Loosely based on the classic Virginia Woolf novel, 1992’s Orlando stars numerous famous faces including Billy Zane but is best known for a breakout performance from Tilda Swinton for an uproarious comedic look at the sexes and gender roles. Directed by Sally Potter, this is a beautifully filmed period comedy and looks incredible on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a new single-disc release as part of the 11-film Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary Collection. Decent audio and a fine assortment of bonus features prop up this release. Recommended
In a story that spans centuries, Orlando takes a humorous look at the roles of the sexes and gender through the lens of a young androgynous nobleman… who turns into a woman. Tilda Swinton is Orlando, a young man favored by Queen Elizabeth to inherit lands, titles, and vast wealth so long as he never withers, fades, or grows old. A duty he’s all too willing to take up. But as the centuries pass and various controversies compound his eternal existence Orlando awakens to discover he is no longer he - but she!
I don’t remember how old I was when I first saw Orlando, but I was young enough to be very confused by it and had a hard time following it. But I remembered it well enough to notice Tilda Swinton when I caught The Beach and Vanilla Sky and be impressed with her casting as Gabriel in Constantine. It wasn’t until the first Blu-ray release in 2010 that I decided to come back to this film and give it another run. I was pleased to see that it was a damn good and genuinely thoughtful but funny film. The comedy is subtle, the jokes aren’t so much the sort of “set up and payoff” gags but a series of silly situations with quick-witted dialog and great performances from Swinton, Billy Zane, and a delightfully dry Heathcote Williams.
Similar to my first and second viewings, it’s been the better end of twelve years since I last sat down and earnestly watched this film. I can definitely see this one not fitting all tastes and a lot of the comedy is so subtle it may fly past your noggin, but I found it to still hold up. There’s a playful absurdity to the whole venture that requires a lot of suspension of disbelief and if you think too heavily about it, it may not stick. Likewise, if you’re expecting a true and direct adaptation of Woolf’s novel, you’ll get the essence but not the full show. I never completely read through that book, I felt like I was missing something, but the film I got and enjoy it quite a bit. If you missed it or didn’t care for it on the first outing, definitely go back and give it another pass.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
After resting on Blu-ray for over a decade, Orlando wakes up as a new home video format with its first single disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release exclusive to the 11-film Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary Collection. Pressed on a BD-66 disc, the disc is housed in a standard case with slipcover art. The disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options and the bonus features panel along the right side of the screen.
With beautiful period stylings, scenic locations, an attractive cast, intricate costumes, and gorgeous set design - Orlando is the perfect candidate for a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release. Sony’s new 1.85:1 2160p Dolby Vision transfer is simply stunning from frame one until the credits roll. Every little detail from the stitching in the clothing to the lush English countryside to the vast deserts to icy tundra - every little hair on any given character’s head is up for scrutiny. Film grain is intact and naturally cinematic without any appearance of smoothing or edge enhancement. The image depth is splendid.
Dolby Vision HDR is a grand enhancement for this film. With all of the natural lighting from whatever daylight is available to torches and candles, the black levels never falter. Shadow shades are impeccable allowing for every subtle color gradience to come to life. Colors are vivid and beautiful allowing for strong red, blue, and yellows with healthy natural skin tones. Whites are bold and crisp without blooming issues and there are many lovely spectral highlights to absorb. This is another immaculate presentation from Sony.
Orlando strikes out for this release with a pleasing DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. If I were a betting man this is likely the same mix as the one from 2010, I don’t have that disc to compare but given the film and its nature, I don’t think a full surround 5.1 mix would be of much use. This film is already mostly front/center driven as is, and this mix offers up clean dialog, clear sound effects, and a lovely score from Sally Potter and David Motion. Flipping on my receiver’s DTS Neural:X function didn’t really do much of anything to enhance the experience. Free of any age-related issues, this is a solid track that serves the film well.
Not looking to upset the applecart, Sony carries over all of the archival bonus features from previous releases, which is fine. There's a lot of great stuff in here - the commentary with Potter and Swinton is a highlight of the disc and I enjoyed the various making of behind-the-scenes looks at the film.
Admittedly, Orlando is one of the many movies I’ve seen and enjoyed but rarely revisit. It’s a delightful movie and I can’t figure out why I almost never come back to it, but so far it’s been worth the journey. With a terrific talented cast, a great director, a sharp script, and impeccable production design, the film would make any period drama weep with envy - only it’s not a drama, it’s a comedy! And a damn funny one at that. Sony gives Orlando a fitting 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray debut as one of the 11 films in the Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary collection. With a gorgeous Dolby Vision transfer, solid audio, and a fine assortment of bonus features, this is a great release, and if this giant set isn’t your game, hopefully, Sony puts out a solo release soon. Recommended