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Tess Durbeyfield, a strong-willed peasant girl, is sent by her father to the estate of local aristocrats, the d'Urbervilles, to capitalize on a flawed rumor their families are from the same line. Unfortunately, her ideals cannot prevent her from sliding further and further into despair and misfortune after she becomes pregnant by Alec d'Urberville, the passionate and unethical son of a wealthy merchant.
For more about Tess and the Tess Blu-ray release, see Tess Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 14, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth (I), Leigh Lawson, Tom Chadbon, Lesley Dunlop, Arielle Dombasle
Director: Roman Polanski
» See full cast & crew
Tess Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 14, 2012
Winner of three Cesar Awards, including Best Film and Best Director, Roman Polanski's "Tess" (1979) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French label Pathe. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailer for the film; documentary film by Serge July and Daniel Ablin; three featurettes with various interviews with director Roman Polanski, producer Claude Berri, makeup artist Didier Lavergne, costume designer Anthony Powell, and actor Leigh Lawson, amongst others; and a documentary film on the making of "Tess". In English, with imposed French subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
The poor drunkard John Durbeyfield (John Collin) is told by a parson that he is a related to the d'Urbervilles, a wealthy family with a long history. The man immediately consults his wife and sends his beautiful daughter, Tess (Nastassja Kinski, Paris, Texas), to a local manor owned by the d'Urbervilles to ask for employment.
Upon arrival, Tess is seduced by her 'cousin' Alec (Leigh Lawson, Brother Sun, Sister Moon), a suave man always looking for new thrills. Tess becomes pregnant and quickly leaves the manor. Back home she gives birth but shortly after the baby dies. Alec is never told about the baby.
Tess leaves her family again and this time finds employment in a dairy farm, where she meets Angel Clare (Peter Firth, Equus), a young and very handsome dreamer who can't stop thinking about visiting Brazil. The two fall in love and eventually marry. But on the night when they begin confessing to each other the "wrongs" they have done in their lives, Angel realizes that Tess isn't the girl he thought she was refuses to forgive her. Then much to Tess' surprise and disappointment, he packs his bags and heads to Brazil. Alone and penniless, Tess is forced to work terrible jobs to make ends meet.
Eventually, Alec appears again and offers to put an end to Tess' misery by having her live with him in his lavish house. At first Tess rejects him, insisting that she will remain loyal to Angel, but as time goes by Alec changes her mind and she becomes his wife. Sometime after that, Angle returns from Brazil, a reformed man who has realized that he should have never left the only person in his life who truly loved him.
Roman Polanski directed Tess in 1979. The film was nominated for six Oscar Awards, but won only three - Best Cinematography (Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet), Best Costume Design (Anthony Powell), and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Pierre Guffroy and Jack Stephens).
Tess is loosely based on Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles. It is essentially a period love story with enough romantic idealism to balance the different social comments that pop up here and there. None of them are particularly outrageous, but this is the kind of film where good and evil are very clearly identified with poor and rich.
The film works because of two key reasons. First, there is a degree of sincerity in it that makes it easy for the viewer to feel about Tess. How her story would end really isn't that important; what matters is how she deals with the pain now, while the camera follows her closely. Second, Tess is an astonishingly beautiful film. Even the cold winters from the British countryside where men and women are often seen working on the fields look quite remarkable. The framing and use of color by the two cinematographers, Ghislain Cloquet (Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar) and Geoffrey Unsworth (Bob Fosse's Cabaret), is simply terrific.
The acting is excellent. At times Kinski looks appropriately naive and brittle, but other times she is also convincing as a woman who has decided to remain loyal to the man she loves. Firth is also excellent as the young idealist who comes to realize that he should have never left the love of his life.
The outstanding costumes seen in the film were done by acclaimed designer Anthony Powell (Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Hook). The film's soundtrack was composed by the legendary Philippe Sarde (Jose Giovanni's Two Men in Town, Andre Techine's Barocco).
Tess Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Roman Polanski's Tess arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French label Pathe.
Recently restored by Pathe/Eclair Group and Le Diapason in 4K, with the entire restoration supervised by director Roman Polanski, Tess looks simply stunning on Blu-ray. Detail and clarity are truly exceptional, while depth is often extraordinary (see screencaptures #2 and #11). The nighttime sequences look particularly good as even though light is restricted definition is still fantastic. What impress the most, however, is the fantastic range of beautiful colors, all of which look incredibly natural. The warm and gentle yellows, in particular, are simply terrific. Furthermore, there are no traces of excessive degraining corrections. Sharpening adjustments have not been performed either. Needless to say, Tess has a very strong and consistent organic look. Compression is also solid. Lastly, there are absolutely no damage marks, scratches, debris, or warps. All in all, had I not already submitted my Top 10 list for the year, Tess would have definitely appeared on it. Pathe's restoration of the film is simply magnificent. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your Ps3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
Tess Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Pathe have provided imposed French subtitles for the English audio version of the film (they cannot be turned off during if the English track is selected). The French subtitles appear inside the image frame.
The audio treatment is every bit as impressive as the video treatment. The lossless English track has a fantastic range of nuanced dynamics (even when the wind blows, the clarity and crispness of sound are terrific) that open up the film in all the right places. Surround movement is unlikely to impress most viewers, but those who appreciate subtle effects without the aggressiveness of modern big budget productions will be enormously pleased. The dialog is crisp, clean, and easy to follow. The imposed French subtitles are rather disappointing, but this is a release produced for the French market so French speakers shouldn't have a problem with them.
Tess Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Tess Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ever since Tess was screened in the Classics section of the Cannes Film Festival, I've been looking forward to the inevitable Blu-ray release. I am happy to report that the 4K restoration is simply magnificent, while Pathe's presentation of the film is everything I hoped it would be. This white limited edition digibook is also incredibly stylish. If you are a French speaker, place your order now. Clearly, this is one of the year's best French Blu-ray releases. Let's hope that the upcoming BFI release of Tess will look just as impressive. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Tess: Other Editions
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Tess Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Tess Blu-ray - October 26, 2012
The British Film Institute has revealed that it is planning to release on Blu-ray director Roman Polanski's Tess (1979), starring Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth and Leigh Lawson. Exact technical specs, supplemental features and region coding status are yet to be ...
• Tess Blu-ray - October 12, 2012
French distributors Pathe have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray director Roman Polanski's Tess (1979), starring Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth and Leigh Lawson. The release will be available for purchase in France on December 5th.
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