A Pair of Twilight Times #2: The Remains Of the Day

You may've guessed what Twilight Time #2 would be, since I named this film in my Twilight Time #1 post.  Sony double-featured the two films on DVD in 2010, though they don't have much to do with each other apart from starring Emma Thompson and having come out only a couple years apart (The Remains Of the Day in 1993, then Sense and Sensibility in 1995).  But they were also two must have blus from Twilight Time, so here we are.
The Remains Of the Day is the second of two back-to-back films where Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson are at possible romantic odds with each other, directed by James Ivory, produced by Ismael Merchant, and written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.  The other, of course, being Howards End.  Certainly, there's a lot to distinguish the two, but since neither title particularly sets its film apart (one is abstractly vague and the other's just the name of the house), my short-hand for differentiating them is that this is the one with Christopher Reeves.  That's somebody you don't come across in a lot of English films.  So just commit that little "Remains Of the Day = Christopher Reeves" formula to memory, and you'll never confuse the two again.
But let's get serious about Remains Of the Day, because it deserves it.  Based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, this film takes place in two timelines, before and after the second world war.  In the latter, head butler Hopkins has to come to grips with the fact that he devoted his life and everything he believed in to the lord of his house, who turned out to be an infamous Nazi sympathizer.  Mike Nichols was originally set to direct, and he stayed on to produce after he had to drop out, giving the film to the Merchant/ Ivory team as the material was obviously in their wheelhouse.  The whole cast is superb (yes, even Reeves), including pitch perfect supporting performances by Peter Vaughan, James Fox and Hugh Grant.
The Remains Of the Day has had a pretty simple life on home video.  It was released on DVD by Sony in 2001 as a pretty attractive special edition.  There was that double-feature disc with Sense in 2010, but otherwise that one DVD has been the whole story until 2013, when Sony released it on blu in the UK and other foreign regions.  Two years later, and Twilight Time brought it home to the US with their edition in 2015.
2001 Sony DVD top; 2015 Twilight Time BD bottom.
Okay, I left the negative space around the first set of shots so you can see how the old DVD is slightly window-boxed.  Back in 2001, I guess that all would've fallen into overscan area anyway, but it does change the aspect ratio from 2.33:1 on the DVD to an even wider 2.39:1 now on the blu.  Curiously, even with those vertical bars and narrower ratio, the DVD manages to have slightly more info along the sides.  That's because the DVD is slightly squished, which the BD corrects.  Colors remain almost the same, although there is a bit of a red overcast that the blu-ray clears up (look at the sky behind Hugh in the first shots).  And while the DVD was anamorphic, non-interlaced and generally quite good for such an older disc, the blu is still a big win with crisp detail and finely rendered grain.  The DVD also shows some serious artifacting along its edges, which the blu happily removes.  All in all, this is an even greater improvement than I was expecting to find in this comparison.

One minor disappointment is that the original DVD gave us the choice between the original stereo mix and a new 5.1, plus French, Portuguese and Spanish dubs with English, Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai subtitle options.  Twilight Time unsurprisingly drops the foreign language options, but they also dropped the original stereo track.  So we just get the 5.1 (though now in lossless DTS-HD) and English subs.
Sony's original DVD was pretty nice with the special features, too.  It features a lively audio commentary with Ivory, Merchant and Thompson, which strikes a nice balance between the seriously informative and anecdotal.  There are several deleted scenes, also with optional commentary, and three substantial featurettes that add up to roughly 75 minutes of 'making of' content, including interviews with all the stars, writers and major players, and some B-roll glimpses behind-the-scenes.  We're definitely talking more than your standard promotional quickie.  You also got the trailer and an insert with chapter stops.

Thankfully, Twilight Time retains all of that.  They don't add much more, but that's alright considering how much we already got.  They do add their signature isolated score track, of course.  Plus they throw in a second, international trailer and an 8-page booklet with notes by Julie Kirgo.  But basically, all the good stuff comes from the DVD.
So this is an easy recommendation.  A great presentation of a great film.  And even if you got one of those 2013 import blus, you might want to consider replacing it with Twilight Time's.  Not only did they not get the little Twilight Time exclusives: the isolated score and the trailers, they also seem to have dropped the audio commentary.  So even though Sony surely used the same transfer in every region, the US disc is a clear winner.

1 comment:

  1. Oh no, those bastards at TT put their hands on this lovely movie?

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