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Léon Blu-ray impressions

Blu-ray

Remember Léon (known as The Professional in the US)? Great film, looked absolutely terrible in every single incarnation on home video. Seemingly no-one could get it right, with even the so-called Superbit release being nothing more than a harsh, ringy mess with absolutely no detail whatsoever. (See here for evidence of just how appalling it looks.) When I first heard that the film had been released on Blu-ray by German distributor Kinowelt, my initial reaction was to assume that it would simply be more of the same. After all, the most recent US release, the 2005 version laughably referred to as a “Deluxe Edition”, was claimed to have come from a high definition master, and I made the not unreasonable assumption that the same master would simply be regurgitated for Blu-ray. Then, however, I was linked to screen captures of the new release by regular Land of Whimsy reader FoxyMulder, which, despite exhibiting a severe amount of contrast boosting, looked infinitely better than I’d expected.

I ordered a copy, which turned up on Friday. First, I’m sorry to have to report that this disc has been locked to Region B only, denying those of us with Region A players the right to watch this great film. As such, I’ve only been able to watch it on my 20” PC monitor and examine the encode at its native resolution in VirtualDubMod, so my impressions don’t necessarily correlate with the experience of viewing it on a decent-sized setup. (No doubt I’ll eventually have some means of watching Region B titles properly, but until then, I won’t be assigning a concrete rating to this disc or giving it a place in the HD Image Quality Rankings checklist.)

The disc itself comes in a very nice metal case, just like the one used for Warner’s UK Blu-ray release of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It looks very slick, albeit in a minimalist sort of way. The disc is dual layer and features both the shorter theatrical cut and longer integral version of the film, achieved through seamless branching (the file size listed below covers only the integral version). Separate English and German DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 tracks are included, as well as optional German subtitles. Finally, all of the bonus content from the aforementioned Deluxe Edition DVD has been ported over, barring the pop-up trivia track. This release also gains a DTS 2.0 (1.5 Mbps) isolated score, which I believe was previously featured on the old American single-disc and German 2-disc DVD releases. All in all, if you don’t mind the loss of the trivia track (and I can’t imagine many people mourning it), this is by far the most comprehensive package to have been released for the film so far.

As for the transfer, how is it? Well, like I said, much better than I expected. It’s an AVC encode, and it appears to have been taken from a completely different master, given that it carries the 2007 100th anniversary Gaumont logo at the start rather than the 1990s “map” version used for all previous releases. (Incidentally, I really hate it when studios do this, replacing their old studio logos when they re-release films. The French companies appear to be particularly fond doing of this.) As previously mentioned, contrast boosting has been applied, and in places it becomes excessive, blowing out the highlights completely and mangling shadow detail. This is particularly pronounced in shots 1 and 2 below, and is in my estimation similar to the utter travesty that was last year’s remastered version of Suspiria. Luckily, Léon features a far more muted palette than Argento’s masterpiece, so the effect is considerably less distracting overall. Still, it’s very disappointing that someone (Gaumont, I’m presuming) decided to do this, as it’s an odious practice and one that is every bit as destructive as noise reduction or edge enhancement.

That aside, it’s a rather nice-looking disc. Not stunningly perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but a solid presentation and a significant step up from the dreadful DVDs. Detail is good if not great, and while there is some ringing, I’m guessing it’s optically induced rather than the result of deliberate edge sharpening or filtering. Some noise reduction appears to have been applied, but it’s not overly destructive. Overall, despite the flaws, it’s well worth picking up, provided you can play the disc.

Léon: The Professional
(Kinowelt, Germany, AVC, 25.9 GB)

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Posted: Monday, November 03, 2008 at 3:44 PM | Comments: 9
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Technology | Web

 
Comments

1.

Damn those region locks....I'll have to wait and see if Sony can do better for their release which will hopefully come sometime next year.

Posted by: FoxyMulder, November 3, 2008 8:28 PM

2.

Thanks for this. One of my favourite films finally gets close to looking as good as it should.
I won't be picking this particular disc up because of the region coding but here's hoping it pushes Sony into doing a great job for their eventual release.

I know it's kind of petty but I also hate it when the original logos are dumped from the beginnings of films. It's not just the French companies who love to eradicate their past logos. Loads of Warner films which should have that cool \\' logo from the 70s don't use it, and Paramount likes to pretend they were never a Gulf + Western company.

Posted by: , November 3, 2008 10:53 PM

3.

The blown highlights and yellow tint remind me of the screwed up Lola rennt (Run Lola Run) BD.

Posted by: Kram Sacul, November 4, 2008 1:10 AM

4.

I don't own the disc myself, but I read on a big German forum that there are sound issues with the disc. According to several people the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 tracks lack dynamic range and bass. It's also mentioned on the avsforum thread you linked to, so it might be worth waiting for the Sony release of the film.

Posted by: BobaFett, November 4, 2008 2:20 AM

5.

Looking forward to getting my copy, stunning movie; virtuoso filmmaking, and also hope that Fox manages to put out a decent version of Nikita, sans framing/sub/whatever problems. But what are the odds of that...

Posted by: Anon, November 4, 2008 5:11 AM

6.

Its interesting regarding the audio issues because the original region 1 release of Leon ( The Professional ) suffered similar issues and they recalled discs - I was unlucky enough to pick up one of the original discs and still own it although i sold my Japanese edition which had pretty decent audio on Ebay.

I have added this site to my useful links section at darkrealmfox.com....Just building that up and will be adding lots of different categories.

If the audio is all screwed up on this release then perhaps they will also recall the discs ?

Posted by: FoxyMulder, November 4, 2008 8:04 AM

7.

Michael,

I ordered a copy, which turned up on Friday

Where did you order from?

Posted by: Dom, November 11, 2008 3:27 PM

8.

Where did you order from?

From Amazon.de. Probably not the cheapest source, but certainly one of the most reliable and hassle-free.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, November 11, 2008 3:32 PM

9.

Posted by: Kram Sacul, December 14, 2008 4:49 AM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 31st 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:

http://www.landofwhimsy.com

 

 
 
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