Nashville appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a satisfying presentation.
Sharpness usually worked well. A few wide shots could be a smidgen soft – mostly due to deep focus – but the majority of the film came across as concise and accurate. No problems with shimmering or jagged edges materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. With a natural layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any digital noise reduction issues, and source flaws remained miniscule. When I saw defects – like a streak or a mark – they stemmed from the original photography and became unavoidable.
Colors tended toward a pretty natural palette and the Blu-ray replicated them fine. Some scenes seemed somewhat flat – mainly during interiors – but the hues were largely dynamic and full. Blacks semeed dark and dense, while low-light shots showed nice clarity. After almost 40 years, the image held up well.
In terms of audio, Nashville comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. This remix took the original stereo material and broadened it to a degree.
Much of the image stuck fairly close to the center channel, with the majority of the audio emanating from there. However, it could spread nicely to the sides, especially in regard to the music, which presented some fine stereo separation.
Effects and even a little dialogue also appeared in the side speakers at times, with occasional decent panning between them. The surrounds generally presented reinforcement of the front channels, but they did so effectively, especially the way they offered an echo of Walker's many political appeals.
Quality was inconsistent but acceptable. The dialogue fared the worst; it often seemed thin and flat, though it largely sounded intelligible. Whatever problems I had understanding the speech mainly fared from the many scenes with overlapping dialogue; the complexity of the situations contributed to this factor, not the actual quality of the material.
Effects were generally a bit bland and reedy as well, but they seemed acceptably clear considering the age of the recording. It's the music that definitely fared the best, as most of the songs sounded rich and clear. There's a little thinness to them because of age, but for the most part they appeared fairly dynamic and crisp, with some good low end at times. Without the strong quality of the music, this would remain a fairly average soundtrack, but the tunes elevate my grade to a solid "B".
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio sounded warmer and fuller, while visuals came across as significantly better defined, cleaner and more natural. This turned into a substantial improvement in quality over the DVD.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras. Also found on the DVD, we get an audio commentary from director Robert Altman. He provides a running, screen-specific chat that often fails to satisfy, as this is a fairly spotty track that lacks a great deal of compelling information.
Altman provides a pretty basic telling of the making of the film but it doesn't include much depth. Mostly he talks about the loose nature of the production and relates how some of the actors got their roles, but he doesn't say much more than that. The commentary suffers from a pretty high number of blank spots as well. For dedicated fans of Nashville, the track merits a listen, but while Altman provides a few good nuggets of information, the commentary seems frustrating much of the time.
New to the Blu-ray, The Making of Nashville runs one hour, 11 minutes and nine seconds. It provides comments from assistant director Alan Rudolph, screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury, Altman’s widow Kathryn, and actors Keith Carradine, Ronee Blakley, Lily Tomlin, Michael Murphy and Allan Nicholls. The show discusses thoughts of Altman and working with him, research and the script, story and characters, cast and performances, audio and cinematography, editing and music, and the movie’s reception.
Expect a high-quality look at Nashville here. The documentary covers a nice array of topics and does so in a concise, informative manner. The show moves briskly and turns into an engaging piece.
Three components appear under Robert Altman Interviews. We find clips from 1975 (26:36), 2000 (12:30) and 2002 (7:50). Note that the 2000 chat appeared on the prior DVD but the other clips are “new” to the Blu-ray. Across these, Altman discusses aspects of the film’s origins and development, the movie’s structure, the cast, thoughts about other filmmakers and his various works, and basic Nashville facts.
Without question, the 1975 interview offers the highest-quality information. Altman remains pretty peppy throughout all three, but he seems most focused in 1975 and gives us the most astute overview of the different topics. All three are worth a look, though.
Behind the Scenes goes for 12 minutes, 33 seconds and offers raw silent footage from the set. We watch the shooting of a couple of different scenes. The absence of audio limits the material’s usefulness, but it’s still a decent glimpse of the production.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a Keith Carradine Demo. It runs 12 minutes, six seconds and shows still photos as we listen to early takes of “I’m Easy”, “It Don’t Worry Me” and “Big City Dreamin’”. It becomes a nice audio bonus.
Like all Criterion releases, Nashville comes with a booklet. Because I rented the Blu-ray, I couldn’t examine the booklet but I wanted to mention its inclusion.
While groundbreaking, Nashville isn’t very well-structured or interesting. I enjoy the movie to a mild degree, but it seems too consumed with the gimmick of juggling 24 characters without enough thought was given to creating a coherent, polished piece of work. The Blu-ray delivers good picture and audio as well as a selection of mostly interesting bonus features. I respect Nashville and like this release, but the movie continues to leave me somewhat cold.