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Days of Heaven(1978)
In 1910, a Chicago steel worker accidentally kills his supervisor and flees to the Texas panhandle with his girlfriend and little sister to work harvesting wheat in the fields of a stoic farmer.
For more about Days of Heaven and the Days of Heaven Blu-ray release, see Days of Heaven Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 7, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz, Robert J. Wilke, Stuart Margolin
Director: Terrence Malick
» See full cast & crew
Days of Heaven Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 7, 2010
Winner of the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival and Oscar for Best Cinematography, Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven" (1978) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary with art director Jack Fisk and editor Billy Weber, who have worked with Terrence Malick on all of his films, as well as costume designer Patricia Norris and casting director Dianne Crittenden; an exclusive interview with Richard Gere and second interview with Sam Shepherd; and conversations with camera operators John Bailey and Haskel Wexler. The Blu-ray disc also arrives with a 42-page illustrated booklet containing Adrian Martins' essay "On Earth As It Is In Heaven" and Nestor Almendros's "Shooting Days of Heaven" (reprinted from the cinematographer's 1984 autobiography "A Man with a Camera"). With optional English subtitles. Region-A "locked".
Terrence Malick is an American director, a native of Illinois, whose films have a distinctive European flavor. They are all like casual but fascinating encounters - we meet their characters, get to know them, and then part ways. We rarely remember their exact stories; what stays with us are images of them, certain thoughts and emotions.
Days of Heaven, a film for which Malick won the prestigious Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979, follows the deeds of a young Chicago steelworker (Richard Gere, American Gigolo) who commits a crime and flees to Texas, together with his girlfriend, Abby (Brooke Adams, A Man, a Woman and a Bank), and little sister, Linda (Linda Manz). There, the three befriend a wealthy but seriously ill farmer (Sam Shepard, Don't Come Knocking), who eventually falls for Abby and marries her.
The film is fractured into uneven episodes, each relying heavily on Linda's narration. Most of the tragic events in it are described by the little girl in a unique kind of way - she sees them, and so do we, and then tells us, with simple words, what is happening. The rest is filmed by Malick in a near documentary style, one that treats nature as a key character, not simply a setting for the events the film chronicles.
Sound is also of tremendous importance in Days of Heaven. In more than a few occasions, random sounds - a gentle breeze, water flowing, birds chirping, etc - are used by Malick to indirectly reflect the complex emotions the main protagonists struggle with. These are the moments when Days of Heaven very much feels like a visual poem.
This unusual attention nature receives in Malick's films, however, is always at the expense of the main protagonists - hence their stories are never complete. This is not to say that Malick's films are about the universal conflict between men and nature as some critics suggest. Quite the opposite, they are intimate observations that typically show how both react to each other when they become close.
In Days of Heaven a few such reactions are precisely the focus of attention. On one hand, it is the steelworker, his little sister and girlfriend who arrive in Texas and soon discover that they need to learn to live life differently. Malick shows how the three of them struggle to adjust while they also keep doing the things they used to do in Chicago - love each other, get angry and fight, dream together. On the other hand it is nature. Malick shows how the different seasons affect her, how the farmers treat her, and when disaster strikes, how nature also struggles.
This philosophical view of life that Malick introduces in Days of Heaven is achieved primarily through the employment of carefully lensed footage that is quite uneven at times but also very effective. In more than one ways, it suggests that life is a process of constant motion, a series of uneven events, where men and nature interact in some truly unique ways.
For Days of Heaven, Malick was assisted by two legendary cinematographers, Cuban Nestor Almendros (The Man Who Loved Women), who won an Oscar for the film, and the uncredited Chicago-born Haskell Wexler (who really speaks his heart out in one of the supplemental features provided on this Blu-ray disc, and many, this reviewer included, believe should have also been recognized by the Academy). The film's memorable music score was composed by renowned Italian maestro Ennio Morricone (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso).
Days of Heaven Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Terrence Malik's Days of Heaven arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears in the booklet provided with the Blu-ray disc:
"Days of Heaven is presented in the filmmakers' preferred aspect ratio of 1.78:1. On standard 4:3 televisions, the image will appear letterboxed. On widescreen televisions, the image should fit the screen. Created from a 35mm interpositive struck from the 35mm A/B roll original negative, this high-definition digital transfer was supervised and approved by director Terrence Malick, original camera operator and renowned cinematographer John Bailey, and editor Billy Weber. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI's DRS system; flicker was removed with Pixel Farm's PFClean system; and Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction."
As far as I am concerned, this is a reference quality transfer. Fine object detail is striking, clarity very strong and contrast levels consistent throughout the entire film. The color-scheme is also very impressive. Yellows, greens, blues, dark reds, brown and blacks are rich and well saturated yet natural looking. Edge-enhancement and macroblocking are not a serious issue of concern. On the contrary, many of the daylight scenes look like giant moving pictures, conveying terrific depth and nuanced colors. The film's grain structure is intact, even though some minor noise corrections have been applied. On the other hand, there are absolutely no stability issues that I noticed while viewing the film. Finally, I did not detect any disturbing scratches, warps, cuts, marks or stains to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Days of Heaven Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The audio treatment is as impressive as the video treatment. While the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track would not test the muscles of your audio system, I think that many of you would be genuinely impressed with its nuanced audio effects -- the wind blowing, birds chirping, horses galloping, etc. As expected, the dialog is crisp, clean and very easy to follow. I also did not detect any balance issues with Ennio Morricone's beautiful soundtrack. Finally, I did not hear any annoying pops, cracks, or hissing to report in this review.
Days of Heaven Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Interviews - an audio interview with Richard Gere recorded exclusively for the Criterion Collection in 2007; and an interview with Sam Shepherd conducted in 2002 for Citrullo International. Both interviews are very strong, offering an abundance of informative comments from the two actors. The interview with Gere, in particular, is on par with the audio commentary offered on this disc. Without optional English subtitles. (13 min, 1080i).
John Bailey/Haskel Wexler - John Bailey served as camera operator under Academy Award-winning cinematographer Nestro Almendros on Days of Heaven. Both Almendros and Bailey had to leave before filming concluded, due to prior commitments, and Haskel Wexler took over. Here, Bailey and Wexler talk about their friend Almendros, Terrence Malick's process, and their work in achieving the specific look Malick envisioned for the film. Mr. Wexler's comments are especially moving, as they address a lot of the "controversy" surrounding his involvement with the film. Without optional English subtitles. (21 min. 1080i).
Commentary - an audio commentary with art director Jack Fisk and editor Billy Weber, who have worked with Terrence Malick on all of his films, as well as costume designer Patricia Norris and casting director Dianne Crittenden. This is an informative and well done commentary, focusing primarily on the technical aspects and history of the film, with a rather casual tone. It was recorded exclusively for the Criterion Collection in 2007.
Booklet - a 42-page illustrated booklet containing Adrian Martins' essay "On Earth As It Is In Heaven" (the author is senior research fellow in film and television studies at Monash University and coeditor of Rouge); and Nestor Almendros's "Shooting Days of Heaven" (reprinted from the cinematographer's 1984 autobiography "A Man with a Camera").
Days of Heaven Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven is a film about feelings and emotions that cannot be described with simple words. It is also a visual spectacle, one that many, this reviewer included, believe ranks amongst the very best ever made. Criterion's treatment of the film is simply superb. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Days of Heaven Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion New Year's Card Hints at Upcoming Blu-ray Titles - January 1, 2010
The Criterion Collection asked resident “wacky” artist, Jason Polan, to help them ring in the New Year. The result is a cryptic e-card that features numerous obscure references to upcoming titles. Members of the blu-ray.com forum and other boards have tried to ...
• Days of Heaven Blu-ray Announced - December 15, 2009
The Criterion Collection has announced that it will release Terrence Malick's 'Days of Heaven' on Blu-ray on March 23, 2010. This release will feature a new, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Terrence Malick, editor ...
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