'3 Women' shines as a unique, enigmatic cinema gem amidst blockbuster era; worthy exploration with its quirks.
Disc Release Date:
Criterion's Blu-ray release of '3 Women' offers a carefully restored 1080p transfer with meticulous detail to grain and noise reduction, yet retains a film-like softness and muted colors true to Altman's vision, despite some clarity issues.
The Blu-ray's English LPCM 1.0 audio track, meticulously remastered from the original, delivers clean, undistorted sound with rich details and balanced elements, enhanced by manual and digital restorations.
Criterion's collection for '3 Women' features a detailed commentary by Altman, HD trailers/TV spots, and a stills gallery, all in English with Dolby Digital mono sound.
Robert Altman's '3 Women' on Blu-ray by Criterion explores identity through a surreal narrative and strong performances, enhanced by detailed extras and visual motifs, reflecting both the film's eerie atmosphere and intricate character studies.
Robert Altman's "3 Women," presented by Criterion in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer, delivers a digital experience that remains faithful to the original cinematic vision despite its nuanced shortcomings. The meticulous process underpinning this release involved a high-definition digital transfer from a 35mm interpositive, with extensive work done to remove thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, and other defects through the MTI's DRS system and Digital Vision's DVNR system for a cleaner picture. Notably, the desert footage, previously shaky in SDVD releases, now exhibits improved detail, stability, contrast, and clarity, though the presentation is not without mild noise in dimly lit and select daylight scenes. A light grain is persistently present, contributing to a film-like aesthetics; however, some instances of mild sharpening are detectable.
Despite efforts to enhance the visual integrity of "3 Women," the Blu-ray transfer sometimes reveals limitations inherent to the original filmmaking techniques. The image offers authenticity but suffers from a softer focus, leading to a hazy quality that lacks in fine detail and depth. The color palette is subdued, with occasional vibrant outbursts, which aligns with the film's dreamy and unsettling atmosphere. Black levels and contrast are handled adequately, maintaining a natural look despite the occasional elevated black levels in nighttime scenes.
In summary, Criterion's Blu-ray release of "3 Women" showcases a diligent restoration that strives to maintain the film's original essence. While some technical challenges such as mild noise and soft focus occasionally undermine the clarity, they do little to detract from the overall viewing experience. The transfer manages to captivate through its grainy veneer and careful handling of color and contrast, serving as a testament to both the restoration team's devotion and the enduring allure of Altman's vision.
The audio presentation of the "3 Women" Blu-ray features an English LPCM 1.0 track, meticulously remastered to ensure an optimal listening experience. Sourced from the original 35mm magnetic track, the restoration process involved the manual removal of clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum using Pro Tools HD, while crackle was addressed with AudioCube's integrated workstation. This rigorous process has resulted in an audio track that delivers well-rounded and rich tones, particularly noticeable in the film's bassoon and clarinet solos. Additionally, the sound mix, including gunshots and dialogue, is remarkably crisp, stable, and easy to understand without any detectable audio imperfections such as pops or excessive hiss.
Despite being presented in a mono format, the uncompressed English PCM track manages to accomplish its purpose effectively, thanks to a decent dynamic range and a lack of distortion across its components. While bass presence is minimal, the balance between dialogue, ambient effects, and the film's uniquely uneasy musical score is maintained with satisfactory fidelity. Subtitles are provided as optional English SDH, ensuring accessibility while remaining unobtrusive to the visual experience.
Critically, the audio does not necessarily stand out for its dynamism or depth but serves the narrative and mood of "3 Women" commendably. It demonstrates a significant improvement over typical mono mixes from its era, offering clarity and subtlety in sound design that enhances the viewing experience. This achievement in audio restoration underscores a dedication not only to preserving but also elevating the film's original atmospheric components, making it a reliable and pleasing auditory experience for audiences.
The Blu-ray presentation of "3 Women" offers a concise, yet enriching collection of extras that aficionados of the film will find compelling. Key to the collection is the insightful audio commentary by director Robert Altman, recorded in 2003, providing a deep dive into the film's origins, thematic elements, and its somewhat divisive dream sequence. Complementing this are high-definition offerings of behind-the-scenes content through a Stills Gallery, enhancing viewer appreciation for the film's visual artistry. Additionally, the inclusion of both theatrical and teaser trailers in 1080i, alongside two TV spots, albeit less effective in promoting the film, serve as intriguing historical marketing artifacts. The compilation, though modest, sufficiently augments the primary feature with significant insights and visual supplements, all in English Dolby Digital mono sound without subtitles, except for noted cases.
Extras included in this disc:
- Audio Commentary Featuring Director Robert Altman: A deep dive into the creation and themes of “3 Women” directly from Altman.
- Stills Gallery: A collection of high-definition production photos and behind-the-scenes stills.
- Theatrical Teaser Trailer: A preview of the film in 1080i quality.
- Theatrical Trailer: The main trailer for the film, presented in 1080i.
- TV Spots: Two thirty-second advertisements aimed at television audiences.
- Leaflet: Features David Sterritt's essay "Dream Project.
Robert Altman's enigmatic and absorbing film, "3 Women," finds a pristine presentation on Blu-ray, courtesy of Criterion. This 1977 cinematic venture, heralded for its evocative narrative and remarkable performances, particularly by Shelley Duvall—who garnered the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival—expands upon the complexities of identity and human connection through a dreamlike exploration. Boasting a transfer that captures the film’s hazy Californian desert setting with vivid clarity and a soundscape that envelops the viewer in its eerie ambiance, the Blu-ray edition enriches one's viewing experience with a host of supplemental features, including an insightful commentary by Altman himself. However, it is the essence of the movie, rather than the breadth of extras, that remains our primary focus.
Within the narrative confines of "3 Women," Altman ingeniously blurs the lines between reality and dreams, the self and the other. The story unfolds in three distinct acts, delving deep into the psyches of its titular characters, with Duvall's Millie and Spacek's Pinky taking center stage in a study of identity and interpersonal dynamics that is as unsettling as it is mesmerizing. Their performances—Spacek with her transformational brilliance and Duvall in her layered portrayal of loneliness cloaked in delusional self-assurance—anchor the film’s thematic inquiries. The underutilization of the third woman, Janice Rule's Willie, does raise questions about narrative balance but also adds to the film's mystique, challenging viewers to ponder her role within this triad and the broader narrative.
In crafting "3 Women," Altman was less concerned with coherent plotting than with evoking mood, themes, and character introspection. The result is a film that operates much like a dream: not all elements are logically connected, yet every detail contributes to an overarching sense of disorientation and disquiet. Through its deliberate pacing, voyeuristic cinematography, and recurrent motifs, the film adeptly mirrors its thematic preoccupations with mirroring and identity confusion. Though certain viewers may find its ambiguity frustrating, "3 Women" remains an audacious attempt at cinematic art, inviting varied interpretations and ensuring its place as a thought-provoking piece worthy of discussion. Accompanied by Criterion's high-definition transfer and thoughtful inclusions, the movie's intricate examination of ego, alterity, and existential dread is presented with remarkable clarity and depth.
Robert Altman's "3 Women," a film as enigmatic and intriguing today as it was upon its release in 1977, represents a high point in experimental American cinema, diverging starkly from the blockbuster trajectory initiated by contemporaries like "Star Wars." In its journey to Blu-ray, “3 Women” preserves its capacity to engage and mystify, offering a viewing experience that is both thought-provoking and aesthetically resonant. This release juxtaposes the evolving landscape of the film industry, highlighting Altman's unique vision. The film’s cryptic exploration of identity through a slow, deliberate pace allows for a reflective viewing experience, albeit one that may not cater to all tastes. The technical presentation, while maintaining an authentic look, showcases video quality that might seem slightly fuzzy by modern standards, paired with solid, if unremarkable, audio. However, the inclusion of the director's commentary stands out as a valuable supplement for enthusiasts and cinephiles, providing deeper insight into Altman's creative process.
Despite the somewhat lacking array of supplementary materials and the potential limitations in video and audio fidelity, "3 Women" on Blu-ray is a must-have for followers of Altman’s oeuvre or aficionados of cinema that challenges and defies easy categorization. Its appeal extends beyond mere nostalgia to touch on the nuanced dynamics of personality and transformation, wrapped in a presentation that respects the film’s original atmosphere.
In conclusion, while the Blu-ray rendition of "3 Women" might fall short in delivering a pristine technical experience, it triumphantly upholds the film's enigmatic allure and experimental spirit. Its significance extends beyond its audiovisual presentation, reaching into the realms of cinematic artistry and psychological exploration. Very highly recommended for those drawn to films that persist in their mystery and impact well beyond their initial release.