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Orlando is a youthful English nobleman, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, who defies the laws of nature with surprising results. Immortal and highly imaginative, he undergoes a series of extraordinary transformations, including changing from a man to a woman. The transformations illustrate the complexity of the eternal war between the sexes.
For more about Orlando and the Orlando Blu-ray release, see Orlando Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on October 25, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Billy Zane, Lothaire Bluteau, John Wood, Charlotte Valandrey, Quentin Crisp
Director: Sally Potter
» See full cast & crew
Orlando Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 25, 2012
Winner of Best Film Award at the Venice Film Festival, Sally Potter's "Orlando" (1992) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye. The supplemental features on the disc include a documentary film by producer producer Christopher Sheppard; video diary; archival footage from a press conference held at the Venice Film Festival; video interview with director Sally Potter; and more. In English, without optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
In 1600, the young Lord Orlando (Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton, We Need to Talk About Kevin) is summoned by an elderly Queen Elizabeth I (Quentin Crisp, The Celluloid Closet) who grants him the deeds to his parents' house. In exchange, Orlando is asked to remain forever young. And in the years that follow Orlando does precisely that - much to the surprise of those around him, he remains young while trying to understand what happiness is and choose a direction in his life.
In 1610, Orlando meets the beautiful Princess Sasha (Charlotte Valandrey, Red Kiss), who is getting ready to go home to Russia. He falls madly in love with her and for awhile becomes convinced that they were meant to spend the rest of their lives together. In 1650, he decides to become a poet and put on paper what he often has a difficult time expressing with simple words. In 1700, Orlando arrives in Asia to serve as a diplomat. It is some years after that when he suddenly realizes that he wants to be a she and becomes a woman. In 1750, Lady Orlando returns to England where she is told that she is no longer the owner of her parents' house because she is dead and a woman. Around 1850, Lady Orlando falls in love with a handsome traveler (Billy Zane, The Phantom) on his way to America. In the beginning of the 20th century she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a beautiful girl. In present days, Orlando visits the office of a famous publisher in London and hands him a script which contains her life story.
Sally Potter's exceptionally beautiful film is based on Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel, which was dedicated to Vita Sackville-West, with whom the famous writer had a passionate affair.
The film tells two completely different stories. The first is about Orlando's unusual journey through the years and the way he and later on she see the world. Orlando travels to exotic countries where he meets interesting people and observes important events.
There is a great line in the film which accurately describes Orlando – "Same person, different sex" – and an abundance of speculations produced by the people around Orlando who try and fail to profile him. The second story focuses on these speculations and the manner in which they evolve during the years. The film has a casual tone that keeps it fresh and free of pretentiousness. This makes Orlando's character transformations far less dramatic and far more believable. The politically correct talk the film could have easily been loaded with is also spared.
Potter and her crew shot the overwhelming majority of the film in Russia and Uzbekistan during the perestroika days. Despite the fact that they had to overcome numerous logistic and technical obstacles, the film looks simply magnificent. Orlando's lavish home and the palace where he resides while serving as a diplomat, in particular, look quite spectacular.
Aleksei Rodionov's lensing also gives the film a very unique dreamy look. Light and soft colors are used in a variety of different ways to distinguish the different eras. The excellent costumes were done under the supervision of Dutch designer Dien van Straalen, who earned an Oscar nomination for his contribution to Peter Webber's Girl With a Pearl Earring, and Sandy Powell, who won multiple Oscars for her contributions to John Madden's Shakespeare in Love, Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, and Jean-Marc Vallée's The Young Victoria.
Orlando is also complimented by fantastic ambient soundtrack courtesy of Potter and David Motion (To Live and Die in L.A.). The final sequence in the film also features a beautiful song by Jimmy Somerville called "Coming".
Note: In 1992, Orlando had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, where it won Best Film Award, Elvira Notari Prize (Sally Potter) and OCIC Award.
Orlando Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Sally Potter's Orlando arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye.
The presentation is enormously satisfying. The majority of the film was shot in Russia and Uzbekistan and boasts a very warm dreamy look. Light, in particular, has a very important role. Colors, contrast and clarity also constantly evolve as the story moves through the years. I mention this because it is important to keep in mind that the image fluctuations (contrast and clarity) are not a byproduct of a technical issue of some sort; they are part of the film's unique period look.
There are no traces of excessive denoising/degraining. Unsurprisingly, the film has a very strong and stable organic look This also holds true for the film's appearance in the U.S., where Sony Pictures brought it to Blu-ray in a similarly convincing fashion. In fact, the only difference between the two releases appears to be in the brightness settings - this UK release looks ever so slightly darker. Furthermore, there are absolutely no traces of post-production sharpening corrections. Compression is also very good. The high-definition transfer is also free of large damage marks, cuts, debris and stains. To sum it all up, this is a very solid presentation that is guaranteed to please fans of Orlando who have previously seen or owned it on DVD. The upgrade in quality is indeed quite dramatic. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Orlando Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Artificial Eye have not provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The improvements in the audio department are also substantial. David Motion and Sally Potter's beautiful ambient soundtrack gets a serious boost, particularly in terms of depth. On the R1 DVD release, the lossy track delivers an uncharacteristically flat and often uneven sound. On the Blu-ray release, the LPCM 2.0 track delivers much improved depth and a very pleasing range of nuanced dynamics. Needless to say, the viewing experience is completely different. The lack of optional English subtitles, however, is somewhat disappointing.
Orlando Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Orlando Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Even after The Tango Lesson, Yes and The Man Who Cried, I continue to believe that Orlando remains Sally Potter's best work. It is beautiful to look at and at the same time incredibly thought-provoking film that lingers long after the final credits roll. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the best European films from the early '90s. Artificial Eye's presentation of Orlando is excellent. If you reside in a Region-B country and do not yet have it in your collection, I urge you to consider getting yourself a copy. I guarantee you will have a terrific time with it. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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