Olive Film's Unsung Carrington

It's 1915.  "Who on Earth is that ravishing young boy," asks gay Bloomsbury author Lytton Strachey (Jonathan Pryce), about Dora Carrington (Emma Thompson), who turns out to be not just a famous painter, but a decidedly grown woman with short hair, who fiercely protects her virginity and wishes she had never been born female.  The title is Carrington, but it could just as easily have been Strachey and Carrington, as the focus is consistently on the two of them and their relationship.  And in fact, the screenplay is based on a Strachey biography by Michael Holroyd.  The two of them wind up in a powerful, and powerfully complicated, lifelong relationship with multiple lovers and spouses.  Under-appreciated in its time (1995), I'm surprised this film hasn't been reclaimed yet as an important high point of queer cinema, but it's also so much more than that.
Writer/ director/ playwright Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, Cheri) has turned their true story into a rich, literary piece of cinematic art.  It's funny, it's heart-wrenching and all too relatable without any false sentimentality.  There are also striking themes about class and the war most of its peers would've side-stepped.  The writing's probably the singular star, but Pryce and Thompson give two of their career-best performances, and the score and locations are lush and beautiful even before you factor in Carrington's paintings (which, unlike some other recent painter biopics of note, are shown here).  The rest of the cast is spot on, too, including Rufus Sewell, Steven Waddington and Samuel West.  And I'm always caught by surprise when a young Jeremy Northam. turns up in the last act.

There's depressingly little to Carrington's story on home video considering what a brilliant film it is.  MGM released it on DVD back in 2001.  That was all we had until Olive Films came around and released it on DVD and blu (separate releases) in 2016.
2001 MGM DVD top; 2016 Olive BD bottom.
Olive's new blu is much more than just MGM's old master on an HD disc, it's a total remaster.  Not that MGM's DVD was so terrible.  They gave us a slightly windowboxed 1.82:1 anamorphic, while Olive gives us a brighter and much clearer 1.85:1 with noticeably more picture along all four sides, and free of the DVD's muddy compression.  That said, it's clearly not a modern HD transfer.  Film grain is, like, not visible at all.  This is probably an HD master that was made ages ago, but still after the one MGM used for their disc.  In other words, it's not on par with any fancy 4k releases, but it's a heck of an upgrade over the old DVD.

Both discs featurette the original stereo audio track, in DTS-HD on the blu and optional English subtitles.  MGM also has French, Spanish and HoH subs.
MGM's DVD was pretty sparse, but not completely barren.  Their primary extra is a ten minute vintage featurette, which is about as good as it could be given its length.  It features interviews with all the lead actors, the director and an uncredited guy who I'm pretty certain is the original novelist, plus a little B-roll.  But it's too short to go into much depth.  Besides that, there's the trailer and a couple of bonus trailers.  Happily, Olive kept the featurette and trailer, ditching only the bonus trailers.  They didn't add anything more, but the did fix the interlacing on the featurette, so that's nice.
This shelf-essential blu-ray has been available pretty cheap for years.  But now that Olive Films is no more, it's out of print and slowly becoming scarcer.  This is one you should definitely grab now before you wind up having to pay through the nose a few years down the line.

No comments:

Post a Comment