Daisy Miller: Why God Made Imports

Here's a new release I'm super excited for that hardly anybody seems to be covering.  I guess that's why I started this site.  1973's Daisy Miller is making its blu-ray debut this July in a fancy "Édition Prestige limitée."  Yes, this is a French release, via Carlotta Films, and for now at least, it's a worldwide exclusive.
I guess this is a movie still waiting to be fully rediscovered.  It's always had some critical recognition, but it was famously a flop, seriously hurting the careers of its director Peter Bogdanovich and star Cybil Shepherd, and even their whole production company.  It's been argued that it was too artsy and non-commercial, ahead of its time (i.e. before Merchant/ Ivory popularized putting this sort of period novel on the big screen), or the result of bad press Peter and Cybil were getting as a celebrity couple.  How much those are actual reasons or just excuses I don't know, but it's clear the general public didn't like this film, because it's pretty great.  It's an extremely faithful adaptation of Henry James' touching novella with a lot of talent on hand and gorgeous locations, with the crew sparing no expense in filming at all the real, lavishly historical locations described by the author across Rome and Sweden.  As far as I'm concerned, it's Bogdanovich's masterpiece.
Shepherd got a lot of flack for playing an unsophisticated American who doesn't fit in with the rest of the cast, but that's just how James wrote her.  Admittedly, you could argue that Shepherd is overplaying it, and I could certainly see audiences being rubbed the wrong way - in fact, she's supposed to rub us the wrong way at first.  And the precocious schtick they have Daisy's little brother play always made me feel like Bogdanovich hadn't fully divested himself from Paper Moon yet.  But, come on, who doesn't like Paper Moon?  And Shepherd lets so much humanity slip out by the end that you're really missing something if you can't appreciate any of her performance, especially when paired with the delightful Cloris Leachman and the stone-cold perfect Barry Brown, who surely would've gone on to a far greater career had he survived into the next decade.  It's photographed beautifully (with some crazily long takes if you're in the market for them), with Bogdanvich expertly slipping just enough touches of humor and character to add to the story without tipping its delicate balance of tone.  But, yes, I can see how for some people, the Millers' performances could simply be too much to bear, and even I might have preferred them a little more subtle.
Paramount released Daisy Miller on DVD in 2003 as part of their rather generic "Widescreen Collection," but it was actually a rather fit special edition.  Still, twenty years later, it's been well past time for it to enter the HD era, and Carlotta Films has finally brought it across the finish line this summer.  I've got their fancy, limited (spine #20) collector's edition BD/ combo pack that comes in a hard box with a lot of swag, but they've also released separate DVD and BD releases for the more budget conscious viewers who perhaps don't feel quite as compelled to celebrate over this blu-ray debut as I do.
1) 2003 Paramount DVD; 2) 2022 Carlotta DVD; 3) 2022 Carlotta BD.
So we're presumably looking at the same root master; it's got identical framing and color-timing, etc.  Although, while the framing is identical, the aspect ratio is not - shifting from 1.77:1 to 1.85:1, matting just a tiny bit because it's also slightly adjusting the film's geometry in a way which I assume is correct, though it's hard to really judge since the distinction is so subtle.  Surely 1.85 is the right AR, though.  Anyway, the old disc was anamorphic and properly progressive, so not too shabby, but there appears to be some slight edge enhancement on the old DVD that Carlotta corrects; you can even see the difference between the two DVDs.  Grain is how super finely rendered, almost suspiciously so, thanks to a fine encode on a dual-layered 1080p disc (the Carlotta DVD is naturally PAL, however).  You'll notice fine detail, particularly in the first set of shots, is only now discernible, like the pattern on the table legs, even when comparing the blu to the newer DVD, so it is a genuine HD boost.

Audio-wise, too, the original mono track has been boosted to DTS-HD.  Carlotta's also included a French dub, also in DTS-HD, and unforced (yay!) French subtitles.  The menu does try to pressure you, only showing options for English with French subs or French with no subs, but you can easily swap between audio and subtitle options as the film plays with no interference.  If you needed English subtitles, though, the US DVD did include them but not the Carlotta.
Extras are interesting because the Paramount already did a pretty fine job.  It includes an "introduction" by Peter Bogdanovich, which is a solid thirteen minutes long and thoroughly spoils the ending, so I'd consider it a proper interview rather than an intro.  Then he also provides an audio commentary, and man, Bogdanovich is great at commentaries.  He has a lot of memories and insights, treads the line between technical and anecdotal, and provides a strong defense for his work while still being rather candid about its troubles.  It's even a bit emotional.

Carlotta preserves the "introduction" but sadly loses the commentary.  The intro does cover some of the same ground and gives you most of the fundamentals, but there's a lot of great stuff in the commentary that's a shame to lose.  I suppose they figured French audiences wouldn't be keen on a commentary they'd have to play in full subtitles, but if that's true, I daresay they've underestimated their audience.  They did cook up a brand new featurette, which is a 23-minute interview with a French critic, but it isn't English-friendly.  They also added the original theatrical trailer that the original DVD had overlooked.  And, if you bought the combo-pack, there's all this swag [left].  It's a digibook in a nice, thick box with a fold-out poster, a reproduction of the pressbook (yes, in English), eight lobby cards and six press photos.
So I'm happy.  I definitely recommend hanging onto your DVDs for that commentary, but together this is a quite satisfying of a film I've been eagerly awaiting a long time for.  Did I mention that the subtitles aren't forced?  Took a bit of a risk there, but now I'm happy to report good news.

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