More Match Point and the Rest Of the "London Trilogy"

Woody Allen's Match Point is not available on blu-ray, at least not here in the United States. And you're no better off in the UK or Canada. So if we want this in HD, and it is one of Allen's more popular, highly received modern films, we're gonna have to import. And I don't know about you, but if I'm to the trouble of importing, I want some extras and no forced subs. And I know extras and Woody Allen don't generally go together, but today we're in luck. We actually have a couple options, but I went with the Italian blu from Medusa.

Update 4/28/16 - 6/21/20: This Match Point post is now a whole Woody Allen London Trilogy post!!  I've got my hands on Divisa Home Video's Trilogía Londinense box set. And instead of just updating the Match Point comparison with Divisa's blu, which feels pretty half-hearted, I figure I'll do all three movies, which also means comparisons to their original US DVDs, too.  Woot!
Now, you might be a little confused by these specific films being singled out as Allen's "London Trilogy."  After all, wasn't You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger set and filmed in London?  And Magic In the Moonlight?  Well, you might say, when did this set come out?  Probably before those two films, right?  No, it came out four years after You Will Meet and the same year as Magic.  So it seems like a pretty arbitrary distinction.  Oh well.  Not really important, I suppose.
In 2005's Match Point, Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Velvet Goldmine) is a lower class tennis trainer in London, who catches the attention of a very wealthy family. It's not long before he's marrying his way into their family, by way of Emily Mortimer, and he seems to be set for life. They all love him, they've set him up with an incredible career and Mortimer wants to have a baby. But he's not the family darling long before he meets an American actress, Scarlet Johansson, who's dating another member of the family, and he can't resist the temptation of an illicit affair. But when he ultimately becomes too involved to both parties, how far will he go to hang onto his new, gilded way of life?
When I first saw this film, I liked it well enough. Attractively shot, well acted, an involving story with a particularly effective ending. But I sort of felt like we'd covered this ground before with Crimes and Misdemeanors, and that's a masterpiece, leaving this as kind of pointlessly redundant and inferior. I was surprised it was treated as a sort of comeback for Allen by critics and audiences. I'd actually gotten more out of last couple maligned comedies. This and Cassandra's Dream just felt to me like Allen was proving he could direct more popular mainstream work if he chose - which he successfully did - than make another great film.

But over the years, I've revisited it and it's risen in my estimation. It is a great cast; it is a strong, classical story, expertly made. Once you let the comparison go and take the film on its own merits, what's not to like? Okay, it's still not Crimes and Misdemeanors, but I realized it was time to lift the embargo on Match Point from my collection. I also bought a used DVD of Cassandra's Dream for under $2.  ;)
Like I said, Allen likes you to be in on his influences.
So, like I said, Match Point has never been released on blu-ray in America, but it was released on DVD back when it was a new release back in 2006. I've got that one, so we can look at that for a comparison. Match Point did come out on blu in France, but it has forced French subtitles, so I wouldn't recommend that one unless you're a native French speaker who struggles with English. But over the years, it's slowly popped up in other countries, with a few, light extras and unforced subs: Australia, Germany, Japan. The most recent are Divisa Home Video's Spanish blu-ray, which came out in 2012 and Medusa's Italian blu, which came out in 2013.
1) Universal 2006 DVD; 2) Divisa 2012 BD; 3) Medusa 2013 BD.
So, unsurprisingly, it's the same master. Framing, colors, and everything's basically identical. Unfortunately, that means there's still some edge enhancement (look around the edges of Meyers' suit in the museum) that you probably wouldn't find being employed in a new master. I suppose I held out a sliver of hope that newer blus increased the chances of a fresher master, but it's no surprise everyone's licensing and using the same one made back in '06. And it's not like it's terrible or anything; just a little below the most modern standards. It's still a nice HD upgrade; it's not like it's an upscale... is it?
1) Universal 2006 DVD; 2) Divisa 2012 BD; 3) Medusa 2013 BD.
No, whew! Look at that. Resolution is much better on the blus, with small detail looking like a blurry mess in comparison. I mean, the DVD is fine by DVD standards; there's no interlacing or other issues. But the blu-rays definitely reap all the benefits of its higher definition, which is all I can ask for.  Curiously, the aspect shifts from exactly 1.85:1 on the DVD to 1.84:1 on the blus, but the two blu-rays are definitely more accurate as they fix a little vertical stretching on the DVD and wind up revealing a sliver more along the top and bottom.  As far as picking a winner between the two blus?  The only distinction is the encoding, which most viewers probably won't even notice.  But the Italian blu, a dual-layered disc as opposed to Divisa's single - does seem to retain the grain (soft and imperfect as it is on all three discs) better than the Spanish.  It's most obvious in "blank" spaces, like undecorated walls.

All three options are fully English friendly.  The DVD gives us the original English and a French dub in mono, with optional English, Spanish and French subs.  The Divisa blu gives us the original English, Spanish, Castilian and Spanish descriptive audio, with optional Spanish and Castilian subs.  The one downside: all the audio tracks are lossy.  Medusa, on the other hand, bumps us up to uncompressed sound. Both the original English and Italian dub are LPCM 2.0, with optional/ removable Italian subs.
So, okay, let's talk extras. This is Woody Allen, so set your expectations low. The US DVD has nothing, not even the trailer. Just a bonus trailer for Munich; which plays on start-up. Blah.  By that standard, I suppose Divisa is an upgrade.  They have the teaser, trailer and TV spots, though they're all in Spanish.  And they have a photo gallery.

Medusa's blu has the trailer in English, so we're already ahead. But don't worry, I haven't set my expectations that low. Medusa's blu also includes a nice, 17 minute featurette called Crime Without Punishment. They basically take your basic EPK interviews with Woody Allen, Scarlet Johannson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers and turn them into one piece. But hey, that's a lot better than the nothing we get here in the USA. And someone's clearly taken the time to inter-cut the interviews, and add in behind the scenes photos and clips from the film to make it a little nicer watch, which I appreciate.
The featurette does have burnt in Italian subtitles and interlacing problems, but for an extra I don't really mind. The interviews are good, especially Woody's, and that's all that matters.
I've always really dug Scoop and never understood why even people open to Woody Allen films in the 2000s seem to look so down at it.  Maybe Allen burnt too much good will with his scandals for people to sync their hearts to a light, whimsical comedy from him.  Or maybe the humor's just too old fashioned for modern audiences - you can't argue when a person simply declares something to be "not funny."  But the imaginative story, of Ian McShane as a murdered journalist who escapes his journey across the River Styx, but is only able to reach the living through a hack magician (Woody Allen)'s stage show.  Scarlet Johansson is back, clearly relishing the opportunity to play the screwball 1930s-style heroine as opposed to the previous year's seductive sex symbol.  She and Allen make a great crime solving duo, who thankfully aren't also paired up as romantic interests.  That partnership is reserved for Hugh Jackman, who plays an aristocratic English gentleman who may be hiding a dark secret.
I recently rewatched this one with my parents, and they couldn't get over how such a terrific movie was only available through obscure imports, but here we are in 2020.  It's not just a Woody Allen thing; any catalog title that isn't a tentpole blockbuster or cult classic is getting harder and harder to come by, even major Academy Award winners.  But anyway, sticking with Scoop: Universal put it out on DVD in 2006 as a new release.  On blu, things get trickier.  There's a French blu, but it has forced subs.  There is a Medusa option, and an Australian disc, but this time they're all single-layer, too.  So I just went with the Divisa set.
1) Universal 2006 DVD; 2) Divisa 2012 BD.
It's almost exactly the same story as Match Point.  The DVD's 1.85:1 is changed to 1.84, but it's correcting a very slight stretching and thus revealing slivers along the top and bottom.  Ugly SD compression is happily cleared away on the blu, though it's another old master with grain barely captured and light haloing.  It's a sharper, clearer upgrade, but it's not exactly 4k.

Audio options are exactly the same as last time, with the DVD giving us the original English in mono with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles.  Divisa again has the English, two Spanish dubs and the Spanish descriptive track, all lossy, with optional Spanish and Castilian subs.  The DVD has nothing but bonus trailers, while the blu at least has a Spanish-dubbed trailer and photo gallery.
Finally, we come to Cassandra's Dream.  This used to be my least favorite Woody Allen picture, but it's risen in my estimation over recent rewatches, too.  Plus, A Rainy Day In New York has since come forward to claim that crown.  This is a serious drama, a story of two brothers (Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell) whose bond is tested when it falls on them to commit murder in order to pay off a gambling debt.  We're back in Dostoevsky territory (though, as you can guess from the title, there's some Greek tragedy in its veins as well) and Tom Wilkinson steals as the brothers' uncle.  While it travels a lot of the same ground as Crimes & Misdemeanors and Match Point in terms of guilt and conscience, splitting it into two characters with distinctly separate attitudes adds a new, intriguing element to it.  Plus, Allen ventures into some new worlds musically with a soundtrack composed by Phillip Glass
The Weinstein Company (ugh) put this out on DVD in 2008.  There are less blu-ray options, too.  There's a Nordic release from Scanbox, a Mexican blu and of course the 2012 Spanish Divisa.  The Mexican one is interlaced and drops the English audio, so you don't want that.  So Scanbox is probably the ideal way to go, but as we'll see, the Divisa might be a little better than you think this time.
1) Weinstein 2008 DVD; 2) Divisa 2012 BD.
It's not another 1.85 turned 1.84 situation this time.  Instead the DVD's 1.83:1 is corrected to 1.85:1.  But the important difference this time is how much nicer the capture is.  Grain is distinct and more film-like than the previous two blus.  There still appears to be a bit of edge enhancement, but this is a better transfer.  The image is a bit lighter, making shadowy detail a little easier to make out, and of course the DVD's compression grime is cleaned away like with all the other blus.

On the other hand, the audio's still lossy.  Weinstein has the stereo track with optional English and Spanish subtitles, and nothing but some bonus trailers and ads for extras.  Divisa has the same four lossy tracks and subtitles options as their other discs.  Intriguingly, the package lists interviews (entrevistas) for this film, but disappointingly, it's a lie.  I was expecting the EPK interviews, but nope, not even text ones printed on an insert.  We get the trailer and TV spots dubbed into the Spanish again, plus a stills gallery, so it's (slightly) better than the DVD.  But I was really bummed to discover the interviews weren't there.
So think of Divisa as Mill Creek.  They're a relatively inexpensive option to get HD upgrades of your DVDs on legit, pressed BDs.  But they have lossy audio, no extras and stand in the shadow of better, if only marginally, alternatives.  If you want the best Match Point you can get, I can totally vouch for this Medusa disc.  But you're looking at old masters and little to no special features where ever you go, so non-perfectionist viewers may be just as happy with any one blu as another.

1 comment:

  1. Nice write-up John. I love Match Point. I actually prefer it to Crimes and Misdemeanors, in no small part because Scarlet Johansson looks so amazing. I'll take that over Angelica Houston any ol' day.