Flying The Wings Of the Dove Home

Wasn't The Wings Of the Dove a rather successful and highly critically regarded feature with, like, four Oscar noms and a bunch of BAFTAs?  How is it still only available as an ancient non-anamorphic Miramax DVD and a Lions Gate DV-R here in its home country?  ::flips the DVD over and looks at the Miramax logo::  Oh, yeah.  I guess it wouldn't really work as part of a 4-pack with Prophecy 4-5 and Hellraiser 8.  I suppose we'll have to import.  It's available in a couple regions; I went with Japan.
The Wings Of a Dove is a surprisingly potent Henry James adaptation from the late 90s.  I say surprising only because of the period and, well, look at the director's filmography.  On the one hand, it's beautifully shot, with elegant locations and costuming.  But it's also so much more deeper and more humane than just a frilly costume drama.  The cast is spot on, with stars Helena Bonham Carter, Charlotte Rampling, Ordinary People's Elizabeth McGovern and the great Michael Gambon.  They took a big chance casting the relatively unknown Linus Roache as the male lead, but he completely lives up to his role.  Every element succeeds, from the music to the editing, to putting James up on the screen the way he should be.
1998 US Miramax DVD top; 2012 JP Warner Bros BD bottom.
So, sure, this isn't some fancy 4k restoration, but Warner's disc is a strong boost to HD for an older BD.  Of course, it helps that it's being compared to a lower res, non-anamorphic DVD, but still.  Just look at that close-up; what a difference.  This is a fully respectable image from a major studio, and one a film this lavish deserves.  The aspect ratio has been corrected from 2.29:1 to 2.35:1 (although the DVD actually retains a bit more image around the edges), and the colors/ contrast have been corrected to be less stark.  So this isn't just the same old master given the proper BD treatment.  It's a not a brand new transfer, given this BD is a decade old now, but it's newer than the DVD's, making this a very satisfying upgrade.

Both discs present the film in 5.1, which is lossless on the BD's DTS-HD.  Only the US DVD includes optional English subtitles, though, if you need those.  Warner Bros' naturally includes a Japanese dub (2.0 DTS-HD) and completely optional Japanese subtitles.
At least Miramax's DVD isn't completely barebones.  It has a decent but clip-heavy 17-minute featurette, which starts off as your typical EPK piece including a bit of B-roll and interviews with the director, producer David Parfitt and stars Carter, Roache, Rampling & Alison Elliot.  But then it opens things up, bringing in Mark Rance from Criterion (even though, no, even on laserdisc, this film was never in the Criterion Collection) and English Professors from Princeton, Colorado and UCLA to address the James stuff.  Even Peter Bogdanovich pops up at the end ...I guess because he did Daisy Miller.  So you can see it gets deeper than your standard promo piece, but it's no full-on documentary or anything.  Anyway, there's that and the theatrical trailer.  And no, the blu-ray hasn't come up with any new special features, it has at least hung onto the featurette and the trailer.  Though, as you can see, they've burnt Japanese subtitles onto both.
We shouldn't have to update this title, but we really do.  The blu-ray really transforms this film from its old DVD transfer.  Thankfully, it's a major studio handling it, so they've done it right (dual-layered, properly lossless audio, retaining the extras).  The Wings Of the Dove really should look beautiful, and it does if you're willing to put in the effort for it.

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