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The Music Room [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: Indian PCM 1.0
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: July 19, 2011
  • List Price: $39.95

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The Music Room - Fullscreen Subtitle

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

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

The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]

The Music Room (Jalsaghar) is Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s 1958 elegy to the end of post-colonial Indian feudalism and aristocracy. A groundbreaking film that broke the typical mold of Indian filmmaking for the way it used music as an integral part of the film, The Music Room follows a zamindar (landlord) Biswambhar Roy whose fortune is waning and whose land is being torn away by the nearby river.

Refusing to give up on the former lifestyle of grandeur and class distinctions, Roy finds solace in the jewel of his decaying home, the grand music room. It is here where he dips into the last of his family fortune staging opulent musical shows and dances inviting prominent working class locals in an unvoiced rivalry with his neighbor, a mere “money lender.” But, when tragedy strikes, he dips into the final jewels to throw the most elaborate function of all, before drifting away into a lethargic stupor – the last hold of the old regime on the new society.

The Music Room was and still is not a mainstream film in Ray’s homeland. Its revolutionary use of Indian classical music as more than a superfluous afterthought merely added in almost at random seemed anathema to Indian sensibilities, but garnered the filmmaker an international audience and became one of his most beloved films internationally.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

It will be difficult for Ray’s films to ever look great in high definition since he filmed everything on triacetate-based “safety” film that can deteriorate dramatically, especially when kept in a warm, moist environment such as India, and very few prints or video masters of his works exist outside of India. Pertaining to The Music Room, the original camera negative was lost in a fire at a laboratory in London. Fortunately, a second-generation fine-grain master positive made directly from that camera negative existed in India and it is from that that this high definition transfer comes.

While the 1.33:1 black and white AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 transfer does look film-like, there is a lot of grain, being that it comes from a second-generation positive, and there are also lots of scratches and things still present. There is only so far that the Criterion magic can go to make The Music Room look great, and it is at its limit. Still, the temptation to apply a heavy-handed amount of DNR was avoided, so it still looks natural and probably as good as it ever will be.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The PCM 1.0 soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm soundtrack print. While every effort has been made to reduce the impact of the recording’s limitations, there are obvious warts that make themselves immediately apparent. There aren’t many dynamics here and there is lots of crackle.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3.5/5]

We don’t get any short films to go along with The Music Room on this release as is often the case on Criterion releases, but there are an abundance of insights from prominent authors and filmmakers, including Mira Nair and Andrew Robinson, plus a French Roundtable featuring Ray and a documentary film focused on and featuring interviews with Ray.

The supplements provided on this release are:

  • For the Love of Music (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 0:17.36) – In this interview, recorded exclusively for the Criterion Collection in 2011, Andrew Robinson, author of Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye, discusses the making of The Music Room and the film’s cultural significance.
  • Mira Nair (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 0:15.44) – In this interview, recorded for the Criterion Collection in 2011, the filmmaker Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!, Monsoon Wedding) discusses her admiration for Satyajit Ray and The Music Room.
  • French Roundtable (1.33:1; 1080i/60; 0:10.36) – An excerpt from the French television program L’invité de FR3 which features director Satyajit Ray, film critic Michel Ciment, filmmaker Claude Sautet, and host Dominique Reznikoff. The episode, directed by Yvves Barbar, was originally broadcast on January 18, 1981, just before the theatrical premiere of The Music Room in France – more than twenty years after the film was released in India.
  • Satyajit Ray (1.33:1;1080i/60; 2:11.05)– Over the course of two years, beginning in 1981, filmmaker Shyam Benegal interviewed Satyajit Ray about his long career. The result was this 131-minute documentary, completed in 1984, which also features on-set footage from Ray’s thirty-second film, The Home and the World, family photographs, and extensive clips from his movies.
  • Booklet: This is a quite special booklet in the Criterion catalogue. It features an essay on the film from film critic Phillip Kemp as well as a 1963 essay by Ray on the film’s location and a 1986 interview with Ray on the film’s music. It’s always great to read the filmmaker’s own words on his work.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

A thoughtful look at class and change intertwined with music, The Music Room is an instantly likable film. While this Criterion release won’t come across to non-videophiles as a reference quality release, the studio has done their typical best with difficult source material to bring this to Blu-ray looking authentically film-like.

Additional Screen Captures


[amazon-product]B004WPYO74[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
The Music Room - Fullscreen Subtitle

Purchase The Music Room on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

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