Criterion’s two-disc edition of Pandora’s Box, which streets today, is one of most important DVD releases 0f 2006 and possibly the most luxuriant treatment ever afforded a silent picture in home video history.
As can be expected from a film nearly 80 years old, the restoration of Pandora’s Box still reveals its age, with scratches and some damage; it appears that more than one source was used for elements. Much of the film exhibits fine detail and wonderful gray scale, with some blasting out of the whites in early scenes. But the transfer is exquisite in any case. How long have we waited to see this film, the most ecstatically tragic of them all, blossom once again? It’s finally here.
One of the most exciting aspects of the set is Criterion’s inclusion of four different scores with which you may accompany the film. These range from Gillian Anderson’s full orchestral score, which stitches together light classical and popular tunes of the time, to an improvisatory piano underscoring, to another full, more modern, orchestral score, and finally to a “cabaret” accompaniment that attempts the sound of a Wiemar-era pit band. Gratefully, there are no synthesizers in sight. With this range of high quality choices, Criterion acknowledges the importance of music to silent film. Each selected score colors the Pabst masterpiece differently.
The extras go as deep as any granted a Kurosawa title. With the package’s 90 page booklet, a documentary on Brooks, a 45 minute interview with Louise herself (shortly before her death), and commentary, you could hold your own Brooksie Seminar. The booklet itself is a real glory, containing a new essay by J. Hoberman, Kenneth Tynan’s 1979 New Yorker article about Brooks, and the legendary Sight & Sound piece on Pabst that Brooks wrote herself. Tynan’s urbane but penetrating observations of the aged, infirm Brooks aside, the best writer proves to be Louise. Brooks’ article, written with icy control, is unforgettable in its authentic remembrances and depth of rueful wisdom.
Buy this set immediately. For a future issue of Bright Lights, I’m already gathering my thoughts in advance of writing an extended piece on Pabst’s film and Criterion’s joyous release.