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Orlando (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

In the 1990s, independent films were on the rise and studios like Miramax were at the forefront of distribution. Many studios created a separate wing to focus on and gather the independent, documentary, art house and international films under a single banner away from the blockbusters and bigger star studded fare. Sony Pictures developed Sony Pictures Classics for this very reason in 1992. And for the 30th Anniversary of the studio’s formation, they will be putting out a 4K Ultra-HD box set with 11 films from the course of their history, including 10 that are making their debut on the format. This review will be taking a look at one from their first year, the Sally Potter film Orlando that stars Tilda Swinton and Billy Zane. You can order yourself a copy of this impressive box set, which would make a fantastic gift for that special cinephile in your life, using the paid Amazon Associates link below.

Film

In 1600, nobleman Orlando (Tilda Swinton) inherits his parents’ house, thanks to Queen Elizabeth I (Quentin Crisp), who commands the young man to never change. After a disastrous affair with Russian princess Sasha (Charlotte Valandrey), Orlando looks for solace in the arts before being appointed ambassador to Constantinople in 1700, where war is raging. One morning, Orlando is shocked to wake up as a woman and returns home, struggling as a female to retain her property as the centuries roll by.

Orlando is perfectly quirky and almost immortal in its feeling a sense of being modern and fresh despite being 30 years old and telling a tale beginning in the 1600s. This isn’t some revisionist piece with modern pop songs, self aware language and the determination to assure the audience that material like this is old hat. No, it gets your charm and laughter by embracing its time period, tropes and genre of literature which it is at peace with.

Watching the film in 2022, one of the things that stood out was how the character of Orlando plays to the camera or their audience. I immediately connected it to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s show Fleabag. Its uncanny how identical its plays and with which is is utilized. Orlando has to have been an inspiration for this tactic. The device goes beyond just verbally communicating with the camera/audience. They use it quite frequently for thought, lingering and watching them sit and figure out a situation or what exactly what they just spoke about means to them. Tilda Swinton is fantastic with her eyes at saying so much that is unspoken that its part of this majestic performance.

As clever and fun as the script is, Swinton absolutely owns this film. Its on her to carry it, and she goes beyond the call of duty here. There’s a great pairing with a terrific director in Sally Potter who allows the trust in Swinton to deliver while she makes sure the execution is perfectly concocted. Tilda goes through many centuries in the film, as well as a gender change. The beauty of her performance is in the seamlessness of which the character changes but manages to stay the same. To show off a through line for it all seems to be what she’s doing. And its quite impressive to watch unfold over 90 minutes.

Sally Potter’s Orlando is a film that feels just as fresh today as it would have back in 1992. That’s thanks to a wonderful script that links up with its director and star to expert degrees. The film is loose and flimsy, which allows you to focus on the character or actor’s performance as the key component as to what drives and makes the fil work best. If you’re a fan of both period dramedies and yea…Fleabag…you really should look up this gem from 1992.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review from the standard Blu-ray, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc. They are also not of my own capturing. If you feel they are yours and you do not condone their usage, please contact the site and we will have them removed. 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail Orlando debuts on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a marvelous transfer that really handles all the details and natural lighting scenes in this film with such ease. The natural black levels and great saturation really contrasts to let more tiny drops of color eek out and pop onto the screen. This crisp image has a healthy layer of grain to allow much more texture and depth to come through with wonderful clarity.

Depth: Depth of field is very strong with great pushback, making the interiors look deeper. The display of scale is quite good, making this look big. Movements are filmic and smooth with no issues revolving around motion distortions like blur or jitter.

Black Levels: Black levels are natural and rich with good saturation and contrast really bringing out the image with good beauty in some of even the most dark or shadowed scenes. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are very strong and pop when contrasted in darker areas. Many fabrics will pop, but the greens look quite lovely and HDR really helps to have fires burn with a good glow.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures are clear as day as you can make out stubble, acne under make-up, moles, freckles wrinkles and more.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, English SDH

Dynamics: Orlando, I’m guessing, retains its 2.0 track from the previous release onto Blu-ray. This mix is pretty well balanced, with good layering and depth on display with the effects, vocals and score. In fact, the score gets some moments to really shine and sounds quite lovely. This track is also set to a good loud volume and does decently on the low end frequencies for what is given.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

Orlando 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray comes only as a part of the Sony Pictures Classics: 30th Anniversary Collection.

Audio Commentary

  • with Director Sally Potter and Actress Tilda Swinton
  • Select Scenes Commentary with Director Sally Potter

Orlando Goes To Russia (HD, 32:58) – A vintage featurette about shooting in Russia. Has a narrator to guide through and plenty of behind the scenes footage of planning, meetings, scouting and more. While encoded in HD, the source is very analog SD.

Orlando In Uzbekistan (HD, 51:55) – A video diary of the film that features the actors and key crew members on the film as we travelogue through many of the shoots and intercut with on-set interviews. While this is encoded in HD, its clearly an analog VHS source.

Jimmy Was An Angel (HD, 8:03) – A behind-the-scenes/making-of for the final scene in the film.

Venice Film Festival Press Conference (HD, 23:21) – The full press conference after the world premiere of the film. VHS sourced. Features Tilda Swinton and Sally Potter.

An Interview With Sally Potter (HD, 13:21) – The VHS sourced interview comes from the Venice Film Festival in 1992, just like the press conference.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:16)

Summary

Orlando is a very fresh feeling and funny film even 30 odd years later. Sony has done a wonderful job in its restoration of the film with an absolutely gorgeous new video transfer for its debut on the 4K format. It retains the audio track from the previous Blu-ray release as well as all of the extras. This disc is only available as part of the Sony Pictures Classics: 30th Anniversary Collection and is a worthy contribution and good choice to kick off your journey through that set

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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