Brief Encounter Blu-ray Review

by Casimir Harlow
Movies & TV Review

Brief Encounter Blu-ray Review
SRP: £19.99

Picture

Brief Encounter comes to Blu-ray courtesy of the British Film Institute in association with ITV, presented in 1080p High Definition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Although some might be pondering why previous SD-DVD releases of the movie may have sported a standard ‘fullscreen’ 1.33:1 ratio transfer, rest assured that this is the correct framing, and that previous incarnations were probably incorrectly misrepresented on the back cover. The studios have worked wonders with this 65 year-old material, creating a respectful but blemish-free rendition which retains clean clarity for the most part, whilst also avoiding the softness inherent with too much DNR. Of course, there is still some sporadic softness, and although the grain level is largely kept intact, purists may feel that a little too much was swept away as a side-effect of the removal of all noticeable defects. Still, it’s a nice rendition, and black and white levels are kept distinct, tones well-observed and contrast maintained – for the most part. Overall the movie does not look bad at all, although I’m sure many will wonder what Criterion would have made of the material.
Brief Encounter

Sound

To accompany the movie on the aural front, we also get a nice – again respectful – Dolby Digital 2.0 track which has had some noticeable restoration work done on it. Although inherently limited in its presentation, it would have been appalling if they had fudged some kind of six-channel mutation instead of sticking to the original rendition. Instead, the track has merely undergone a heavy cleaning-up process, removing all aberrances and all distorting, and producing a clear, clean and smooth-sounding offering that pitches the dialogue, minimal effects (most noticeably the train-associated noises) and classical score (including – most notably – Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto Number 2 in C Minor) accurately and respectfully. There obviously aren’t any massive points of directionality or range, but this is a 1945 piece, and it has been lovingly presented here.
Brief Encounter

Extras

On the extras front we get a few nice entries. A Profile on Brief Encounter takes 25 minutes to look at the importance of the movie, with contributions from historians and the film’s makers alike. It is a basic summary of the history of the movie, as well as the movie’s place in (British) history, but it is well worth checking out if you were previously unaware of the film’s many different facets. We also get a Stills Gallery and a Theatrical Trailer. Finally, there’s a 4-minute Restoration Featurette, which speaks for itself.
Brief Encounter
Number 2 in the British Film Institute’s Top 100 movies, Brief Encounter takes a very honest and insightful look at a middle-class housewife’s temptation to embark upon an exciting, illicit affair with a married doctor. Although it may not seem like an overly stimulating subject-matter, Director David Lean works his cinematic magic to create a beautiful portrait of 1930s Britain, and offers viewers some breathtaking – and quite ahead of its time – cinematography. But beyond all of that, this is a far more important movie than it may initially seem, taking Noel Cowards 1936 short stage adaptation and expanding it into a morality play that was designed to both reassure returning War heroes and console their free-thinking, more independently-minded wives, reasserting traditional home values and reinforcing the strength of the strained marriages of that time. It marks a milestone not just in the history of British cinema, but also in British history itself, and as such carries a weight that warrants its inclusion in the BFI’s Top100 list. Viewers may not agree with its portrayal, may not even like it, but few will be able to dispute the impact and significance of the production. On Region B-locked Blu-ray we get cleaned-up video, and superbly restored audio, as well as a couple of nice extras to round off the discs that deserves a place in any fan’s collection. As with any lauded Top 100 title, although arguably this title should be in any serious film fan’s collection, it might be worth checking it out first to see if you actually like it! This one is definitely worth exploring though.

Scores

Movie

.
.
8

Picture Quality

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Extras

.
.
.
.
6

Overall

.
.
8

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