The Celluloid Closet - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (Sony Pictures Classics Collection)Overview -
Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary Collection continues with the fascinating 1995 documentary The Celluloid Closet with its first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release. The film was a landmark look at the depictions of homosexuality from cinema’s earliest days to the (then) present-day slate of films. As the film is a collection of interviews with clips, the transfer can vary a bit but it’s overall pleasing in 4K with solid audio and bonus features. Recommended
Narrated by Lily Tomlin, this exuberant, eye-opening movie serves up a dazzling hundred-year history of gay men and women on the silver screen.
THE CELLULOID CLOSET 4K UHD Disc Breakdown
· Feature presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision
· English 2-Channel Surround DTS-HD Master Audio
· Special Features:
o Audio Commentary with Filmmakers Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Lily Tomlin, producer Howard Rosenman, and editor Arnold Glassman
o Additional Commentary with Author Vito Russo
o Collection of Outtakes
o Interview with Vito Russo
o Theatrical Trailer
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Based on Vito Russo’s 1985 book The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies - the feature documentary version narrated by Lily Tomlin is a fascinating, angering, but also hopeful look at how the LGBTQ community was portrayed on screen. From the earliest days of silent films to the turbulent years of the Hays Code to the (then) modern and somewhat healthier presentations, this film charts a unique historical cinematic journey.
To say there were - and often still are - problematic depictions of homosexuals in the movies is an understatement. Hollywood has had an interesting history depicting marginalized segments of the population often trading on stereotypes to elicit fear or laughs. What I found interesting is that The Celluloid Closet is it doesn’t shy away from these examples, but then also goes out of its way to highlight films and characters that actually had a healthy portrayal.
The hays code was an era that I was always fascinated about in school and this remains a major focus in the film. For over thirty years an arbitrary morality code had a vice grip on content. So when you have depictions of homosexuals or trans individuals, it’s often coupled with some sort of comedic gag like Some Like It Hot or dramatically washed out in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or initially cut entirely out of films like Spartacus. Then in the post-code era, it explores territory seen in The Boys in the Band - which by the way for those few scenes is nice to see not looking like complete crap.
Nearly thirty years since this film’s release, it almost feels like we’re due for an updated version. This film was made when GLAAD was just getting going and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was brand new. The idea of marriage equality was a far-off vision. Needless to say, a lot has happened since then. After what happened with Bros this year there are still some benchmarks to overcome. But to say this film doesn’t have anything to offer today would be a disservice. It’s a fascinating film from start to finish that allows you to reconsider your old favorites and their impact - negatively or positively.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
For years The Celluloid Closet has languished on DVD, but now Sony skips over Blu-ray and dives right into 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray 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.
Made in 1995 The Celluloid Closet arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with mixed but overall strong results. Given the film is a collection of recent interviews with archival clips of older films in a wide variety of conditions, the Dolby Vision transfer holds up well, but isn’t a consistent experience from one segment to the next. The newer interviews with various stars discussing their experiences or scenes from favorite films obviously look terrific. Details on the people’s faces, their 90s clothing, film grain, colors, etc, are all pristine. The accompanying clips for various films can vacillate quite a bit. Some classics look amazing because they were always well cared for through the years, while others are particularly rough around the edges with a “good as can be” appearance. Overall this is a fine transfer and makes a welcome turn to 4K - even though it might not be the most dazzling example this 11-film collection has to offer.
Given the requirements of various celebrities talking to a camera with a variety of film clips, this film is treated nicely with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track. This isn’t a complicated soundscape, just voices with some music and little interjections from various films so there’s no call or need for a full-spectrum 5.1 and an Atmos track would have just been a waste of channel management. Throughout dialog is clean and clear, the various film clips generally sound great but there are a few that have a little extra hiss or pop to them depending on their age and state of repair.
Bonus features for this release may not be the most robust assortment ever assembled, but it stacks in some impressive material. I wasn’t sure about the prospects of an audio commentary about a documentary - that idea just seems odd - but it’s actually an interesting piece with the various contributors discussing hearing the stories and reconsidering various films in the process of making this documentary. The Vito Russo “Additional Commentary” is more of a recorded lecture played to the film - since he had passed away by the time the film was actually made.
- Audio Commentary featuring Lily Tomlin, Jeffrey Friedman, Rob Epstein, and Arnold Glassman
- Additional Commentary featuring author Vito Russo
- Interview with Vito Russo (HD 4:20)
- Rescued From the Closet: Additional Interviews (HD 55:59)
- Theatrical Trailer
A fascinating documentary about cinematic history, The Celluloid Closet in of itself is now a piece of cinematic history. Made during a dramatic time for the LGBTQ community in the early 90s, this film practically demands an updated version to account for the last thirty years. While made to appreciate a marginalized segment of the population, the documentary is also a terrific piece of film history and any cinema fiend should glean some worthwhile informative material. This film leapfrogs Blu-ray for its first 4K UHD release. This Dolby Vision presentation is lovely on its own merits, but considering the combination of recent interviews coupled with older film clips of varying quality, I have to say its kind of an odd candidate for the format. It works, it looks great, but not the showstopper to pull out and demo our rig for. With clean clear audio and a fine selection of bonus features, this one is easy to call Recommended
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