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Picnic at Hanging Rock(1975)
On a drowsy St. Valentine's Day in 1900, a party of girls from a strict boarding school in Australia goes on a day's outing to Hanging Rock, a geological outcropping not far from their school. Three of the girls and one of their teachers disappear into thin air. One of them is found a week or so later, but can remember almost nothing. The others are never found.
For more about Picnic at Hanging Rock and the Picnic at Hanging Rock Blu-ray release, see the Picnic at Hanging Rock Blu-ray Review
Starring: Rachel Roberts, Vivean Gray, Anne-Louise Lambert
Director: Peter Weir
» See full cast & crew
Picnic at Hanging Rock Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 14, 2010
Peter Weir's "Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1975) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Second Sight. The supplemental features on the disc include the featurette "A Dream Within a Dream"; the documentary "A Recollection - Hanging Rock 1900"; interview with Joan Lindsay; Anthony S. Ingram's short film "The Day of Saint Valentine" (1969); deleted scenes; stills and posters gallery; and more. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
On February 14th, 1900, a group of schoolgirls from Appleyard College, in the state of Victoria, Australia, head to Hanging Rock, near Mt. Macedon, for their annual picnic. After eating and resting, a few of them decide to climb the rock. They are accompanied by one of their teachers. Later on, one of the girls comes back screaming – the teacher and her friends have disappeared.
Based on Joan Lindsay's famous novel, Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock is a fascinating film that is rightfully considered by many as one of the best ever made in the land Down Under. It is beautiful to look at and terrifically acted, but also somewhat frustrating – primarily because the story it tells does not offer a satisfying ending.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is structured in a way that allows for multiple, notably intriguing interpretations of the event it chronicles. One of them points to Hanging Rock as some sort of supernatural entity related to the dark side of Aboriginal Culture. When the girls come in contact with it, Hanging Rock simply consumes them.
Another more traditional interpretation points to an unsolved crime - perhaps a rape case. In fact, there are traces of guilt throughout the entire film, suggesting that the girls who disappeared might have been physically abused even prior to their trip to Hanging Rock.
There is also the possibility of a group suicide, which could have been inspired by an unspeakable event, a tragedy that has been covered, or ignored, by the leaders of Appleyard College. There are numerous scenes in Picnic at Hanging Rock confirming that some of the girls were aware of something very serious that they were not allowed to talk about.
This strange atmosphere of uncertainty together with the mesmerizing vistas from the Australian Outback, however, is what makes Picnic at Hanging Rock such a fascinating film to behold. Indeed, the entire film feels like a giant dream – beautiful, sad, and impossible to fully comprehend.
The acting in Picnic at Hanging Rock is outstanding but, strangely, none of the main characters stand out. It seems like Weir intentionally shot Picnic at Hanging Rock like a giant mosaic, whose individual pieces must be properly aligned in order to be appreciated.
Weir's use of light and color is very effective, reflecting emotions and feelings that words could not possibly describe. The scene where the girls disappear, for example, is both subdued and remarkably intense – like a dream captured on film.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is also graced with a fantastic soundtrack. The main theme in the film is performed by Romanian pan-flute master Gheorghe Zamfir (he also performs the famous pan-flute theme in award-winning director Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time in America), who truly pours his soul into it.
Finally, this Blu-ray disc contains the Director's Cut of Picnic at Hanging Rock, released theatrically in 1988, which omits approximately seven minutes from the original Theatrical Version of the film.
Note: In 1977, Picnic at Hanging Rock won a Best Cinematography (Russell Boyd) award at the BAFTA Film Awards. In 1979, the film was recognized with Saturn Award for Best Cinematography by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.
Picnic at Hanging Rock Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Second Sight.
Supervised by director Peter Weir, this new high-definition transfer looks excellent. Fine object detail is terrific, clarity very pleasing and contrast levels consistent throughout the entire film. The color-scheme is also striking - yellows, greens, blues, reds, browns, blacks and whites look warm and very natural. Edge-enhancement is never a serious issue of concern. Macroblocking, which plagued the old Criterion SDVD release of Picnic at Hanging Rock, is also nowhere to be seen. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. I noticed a couple of tiny flecks popping up here and there, but did not see any large scratches, cuts, splices, or stains. Finally, some minor noise corrections have been performed, but the fine film grain has definitely been preserved. To sum it all up, I am incredibly pleased with Second Sight's treatment of Picnic at Hanging. (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).
Picnic at Hanging Rock Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are three audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1, and English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Second Sight have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks is excellent. The bass is not overly active but effective, the surround channels intelligently used, and the high-frequencies not overdone. The pan-flute solos, in particular, have never sounded this good - the sound is rich, full, and incredibly nuanced. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and very easy to follow. There are no serious pops, cracks, hissings, or dropouts to report in this review either.
I tested a few scenes with the English LPCM 2.0 track but was not overly impressed with it. While the dialog was unproblematic, the music was not as nuanced as it is when I listened to it with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Simply put, there is an entire set of dynamics which the LPCM 2.0 track cannot reproduce.
Picnic at Hanging Rock Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: The supplemental features on this Blu-ray disc are encoded in PAL. Therefore, if you reside in North America, or another region where PAL is not supported, you must have a Region-Free player capable of converting PAL to NTSC, or a TV set capable of receiving native PAL data, in order to view them.
A Dream Within a Dream - an incredibly informative featurette with an abundance of interviews with different cast and crew members who recall their involvement with Picnic at Hanging Rock. Director Peter Weir's comments addressing his encounter with Joan Lindsay, and her novel, in particular, are excellent. The featurette contains archival footage with Joan Lindsay as well. In English, not subtitled. (114 min, PAL).
A Recollection - Hanging Rock 1900 - a documentary exploring the fascinating subject of the film, its production history and success. The documentary features interviews with different cast and crew members. In English, not subtitled. (26 min, PAL).
Joan Lindsay Interview - in this interview, Joan Lindsay talks about her career as a writer, her fascination with painting, her work, the Hanging Rock mystery, etc. In English, not subtitled. (15 min, PAL).
Interview - in this audio interview, Karen Robson, who plays Irma in Picnic at Hanging Rock, recalls how she got her role, her involvement with Peter Weir, the Hanging Rock mystery, etc. (15 min).
Hanging Rock & Martindale Hall: Then and Now - a tour of Hanging Rock. (6 min, PAL).
"The Day of Saint Valentine" (1969) - a short film by Anthony S. Ingram, which was the first screen adaptation of Joan Lindsay's novel. B&W. With a commentary by Anthony S. Ingram. In English, with imposed subtitles (for the actual film). (4 min, PAL).
Deleted Scenes - a collage of scenes deleted for the Director's Cut of Picnic at Hanging Rock. In English, not subtitled. (9 min, PAL).
Stills and Poster Gallery - this collection of stills and posters is accompanied by an excerpt from Joan Lindsay's novel read by actress Helen Morse. In English, not subtitled. (8 min, PAL).
Picnic at Hanging Rock Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
British distributors Second Sight have put together a remarkable package for Peter Weir's sublime Picnic at Hanging Rock. This clearly is a prime contender for a Blu-ray release of the year. If you could play Region-B discs, I urge to add Picnic at Hanging Rock to your library as soon as possible. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Picnic at Hanging Rock Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Picnic at Hanging Rock Blu-ray - July 6, 2012
German distributors Koch Media have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray acclaimed Australian director Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), starring Rachel Roberts, Anne-Louise Lambert and Vivean Gray. Street date is July 27th.
• Picnic at Hanging Rock Blu-ray Announced - June 11, 2010
Second Sight Films has announced the Blu-ray release of Picnic at Hanging Rock in the UK for July 26. This acclaimed Australian film, directed by Peter Weir in 1975, will be presented in its 107-minute director's cut (one of the rare instances in film history where ...
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