Walkabout arrives on a region locked US transfer courtesy of the bods at Criterion and is presented with a 1080p transfer in the OAR of 1.78:1. The transfer has been subjected to a similar treatment as the recently reviewed Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and the accompanying booklet notes:
This new high-definition transfer was scanned in 2k on a 4k spirit datacine from a new 35mm preservation interpositive made from the original camera negative. The color timing was approved by director Nicholas Roeg. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, specs, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS system and Pixel Farm’s PFCLEAN system, while digital vision’s DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.
The result should be absolutely fantastic, but this transfer does have a major flaw which I will have to mention. But first, the good stuff.
In terms of the quality of the print, the film could have been shot yesterday. I have seen this film many times over the years (the first time 27 years ago) and I have never seen the print look as good as this. The restoration team have done a marvellous job over the clean-up and it looks gorgeous.
As mentioned above, the color timing is approved by the director, and the vibrancy comes as quite a shock after seeing it in other incarnations. Suddenly, all the different shades of red and brown within the landscape are brought to the fore, and the occasional bloom of colour (whether it be a red balloon, or the green of an oasis) really seer the eyes with their intensity.
The level of detail is similarly impressive. In the opening scenes in the apartment, you can see right to the distance and the Sydney Harbour Bridge shimmering in the background. Close-ups of various flora and fauna captivate, and the level of detail in the landscape is clear to see.
Sadly, I have to mention the major flaw – and that is within the flesh tones. The level of detail in the faces is simply not there, leaving features undefined and that awful “waxy” look that can be produced when too much processing is carried out. This is a consistent problem throughout the transfer and is a great shame.
So whilst it cannot be doubted that this is by far the best the film has ever looked, and the work carried out on the transfer is exemplary I have to deduct a few marks for this flaw. If you love the film, however, this is definitely worth the upgrade from DVD.
Back to the included booklet for a second :
The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35mm optical soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum was manually removed using pro tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using audiocube’s integrated workstation.
So what result does this have in the real world. Well, firstly it is pleasing that they have not gone down the route of creating a faux stereo or even God forbid a surround mix. The mix is unapologetically mono – and it sounds fantastic.
Dialogue is clear and precise – even Lucien John (who tends to mumble) can be heard clearly. Animal screams, and the harsh should of gunfire really penetrate through the mix to hit home on the viewer in a disturbing and realistic manner.
One thing I noticed when watching this was how fantastic the score (by John Barry) is. This is something that had escaped my notice before – but it comes through beautifully in this mix, soaring at times and discordant at others.
Overall – this is easily the best the film has ever sounded. It is a fantastic mix.
Firstly, we have a commentary featuring Jenny Agutter and Nic Roeg. The two were recorded at separate times and then their talk tracks weaved together in a commentary originally recorded for the Criterion DVD. Thus there isn’t anything new here – but the commentary is as fascinating as ever, providing a wealth of detailed background to the filming. It amazes me that Agutter remembers so much – but the both provide an amicable companion.
The stand out feature here is probably Gulpilil – One Red Blood and hour long feature that looks at the life and career of Gulpilill and how he has maintained his Aboriginal roots whilst shooting movies. This is a fascinating watch.
We are also presented with two new interviews each lasting 20 minutes. One is with Luc Roeg and is newly filmed whilst the other is about two years old and is with Jenny Agutter. Both are illuminating and entertaining, and Agutter manages to avoid retreading much ground from her commentary.
The extras are made up of a Theatrical Trailer and a fantastic 28 page book.
Walkabout is rightly considered a modern classic of cinema and you won’t get any argument from me on that. It is a fascinating study of culture clash and burgeoning sexuality, accompanied by beautiful landscape shots, and snatches of violence. Although it may be considered rather too experimental by some, it is a fantastic example of just how metaphorical film can be when a director has those intentions. Sparse in dialogue and story, the film will nonetheless move you and make you think. When you consider it was Roeg’s directorial debut then it impresses even more.
Criterion have brought it to Blu-ray with a newly restored print and soundtrack. The soundtrack is a wonderful piece of work, and the picture also impresses – but does have a major flaw with waxy skin tones, and a lack of facial detail. This is still the best it has ever looked though.
A very decent package of extras make for another winning entry in The Criterion Collection. Highly recommended.
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