Arrow’s Academy line presents Robert Altman’s Gosford Park on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on a dual-layer disc. This new 4K restoration performed by Arrow comes from a scan of the 35mm original camera negative.
It’s a newer film (from 2001, so to my old ass it’s “new”) so I don’t think it looked too bad on previous home video editions (the previous DVD was fine) but it’s still shocking what a fresh new restoration can do, even for a newer film. It now has a wonderful, more filmic quality to it, rendering the fine grain superbly and delivering far more detail and texture. The long shots of the deep hallways deliver better depth, and shadow delineation in these shots are also improved upon thanks to improved black levels. There can be a slight haze to some interiors, though this appears to be a byproduct of the photography and the look of the film, nothing to do with the restoration or encode.
Print damage is never an issue as well and I don’t recall a single blemish. The colour scheme is a bit drab, on purpose, with lots of browns and grays, but when brighter colours do show up they look wonderful. Overall a really pleasant surprise. I didn’t think the film would look all that much better here but the improvements are staggering. 9/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
Arrow throws on a couple of new features but most of what is found here has been ported over from the original DVD release. This release features the same two audio commentaries found on that edition, one featuring Altman, production designer Stephen Altman, and producer David Levy, and the other featuring writer-producer Julian Fellowes. The first track is a general production discussion, with Altman taking up most of the time, the others talking about various subjects as well while also asking the director questions. There’s a lot of technical information about the camerawork, sound design, and getting the look, along with discussions on the cast and more. This track can move at a bit of a slow pace, though, thanks to it going quiet intermittently. The solo Fellowes track proves a bit more fascinating, though, as he talks more about the time period, the various social rules, how they’re represented in the film, and even shares stories about his own family. This track has always been one of the more pleasant surprises I’ve ever come across, and it really helps contextualize the film. Of the two if you only listen to the one I would say Fellowes’ is the one to go with.
Arrow does also add a new commentary, a scholarly track featuring critics Geoff Andrews and David Thompson. This one goes into more detail behind the history of the production compared to the first track, and even mentions some details skimped over (it’s mentioned in other features that Ryan Philippe replaced another star and it’s mentioned here that start was Jude Law). They also talk about the construction of the film, the camerawork, how it compares to Altman’s other work, and even mention notable influences, like Upstairs, Downstairs and The Rules of the Game. It’s an enjoyable and fairly breezy track to get through, adding that academic slant the release ends up needing.
Arrow also provides two new interviews, one with executive producer Jane Barclay and another with actress Natasha Dwightman, running 21-minutes and 11-minutes respectively. Both subjects talk about working with Altman and the atmosphere on the set, Dwightman getting more into how acting in the film was more like theater work. Barclay gets into detail about the production company she helped set up and how they came to work on Altman’s last few films. She also talks about the rather stressful process of rolling the finished film out and the fear of it being a bomb, which seemed very likely. Barclay’s interview is probably my favourite of the new features on here, as she really conveys the stress behind getting a film released.
The rest of the features are all archival. There are a couple of standard featurettes: The Making of “Gosford Park” and The Authenticity of “Gosford Park” running 20-minutes and 9-minutes respectively. The making-of is pretty standard with talking-head interviews with the cast and crew, but I rather liked the shorter Authenticity which looks at the research that went into getting the proper look and feel, even getting interviews with former service people who worked during that time period and served as consultants for the film.
14 deleted scenes yet again appear here, running 20-minutes, with an optional commentary explaining the scenes and why they were cut. There is also a 25-minute Q & A session featuring Altman, Fellowes, Levy, Bob Balaban, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Ryan Phillippe. This is following a screening of the film in October of 2002 and features the participants talking about the film and then answering audience questions. I didn’t find this one particularly engaging but here it is again.
Arrow then includes one of their excellent booklets, and this one is particularly big at 42-pages, which begins with an essay on the film by Sheila O’Malley and then an excerpt from the book Altman on Altman featuring the director on the film. Half of the book is then a collection of “Production Notes” which are a great read, but I was most fond of the sections on some of the various characters and their real-life influences. I assume, like usual, that this booklet will only be available in first printings. This booklet is pretty solid so it is probably worth picking up this edition early for it.
And there you have it. Arrow does add some great new content and does, at the very least, carry over everything from the previous releases. 8/10