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Remains of the Day, The
The Remains of the Day is a film based on the novel written by Kazuo Ishiguro. It is one of the acclaimed collaborations of producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory. The film was also produced by Mike Nichols. It was nominated for 8 Academy Awards (but won none) yet is rightfully considered amongst the best Merchant-Ivory productions. The film succeeds through its intelligent storytelling as it examines elements of WWII and a deeply sad romantic storyline with equal tenacity.
The story of the film takes place primarily around WWII and follows the life and events of the butler James Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), who works for Lord Darlington (James Fox). Stevens deals with his sense of loyalty and dedication to his work while thrown into the conflict of the war (as Darlington and other politicians visiting their halls worked to make an appeasement to Nazi Germany). Stevens, who seems to disagree with Darlington, remains as someone steadfast in his work as a butler.
Over the course of the story, the war is examined through the characters who visit and live in the Darlington Hall and a romantic storyline simultaneously unfolds. Stevens is joined with the aid of Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) and the two share a strong connection to one another over the years. It is clear that Kenton has romantic feelings for Stevens but Stevens has difficulty communicating his own feelings.
Steven's tries to remain loyal in his work as a butler throughout the story. His sense of detached loyalty causes a great deal of conflict in the storyline. It is at the core of the story. In one scene, Stevens is forced to fire two German-Jewish employees working at the house, which seems to greatly upset him... yet he fails to properly say so to Darlington.
This sense of detached loyalty in his work causes him to have difficulty expressing his feelings towards Kenton and is a large element of the story. Ishiguro crafted a complex character with Stevens and the screenplay written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala does an excellent job of bringing this story to life in a cinematic way. Hopkins and Thompson both deliver great performances which are emotionally complex and understated. These performances highlight both actors at peak-form.
As with other Merchant-Ivory productions, the quality of the production is immediately apparent. The production design is exquisite. The sets, costumes, make-up, hairstyling, and other production elements are all uniformly excellent. Nothing disappoints in this regard. The cinematography from Tony Pierce-Roberts (A Room With A View) is exquisite. Equally essential is the score composed by Richard Robbins (Howard's End). These collaborators continue to provide the necessary grandeur needed in a Merchant-Ivory film.
Director James Ivory is one of the best filmmakers the cinema has ever seen. Ivory's style and approach is richly layered and is deeply affecting. Ivory's framing is absolute perfection. The performances brought forth from the actors genuinely impress across the board. Ivory's style directorially is decidedly understated but brilliantly effective and intimate. Ivory also manages to convey the subtle humor peppered throughout the story with good measure.
Ivory's effort as director of The Remains of the Day is certainly deeply affecting and a large part of this is because of his directing approach. In a emotionally-superb moment, Ivory's focus on the parting hands of Stevens and Kenton is brilliantly composed. Ivory brings the production together on a grand scale and makes the filmmaking feel epic even when it focuses on the characters on an intimate scale.
The Remains of the Day is a superb Merchant-Ivory film which is necessary viewing for fans of the producer-director collaborators. The filmmaking is superb, the story and script are excellent, and the end result is another memorable film from the duo. This excellent effort is one that film fans shouldn't overlook.
The Remains of the Day arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with a stunning MPEG-4 AVC 1080p High Definition encode. This is an impressive presentation which will please fans with a high bit-rate presentation of the film in the 2.35:1 widescreen original theatrical aspect ratio. The presentation has clearly had a nice quality scan and a good clean-up as the overall print looks clean, sharp, and highly detailed. It's actually hard to imagine fans being disappointed by this presentation as it's a top of the line one.
The image looks quite splendid with a naturally filmic quality, no print damage whatsoever, excellent color reproduction, and absolutely no DNR or other detrimental tinkering can be spotted at all.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation works quite well and is going to satisfy listeners. While it's not a very active surround sound presentation to behold the dialogue and music is crystal clear and clean. Dialogue is easy to understand throughout. There are no signs of any audible distortion or other deficiencies. Presented in 24 bit quality, the smooth texture of the audio will please audio enthusiasts hoping to find an exemplary audio presentation.
Optional English SDH subtitles (for the deaf and hard of hearing) are also included.
This Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray release includes a booklet featuring essay by film critic Julie Kirgo.
An Isolated Score Track is presented in DTS-HD MA Stereo with the original music by composer Richard Robbins.
The release also contains an Audio Commentary with director James Ivory, Producer Ismail Merchant, and Actress Emma Thompson.
Please Note: All of the on-disc video extras are presented in standard definition (SD).
Love and Honor - The Making of The Remains of the Day (28 min.) is a featurette covering the film's production. It features interviews, clips, and historical footage. The filmmakers discuss both the romantic story and the historical one within the film.
The Remains of the Day: The Filmmaker's Journey (30 min.) is a featurette featuring interviews with the filmmakers and novelist Kazuo Ishiguro as they discuss the film. There is also behind the scenes footage from during filming and clips from the film.
Blind Loyalty, Hollow Honor: England's Fatal Flaw (15 min.) discusses the historical context of The Remains of the Day and the approach author Ishiguro brought to the storyline.
Deleted Scenes (14 min.) includes a total of seven scenes cut from the film, with optional audio commentary with director James Ivory. Presented in full frame (4:3).
Lastly, the release contains the Original Theatrical Trailer and the International Trailer.
The Remains of the Day is an amazing film and one which fans of the filmmakers will certainly want to explore. The performances are near career-best for both Hopkins and Thompson. The production elements are stunning in every regard. The story told is deeply sad and affecting. Everything about this film works on a grand scale.
As for the presentation: Twilight Time has created a great release. The film looks exquisite and sounds lovely on this Blu-ray. Fans should consider this a must-own release of the film.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.