Gandhi - 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review
PictureGandhi has always been a colourful film and it literally bursts onto our screens anew at a theatrically correct 2.35:1 using the MPEG-4/AVC codec at 1080p; and those colours are sumptuous on this new Blu-ray release. Skin tones are pretty much spot on with only a slight reddening in some of the Western faces, the colours of the many sari's, tunics and turbans on show are bold and well defined.
Detail is much improved over the standard DVD edition with pore and hair structure much better than earlier versions, so it would appear that no DNR has been applied in this instance. Detail is more apparent in the textures of clothing and habitats, with the embroidery from some of the afore mentioned saris again particularly pleasing. The newspaper which Gandhi reads after his beating in South Africa is superbly rendered and each column article can be read if you decide to pause the movie at this point. Also look out for close up shots of dirty fingernails and the many crowd scenes, all of which have much better definition and depth. The film is not as sharp as some others I have seen, verging on the soft side a little
Blacks rarely fall to the level to enhance some of the few shadowy areas but that doesn't seem to detract from the viewing pleasure as there's only a few night time scenes where this is perhaps a little of a let down. Whites never bloom though, and this is convenient as a lot of the scenes are in the bright outdoors. There's no encoding errors to speak of either with no blocking or noise in those few darker scenes, with even edge enhancement kept firmly in check for most (but not all) scenes.
For a film approaching its 30th birthday the print is in fine shape with a subtle veneer of grain evident throughout and for me this only enhances the viewing pleasure; it's never intrusive and adds to that cinematic feel. There are, however, some brightness fluctuations apparent on the blemish free print, with more than a few scenes wavering somewhat and this can at times be a little distracting. In saying that, this is still the absolute best I have ever seen this film.
SoundGandhi receives the full Dolby Digital TrueHD treatment and although this is by no means a whip around bombastic track what we do have is absolute clarity from a film which has to rely on the spoken word.
That word emanates with absolute clarity from the centre channel where every syllable can be heard, even though those spoken in the most hushed of tones. This is predominantly a frontal based affair with some panning between left, centre and right when horses, trains or armoured vehicles pass our field of vision, and there are a few scenes where the backing score kicks in with depth and precision.
It is that score which demands the most of your amplifier and speakers here. The rich, high tones of the sitar crisply drifting from your frontal array into your viewing space. Lower tones are
rarely called upon because in the main they are just not required.
There is some ambiance from the surrounds, but like LFE it is not needed for most of the time. That ambiance is structured from creature effects, birds and crickets, some crowd noises and the occasional vehicle or crack of thunder. What we are left with then is a track which covers what it needs to and one which makes sure that all important dialogue has the absolute best definition it can; it wins on all fronts in that area.
- Introduction by Richard Attenborough.
A brief introduction with Sir Richard hoping you enjoy the film he considers the best and most important of his directorial career.
- Director's Commentary.
An excellent chat track and one which is quite easily listened to. Richard Attenborough comes across as a thoroughly likeable, committed and knowledgeable chap. He keeps you entertained on his own for all of the 3+ hours he is speaking, covering the production bases and his memories from the filming of Gandhi.
- Information Track.
This is a good info track, with facts and figures over-laid onto the film as you watch, There's good control if you simply want to skip through all of the information at your own leisure and the facts that appear are interesting; detailing some of Gandhi's personal history, his writings and the times he lived in.
- Ben Kingsley Talks About Gandhi. - 0:19:23 - MPEG-2/480i
Kingsley talking about the role and how he came to get the part. Briefly talking about the man himself, how Gandhi is recorded on film for our history and how he thought portraying him would be neigh on impossible. He mentions some of the making of the film, his fellow cast members, some scenes and meeting some of Gandhi's descendants.
- From the Director's Chair - On Casting. - 0:07:03 - MPEG02/480i
Attenborough indicating he makes movies for the actors and to see the actors ply their trade. He mentions the people he chose to play these parts, how he respected them, the talents they had as individuals and what they brought to this picture.
- From the Director's Chair - On Music. - 0:02:54 - MPEG-2/480i
Attenborough again, this time discussing the music which has come out of India in recent times. Ravi Shankar is mentioned, and how he contributed to this film along with George Fenton.
- In Search of Gandhi. - 0:09:26 - MPEG-2/480i
Attenborough again telling of the time when he first saw the real Gandhi in early newsreels, how his father told him to listen to the small man on that big screen. His reading of Gandhi's biography which was passed to him by Motilal Kothari and whom the film Attenborough eventually made was dedicated to. How this meeting opened the doors into India, people in power and how it developed the spark in his imagination to make this picture after so many others, including David Lean, had turned it down.
- Looking Back. - 0:18:21 - MPEG-2/480i
How the film was brought down from its original four hours to the final running time of just over three, and how difficult that process was because all the shots they had were of a very high standard indeed. The film is discussed, its long journey to screen and when finally finished how it went from strength to strength and country to country, eventually ending up at the Oscars with a handful of gongs.
- Madeleine Slade: An Englishwoman Abroad. - 0:09:41 - MPEG-2/480i
Madeleine Slade was the English woman who went to India to spend time with Gandhi as part of his family. This all too brief snippet tries to examine the person behind the character and what were her reasons for making that life changing journey.
- Reflections On Ben. - 0:09:23 - MPEG-2/480i
Attenborough indicating how he came to choose Ben Kingsley for this part. How he dismissed others for the role.
- Shooting an Epic in India. - 0:17:56 - MPEG-2/480i
The shooting locations in India and the difficulties which were encountered whilst there. Most of which due to the heat or the sheer size of the country. The transport available in the country at the time was a scary enough affair, moving from place to place was treacherous. If this was not enough there was constant opposition in the country to this film, Indians protesting that their own countrymen should be making this film.
- Designing Gandhi. - 0:05:38 - MPEG-2/480i
Split into three shorts... Building the Ashram, The Tent and Finding Trains with no play all function here unfortunately but brief snippets on how certain scenes were constructed and filmed.
- The Funeral. - 0:13:34 - MPEG-2/480i
The funeral scene near the start of the movie is the biggest in the film by some margin. The number of people in that one scene ran into the hundreds of thousands. This short featurette details how the producers managed to pull all of this together, from getting the people to line the streets, to the actual filming. A good look at how a very large scene can be coped with. 400,000 people eventually turned up to 'star' in this extended scene.
- The Words of Mahatma Gandhi. - 0:01:58 - MPEG-2/480i
A slide show of some phrases attributed to Gandhi, some of his sayings, some of his teachings.
- Newsreel Footage. - 0:10:05 - MPEG-2/480i
4 old newsreels detailing some of Gandhi's time. These can be played individually or en masse. It's good to see some original footage, and in some way relate this to the older footage included in the actual film. In some of these clips we actually get to hear Gandhi speak , although most of the time it's the usually old newsreel over dubbing from a very proper English commentator.
- The Making of Gandhi Photo Montage. - 0:05:24 - MPEG-2/480i
A self propelling slideshow of some still images form the film, pre and post production; all set to some rather stirring sitar music.
An excellent set of extras most of which have been ported over from the most recent DVD release. Some of the featurettes are a little too short for my liking and most have come from the same source. I personally would have preferred for them to be left as one longer documentary rather than have them cut up as they are here. Still there's some excellent information contained in this extras package both about the film and the man himself. The info track is by far the best I have ever come across and the commentary is well worth a listen, and this version of the film can also be viewed whilst the directors commentary is enabled. I found that a good way to watch these two. There is BD-Live functionality but that, yet again, proved to be a complete waste of my time.
VerdictAfter reading Gandhi's biography Richard Attenborough was captivated and knew he would make this film. He took those first steps on that road in the early Sixties and some twenty years later after negotiations with the Indian government and financial backers, finally brought his vision to our screens. And what a vision it was and still is. Bathed in a beautiful light the Indian countryside, it's dusty roads and lush high class gardens have never looked any better.
An actors film, one to really show the world what they are capable of when presented with a sterling script and a director dedicated to the final product. And what actors we have, scores of faces you will remember, scores of faces who perhaps you can't put a name to but you know you have seen them before.
Perhaps one of the last of its kind in the British Film Industry and as such just from that point of view it's a good film to have in your collection. The storyline though is the real reason this should adorn your shelves. A brief insight into one of the 20th Century's most defining characters. One whose commitment decided the fate of both countless millions and nation states. Gandhi is and always will be highly recommended.
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- Introduction by Richard Attenborough.