The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - MICHAEL BODEY

DID Steven Spiel­berg peak as a film­maker in 1977? It’s a con­tentious as­ser­tion, but one that’s strength­ened by re­vis­it­ing Close En­coun­ters of the Third Kind. It has of­ten been said the film’s cli­max — the en­counter — is one of cin­ema’s finest mo­ments. The com­ing to­gether of nar­ra­tive, sound and vi­sion is a mo­ment of pure vis­ceral plea­sure. Since then, Spiel­berg may have di­rected more rol­lick­ing set pieces or used new tech­nolo­gies as well as any­one, but that alien mo­ment re­mains an as­tound­ing and wholly ac­com­plished piece of cin­ema. Un­for­tu­nately, though, it’s not a mo­ment that has been viewed at its best on home equip­ment. A laser disc kicked around for a while and a di­rec­tor’s cut of the film was avail­able on DVD in the late 1990s, but it wasn’t the orig­i­nal the­atri­cal ver­sion.

This week Close En­coun­ters of the Third Kind: 30th An­niver­sary Ul­ti­mate Edi­tion is re­leased in a three- disc set on stan­dard def­i­ni­tion DVD as well as high­def­i­ni­tion Blu- ray. The Blu- ray ver­sions of the 1977 orig­i­nal the­atri­cal ver­sion, the 1980 spe­cial edi­tion and the 1998 di­rec­tor’s cut are a close ap­prox­i­ma­tion of the orig­i­nal cin­ema ex­pe­ri­ence.

Grover Crisp, ex­ec­u­tive vice- pres­i­dent of man­age­ment and film restora­tion at Sony Pic­tures En­ter­tain­ment, is clearly a fan of the high def­i­ni­tion for­mat. He man­aged the film’s trans­fer and restora­tion to HD. The higher res­o­lu­tion en­ables home pro­jec­tors and large tele­vi­sions to repli­cate the sort of de­tail we ex­pe­ri­enced in cine­mas. Higher res­o­lu­tion means more can be seen, for bet­ter or worse. ‘‘ One of the big chal­lenges is to cre­ate an au­then­tic HD ver­sion of a film, one that is true to its orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion qual­i­ties and the­atri­cal ex­hi­bi­tion, while re­mov­ing flaws and up­dat­ing the gen­eral look of the film’’, Crisp says.

The vast variety of film stocks em­ployed over the decades, the older op­ti­cal print­ing tech­niques in com­plet­ing films and sub­stan­dard archival el­e­ments all con­trib­ute to the chal­lenges of mak­ing an older film ac­cept­able to to­day’s more dis­cern­ing home theatre au­di­ences. This new Blu- ray ver­sion is quite an achieve­ment. Crisp says much of the restora­tion work on the orig­i­nal masters was done when pre­par­ing the di­rec­tor’s cut in 1998. But since that edi­tion new tools have be­come avail­able that make it pos­si­ble to clean scratches and dirt and sta­bilise images for the new HD ver­sions, which also fea­ture re­stored sound­tracks.

The Blu- ray ver­sion al­lows you to branch off be­tween the three dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the film with­out in­ter­rup­tion. At those points you may just query what Spiel­berg was think­ing while tin­ker­ing with the two later ver­sions of the film.

At least Spiel­berg seems to be warm­ing to the DVD for­mat. The new edi­tion in­cludes a re­cent in­ter­view with the di­rec­tor, who was on call for Crisp and post- pro­duc­tion head Martin Co­hen dur­ing the restora­tion of the HD masters. As he should have been be­cause, fi­nally, th­ese restora­tions are show­cas­ing some of his best films in a fash­ion that does them jus­tice. DISC WATCH: Marvel He­roes— Lim­ited Edi­tion ( Fox, M, $ 99.99) Seven movies adapted from the revered Marvel Comics col­lec­tion. A les­son in how to do it well ( the three X- Men films), not so well ( Fan­tas­tic Four , Elek­tra ) and badly ( Fan­tas­tic Four: Rise of the Sil­ver Surfer and Dare­devil .

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bodeym@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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