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Separation (1968) [UK] Blu-ray Review

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  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: English Mono LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Region: ABC (region-free)
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: BFI
  • Blu-ray Disc Release Date: July 13th, 2009
  • List Price: £24.99
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Overall
rating3-5
The Film
rating3-5
Video Quality
rating4
Audio Quality
rating3
Supplemental Materials
rating2-5

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

More Screen Captures (15 Total)

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG and thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

Jane Arden was one of the leading voices of British feminism in the 1960s and 70s. Together TV director Jack Bond, the two formed a collaboration that would see the creation of many groundbreaking films of British art house cinema, such as Anti-Clock and this 1968 experimental exploration written by Arden, Separation.

A perplexing, enigmatic and surreal exploration of feminist ideals, Separation finds Arden portraying the 39-year-old “Jane,” a woman separated from her husband, before Britain’s 1969 Divorce Reformation Act, and exploring her newfound sexual freedom. The film was not well received by critics upon its release in 1968 and it is not difficult to understand why. Separation fails to follow any strict narrative and neither does it put forth its feminist viewpoint assuredly. In fact, Separation is masked in a veil of post-war, 1960s Western anxiety. It could be easily interpreted as a woman’s descent into madness, schizophrenia and masochism. Take one scene that shows a woman having her hair roughly clipped by a man as she begs to have it torn out by its roots.

BDDefinitionseparation-a1080

Of course, one could also look upon this imagery, such as another naked woman being slapped by a gloved man as she is massaged by another woman, as visualizations of the humiliation and subjugation that women have endured at the hands of men over the years and the natural anxiety that comes with parting ways with someone you’ve attached yourself to for so many years.

In its non-linear structure and angular photography, Separation shares much in common with another staple of the avant-garde cinema, Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad and director Jack Bond is to be thanked for that. He has an eye for well-composed visuals and the film’s use of black and white with occasional color imagery to throw viewers into another world highlights Separation’s underlying themes of alienation and differences of perception.

Still, at the heart of Separation is a woman, “Jane” crying out from under the shroud of an oppressive society, being torn asunder — by her husband, by her lover, by herself (Arden appears as both “Jane” and a character, “Granny”), but Separation never quite hits home on that subject. It’s a bit too lofty and too elusive a film, although Arden and Bond show great erudition in technique and style, there is a little too much “separation,” if you’ll pardon the pun, between this film and the audience.

Video Quality

rating4

BDDefinitionseparation-h1080

Separation was transferred in high definition from the original 35mm mute negative held at the BFI National Archive. The picture was restored using HD-DVNR and MTI restoration systems, removing dirt, scratches, warps, tears, and addressing other issues. The film is presented on this Blu-ray Disc release in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 high definition encoding.

Given its age, Separation actually looks quite good in this release. Although some issues pertaining to source damage still remain, like scratches and dirt, grain structure is retained nicely and the presentation has a nice, film-like quality to it. Black levels are deep, only occasionally greying out somewhat and showing a little bit more noise and grain. Detail is strong in clothing and facial features, and extends well into background shots. There is some slight hotness to contrast in a few scenes, but nothing detrimental. Overall, Separation is another solid looking release in the BFI canon.

Audio Quality

rating3

BDDefinitionseparation-c1080

The audio for Separation was transferred from a 35mm combined print held at the BFI National Archive. It is presented here in its original English Mono mix in a LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit) configuration.

The sound occasionally shows good depth and dynamics; however, there are many moments where dialogue is a bit unintelligible. There are also a few instances of very noticeable clipping making for a harsh overall sound. I know some leeway must be granted for older films, but there are catalogue releases from the era out there that sound better than this. Still, Separation is not the worst I have heard, but it is not going to become a reference title for audio quality anytime soon.

Supplemental Materials

rating2-5

BDDefinitionseparation-l1080

The supplements for Separation are slim, but the audio commentary for this release is an especially enjoyable one, which makes up for the lack of quantity in added features.

The supplements available on this release are:

  • Audio Commentary with Jack Bond — This is a refreshingly informal, casual, and conversational audio commentary recorded on April 28, 2009 with Jack Bond and Sam Dunn, Head of Video Publishing at BFI.
  • Beyond Image (1969) (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 0:14.26) –A psychedelic mind-trip of a film by visual artists Mark Boyle and Joan Hills, similar to those images provided by Mark Boyle for use in the film Separation.
  • Anti-Clock Trailer (1.33:1; 1080p/24) — The trailer for the experimental Jane Arden and Jack Bond film.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

rating3-5

BDDefinitionseparation-d1080

To call Separation “difficult” would be an understatement. Nevertheless, it is one of the earliest examples of feminist cinema and it was certainly ahead of its time. Jane Arden and Jack Bond’s film may not be absolutely unique in the world of avant-garde, experimental art house cinema in terms of its technique and vision, but its message is one that should still be heard today. BFI have once again done a solid job bringing a forgotten work of art to high definition and Separation looks good on Blu-ray Disc.

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