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Rachel, Rachel (Blu-ray Review)

For September, Warner Archive Collection will be welcoming Rachel, Rachel to Blu-ray. It feels like its cashing in on the recent documentary series, The Last Movie Stars. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward joined their stellar talents on this powerfully human movie, he debuting as director, and she gives one of her hallmark screen performances. Both won New York Film Critics and Golden Globe awards for their work, and the film garnered four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. The Newmans teamed afterward on other masterful films, but for tenderness, insight, and artistry, none surpassed Rachel, Rachel. You can pre-order the brand new Blu-ray of the film by using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review. The release date is September 6th.

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Film

Written off as a spinster, 35-year-old schoolteacher Rachel Cameron (Joanne Woodward) lives with her widowed mother above a funeral parlor in rural Connecticut. Repressed by the community and given to despondency, Rachel spends her time daydreaming, buoyed by her lesbian best friend, Calla (Estelle Parsons). A religious experience begins a subtle awakening in Rachel, and when a childhood friend returns to town for his father’s funeral, she experiences real, driving passion.

Perhaps more fascinating that Academy Award winners are the nominees from any given year that could’ve been and haven’t remained on the public conscience. Rachel, Rachel certainly is one of the, even though it boasts a big star and is directed by an icon. Nonetheless, this movie was well set up for the awards, hitting many major categories including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay. It was shut out of all of them, but a quick watch of the film showcases a lot of its worth and perhaps proves more relevant or driven today than the likes of what won the Best Picture award that year.

Paul Newman makes his directorial debut here, with a film that shows he’s quite wise and someone that’s a free thinker, doing things that may not have been traditional at the time. Not just the sexual awakening story he’s telling, but many of the details in the edit or the visions or the visual language that comes across in the film. Its amazing what he’s putting together without words and just continually being subtle and planting ideas, images and thoughts right into your mind. He makes Rachel, Rachel the type of film you’ll be thinking about for weeks after and likely never forget.

This isn’t all on Newman though. As a tandem, he and spouse Joanne Woodward really knock this out of the park. Without her genuine, deep and quite intoxicating performance, this film would only be half as good and a stylistic achievement. She’s giving a powerhouse performance that feels true, honest and what maybe many others would try to mask in terms of bringing forth an awkwardness and vulnerability and bravery to get across. In the wrong hands, this role could have potentially been laughable. But with her, you not only get a fantastic, unique and memorable performance, but a full fledged character you can barely see as Joanne Woodward and merely Rachel Cameron.

Rachel, Rachel is one of those great films that probably saw a giant apex leading into the awards season for the films of 1968, but withered away rather quickly and now appears more forgotten than brought up in scholarly conversation. And visiting it now, that’s a grave mistake as it feels like a pivotal film in terms of sexual awakening and freedom in women in an honest fashion. With The Last Movie Stars being a little bit buzzed about, here’s hoping people check out more of Joanne Woodward’s performances and the collaborations with husband Paul Newman. And what better place to start than Rachel, Rachel.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Rachel, Rachel debuts on Blu-ray boasting a new 2022 1080p HD master from 4K scan of the original camera negative. This is an absolutely gorgeous transfer with such good clarity, while preserving its film-like appearance. There are so many details and texture so easily visible to go along with beautiful color saturation and rich black levels that make for an astonishing look.

Depth:  Strong depth of field is on display here with great spacing, pushback and free movement of the actors and camera in any given scene. It feels quite big, too, in scale. There’s a medium shot with Woodward just sitting on top of a chair in the kitchen, nibbling some food and pondering that just feels gigantic. Movements are smooth and natural with no issues from any motion distortion.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and very close to natural. Details hold strong with beautiful touches in the darkness and shadows throughout. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty natural with a really rich flavor on fabrics and some surfaces/walls with good color. Its well saturated with a nice, but not overbearing pop to it.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. The film’s wonderful transfer really lends itself to many facial textures and details like sweat, wrinkles, moles, freckles makeup and even veins and acne attempted to be covered up by makeup.

Noise/Artifacts: None

Audio

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

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Rachel, Rachel features a rather awesome mono track that feels fresh and new, while also carrying a bit of its analog sound in tow. There is a really nicely balanced mix with good volume levels in placement of the effects, music and vocals. Its a very present and plenty engaging mix, especially for its era and the type of film it is.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

A Jest of God (silent) (HD, 2:16) – Some behind the scenes footage, starting with a typewriter drawing up the first page of the screenplay. No audio for any of the footage.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:53)

Summary

Rachel, Rachel is a film that would probably surprise many younger or modern audiences that it existed 54 years ago. For Blu-ray enthusiasts, its Blu-ray debut makes it look all the more fresh and new with a radiant and gorgeous restoration. Couple that with a terrific mono track and a nice little behind the scenes extra, and you’ve got a solid Warner Archive exhibit of one of the best films of 1968. A nifty little pickup on the heels of The Last Movie Stars.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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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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