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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 March 29, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 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, March 29, 2013
Winner of three Cesar Awards, including Best Film and Best Director, Roman Polanski's "Tess" (1979) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of the British Film Institute. The supplemental features on this release include an original trailer for the film; 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 more. The release also arrives with a 28-page illustrated booklet featuring essays and credits. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B"locked".
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 and 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 the British Film Institute.
The high-definition transfer has been sourced from the same outstanding Pathe/Eclair Group and Le Diapason 4K restoration of Tess that was first introduced via Pathe's Blu-ray release of Polanski's film. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the two releases are not identical. It appears that on the BFI release brightness levels have been slightly elevated. Unless one has seen the two releases and knows exactly where to look these discrepancies will probably be difficult to spot, but they are indeed present. For example, see screencapture #9 and compare it to screencapture #3 from our review of the Pathe release. The minor discrepancy can also be observed in panoramic shots. Again, compare screencapture #2 to screencapture #11 from our review of the Pathe release. In both cases you should be able to see that Pathe's high-definition transfer is slightly darker. Detail and clarity, however, are identical. Depth is again very impressive. Color saturation and stability are also outstanding (see the light yet so natural colors in screencapture #4). Furthermore, there are no traces of excessive degraining and sharpening corrections. Also, there are absolutely no damage marks, scratches, cuts, or warps to report in this review. There are no problematic frame transitions or other more serious stability issues either. All in all, Pathe's restoration of Tess is truly fantastic, for the first time allowing one to experience the film as its creator intended. (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).
Tess Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this release: English LPCM 2.0 and English Dolby Digital 5.1. For the record, the BFI have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they split the image frame and the black bar below it.
Unlike the Pathe release, which had lossless French and English 5.1 tracks, the BFI release comes only with one lossless English 2.0 track. This is somewhat surprising, but not disappointing. The 2.0 track retains the very good range of nuanced dynamics, while the dialog is as crisp and stable as it is on the Pathe release. There are no audio dropouts or problematic distortions to report in this review.
Tess Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Tess Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The BFI's Blu-ray release of Roman Polanski's Tess uses as a foundation Pathe/Eclair Group and Le Diapason's recent 4K restoration of the film. Needless to say, the presentation is very impressive. There are some minor discrepancies between the BFI and Pathe releases, but I don't think that one of them looks better. However, the Pathe release has a better selection of supplemental features. Let's hope that this excellent restoration of Tess will soon be available in North America as well. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Tess Blu-ray, News and Updates
• BFI Details Tess - February 1, 2013
The British Film Institute has officially announced and detailed its upcoming Dual Format edition of director Roman Polanski's Tess (1979), starring Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth, Leigh Lawson. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across ...
• 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 ...
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