The Last Temptation of Christ appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a consistently positive presentation.
Sharpness was usually strong. Some mild softness occurred on occasion, but those instances resulted from the source photography and were minor. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes or noise reduction. Source flaws were absent; we get a natural layer of grain but no intrusive defects.
Colors seemed nicely accurate and natural, with no signs of bleeding or noise. The film used a subdued palette that appeared warm and full. Black levels appeared deep and dark, with shadow detail only encountering sporadic problems during some of the night scenes. As with the mild softness, I thought these instances stemmed from the original photography and weren’t related to the transfer. Overall, this was a terrific image.
I felt pleased with the film’s surprisingly robust DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. The soundfield was very wide and engaging and provided a remarkably full experience. To be frank, I didn't expect much from the audio; this seemed like it'd be a quiet little film that probably would barely escape monaural status.
How wrong I was! Peter Gabriel's score pumped from all five channels for much of the movie, and effects also were well-localized and distinct. Even during the quiet scenes, the mix provided strong use of ambient audio, and the track clearly utilized a lot of split surround material, something I also didn't expect. This soundfield really added a lot of life to the film.
The quality seemed solid as well. At times, slight edginess affected the dialogue, but this issue was minor and speech always sounded natural and intelligible. Effects were clean and realistic, and the music appeared just spectacular; Gabriel's rhythmic score really cranked the story up a notch and it seemed very clear and vivid. At times, a thin layer of tape hiss appeared, but this occurs rarely and briefly. All in all, the audio contributed greatly to the success of the film.
How did this Blu-Ray compare with those of the original Criterion DVD? Audio appeared more dynamic and full, while visuals seemed crisper and more detailed; the Blu-ray also lost the occasional print flaws from the DVD. This was a substantial step up from the prior release.
The Blu-ray replicates many of the extras from the DVD. First comes an audio commentary from director Martin, Scorsese, writers Paul Schrader and Jay Cocks, and actor Willem Dafoe. All sit separately for this edited piece that covers the project’s origins and development, story/script/adaptation issues, cast, characters and performances, sers and locations, visual and production design, reactions to the film and otherareas.
All four men provide a lot of information that tells us a great deal about the project. We find insight into how the film got to the screen and what the filmmakers wanted to do, and most aspects of the production receive coverage. Most interestingly, we hear different discussions of the controversies that greeted the flick. It's a long track for a long movie, but even so, I wanted to hear more; it's a terrific commentary.
Now amusing comment: at one point, Schrader discusses the style of language used in the film. He mentions that they could’ve had the characters speak in Aramaic but that would’ve been an unrealistic aspiration. I guess Mel Gibson didn’t agree.
Next comes On Location in Morocco, 15 minutes, 44 seconds of footage Scorsese shot on the set. We see brief glimpses of various aspects of the production, culminating with the best part: shots of the re-creation of the crucifixion. It's one thing to hear Dafoe describe the unpleasantness of this part of the filming, but it's another to see it. My only complaint about this section is that it's too short; I'd love to see more of these tapes.
Another video segment presents a nearly twelve minute 1996 interview with composer Peter Gabriel. This 12-minute, three-second piece provides some mildly interesting details, but old Pete's a dry interview and the program seems a bit dull. This area also includes a brief text introduction to Pete and his participation, plus we find 20 still photos of Gabriel, other musicians and some of the different instruments used for the score.
Stills and Research gives us some stillframe materials. We open with 74 photos; these mix shots from the set and publicity elements. “Research” then shows some visual inspirations for aspects of the movie. Costume Designs presents 41 stills with sketches from designer Jean-Pierre Delifer. Photos of the final results accompany these. All of these are reasonably good but not particularly scintillating.
Finally, the package includes a eight-page booklet. This provides notes from film critic David Ehrenstein and some credits. While briefer than the usual Criterion booklet, Ehrenstein’s essay delivers quality information.
Does the Blu-ray lose anything from the DVD? Yes – the DVD came with literally hundreds of additional stillframe pieces. I have no idea why the Blu-ray omits these, as they provided lots of good information.
The Last Temptation Of Christ itself certainly has flaws, but it remains a courageous and compelling look at the most famous man in history. (No, I don't mean Mr. T.) The Blu-ray itself presents strong picture and audio as well as supplements highlighted by a fascinating audio commentary. While the absence of some of the prior DVD’s extras disappoints, the film has never looked or sounded better.