PictureThis Polanski approved remastered transfer is absolutely gorgeous but that's not to say that it's not without its little, very minor faults. Criterion have released the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 widescreen at 1080p using the MPEG-4/AVC codec. Let's get the minor niggles out of the way first.
The print is in fine shape for something now 44 years old however there are one or two brightness fluctuations, there's one or two brief specks of dirt and a small hair at the bottom on the screen towards the end of the feature. There is some noise on Deneuve's bright cheeks in some scenes as well. Apart from that it's all fantastic stuff.
Any black and white feature will live or die on the contrast it employs and Repulsion has this in abundant spades. Blacks are richly deep whilst whites on the other hand are incredibly bright but with no signs of blooming; they are incredibly stable. Look at the third image presented here where Carole is walking down the streets of London. The background is extremely bright yet all the different buildings are easily identified, each standing apart from its neighbour. Blacks are used to excellent effect in Carole's apartment, with shadowy areas which might contain some malice or other. Shadow detail is exemplary and good examples can be seen in the living room as Carole sits alone late at night or a low angled shot of the apartment's corridor with some furniture in the foreground. This level of contrast certainly adds to the apparent depth of the presentation.
Apart from the slight noise mentioned earlier the encoding is top class with no banding, haloing or enhancement on show even in those starkly bright scenes. Detail again is rarely bettered with subtle pore structure, hair (the close up of the eye at the start is another great example) and textures all standing out. Grain is apparent, as it should be, and is never a distraction. One of the best black and white transfers on show which only drops a measly point because of some minor infractions.
SoundAlthough Criterion have graced us with an uncompressed LPCM mono track it's probably a little overkill for what is actually needed, even compressed with Dolby Digital you're probably not going to miss much. Dialogue is sterling, never a word lost. The Foley track, as was often the case in the Sixties, is a little overdone at some points; walking down the London streets, the traffic and even some of the ADR which doesn't fit too well at times; but the all important dialogue is never lost.
There's no surround ambiance to chill the bones and I for one am glad Criterion have retained the original track. Tonal range is somewhat limited by today's standards but then this is a product of its time and has to be addressed as such. There's nothing wrong with the track and I'm sure it's a faithful representation of its original release so many years ago.
Sound though does have a superb role to play in this film, heartbeats, the ticking of clocks, footsteps and the peel of distant bells. All are well defined, even the softest footsteps down the rugs in the hallway.
- Commentary with Roman Polanski and Catherine Deneuve.
This commentary, ported from the earlier Criterion Collection edition in 1994, is a little strange in the fact that the two individuals were not recorded at the same location or at the same time (and sometimes this shows) regardless, it's a good chat track. Polanski is up front and honest, indicating that he probably would have done things a little differently these days, thinking that his earlier work was a little arty for its own sake. Well he was young and it was the Sixties! Deneuve is equally as honest, sometimes berating Polanski for the avenues he chose, sometimes admiting it was a joy to work and be instructed by him.
- Trailers. - 1080i/MPEG-4
Two trailers Repulsion, enjoyable because they come from an earlier era of film and trailer making.
- A British Horror Film.- 0:24:03 - 1080i/MPEG-4
Produced by Blue Underground UK in 2003 this documentary has interviews with Polanski, cinematographer Gil Taylor, designer Seamus Flannery and producers Gene Gutowski and Tony Tenser. It's an engaging watch which offers up some additional making of the film and its participants. I enjoyed Taylor's input, the artistic differences he had with Polanski and the lenses he had to use for those extreme close ups.
- Grand Ecran - 0:21:30 - 1080i/MPEG-4
A documentary directed by Claude Chaboud on the making of Repulsion which was to be shown on French television. Predominantly in French with English subtitles; like the documentary above this is another must watch to learn a little more about this feature. It's all fly on the wall, behind the scenes, showing Polanski and his crew at work. There's good interaction between Polanski and Deneuve, both discussing certain aspects of the scenes to be shot.
There is a small glossy insert which contains Bill Horrigan's essay “Eye of the Storm”. This critical analysis of the film is a good read from which you'll glean a lot of useful information.
Small in number but perfectly formed is perhaps the best way to describe these additional extras. A film of this stature ideally should have more supplied but we get what we're given I suppose. They are lean and trim, with not an ounce of fat, each extra well worth your time, especially if you enjoy the film as much as I did.
VerdictCriterion once again step up to the plate and release this Region A cinema gem into our HD homes. They've treated the transfer with the respect it deserves, not messed about with the audio and have given us an acceptable, if somewhat wanting, extras package. The film on its own though would have been enough for most people out there, you'll rarely see any better study of one person's journey into themselves and the inner madness that can sometimes be revealed.
Unfortunately I have never seen any other version of this film on disc so it's obviously impossible for me to say if this is a worthy upgrade or not. People who are familiar with earlier releases though do indicate that this restoration and remastering has almost been a love affair. Taking that on board then you film lovers out there are going to want a copy of this incredible film.
Excellent narration, lighting and photography coupled with a fantastic transfer and good audio certainly gets the must buy recommendation from me, a rental's just not good enough.
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- Commentary with Roman Polanski and Catherine Deneuve.