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Death Proof Blu-ray impressions

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We watched the BD of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof last night, and I must say that the film has gone up a little in my estimation since I last saw it. While, previously, I felt that only the final half-hour was worth anything, I actually found myself getting into the first half a lot more this time round. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that, watching it in high definition on a 123” screen, I was able to appreciate the vibe Tarantino was aiming for much more easily. I’m not sure whether this is true or not, but what I do know is that, after the first half, when the focus switches from one set of girls to another, I began to lose interest, and that didn’t pick up until the justly lauded final half-hour. The fact that Tarantino, for some reason, opts to dispense with the deliberately degraded film stock once he moves on to Zoë Bell and her chums, does a lot to back up my earlier theory. Simply put, there’s something cool and atmospheric about watching a bunch of people wittering away in Tarantino-speak on what looks like a beat-up old print, but, when doing the same with another bunch of people, only this time on a pristine print, the effect is lessened considerably. Still, barring that sag in the middle, I do think this is a pretty decent film. It’s no masterpiece, for sure, but I’m not convinced it’s the train wreck some people think it is. I just wish it could have been edited a little tighter. Tarantino’s biggest problem is that he’s infuriatingly self-indulgent (and I’m not just talking about him inserting himself into roles in his movies).

On to the transfer, and, as with Planet Terror, it’s quite difficult to objectively assess the image quality, because once again the look is intentionally that of a grubby old print, at least for the first hour or so. The big difference is that, unlike Robert Rodriguez, Tarantino actually shot his segment of Grindhouse on film, and then physically degraded the elements, rather than resorting to artificial digital trickery. As a result, it looks a whole lot more authentic than anything in Planet Terror, and vastly more atmospheric. Perhaps as a result of the real world degrading, Death Proof is significantly less detailed than its partner in crime, but in my opinion more pleasing to look at overall.

Moving on to the “clean” half of the film, this part is much easier to critique because, this time round, it’s not meant to look bad. Perhaps because he didn’t want a repeat of the overly clean Kill Bill, Tarantino opted not to go for a digital intermediate on this film, so the master used for this BD is derived from a print source. Wisely, The Weinstein Company have opted to leave the material alone, so the grain appears to be intact. There is a degree of softness to the image, and some prominent haloing (see Example 14 for a particularly pronounced example), but I suspect that this is down to the source materials rather than any trickery on the digital front. Aesthetically, it’s not as nice as a lot of recent films on BD, but I’m fairly convinced it’s a faithful reproduction of the film elements.

As with Planet Terror, I’m going to refrain from giving this disc an overall rating for image quality, but, looking at the “clean” segment alone, I suspect a high 8/10 or low 9/10 would be in order.

Death Proof
studio: Weinstein; country: USA; region code: ABC; codec: AVC;
file size: 27.7 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 34.92 Mbit/sec

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Posted: Monday, January 26, 2009 at 10:47 PM
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology

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