on 25 December 2012
I presume most people wanting to buy this Blu-ray digibook edition have already seen the film, so you already know whether you like it. For my money, it's a very good period romance, but never quite steps over into great (except, of course, John Barry's wonderful score). The film alone would get four stars from me.
I'm mainly writing this review to make clear that Universal have taken the cheapskate option with this release. Unlike the US digibook, which has exactly the same cover design, the disc you'll find inside this one is the same disc as the previous release - the one with poor picture quality. It's blurry, smoothed over, lacking in detail and generally everything else that can go wrong with a HD transfer.
If you want this digibook, go for the American version (which is region free). Alternatively, go for the US 100th Anniversary release in the standard plastic case - it's cheaper and the digibook packaging doesn't offer much beyond looking nice.
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE ‘2012’ BLU RAY COLLECTOR'S SERIES BOOK PACK VERSION ***
In April 2012 Universal Studios was 100 years old - and to celebrate that movie-making centenary they had 13 of their most-celebrated films fully restored for BLU RAY. 1985's "Out Of Africa" is one of them and like the other titles in this series so far - the print quality of this beloved film is extraordinary and the presentation classy (a full list of titles in the 100th Anniversary BLU RAY Series is in the attached 'comment' section - including DVD releases).
Issued in the US 6 March 2012 (later given a UK release) - "Out Of Africa Collector's Series" comes in a gorgeous limited edition 44-page hardback 'Book Pack' (use Barcode 025192127793 on the Amazon search bar to get the right issue). It's a 2-disc set with the BLU RAY to the front and the Anamorphic Widescreen DVD to the rear. There's also a foldout insert included that has a code for a Digital Copy via download from Universal's website valid until 31 December 2013.
But the really great news for film fans everywhere is a stupendously good print and a REGION FREE release - so it will play on ALL BLU RAY machines and PlayStation 3 Consoles too (there was a preceding version on BLU RAY that received bad reviews re print - this version is not that one). Also note: there is a cheaper standard packaging version due 4 September 2012 in the USA with slightly altered front artwork - again it has a BLU RAY, DVD and Download - so check you're using the Barcode provided above to get the 'best' version).
Digitally remastered and Fully Restored from Original Film Elements - Universal are reputed to have stumped-up over $300,000 for the restoration - and the results have already received huge praise on web sites dedicated to the format. This overhauled 2012 "Out Of Africa" print is a full 1080p High Definition release with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. What that means is the picture fills your entire screen without stretching - and combined with the gorgeous transfer - the effect is truly cinematic. For example the movie opens with a sunrise on the African Plains - all yellows and gold and browns. With the natural heat haze the land would produce and the semi-lighting conditions - this is a very difficult moment to get right - yet it is fantastically clear and clean. But even this is aced a few moments later when a bi-plane flies over the open plains during the daytime and it's little short of gobsmacking (dialogue from it titles this review). There then follows a scene in Denmark in snowy fields at a shooting party where I swear it looks like Dr. Zhivago (it's that good). In fact it's in these outdoor scenes (of which there are many) that the beautiful 'look' of "Out Of Africa" really excels - and it does so right through to the very end when Karen (Streep) bids farewell to her trusty steward Farah (played by Michael Bowens) at the train station.
It should be stressed however that it isn't perfect at all times by any means - there is some shocking fuzziness and grain on indoor shots - sequences at night around campfires and tents with Redford. There's a scene where Michael Kitchen as the dapper Englishman Berkeley Cole is talking to Meryl Streep at dinner in her home - the camera cuts to Streep and the print is perfect - but it then flicks back to Kitchen and the shot is suddenly covered in speckles of grain. They were either filmed apart or on two cameras - but the cleaned up print has only made the discrepancy more apparent and not less so.
But for the most part this is a joy to look at and at last gives full reign to David Watkin's sumptuous cinematography and Milena Canonero's crafted outfits (aristocratic European fashions alongside the colourful garments of African tribesmen). Throw in John Barry's most magisterial score ever - and as you can imagine - the impact is properly beautiful. A good example of all three occurs when the credits role - a steam train trundles across the wide-open expanses of 1913 Kenya in East Africa as we see the Danish Baroness standing at the back of her carriage in her immaculate outfit - then John Barry's score just nails it as the title of the film goes up onscreen. It's both fabulous to look at and moving too...a rare combination indeed.
The 44-page booklet inside the hardback outer is pure eye candy as you can imagine. It opens with a 2-page appreciation by film-critic and historian Leonard Maltin, has reproductions of several script pages, US, Polish and East German advert posters, a Cast of Characters, a piece on the political makeup of Kenya at the time - the British to the North and the Germans to the South and essays on the principal leads Streep, Redford, the Composer John Barry and Director Sydney Pollock. There's interesting trivia items dotted throughout the text - for instance Redford initially played the Englishman Denys Hatton with an English accent - but Pollock felt no-one would accept Redford as a Brit so he had him re-record all of the parts in American. Or that during the tender hair-washing scene wild Hippos were in the river nearby and they kill more people than lions if they feel their territory is threatened - so Streep was more scared of them than bullwhipping lions. The quality of the colour photos is top-notch too.
Clocking in a whopping 1 hour and 12 minutes Charles Kiselayk's "A Song Of Africa" is a substantial bonus feature that has charming, insightful and witty contributions from Streep, Redford and Pollock - intermixed with archive footage of the young, older and near-death Karen Blixen. It fills out a lot of the gaps as to what happened before and after the films' parameters where she left Africa in 1931 after 17 years - 46-years old, childless, penniless, divorced and broken-hearted. She then wrote over 10 books under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen between 1935 and 1996 and suffered from Syphilis all her life. This extra is also in standard 480p definition - so when you see the washed-out widescreen stock footage - you begin to realize just how astounding the cleaned-up 1080p fullscreen print really is. The only mild irritant is the overly wordy narration where the speaker wants to prove he's Kahlil Gibran every few moments, as he waxes lyrical about the lady's journey. The 15 or so Deleted Scenes (Widescreen and in Standard Definition) come fast and furious – they’re very short and although one or two with the Farah character are interesting - you can see why most were cut...
With 18 Oscar nominations and 3 wins to her name - you can't imagine any other actress ballsy enough to take on such a difficult, willful and frustrated woman. Yet Streep chews it up. Her accented Karen Blixen is wholly believable - vulnerable, proud, literate, deep, religiously repressed yet wanting to be sensually liberated - and reaching for it with the man she grew to adore and love - the English and debonair African hunter Denys Hatton. This is a big and romantic canvas - and both principals have affection for each other and respect for their various skills - their on-screen chemistry being a lovely thing to see. The scene where Denys takes her up in the bi-plane and flies across the landscape of mountains, rivers, waterfalls, zebras, giraffes and a lake full of birds to show her the real beauty of Africa - is breathtaking and even a little spiritual. Pollock's use of the indigenous tribes is superbly done too. Klaus Maria Brandauer, Michael Gough, Leslie Phillips, Shane Rimmer and the sorely missed Irish actor Donal McCann as her Doctor - all wonderful. Blink and you'll miss IMAN - David Bowie's wife - nursing the Michael Kitchen character whose contracted black water fever...
To sum up - clocking in at 2 hours and 40 minutes - "Out Of Africa" may seem a tad indulgent by today's standards of chop-em-out-fast-and-leave-em-panting blockbusters - but it works precisely because its epic. It was a mammoth undertaking at the time made by maverick people (Pollock worked on the script with Kurt Luedtke for over a year - Pollock sadly passed away in 2008) and this BLU RAY reissue does it proud.
And as with the other titles in this series - it's also heartening to see Universal Studios finally throw some proper money at the preservation of their movie legacy and be proud about doing so too. I'm collecting the whole series and live in hope that other studios respect their past in the same glorious way.
BLU RAY and DVD Specifications:
1. Deleted Scenes - over 15 short segments (about 15 minutes)
2. A Song Of Africa - An Original Full-Length Documentary On The Making Of The Film and Karen Blixen's Life by Charles Kiselayk (72 minutes)
3. Theatrical Trailer
4. Feature Length Commentary With Director Sydney Pollack
5. My Scenes
6. BLU RAY Exclusive: Pocket BLU - For Tablets and Smartphones - take the content on the go
7. BLU RAY Exclusive: BD Live - Internet-Connected Feature
VIDEO: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen 1.85:1
BLU RAY AUDIO: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French 5.1 DTS Surround
DVD AUDIO: English Dolby Digital 4.1 and French Dolby Digital 2.0
SUBTITLES BLU RAY: English SDH (Deaf and Hard-Of-Hearing), Spanish and French SUBTITLES DVD: English SDH (Deaf and Hard-Of-Hearing)
on 24 December 2012
Although I bought the old edition in the past, I've recently purchased this 100th Anniversary Edition
I've realized to my great disappointment that it offers the same identical very poor quality as the copy I already have!
I know that Universal spent its effort to have a new master copy for the US with a much enhanced picture quality.
I really can't understand why giving again a very poor transfer to all the European countries.
With the label "100th Anniversary Edition", you let the customers think that the European edition uses the same master copy used in the United States - because it is also called "100th Anniversary Edition" - but unfortunately that's not true at all!!!
Sure of your seriousness already shown in the case of "The Gladiator" rest in confident expectation that you will soon start a replacement campaign to fix this embarrassing problem.
on 2 June 2005
He likes to distill his movies' themes into a single word, Sydney Pollack explains on "Out of Africa"'s DVD. Here, that word is "Possession:" The possessiveness of the colonialists trying to make Africa theirs; to rule her with their law, settle on the local tribes' land, dress their African servants in European outfits (complete with a house boy's white gloves), import prized belongings like crystal to maintain the comforts of European civilization, and teach African children to read, to remove their "ignorance." And the possessiveness of human relationships; the claim of exclusivity arising from a wedding license, the encroachment on personal freedom resulting if such a claim is raised by even one partner - regardless whether based on a legal document - and the implications of desire, jealousy, want and need.
As such, the movie's story of Danish writer Karen Blixen's (Isak Dinesen's) experience in Kenya is inextricably intertwined with her love for free-spirited hunter/adventurer Denys Finch Hatton. Just as she spends years trying to wrangle coffee beans from ground patently unfit for their plantation and create a dam where water that, her servants tell her, "lives in Mombassa" needs to flow freely, only to see her efforts fail at last, so also her romance with Finch Hatton blossoms only as long as she is still (pro forma) married, and thus cannot fully claim him. As soon as the basis of their relationship changes, Finch Hatton withdraws - and is killed in a plane crash shortly thereafter, his death thus cementing a development already underway with terrible finality. In her eulogy Karen asks God to take back his soul with its freedom intact: "He was not ours - he was not mine." Yet, both Kenya and Finch Hatton leave such a mark on her that, forced to return to Denmark, she literally writes them back into her life; again becoming the "mental traveler" she had been before first setting foot on African soil, using her exceptional storytelling powers to resurrect the world and the man she lost, and be united with them in spirit where a more tenable union is no longer possible.
While "Out of Africa" is an adaptation of Blixen's like-named ode to Kenya, several of her other works also informed the screenplay; as did Judith Thurman's Blixen biography. And it's this combination which in screenwriter Carl Luedtke' and director Sydney Pollack's hands turns into gold where prior attempts have failed; because Blixen's book is primarily, as Pollack explains, "a pastorale, a beautifully formed memoir [relying] on her prose style, her sense of poetry and her ability to discover large truths in very small ... details" but lacking "much narrative drive" and thus, "difficult to translate to film." In addition, Blixen was largely silent about her relationship with Finch Hatton, which however was an essential element of the story, thus dooming any attempt to produce a movie without extensive prior research into this area.
Meryl Streep was not Sydney Pollack's first choice for the role of Karen, for which luminaries including Greta Garbo and Audrey Hepburn had previously been considered. Looking back in the DVD's documentary, Streep and Pollack recount how his change of mind came about (and ladies, I just know her version will make you laugh out loud). But while unfortunately neither her Oscar- nor her Golden-Globe-nomination turned into one of the movie's multiple awards (on Oscar night alone, Best Movie, Best Director and Best Cinematography, Art Direction, Music and Sound), she was indeed the perfect choice. Few contemporary actresses have her range of talent and sensitivity; and listening to tapes of Blixen reading her own works allowed her not only to develop a Danish accent but to become the story's narrative voice in the completest sense, from Blixen's persona to her perceptions and penmanship.
Much has been made of the fact that as Finch Hatton no British actor was cast but Robert Redford, with whom Pollack had previously collaborated in five successful movies, including the mid-1970s' "The Way We Were" and "Three Days of the Condor." But as Pollack points out, Finch Hatton, although a real enough person in Karen Blixen's life, in the movie's context stands for the universal type of the charming, ever-unpossessable, mysterious male; and there simply is no living actor whose image matches that type as closely as Redford's. Indeed, in this respect his character in "Out of Africa" epitomizes his "Redfordness" more intensely than *any* of his other roles. Moreover, all references to Finch Hatton's nationality are deleted here; so this isn't Robert Redford trying to portray a member of the English upper class, this is Redford portraying Redford (or at least, his public image) - and therefore, it is only proper that he didn't adopt a British accent, either.
Praise for this movie wouldn't be complete without mentioning the splendid, Golden-Globe-winning performance of Klaus-Maria Brandauer, one of today's best German-speaking actors, in the role of Karen's philandering husband Bror. (And if you think he's duplicitous here, rent such gems as "Mephisto" and "Hanussen" - or, for that matter, "James Bond: Never Say Never Again" - and you'll see what creepy and demonic really is when it's grown up). And of course, "Out of Africa" wouldn't be what it is without its superb African cast members; particularly Malick Bowens as Karen's faithful major domus Farah and Joseph Thiaka in his only known screen appearance as Kamante, Karen's indomitable cook. Several fine British actors complete the cast, providing enough British colonial feel even for those quibbling with Redford's casting; to name but a few, Michael Kitchen as Finch Hatton's friend Berkeley Cole, Michael Gough as Lord "Dee" Delamere and Suzanna Hamilton as Felicity (whose character is based on Blixen's friend and rival for Finch Hatton's attentions, Beryl Markham).
In all, "Out of Africa" is a grand, lavishly produced tribute to Africa, nature, freedom, adventure and love: Karen Blixen's "Song of Africa" brought to the big screen - and one of the profoundest love stories ever written by life itself.
on 28 December 2012
Universal UK have decided to use the old bluray transfer in this digibook, and not the newer remastered version that was re-released in the US (The 1st US bluray release was also the same problematic transfer as this UK current release). Even the newer remastered version is not perfect- that tells you right there how poor this one is. Avoid, avoid, avoid!!!
on 18 February 2015
The trouble with Amazon is, they migrate reviews of various releases of a product - its happened here - 178 reviews (at time of 'writing') and they're all a mishmash of comments relating to either the DVD, initial Blu Ray or latest Blu Ray release - or even more weirdly, the film itself (IMDb is the place to review movies only!). The more I read, the more confused I got - for example, 1st Blu Ray release was poor in terms of print quality and then UK Blu Ray release with digibook (with the same cover as it US counterpart) contained same poor print as 1st UK Blu Ray release. This release (by 'this', I mean the product with the following info 'DVD Release Date: 3 Feb. 2014' and ASIN: B00GX6NT58) is the same remastered print as the 'Universal 100th Anniversary Collection' edition available from the States. Only difference is, this release doesn't contain a digibook - so if thats what you want, buy the edition from America, if, like me, you just want a nicely remastered print which is better than previous Blu Ray releases, this is the disc for you!
on 30 June 2005
This is my all time favourite film. The film is heartfelt, touching, sometimes gritty but utterly faboulous depiction of Africa of it's time. The whole film revolves around the stunning scenery and pastures that is Africa at it's finest - think 'Born Free'. The soundtrack lifts the film and pays the scenery the ultimate compliment. The acting and costumes are superb and the enigmatic and interesting character of Karen Blixen who falls in and out of good and bad luck and finds love finally with her unlikely hero, the dust coated Robert Redford. If you love a romantic yet factual drama with some of the best shots of Africa you can almost smell the heat - then this film is for you. :)
on 5 November 2011
The transfer in this edition is a cryout shame. So much DNR that faces look waxy, details are lost, and even make small borders "halo-double". I watched it in a 52" screen, so maybe in smaller screens this is not so noticeable; in large ones, it is unbearable. In a movie where landscape and photography are main characters as well, this is just outrageous. Yes, it is still the best transfer to date, but worthless as a blu-ray. Far much worse than the first, poor transfer of "Gladiator". Let's hope they will eventually remaster "Out of Africa" properly, because this wonderful movie deserves it; as far as I am concerned, I possess the blu-ray, but am still unable to watch this movie in high definition.
on 5 December 2002
This is one of my all-time favourite movies, and one I can watch over and over again. Meryl Streep and Robert Redford are perfectly cast, and play their characters so convincingly that it is easy to forget you are watching a film! Of course the film is based on Karen Blixen's true experiences, however don't expect it to be like her book of the same name, as the film takes its content from a number of other sources too. Specifically, Karen Blixen's 'Shadows on the Grass' and 'Letters from Africa', Judith Thurman's book 'Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller' (also published as 'Isak Dinesen: The Life of Karen Blixen'), and Errol Trzebinski's 'Silence Will Speak'.
The film itself contains panoramic views of Africa, has a beautiful score, and is a joyous story of a woman's passion, courage, determination, and love - both of Africa and its people, and for Denys Finchatten. It is also a film tinged with sadness, but it cannot help but leave you with a profound sense of what life is all about, and perhaps even inspire you to fulfill your own destiny.
on 23 October 2010
A firm favourite & I was delighted to find it now available in Blu-ray. A great improvement on the rather poor DVD edition & with some interesting extras.
And for anyone concerned, although it's a US import it does play on a standard UK Blu-ray player.