A divinely decadent experience!
Cabaret is a great film, just sadly isn’t one I can properly appreciate. Set in the waning days of early 1930s Weimar Germany, even the delectable historical context can’t get me to rise beyond indifference for Cabaret. Sadly, I just have no passion for musicals and even the 8 Academy Awards the film won in 1972 don’t help it recover for me.
That’s the bad news. The good news is Warner Brothers has finally corrected a long overdue omission from its catalog and released the film in blu-ray. In a case of even more bad news, the disc hasn’t gotten the best reviews. As much as I would like to agree, to do so would only serve to deepen that error.
Much of the visual image of Cabaret is soft and at times a bit fuzzy- though that isn’t the correct word, mind you. What some of us seem to differ in is the role of blu-ray for older movies. Cabaret wasn’t made in the digital era and it should never look as if it was. Think of what a 48FPS color version of Citizen Kane would look like. That’s right, swill.
The role of the blu-ray for classic films is not to repurpose them to make them appear like the latest Peter Jackson release, but to provide the closest and most accurate representation of what the original crew were looking for at the time of filming and release. When taken in that context, the new release of Cabaret is nothing short of a dramatic upgrade over previous releases but also a tacit confirmation of the original vision of the feel of the picture.
Most of the would be criticism of the video quality targets areas which would come under cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth’s purview. Suffice to say, the film looks as it should. Parts of Cabaret are intentionally crisp, bright, and full of brightly contrasting colors. Others, most notably the scenes in the Kit Kat Klub, have the softness and apparent lack of detail which has drawn such ire from some critics.
If you’d like a reality check, go to a local club late in the evening. Pick one which still allows smoking if you can. Just how crisp is your visual picture? No, I think again that Unsworth’s vision is what we are seeing on the release. And the cinematographer (who won an Oscar for Cabaret, mind you) of 2001: A Space Odyssey and frequent DP (for a wide range of features and subjects, including a 1972 episode of the TV series Columbo) got it right.
For those fans of Cabaret, you will need to add this to your library. The video quality is superb and the audio still packs a bit of punch, though again reflecting a slight bit of age mind you. As with all of Warner’s better releases, this one is in the digibook format and comes packed with a veritable plethora of supplemental materials.
If you are a fan of the film itself or the musical genre, this probably rates near must have status.
Thanks to Warner Brothers for the review copy supplied for this review.