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Home arrow Reviews arrow DVDs, Blurays, and Videos arrow The Valley (Obscured by Clouds) (Pink Floyd soundtrack)
The Valley (Obscured by Clouds) (Pink Floyd soundtrack) Print E-mail
Written by Matt   
Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Valley - Obscured By Clouds Blu-ray and DVD packageAt long last, the striking second feature from Barbet Schroeder - The Valley (Obscured by Clouds) - has arrived in the UK on DVD, and, for the first time anywhere, on Blu-ray.

Released by the BFI (British Film Institute) on February 14th, 2011, in a Dual Format Edition package, the movie explores the limits of experience as it journeys into the great unknown accompanied by Pink Floyd's soundtrack.

A cult classic, it relives the hippy ideals in travelogue style. The plot is described thus: "Set in the rainforest of New Guinea, a restless diplomat's wife, played by Bulle Ogier, goes in search of a rare bird's priceless feathers. In the process she meets up with a group of hippies seeking spiritual and sexual enlightenment. Together they are transformed when they encounter the indigenous Mapuga tribesman and the secret 'valley of the gods'."

Putting aside the storyline, a lot of Pink Floyd fans will be buying this for its soundtrack, which features alternate versions of tracks which later appeared on their album, Obscured by Clouds. However, the film itself is worth watching for its very much "of its time" view on life through the eyes of the young and adventurous. Nevertheless, there are scenes which are hard to watch, and scenes which don't date well.

So, how does the new Blu-ray transfer look, and what else does the package include? Read on for our review, and for your chance to win a copy!

Previously unavailable in the UK on DVD, the Dual Format Edition release (a Blu-ray and a DVD disc in the same box) includes a range of special features including three documentary shorts directed by Barbet Schroeder about aspects of the lives of the tribes of Papua New Guinea, and a new director-approved 'optical effect' digitally-restored optional ending. Be warned that the "pork and potato" short is as hard to watch as the related scene in the movie itself, and the other shorts are quite interesting diversions for those interested in the ceremonies held by the tribes.

Elsewhere in the extras are an almost four minute trailer for The Valley, and a three minute More trailer, which looks like it could do with a fair bit of audio and video restoration, but again features the music of Pink Floyd throughout. To round things off, there's also an illustrated 26-page booklet with rare on-set photographs, an essay: "Childhood's End: Pink Floyd's Music for The Valley (Obscured by Clouds)" by Rob Young, and an essay and new director interview by Emilie Bickerton, author of the recently published book A Short History of Cahiers du Cinéma.

The Blu-ray (which is not region-locked and therefore suitable for worldwide use) includes a Director-approved High Definition transfer from the original negative, and upon selecting the play option you get a choice of restored or original ending. Our suggestion is the restored ending which looks a lot more natural, particularly to the 21st century movie watcher.

The film starts off with a slightly different version of the title track from Obscured by Clouds to set the scene as the camera pans over the valley itself. The first thing that struck me on watching this was the vibrancy of the red coloured titles in this high definition master.

The first scene, in a tribal curio store, shows what a decent job has been done with the master. Colour and detail are finely tuned with no obvious sign of any edge enhancement or compression artefacts. There is a fair degree of grain throughout, which would have been present on the original film - there;s a large amount of ambient or natural light used throughout, which keeps it all very atmospheric.

During the initial scene in the curio shop, there's an accident with a feather (don't ask!) which leads to a trip to the local hospital, then a meeting with the hippy group. The obsession with feathers, and the boring, normal day-to-day life of Bulle Ogier's character, leads to her joining the journey to the valley, and enlightenment. From the outset, the dialogue switches between English and French, within scenes and conversations, and thankfully when required, the Blu-ray includes the French subtitles onscreen.

It's early on where one discovers the inspiration for Pink Floyd's alternate titling for their soundtrack album - the area that the protagonists in the movie aim to explore is shown on the map simply as a white space, with the legend "obscured by cloud" hinting at the unexplored and mystic nature of the land.

As their journey progresses, they come across the Papua New Guinean tribesmen and women. Their encounters with them are unintentionally amusing. The tribesmen themselves seem ill at ease, and don't appear to be taking the whole thing seriously. Some of them openly laugh at the things they are doing for the cameras! Some of the footage is pretty authentic though - some well filmed scenes of tribal traditions and dances add to the feeling that you are actually watching a National Geographic programme. One word of warning though - as with one of the included shorts on the package, there is a very unpleasant scene with pigs being slaughtered for a tribal feast.

Elsewhere, the scenes covering the communal lifestyle are for once, approached in a more realistic way than often portrayed. The film itself feels pretty drawn out, with little action getting in the way of the photography and concepts being covered.

As mentioned earlier, the main draw for Floyd fans is the music. Many will already be familiar with the soundtrack album, but anyone expecting another album's worth of material in this 105 minute film will be disappointed. Apart from the titles, you get only snippets of songs, some in the background, some on the car radio, although some of these are different versions to those on the record. So, very interesting, but not as much as you might hope to hear.

It's clear to see why this film is so respected, and why it quickly became a cult classic. Certainly a different movie, it's one that is well worth viewing although it is one that undoubtably divides opinion on its worth. A great job has been done on the audio and video side of things, making this an upgrade worth making for those who may already own earlier DVD editions which suffer from using a poor master. Those able to play the Blu-ray edition will enjoy the richly detailed and vibrant picture, a major step-up from the DVD.

ORDERING DETAILS
You can order the package now from the following, saving up to 35% off the recommended retail price: Amazon.co.uk, Play.com, and Zavvi.com. You can also order it directly from www.bfi.org.uk/filmstore.

COMPETITION

With thanks to the BFI, we have one copy of this dual DVD/Blu-ray (which isn't region coded, so will work worldwide) to give away to a lucky Brain Damage visitor. To be in with a chance of winning, simply tell us:

  • When was the soundtrack album released?
  • Which album were Pink Floyd recording, which was interrupted to do this soundtrack in a fairly hectic two-week period?

This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it with your answers to reach us by 11:59pm on February 14th - the release date. One entry per household please, and good luck!

 
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