Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Better Bilitis

Pathfinder's Bilitis DVD is here!  So, what do you want first?  The good news or the bad news?  Okay, let's start out with the bad news.  You may remember from earlier reports on this very blog that Pathfinder was looking for a 35mm print of this film to make a fresh, quality transfer. Well... they didn't find it. Apparently, there are no surviving prints to be found, and in that sense, you could add Bilitis to the tragic list of the world's lost films. And, so, the transfer on hand is just like the past discs I've covered: low quality and video sourced (see: above).

But wait; I did say there was good news, right? Disappointing as the above is (and it really is, especially to a film like this, where lush visuals and... a good look at the actresses... are a key part of the film's appeal), Pathfinder has put in the work to make this the best Bilitis disc yet. They've included the original French audio (with English subs, of course), which puts it a good length ahead of most of the other Bilitis discs out there, which only include the English dub. And that English dub is on here, too, if you want it... as well as even a German dub, which is perhaps getting carried away; but hey, I'll take it.

They've also included the Bilitis soundtrack album as a feature in the extras... for a long time, the soundtrack was easier to find than an actual DVD of the film. Now they're both on here. There's also a brief slide-show of what I'm guessing are publicity photos, and some bonus trailers of other Pathfinder releases. And most excitingly, especially for us Breillat.blogspotters, is a new video interview with Catherine Breillat about the film. It's a bit short, but very frank and forthcoming, and answers some questions a lot of us surely have about her involvement with the film.

It also appears to be the uncut version. On many discs (I think all of them except the PAL Australian disc), towards the end of the film where Melissa dances with Lucas and Bilitis runs off through a doorway, we cut back to them dancing. In this version, we first see Bilitis accidentally stumble upon two other characters' intense love scene, and run back out in disgust.  Also, many versions have a truncated ending, cutting out the final, silent shots of the film. This one has the full ending.

And while this image is disappointing, it looks better than I've seen it elsewhere... It's close to its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio (though so was the PAL Australian disc). And there's some screenshots comparisons I've made with it, one of the full-screen discs, and even a 1.66 TV print I found online (#3... you'll note the hint of a watermark mostly out of frame in the top left corner). Certainly the colors and details are best on the Pathfinder disc (#4, the last one at the bottom), and has much more visual information on the left and right sides of the screen.  It does look like it's been a teensy bit over-cropped vertically (it's the only one that crops out the bottom of her shoes); but it's very slight, and definitely the strongest image over-all. Click them and then select "view image" to see them full-size:

So, I'm calling it: this is the best of all the Bilitis discs, and barring a 35mm discovery, the best we're apt to ever get. So, if you already have an older disc, it may or may not be worth an upgrade; but if you don't, this is certainly the one to get, and conveniently, the easiest to find.


bilitisfinder said...

This Pathfinder release is a very dissapointing an awful DVD. In fact the Australian PAL release which is not included in your review is much better. This Australian PAL DVD has a much sharper image and better colours while the image in the Pathifinders is totally blurred and colours are washed out. Moreover the frame in the Pathfinders is totally cropped on the bottom.
Extras are not worth buying it, since the french track quality is much worse than the english one which is the track to choose if you want to listen to Patti's real voice.
So this release is another lost effort and i'm afraid the Australian PAL release it's the best we're going to be able to get in a a very log time.
A final thought, where have all the 35mm prints of Bilitis gone? Is it really not possible to find a single one? This film was quite a box office hit.

bilitisfinder said...

By the way Bilitis was released in 1982!! on Laserdisc on the german label Atlas.
I haven't seen it but i'm almost sure this Laserdisc must have been the best edition ever of Bilitis.
I really can't understand why the people at Pathfinder's haven't use this Laserdisc to make a proper and decent DVD. This is beyond me.

Werner von Wallenrod said...

Hi, bilitisfinder - thanks for posting! I hope you see the new post I've just added, which really gets into the Australian PAL disc vs. the Pathfinder. I'd definitely like to hear your thoughts.

There's actually 3 laserdiscs of Bilitis according to the lddb. I'd definitely like to get a look at them, but I'm not sure I'm as optimistic as you, since I have plenty of full-screen, pan & scan, sourced from VHS laserdiscs. So the format is no guarantee of an awesome image. But I suppose there's only one way to find out.

Unknown said...

Is anyone aware of the UCLA film archive? It has the original 35 mm film print on 5 reels. Search for it online and search the database for Bolivia to see the result. Maybe I can help in getting this fact known.