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The Portrait of a Lady(1996)
Isabel Archer is a beautiful American girl living abroad in Europe. She inherits a fortune, giving her the rare chance to lead an adventurous and free life, but she then falls into a misguided relationship with and later weds gentleman confidence artist Gilbert Osmond. His true nature, including a barbed and covetous disposition, turns her life into a nightmare. She is then forced to weigh her personal desire to escape him against established propriety and constrictive gender roles.
For more about The Portrait of a Lady and the The Portrait of a Lady Blu-ray release, see the The Portrait of a Lady Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 12, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Nicole Kidman, John Malkovich, Barbara Hershey, Mary-Louise Parker, Shelley Winters, Shelley Duvall
Director: Jane Campion
» See full cast & crew
The Portrait of a Lady Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 12, 2012
Winner of Pasinetti Award for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival, Jane Campion's "The Portrait of a Lady" (1996) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout Factory. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailer for the film and a documentary film by Peter Long and Kate Ellis. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Young and fiercely independent American beauty Isabel Archer (Nicole Kidman, To Die For) arrives in England hoping to find happiness. She is staying with her aunt (Shelly Winters, The Night of the Hunter) and uncle (John Gielgud, Arthur), but spends most of her time with her cousin, Ralph Touchett (Martin Donovan, Trust), an intelligent dreamer without any particular plans for the future.
Captivated by Isabel's beauty, the wealthy and enormously ambitious Lord Warburton (Richard E. Grant, Withnail and I) vows to marry her – but is unceremoniously rejected by Isabel who wishes to remain independent and explore what life has to offer. Soon after, Isabel is also approached by the suave and elegant artist Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich, Being John Malkovich), who immediately impresses her with his manners and attitude. But Isabel also rejects Osmond when he attempts to win her heart.
Isabel's life takes an unusual turn when her uncle dies and she inherits a small fortune. Encouraged by the wicked Madame Serena Merle (Barbara Hershey, The Entity), Isabel warms up to Osmond and then falls in love with him. But after they marry, she slowly discovers Osmond's true nature.
Based on the novel by the great Henry James, Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady is a slow and demanding concentration film. A lot in it is only implied, forcing the viewer to constantly speculate about the true intentions of the main characters as well as their goals.
The Portrait of a Lady is structured in a way that allows the viewer to enter the period environment where the main characters confront each other and at the same time judge their actions from afar. There is a certain code these characters follow; emotional boundaries are established. As the film progresses, the viewer slowly gains an understanding of their dilemmas. But the film is not a time capsule in which right and wrong are predetermined – Campion's interpretation of James' novel actually allows the viewer to form an opinion that may differ from her own.
All of the main characters undergo dramatic transformations. Interestingly enough, the specific events that initiate or accelerate the transformations are not always the focus of attention in the film; rather, it is the relationship between these events which the film examines. This is the primary reason why the film has a moderate tempo - Campion carefully places each piece in the giant puzzle The Portrait of a Lady is until the big picture begins to make sense.
Kidman is terrific as the beautiful and initially quite naive Isabel who comes to realize that the cost of freedom is always high. Malkovich is also sensational as the suave monster who conquers Isabel's heart. The sequences where he begins to openly confront her are some of the best in the entire film. Hershey is also excellent as the dangerous Madame Merle. The only actor who appears to have been miscast here is Viggo Mortensen, who plays the madly in love with Isabel nobleman Caspar Goodwood. The passion that is supposedly stirring his soul is never really felt.
The Portrait of a Lady was lensed by Stuart Dryburgh, who also collaborated with Campion on An Angel at My Table as well as arguably her best film, The Piano. Dryburgh was also the cinematographer for Lee Tamahori's highly acclaimed Once Were Warriors.
The Portrait of a Lady Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jane Campion's Portrait of a Lady arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout Factory.
The high-definition transfer for this Blu-ray release was more than likely struck from a master that was prepared quite some time ago, possibly for the now defunct PolyGram Entertainment. Naturally, there are some obvious limitations, but overall its basics are quite decent. Detail and clarity are relatively good, with some panoramic shots even boasting pleasing depth (see screencapture #2). Different close-ups, however, lack the convincing crispness and depth newer transfers struck from newer scans convey. While mostly satisfying, it is clear that color-reproduction also could have been a lot more convincing. The best news here is that no attempts have been made to make the high-definition transfer look better than it could. Unsurprisingly, even though it does look somewhat dated, it has also retained good enough organic qualities to allow one to enjoy the film. For the record, there are no serious stability issues, large debris, cuts, or stains to report in this review. (Note: This Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-SA or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Portrait of a Lady Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Foir the record, Shout Factory have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
Even though dynamic intensity is fairly limited, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track opens up the film quite well. However, you should not expect to hear any overly impressive surround movement; only some random nature sounds or other passing noises could be heard from time. Wojciech Kilar's soundtrack has an important role, but does not get a serious dynamic boost. The dialog is very crisp, stable, and easy to follow. Also, there are no dropouts or distortions to report in this review.
The Portrait of a Lady Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Portrait of a Lady Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I don't believe I have ever owned an anamorphically enhanced DVD release of Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady. I know that there were a few outside of the U.S., but I never imported one. Naturally, though far from flawless, this Blu-ray release is quite the revelation. If you are wondering whether it is worth picking up, the answer is, absolutely. Campion and Laura Jones' adaptation of Henry James' famous novel is fantastic. RECOMMENDED.
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The Portrait of a Lady Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Duellists and The Portrait of a Lady on Blu-ray in November - August 10, 2012
Shout Factory have revealed that they are planning to bring to Blu-ray Ridley Scott's The Duellists (1977), starring Keith Carradine, Harvey Keitel and Albert Finney, and Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady (1996), starring Nicole Kidman, John Malkovich and Barbara ...
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