Thursday, August 19, 2021

Brief Crossing (2001)

I wanted to come back and revisit the DVD releases of this film, which I'd given rather hasty, minimal coverage of in my original post. I've found, really digging into a proper comparison between the two available releases, that the distinction was greater than I thought.

Brief Crossing (Brève traversée in its homeland), about a chance encounter between an English woman in her mid 30's (Sarah Pratt) and a 16 year-old French boy (Gilles Guillan) during an overnight ferry ride, is a more subdued film, at least by Breillat standards. It still has an extensive, 10 minute long sex scene in the second act. But by and large, it's just intently focused on the flirtations and almost Socratic dialogue between the two leads who enter and leave each other's lives in a single night.

This film is available on two DVDs: the 2004 US edition from Wellspring (which has since been absorbed into the Weinsteins' Genius Products company) and the subsequent 2006 UK one from Second Sight Films.

US DVD on top; UK DVD below.
Both are widescreen transfers, but only the R2 PAL DVD is anamorphic. I've left the negative space around both screenshots so you can see how it will display on your set. What's more, the US disc is interlaced, presumably due to a poor PAL conversion, since both discs have nearly identical run times. Oh, and it's vertically stretched a bit, making the characters tall and skinny, while still cropping a substantial amount of picture off around the edges. Actually, the UK disc might be stretched a bit in the other direction at the same time, making everything too wide. You start getting into a weird uncanny valley comparing the two transfers: exactly how wide are these actors' natural faces? So maybe it's a trade-off in that respect. But the US disc is also a bit softer. So while a blu-ray would be ideal, to get this image into HD and really refine the aspect ratio and everything to perfection, I don't see that on the horizon anytime soon. So for now, and quite possibly always, the Second Sight disc is by far the preferable transfer.
However, Wellspring went the extra mile and recorded a new interview with the director for their edition. It's just over twenty minutes and nice to have since this film is one that rarely gets discussed. The US disc also has an exclusive 5.1 mix (both discs have the standard Dolby stereo track and removable English subtitles), which might be a draw for audiophiles. So you'll want to get the UK disc; but if you're a dedicated enough fan, it could be worth getting both.

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