A month ago Bluray.com’s Jeffrey Kaufman reviewed Universal Home Video’s Cape Fear Bluray, and when I read the following I went “ooo-wee baby!” and my heart began to warm. “While [the Cape Fear Bluray is nowhere near the most egregious example of Universal’s tendency to remove grain,” Kauffman wrote, “those who dislike even moderate DNR will probably be less than completely pleased with the look of this Blu-ray.” I knew right away that I’d love it.
Gregory Peck in J. Lee Thompson’s Cape Fear (162).
I bought it last night and I was right. Universal Home Video technicians are masters of tasteful DNR-ing (i.e., digital noise reductions) and in my book the Cape Fear Bluray is a black-and-white DNR orgasm. It’s as beautiful as Universal’s Psycho Bluray, which has also been nicely finessed. I’m an admirer of several black-and-white Blurays that haven’t been DNR’ed (like Criterion’s Sweet Smell of Success and The Bicycle Thief) but something inside me melts when that annoying speckly grain has been tastefully toned down and I get to savor all those deep blacks and shimmering silvers and that wonderfully crisp detail that DNR-ing, when done just right, can provide.
To me grain is nothing but an element getting in the way. It’s a hot summer day, you’re in the foyer, your kid runs up on the porch and comes up and says “dad?” and you can see and hear him pretty well…but he also looks a bit filmy and hazy because there’s a screen door in the way. That’s what fucking grain is. There are few things I despise more in life than the dweeb aesthetic that cherishes overbearing grain. I seethe when I think of those cloistered grain monks like Kauffman and DVD Beaver‘s Gary W. Tooze writing “ooh, look at that wonderful grain structure…this is so great…swarms of divine mosquitoes!” The critics who say stuff like this are espousing an elite form of perversity that’s almost beyond description.
I admire many aspects of Criterion’sOn The Waterfront Bluray, yes, but not the grainstorm portions, of which there are quite a few. I wish Criterion had made four versions of Elia Kazan‘s 1954 classic — a 1.37, 1.66 and 1.85 aspect ratio versions in glorious grainstorm, and a 1.66 version that’s been tastefully DNR’d in the Universal “house” style. Criterion would never do it, of course, but I can dream.