film, along with Doctor Zhivago that same year, established her as a star.
Blu-ray Picture QualityThe Blu-ray release of Darling is in black and white and in it's 1.66:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Sadly the AVC encoded 1080p/24 transfer is clearly an older one and certainly hasn't be restored, as Studio Canal's marketing claims. In actual fact the print itself is in fairly mediocre condition, with obvious damage on occasion and dirt and scratches around optical effects. For its 50th anniversary there really should have been a full restoration of the original 35mm camera negative, ideally at a 4K resolution. Instead of which we get a dirty old print and, if that wasn't bad enough, the transfer itself is also poor.
The print is in mediocre condition and the high definition transfer is poor.
There is an excessive amount of grain in the image, which might just be part of the original photography or even a stylistic choice; so we should probably be glad that digital noise reduction hasn't been applied. However the transfer also suffers from moire effects on clothes patterns and edge enhancement, suggesting that the high definition transfer is quite old. There is some detail in close-ups but overall the image lacks any real depth and is probably not much of an upgrade on the DVD. A classic film like Darling really did deserve better for its 50th anniversary, so let's hope it gets a proper restoration soon.
Blu-ray Sound QualityDarling at least fares better when it comes to sound quality, with the disc faithfully reproducing the film's mono soundtrack, spread across two channels in LPCM Stereo. Of course given the fidelity of the original recording no one is expecting any audio pyrotechnics but the track does manage to capture the sounds of London in the Swinging Sixties. The audio is at least free of excessive hiss and doesn't sound thin or shrill.
The Blu-ray at least delivers the film's mono soundtrack faithfully.
The soundtrack is naturally very dialogue heavy and this remains clear throughout the film, largely dominating proceedings. Whilst the score is minimal, songs occasionally punctuate proceedings and the majority the sound effects seem to have been recorded on location, resulting in a minimal amount of foley and looping. This probably reflects the intention of the filmmakers and it's doubtful that Darling will ever sound any better.
Blu-ray ExtrasThe Blu-ray release is a single Region B locked disc and comes in a regular plastic keep case. Aside from the picture and sound elements already mentioned, the film includes English subtitles for the hard of hearing. The marketing for the Blu-ray release of Darling says that it features brand new extra content but all you actually get is the original trailer (02:50) in poor quality 4:3 back and white. That's it, no documentaries, none of scenes that were deleted before the film's release and not even an interview with Julie Christie. Very disappointing.
Darling Blu-ray VerdictDarling is both an observation on and a satire of London in the mid-sixties, making it something of a time capsule. However the film’s story is universal, as is the idea that whatever your ultimate goal may be, your actions will always have consequences.
It's also very funny, with Frederic Raphael’s screenplay full of bitchy comments and scathing one-liners. In fact Darling's tale of the desperate and, at times tragic, pursuit of fame is probably more relevant today in our image conscious society than it was when it was made fifty years ago.
A classic film that is let down by a disappointing Blu-ray release.
Despite claims that Studio Canal's Vintage Classic Collection uses fully restored versions of their films and brand new extras, that is clearly not the case with Darling. The Blu-ray release is obviously using a very old high definition transfer that suffers from excessive grain, moire effects, edge enhancement and fluctuating contrast levels. At least the presence of film grain means that the transfer wasn't subjected to digital noise reduction but that's of little comfort. If that wasn't enough the print itself is in mediocre condition with visible damage in places and plenty of dirt and scratches, especially around optical effects.
The audio fares better with the film's original mono soundtrack faithfully reproduced across two channels in LPCM stereo but given the recording's limited fidelity it's hardly a standout sound mix. The brand new extras are nothing of the sort and the extra, if you can call it that, is just the original trailer. A classic film like Darling should have had a more comprehensive set of extras and, at the very least, an interview with Julie Christie. It's a great film but sadly the Blu-ray is a major disappointment and Darling certainly deserves better for its 50th anniversary.
You can buy Darling on Blu-ray here
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