Review: Days of Heaven Blu-ray

STUDIO: Criterion Collection | DIRECTOR: Terrence Malick | STARS: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz
RELEASE DATE: 3/23/2010 | PRICE: Blu-ray $39.95
BONUSES: art director/costume designer/casting director commentary, audio and video interviews
SPECS: PG | 94 min. | Drama romance | 1.78:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio Surround | no subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overal

It’s almost doing Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1974) an injustice by running a pixelated image alongside an online review, let alone one that’s supposed to represent its outstanding new Blu-ray incarnation from Criterion.

Thirty-two years on, Days of Heaven remains an immortal film and a testament — make that “Old Testament” — to a filmmaker’s singular vision, abetted by collaborators who also saw the light. And some of that illumination comes from that magic hour light that cinematographers love to talk about, the kind of velvety blue light that would lure a fugitive turn-of-the-century Chicago steel worker (Richard Gere, The Jackal), his little sister (Linda Manz), and his girlfriend who’s posing as his sister (Brooke Adams, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) down to the Texas panhandle and the wheat fields of a wealthy widowed farmer (Sam Shepard, The Big Lebowski). A love triangle that weathers on for four seasons and a Biblical swarm of locusts and devastating fire has never looked so good.

The Blu-ray edition of Days of Heaven is simply stunning. The cinematography of Néstor Almendros and Haskell Wexler (who receives an “additional photography” credit) is appropriately lush, dreamlike and alluring, as is Ennio Morricone’s (The Untouchables) rich, hypnotic score. Yes, there’s certainly more detail in this edition than in Criterion’s DVD version, and a purist’s eye will note the graded balance between the sky and the landscape and the variations in luminescence of the magic hour.

But we feel safe in saying that this will only capture the keen eyes of those with the finest home entertainment systems. For a generally enthusiastic cineaste whose desire for the movie to be presented in an above-average but not indefinable “perfect” fashion — something that Malick obsessives are particularly vocal about — this high-definition version of Days is simply a wonderful, transporting cinematic experience.

The special features on the Blu-ray are the same as those on the DVD edition that was issued a couple of years back, but that’s okay because the film — so dazzlingly restored, transferred and presented — is the thing.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.