Criterion has released Hiroshi Teshigaharaís ďdocumentaryĒ on Antonio Gaudi in a brand new two-disc set, trumping Image Entertainmentís previous DVD release. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on the first single-layer disc. The image has been picture-boxed.
I was shocked to see that the disc was single-layer but considering the filmís length (running only 72-minutes) and the fact that other than a trailer thereís nothing else on the disc, it does make sense. Itís doubtful this film would probably need more than 4GB.
And despite the single-layer the image on this looks very impressive. I actually wasnít sure what to expect with this release, but the image is up to par with many of Criterionís recent releases. Colours look absolutely fantastic, beautifully saturated, bright and bold when required. Browns and grays even look quite strong, and blacks are nice and deep. Blue skies look absolutely wonderful and the greens of the surrounding landscapes stand out.
Sharpness is quite good. The detail on Gaudiís work is wonderfully presented in close-ups, and even long shots look very good. Some sequences look a little soft, probably inherent in the source, but overall itís strong in this department. The print is in excellent shape, only a few blemishes here and there. The colour can fade momentarily during a couple of bits but is not too noticeable. I noticed the final shots of Sagrada Familia, just before the film ends, look a little rough when compared with the rest of the film, but otherwise all the way through the image looks spectacular and perfectly captures Gaudiís work. 8/10
All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
I was a little surprised to see the amount of love Criterion put into this release. While I know there are many admirers of Gaudiís work (and Teshigaharaís films) I canít see this release being a huge seller. Yet Criterion went all out and gave this film a great 2-disc release that covers everything quite thoroughly.
The first disc only contains a theatrical trailer, lasting a minute and a half. Itís in the same style of the film and it focuses on the cathedral Sagrada Familia. Unfortunately no commentary has been included, though thinking about it I donít know if one would really work for the film.
The second disc (which is dual-layer) offers a wealth of supplements and this may be one of my favourite collection of extras on a DVD release in the past year.
First up is a short film by Teshigahara called Gaudi, Catalunya, 1959, which chronicles a trip Hiroshi Teshigahara and his father, Sofu, made to Barcelona. Shot in 16mm and in colour, it does have a home movie kinda feel, though Teshigahara uses similar techniques that he would in the eventual film he would do in 1984. Running almost 20-minutes, in chronicles Guell Park, Sagrada Familia, and their visit with Salvador Dali. There is no sound, unfortunately, but it makes for an interesting viewing just to see Teshigahara discovering Gaudiís work, and then what would lead up to the eventual feature film.
Criterion has also included a 13-minute interview with architect Arata Isozaki, presented in anamorphic widescreen. In the interview he talks about his friendship with Hiroshi and also talks a bit about Hiroshiís father and their relationship. He touches on Gaudi, even offering a brief analysis on his work and gets into the public opinion of Gaudiís work, both good and bad (though he was apparently quite popular with the Japanese, also mentioned in another supplementóthis I was completely unaware of.) Itís a decent, though brief interview.
The real meat, though, would be the one-hour documentary Godís Architect: Antoni Gaudi, an installment from the BBC architecture series Visions of Space, hosted by art critic Robert Hughes. I think this works as a great compliment to Teshigaharaís film, which, while wonderfully done in showing off Gaudiís art, doesnít get into the history of the buildings or the man himself (some people will dismiss it as nothing more than a slideshow, which is unfortunate.) This gets into more detail about Gaudi, who was obviously a very complicated man, and also offers a great examination of his work, and even offers a history as to how they came to be. Hughes visits the sites, even getting interviews with current owners of the buildings/properties, or people who live there or have worked there. The doc examines his influences, gives a bit of a bio, and looks into his intense Catholic beliefs, which shows up in all of his work (though it appears his clients had him hold back in at least one case, where his idea for a giant statue of the virgin Mary on the roof of one of his buildings was axed, more than likely a good thing.) Hughes expresses his honest opinion of Gaudi, who he seems to greatly admire (he has an obvious love for some of his work) but also seems very frustrated with in some cases. I was actually a little shocked at how harsh he was on Gaudiís cathedral, Sagrada Familia. I have to admit I do agree with him on some things (the faÁade with all of the sculptures and the nativity is a little much,) though think he may have been a little too mean. But I did chuckle at his comment when he makes a comparison between a few sculptures and Darth Vader. This leads, interestingly enough, into a little bit about the controversy surrounding the project. Sagrada Familia is still not completed, more than 80 years after Gaudiís death and construction continues on it. Thereís debate on whether construction should even continue. All in all I found this a great supplement and well worth watching. This supplement has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.
Adding on to the previous supplement, Criterion has also included a 16-minute segment on Gaudi made by Ken Russell from the BBCís Monitor. This is sort of a brief tour of Gaudiís work, presented in black and white, offering some information and history on the buildings. Some of the material is covered in the previous supplement but overall itís still very informative and worth watching, if only to see Russellís earlier work.
And finally, we get another short film by Hiroshi Teshigahara called Sculptures by Sofu Ė Vita. This 17-minute segment focuses on his fatherís work for an exhibition. It begins with the exhibition being set up in black and white, and then in the same style of the film he films his fatherís work, this time in colour, with another piercing score. It also shows his father at work. This is a decent supplement which I think shows Teshigaharaís admiration for his father and his work. A nice addition to the set.
I rented this set from NetFlix, so I do not have the booklet. According to Criterionís website it includes an ďessay by art historian Dore Ashton, a reminiscence by Hiroshi Teshigahara, and Hiroshi and Sofu discussing their trip to the WestĒ. I have not read this booklet but once I pick this set up or get my hands on the booklet I will update this review.
Criterion has gone all out with this release and I have to say how impressed I am with it. It offers a decent amount of insight into Teshigahara and his film, along with Gaudi himself, and even looks at the relationship between Teshigahara and his father, Sofu. 9/10