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Named by the British Film Institute as one of the ten best British films of the century, Ken Loach’s Kes, is cinema’s quintessential portrait of working-class Northern England. Billy (an astonishingly naturalistic David Bradley) is a fifteen-year-old miner’s son whose close bond with a wild kestrel provides him with a spiritual escape from his dead-end life. Kes established the sociopolitical engagement and artistic brilliance of its filmmaker, and pushed the British “angry young man” film of the sixties into a new realm of authenticity, using real locations and nonprofessional actors. Loach’s poignant coming-of-age drama remains its now legendary director’s most beloved and influential film.
For more about Kes and the Kes Blu-ray release, see Kes Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 31, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: David Bradley, Colin Welland, Brian Glover (I)
Director: Ken Loach
» See full cast & crew
Kes Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 31, 2011
Ranked seventh in the British Film Institute's Top Ten (British) Films of the 20th Century, Ken Loach's "Kes" (1969) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; "Cathy Come Home" (1967), a feature directed by Ken Loach and produced by Tony Garnett; "The South Bank Show: Ken Loach (1993), a profile of the filmmaker featuring award-winning directors Stephen Frears and Alan Parker among others; and a standard making of featurette. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film writer Graham Fuller. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main features. Region-A "locked".
No one seems to like fifteen-year-old Billy Casper (David Bradley, Malachi's Cove). His mother (Lynne Perrie) does not have time for him, his older brother (Freddie Fletcher, The Nature of the Beast) constantly beats him, and at school older boys harass him as often as they could. Even the teachers do not like having him around.
One day on the moors, Billy finds a small kestrel hawk. He names the bird Kes, and trains it to hunt. Eventually, the two become friends and Billy begins spending more time with Kes than he does with his family. But the oppressing world Billy and Kes share soon puts their relationship to the test.
Based on the Barry Hines novel A Kestrel for a Knave, Ken Loach's Kes is a warm, deeply humane film about a poor misfit whose life is more or less predetermined. For the better part of the film he looks defeated and disillusioned, unwilling to confront those who mistreat him. During the few occasions when he does, he is quickly dealt with and told to always remember where he belongs.
Things temporarily change when Billy encounters Kes. Billy's new friend profoundly changes his life. It gives new meaning to it. It inspires and energizes him. It makes him feel needed.
At school, he attempts to explain exactly how he feels but no one understands him. Billy's classmates laugh at him, while his teachers refer to him as "hopeless case". So, he retreats back to his world where Kes is always willing to listen to him.
Loach is arguably one of the greatest living directors. Unlike most directors, he understands people, and shoots a film only when he has something meaningful to say. His characters are always real people with real problems. They live and die in places where real people live and die.
With Kes, Loach offers a glimpse at a world that he has been fascinated with since the 1960s – the world of the poor, the unprivileged and oppressed. And indeed, the focus of attention is as much on Billy and his relationship with Kes as it is on the world they share. Like Billy's family, it is a broken, dysfunctional and incapable of change world that slowly but surely destroys those who have been forced to live in it.
Loach shot Kes in Barnsley with a predominantly unknown cast of non-professional actors (hence, the authentic accents). The acting, however, is fantastic. Bradley is exceptional as the dreamy loner whom no one seems to like or understand. The boy also has some of the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. Even though his time in front of the camera is limited, Fletcher is also outstanding as the abusive older brother.
Cinematographer Chris Menges' lensing is simple but enormously effective. Some of the very best sequences in the film are the ones where Billy teaches Kes how to hunt. The town's gray streets, tiny shops, and the coal mine where most of its residents are employed also look terrific. Kes is also complemented by a beautiful music score by Oscar-nominated composer John Cameron (A Touch of Class).
Note: Kes is ranked seventh in the British Film Institute's Top Ten (British) Films of the 20th Century. In 1971, the film won two BAFTA Awards, for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles (David Bradley) and Best Supporting Actor (Colin Welland).
Kes Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Ken Loach's Kes arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
I really could not be any more pleased with Criterion's treatment of this most beautiful film. Anyone who has seen the old R2 SDVD release of Kes, which MGM released in the UK (but not in the United States), will immediately recognize the enormous improvements in terms of quality - the difference between the non-anamorphic SDVD and Criterion's Blu-ray release is indeed like night and day. This new, approved by director Ken Loach and director of photography Chris Menges, digital transfer is simply beautiful. For example, the various close-ups convey fantastic depth and tightness, while colors are finally vibrant and healthy. Furthermore, many of the panoramic scenes used to look fuzzy - if you still own the R2 SDVD, compare the sequence where Billy shows Kes to one of his teachers - and more often than not blocky. Now they look exceptionally crisp and vibrant. There are no traces of heavy noise reduction. As a result, a light layer of healthy grain is present throughout the entire film. Edge-enhancement is also not a serious issue of concern, though there are a couple of scenes that have a somewhat rougher look (for example, the scene where Billy is questioned by his teacher in front of his classmates). There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. All in all, I am happy to say that Kes has finally arrived in North America and it looks the best it ever has. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Kes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0 (the filmmaker's original soundtrack, with production dialogue) and English Dolby Digital 1.0 (the internationally release soundtrack, with postsync dialogue). For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
I opted for the English LPCM 1.0 track (as most of you know, there are some quite serious discrepancies in the international soundtrack) and could not be happier. It has a very good dynamic amplitude that gives John Cameron's wonderful score a tremendous boost - clarity and stability, in particular, are dramatically improved. The dialog is crisp, clean, and stable, while the much needed English subtitles are indeed very good. For the record, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
Kes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Kes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Buy with confidence, folks. Without a shadow of a doubt, this Blu-ray release is the definitive release of Ken Loach's legendary Kes. I really could not be any happier with the presentation. Let's hope that eventually all of the British director's early films will find their way to Blu-ray. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Kes Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion's Three Reasons Trailer: Kes Blu-ray - March 4, 2011
The Criterion Collection has created a new "Three Reasons" trailer, this time for Kes, which is slated for Blu-ray release on April 19. This trailer expresses three reasons why, in Criterion's opinion, Ken Loach's portrait of working-class Northern England, using ...
Kes Blu-ray Screenshots
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