The colours, man… the colours!
Last night, I went to a special screening of Suspiria at the Glasgow Film Theatre with Nick from DVD Trash, and we both had a blast. This was the first time I’d ever seen an actual print of the film, having only previously been acquainted with its DVD and BD incarnations, and it was quite the experience. The turn-out was surprisingly good, and while we did have to contend with the usual degree of tittering that accompanies any screening of an Argento film, people seemed to really get into the spirit of it. There was even one guy sitting in front of us who kept whistling along to the music and tapping his walking stick in time with it. Sometimes, the laughter seemed at odds with what was happening on the screen - for some reason, people seemed to think Suzy killing the bat near the end was just hilarious - but on other occasions, it was more justified. Seeing it in the company of new viewers and hearing their reactions reminded me of how funny some of Alida Valli’s mannerisms and reactions are - completely intentional, I’d wager.
Just to continue the never-ending debate surrounding the film’s colours (more specifically, the horribly ganked colours on the new HD master from 2007), what the GFT screened was a UK theatrical print from the 70s, complete with the old BBFC “X” card at the start. The deaths of Pat and Daniel were cut to ribbons, of course, and Sara’s murder was all but obliterated… although, in the case of the latter, I’m not sure whether this was a deliberate edit or simply the result of footage being lost to print damage. While, all things considered, the print was in reasonable shape (it must have seen nigh on three decades of use, after all), tramlines were more or less constant, and there was an abundance of splotches and speckles. There were also a handful of noticeable jumps, mainly around reel changes.
The colours were terrific, however, and it gave me a new-found appreciation for the Anchor Bay DVD, which really is very faithful to how the GFT’s print looked. The DVD may be a little undersaturated, but in terms of brightness, contrast etc. it appears to be pretty much spot on. The overall colour temperature also tallied, although the print we saw did seem to be yellowing slightly - as is only to be expected of an Eastman print of this vintage. Certainly, the lovely presentation I saw last night looked nothing at all like the the nasty Italian Blu-ray release from this year or the equally nasty French and Italian DVDs from 2007… which is what I’ve been saying all along, of course. Still, it was nice to see a genuine print with my own eyes, just so I could confirm that the Anchor Bay DVD really is how the film looked back in the 70s.
Update, May 28th, 2009 11:06 PM: I’ve gone back and rewritten the post slightly after realising that it was a semi-incomprehensible stream-of-consciousness babble. Blame that on my writing it first thing before work after a very unsettled night, in which I got about two and a half hours’ sleep!
Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 7:21 AM
| Comments: 17
| Dario Argento
Great, now you've ruined my appreciation for the italian special edition DVD I purchased some months ago.
Anchor Bay will be my third DVD of this movie then...
Posted by: Peter von Frosta, May 27, 2009 8:12 AM
Posted by: Crystal Plumage, May 27, 2009 11:58 AM
Great to hear a confirmation that the horrible colors of the new HD master are definitely wrong!
Posted by: BobaFett, May 27, 2009 1:19 PM
Did they not have access to a newer uncut print with the original colours ?
Also checking out the BBFC site i note in 2007 they seem to have classified a slightly re-edited version....Why ? What is this re-edited version ?
I understand councils can bypass the BBFC with regards film showings so i suppose it could have been shown uncut with the old colour scheme if a print exists in good enough shape.
Posted by: FoxyMulder, May 27, 2009 3:17 PM
The sound was serviceable - the print’s own mono magnetic track. There was a fair amount of distortion in the high frequencies and quite a bit of background noise, but I still found it preferable to the Anchor Bay remix, believe it or not, as the sound levels were correct and there weren’t any missing or misplaced sound effects.
I would imagine they simply went with what they had access to. Given what I’ve heard from people who have attended screenings of Suspiria in this country, the same print has been doing the rounds for some time now. In a way, I’m actually quite glad they pulled out a tatty old print rather than screening something derived from the 2007 HD remaster, which was what I was dreading given that a work colleague mentioned this being a possibility.
I’ve no idea what the “slightly re-edited” version is all about, and it’s the first I’ve ever heard of it. To the best of my knowledge, Anchor Bay hasn’t re-released the film since they put out the 2002 UK 2-discer. Something to keep an eye out for, no doubt.
Posted by: Michael Mackenzie
, May 27, 2009 7:31 PM
I'm glad you had fun - I would be pretty upset and/or traumatised if I went to see one of my favourite movies and it had been reversioned by some censor cunt.
Posted by: David Mackenzie
, May 27, 2009 11:24 PM
Here's hoping a proper Blu-ray of the film gets released soon. I was going to say, "Thank goodness Blue Underground owns the license to the film in the US now," since they've overall been doing great work with their BDs thus far, but Anchor Bay really did a bang-up job with their recent BD of Hellraiser. Far better than the mediocre crud they did with their first batch of BDs. Now hopefully they'll receive or make a better master of Evil Dead II and release that, since the Divimax one is so appalling.
Posted by: Christopher D. Jacobson, May 28, 2009 6:27 AM
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t best pleased, but in this case is was a matter of accepting the lesser of two evils. I’d rather watch a slightly cut version than one that has its colours completely knocked out of whack throughout.
I seriously doubt an uncut print ever existed in this country, and I doubt the GFT would have gone to the trouble of acquiring and importing one for a niche film that was only going to be screened twice.
Posted by: Michael Mackenzie
, May 28, 2009 9:05 AM
Couldn't you just have shouted that across the hall?
Posted by: Captain Woggles, May 28, 2009 10:57 AM
I would have, if I’d known you were there… or indeed who you are. :p
Posted by: Michael Mackenzie
, May 28, 2009 10:59 AM
If this was indeed an "Eastman print" as you say, then the colors can not be considered definitive. SUSPIRIA was designed to be printed in dye-transfer Technicolor, and the Technicolor prints were heavily manipulated to achieve a very distinct look. The Eastman prints were not so treated, so while they may look more "natural", they aren't the intended look of the film.
Posted by: Vincent Pereira, May 29, 2009 4:11 AM
From all I've read and heard, Technicolor's last dye-transfer printing facilities were dismantled and sold to China after a print run for either THE GODFATHER or THE GODFATHER PART II. France's Eclair system is reportedly similar, but I really don't know much about it. I know SUSPIRIA was at some point was either converted to three-strip and then manipulated for printing or it was shot with the old three-strip cameras, I'm not sure. I find it hard to believe it was shot in three-strip, but rather printing matricies were made afterwards. Whether it was ever actually printed in ID Tech I wonder...
Posted by: Chuck Pennington, May 29, 2009 4:48 AM
It definitely wasn’t shot in three-strip. Most of the confusion regarding this issue stems from the documentary on the Anchor Bay DVD, which erroneously shows a diagram of a three-strip camera while discussing the printing process.
As for the film’s intended look, “natural” has nothing to do with it. I’d never describe any version of Suspiria that I’ve seen as looking natural, nor would I expect it to. I still refuse to accept that the abominable-looking 2007 remaster is how Argento and Tovoli wanted the film to look… unless Suspiria was in fact always intended to be a very ugly film with colours that looked like they were manipulated in a crude graphics program.
Posted by: Michael Mackenzie
, May 29, 2009 10:32 AM
The last film printed in dye-transfer at Technicolor's Los Angeles lab was THE GODFATHER PART II*. But the Technicolor Rome facility continutes to print dye-transfer for a few more years. Not only SUSPIRIA but also STAR WARS had dye-transfer prints made in Europe at the Rome Technicolor lab.
No film made after the early/mid-1950s was actually filmed in 3-strip. The industry converted to shooting on single-strip Eastman negative, but much of the printing was still done via the 3-strip dye-transfer process. The Eastman negative would be optically printed into the 3 separate color matrices which would then be used to make dye-transfer prints.
What makes SUSPIRIA unique to many of the others shot in "standard" Eastmancolor was that Tovolli and Argento aggressively designed the film to be printed via the dye-transfer process.
Let me be clear, I'm not defending the Italian Blu-ray or the DVDs that were taken from the same transfer (none of which I have seen yet aside from screen grabs), but my point is one cannot say that they know what the film is supposed to have looked like based on the look of an old Eastmancolor print. Most of the prints of SUSPRIRIA were standard Eastman prints simply due to budgetary restrictions, but the look of the film was always intended to be represented by that handful of true dye-transfer Technicolor prints, which were heavily manipulated in order to achive a look that was not obtainable via standard Eastmancolor contact printing. I'm not arguing whether or not there are issues with the Italian Blu-ray (I think for example that, potential color and contrast issues aside, the stair-stepping is an obvious technical flaw. I'd love to see this issue be more heavily investigated since it's shown up on several high-profile Blu-rays), my point is that Michael should not be proclaiming that the overall look of an old Eastmancolor print proves that the look of the Blu-ray is automatically wrong. It may well be wrong, but an old Eastmancolor print of a film that was aggressively designed to be printed and manipulated via the dye-transfer Technicolor process isn't proof that it is.
* Prior to a (sadly) brief re-introduction of a new version of dye-transfer printing in the late 1990s.
Posted by: , May 30, 2009 6:44 AM
Has anyone ever asked Dario Argento himself in an interview about this issue? Maybe he could clear this issue up. Would be interesting to know, what he has to say about it.
Unfortunately I neither have his e-mail address nor his telephone number. ;)
Posted by: BobaFett, May 30, 2009 8:31 AM
Posted by: , May 30, 2009 5:48 PM
That’s interesting to hear, and rather surprising too, as I perhaps rather cynically assumed that the UK prints would have been of the cheaper Eastman variety. If this is true, how do you feel about the print I saw being used as a benchmark for the intended look, Vincent (and anyone else who has a view on this matter)?
Posted by: Michael Mackenzie
, May 31, 2009 9:26 PM
Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 30th 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog: