Choice = good, waxy faces = not
I’d just like to take a minute to commend TF1 Vidéo for the subtitling options they have provided for their Blu-ray (and presumably HD DVD as well, but I bought the Blu-ray version) release of La Môme (released outside France as La Vie en Rose). Not only is it that rare beast, a French disc which caters to English speakers, it also includes two different variants of subtitle for both English and French.
The first is what the menu describes as “pour lecture sur écrans plats” (for reading on flat screens), which positions the subtitles at the bottom of the screen, overlapping on to the letterboxing. Some people like this, but I don’t, as it means my eye is drawn to the letterboxing rather than the image itself. It is also a pain in the neck for those with projection displays who routinely mask the letterboxing for 2.35/9:1 ratio discs. Unfortunately, the majority of Blu-ray and HD DVDs that I have seen deliver their subtitles in this fashion.
Above: Vive le choix! Click to enlarge.
Luckily, TF1 has supplied a second subtitle stream, “pour lecture en vidéoprojection”, which places the subtitles (smaller than the “flat screen” ones) within the picture frame itself. This looks much more natural and avoids any masking problems, and I really wish more studios would provide this sort of choice for the consumer.
As for the transfer itself, it’s largely pleasing (an AVC encode from a digital intermediate source), but unfortunately seems to be have been subjected to the same sort of noise reduction that also affected the UK release of Pan’s Labyrinth to some degree (and the US release to a much greater degree). While the detail remains largely intact, textures, particularly the actors’ skin, tend to take on a rather waxy appearance, and sequences shot in low lighting conditions (i.e. ones that would normally appear grainier) suffer more noticeably than those taking place in broad daylight. It’s not horrible, but it’s really not the sort of thing I like to see on my HD discs (although I’m coming more and more to expect this sort of digital manipulation, sadly).
The disc, by the way, arrived last Saturday, but, in my lazy fatigue, I forgot to post about it. (I ended up sleeping for thirteen straight hours that night, so you can perhaps forgive the oversight!)