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May 26, 2010


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Man is Monica a knockout, even from behind. Time to replace my Red Desert bootleg.


Does the image occasionally flutter like on the BFI disc or was Criterion able to fix that problem?
Can't wait for the Blu-Ray Consumer Guide.

Glenn Kenny

@ michaelgsmith: I did not find much in the way of noticable flutter on the BFI Blu-ray... I'll have to look at it again. Do you recall specific scenes when it happens? As for the Criterion, I'm waiting for the Blu-ray before I give it a thorough look, will get back to you on it.

Lance McCallion

One of the most beautiful and sensual films ever made.

Joe the Lodger

I like Red Desert. Hopefully, besides improving the picture, the Blu-ray will also improve Monica Vitti's acting...


Could somebody gently break it to Steve Jobs that Blu-ray is here to stay and needs to be supported on the Mac - I'm one of many who watches DVDs on the computer and the current situation is a bit ridiculous really.

david hare

Michael, I wonder if you're meaning the Criterion DVD of l'Eclisse? This has strobe-likeflicker all through it and (I seem to be a rare bird on this) find it unwatchable. But Criterion has never released Red Desert until now. There was a superb Australian SD disc of Desert a few years ago and BFI picked up that restored (circa 2005) telecine for their Bluray which is a knockout.

Looking at Gelnn's grab, I am slightly terified they might have applied a whole lot of digital cleanup. I hope not -the BFI displays the most beautiful grain, and I would hope Crit carries that over. Glenn waddaya think?

Michael Brooke

Just to clarify a few points:

1. The BFI transfer was not sourced from the Madman telecine. As David says, this was a pretty good transfer, but it was only done in SD, so a Blu-ray needed a new hi-def telecine. The BFI's James White personally supervised best-light HD transfers from the original 35mm negatives at Technicolor in Rome, and the BFI and Criterion ended up with the same cloned master. So while each distributor then went on to do its own grading and picture/audio restoration, the underlying source for both BFI and Criterion Blu-rays is the BFI's HD master.

2. With regard to the claim about 'flicker' on the BFI edition, there are a few occurrences of density fluctuation here and there, as was common for films of this era, and which are inherent in the original materials. James isn't aware of there being any significant flicker problem over and above this, and would be equally grateful for specific citations.

3. I agree 100% with Yann about the lack of Blu-ray on Macs, and in fact have yet to upgrade my now four-year-old MacBook because of this.


I think I mentioned this in another post, but again... I spoke with an Apple employee a few weeks ago to complain about the lack of Blu-ray drives in Macs, and he told me that Steve Jobs doesn't like Blu-ray because he believes the future of home video is in downloading/streaming. My translation: Steve Jobs wants you to pay for your movies via iTunes so more of your money can go into his pocket.


Steve Jobs is on the record describing Blu-Ray's technical requirements as "a bag of hurt". I wouldn't hold my breath, guys...


I'm referring to the BFI Blu-Ray of Red Desert and I'm referring to "flutter", not flicker. Occasionally, the entire frame becomes unstable and appears to jump up and down. The BFI booklet blames this on damage to the sprocket holes on the original negative but it seems to me like a problem that could be fixed.
I have the day off today so I'll run through the disc again to find a specific scene that illustrates what I'm talking about and post back here with my findings.

James Keepnews

Good Lord, when DID Steve Jobs become Bill Gates, ca. '91 (-'10)??? The same issue around Flash on Mac products (yes, it's buggy, but we've lived through a generation of Moore's Law, meaning CPUs can and should be able to handle codecs in freakin' sleep mode) is, as pvitari and I are certain, driving the "concern" around having no Blu-Rays on Mac -- i.e., read "bag of hurt" as "less control + revenue".

In any case, on the subjects of wow + flutter, WEHT Signora Vitti? I know she's retired from films, but shouldn't there be a groundswell across many generations insisting on her return? I am partial to bee-stung intellectual film icons -- all three of them -- but, as MV has been described by one scribe, she's the "poster girl for abject sensuality in the face of abject existential emptiness." I wonder who that could've been?


Okay, just scanning through the BFI disc I noticed several instances in the first dialogue scene between Monica Vitti and Richard Harris. Check out the shot of Harris at the 22:40 mark (and the two shots that immediately follow it) and note how the image slightly "jumps" several times. This happens sporadically throughout the disc.
I should also note that this is a minor problem and that I think the transfer looks fantastic, by far the best home video presentation this film has ever received. But if it's something not present on the Criterion disc, I might double dip.

Glenn Kenny

Thanks, Michael. First off, let me compliment you on the exceptional sharpness of your eye. What happens in the shot you describe is definitely something that can be expected in the case of "slight warpage and sprocket wear" described in the "About the transfer" note on the BFI edition. That is, the image doesn't so much "jump" as it suffers a very slight distortion within the shot, said distortion corresponding to the warping—Harris "grows" or "shrinks" ever, ever so slightly (for literally a fraction of a second) within the frame. It happens three times within the first shot you describe, so quickly that many could miss it. Once I saw it I remembered noticing it the first time watching it, but the overall power of the beautiful disc—and it really is beautiful—was such that I pretty much forgot about it.

But to answer your question, those distortions are gone in the shot as it appears in the new Criterion version. There appears to be a vestige of the problem at the very very end of the shot in question but I could, by now, just be over-analyzing. While working, as BFI's people did, with a transfer from the original negative, the Criterion team chose to try to correct the instances of "warps [and] jitters" using MTI's DRS system and PixelFarm's PFClean System. (The Criterion folk were particularly excited about PixelFarm stuff when I visited them in the Fall of '08 for the Popular Mechanics article on Blu-Ray.) And they DID apply a DVNR system for their work here. As I said, and I think showed, it seems not to have been slathered on carelessly.

I am working only with the Standard Def disc of the film at the moment, and am looking forward to seeing the Blu-ray. It appears, though, that the Criterion version has dispensed with the problem of which Mr. Smith speaks.


Glenn, thanks for the detailed explanation and comparison. This difference, plus the fact that the Criterion blu-ray will feature two of Antonioni's documentary shorts, means that I will be buying it twice.

david hare

Thanks for the clarification and example to both Michaels. I can spot what you mention on my BFI through the Projector. In fact it looks very similar to several instances of "pulsing" or frame density variation in the BFI's mind blowing Blu of The Leopard. (Meaning the "corrected one with the last BD file gamma correction.) These seem to have been inherent in the print and elements, so I wonder if the forthcoming Crit might also repair these?

Im too broke to double dip anything this year - there's just too much coming out in Blu generally.

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