The Criterion Collection presents classic films both new and old, often restored or containing a wealth of extra features. Their latest adventure into the classics is “I Know Where I’m Going”, a simply plotted film that still manages to engage the audience through spirited, lovely performances and witty dialogue.
Wendy Hiller stars as Joan Webster, a woman who apparently has always known exactly where she’s going, and figures on her current path leading her to marry a rich gentleman on a Scottish island. Although the destination is clear, the journey there is sprinkled with obstacles, including weather that simply won’t cooperate, as well as the more-than-friendly glances of a naval officer(Roger Livesy).
Director/Writers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (whose “Black Narcissus” was also added to the Criterion Collection on a special edition DVD a couple of weeks before this release) offer a simple plot, but build greatly around it, with characters that are fully written, sympathetic and consistently watchable. The performances from the two leads are showcased by Erwin Hillier’s elegant, beautiful black and white cinematography, nicely presented here as Hillier himself supervised the transfer to DVD.
I won’t ruin the suprises of “I Know Where I’m Going”, as the film takes the viewer to unexpected places, but I will say that I quite enjoyed this little jewel of a movie, with great performances and, with it’s 91 minute running time, hardly a second that drags.
VIDEO: One thing I always enjoy when reviewing Criterion’s releases is finding out where the materials came from for this presentation. For “I Know Where I’m Going”, the booklet offers this information: “I Know Where I’m Going” is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This digital transfer was created from a 35mm preservation print recently manufactured by the British Film Institute from the original nitrate elements”. The back cover also adds a note that this transfer is supervised by cinematographer Erwin Hillier.
As for the results of Criterion’s work, I think they’re quite impressive for a film that’s now 56 years old. The black and white picture was made in 1945, and still looks quite impressive for its age, although it’s not without some noticable wear in spots. Sharpness and detail are actually fairly good, although some scenes here and there seem slightly on the soft side, but that “glamour”-ish softness.
What suprised me was the lack of wear on the print used. There were some scenes and sequences throughout the movie that seemed a bit noticably more worn than others, but at it’s best, the image remained clean and crisp looking, not suffering from such distractions. Pixelation and other such problems never appear, so the only concern remained the occasional instances of mostly minor (for a 56 year old film, at least) and occasionally mild wear. Scenes also appeared variably grainy at times, although never did grain become heavy.
Although not without some problems, I felt that Criterion’s work with “I Know Where I’m Going!” nicely does justice to the 1945 picture, with flaws that were occasionally noticable, but nothing hugely distracting.
SOUND: Mastered from the original optical tracks, the English mono soundtrack isn’t too bad for a picture that’s 56 years of age at this point. It’s almost completely dialogue-driven, and dialogue alone actually didn’t sound too bad – sometimes a little bit harsh and sharp, but generally easily heard and natural. The score didn’t fare quite as well, sounding moderately rougher at times. Still, although not always smooth, I never found “Going”‘s soundtrack to be uncomfortable to listen to.
Commentary: Although this is listed as a commentary in the menu, it’s more accurately discribed on the back cover as an audio essay, read by film historian Ian Christie. It’s generally a very enjoyable commentary, although Christie doesn’t quite have enough information to contribute a commentary without a couple of minor pauses of silence here and there throughout. Still, his commentary does give us a further in-depth analysis of the characters and their actions, as well as the twists of the story. Christie also gives us a good feeling of the history and timeline of the production of the movie, with stories and facts. Although it obviously seems as if he’s reading from a prepared essay, he at leasts energetically reads and keeps interest.
I Know Where I’m Going: Revisited: This is an excellent 1994 documentary by Mark Cousins that offers interviews with those who were involved or influenced by the picture, as well as further details about the film’s production. As a documentary that mainly focuses on reactions to the movie, it does go a little bit slowly at times, but there are moments that do provide informative analysis and appearances by people such as Martin Scorsese(whose editor Thelma Schoonmaker contributes in the supplements elsewhere on this DVD). Also interesting are interviews with those from the area where the movie was filmed as well as documentary footage of the locations in the picture.
Slideshow: This is a collection of production stills for “I Know Where I’m Going”, taken from the collection of director Michael Powell and narrated by his widow, Thelma Schoonmaker (again, who now is Martin Scorsese’s editor). The stills are often beautiful looking, capturing the actors on the stunning locations. These stills are also in impressive condition, looking crisp and detailed with no noticable flaws. Schoonmaker contributes very informative commentary, as well, sharing some strong details and facts about the production of the movie.
Home Movies: This section is again narrated by Thelma Schoonmaker, and presents home movies that were taken by director Powell as he walked through and around the Scottish locations. About 7 minutes worth of footage is offered and again, Schoonmaker’s commentary provides insight into the movie and the career of Powell.
Edge of The World: 15 minutes worth of clips from Powell’s 1937 film are offered, with further commentary by Christie.
Location Photo Essay: “I Know Where I’m Going” fan Nancy Franklin accompanied Mark Cousins to the location of “I Know” for the documentary feature. Here, she provides a narration of the photos that she took during her visit there. These are really some breathtaking photographs of some impressively fantastic scenery. Franklin also provides an informative commentary that talks about what the experience of going to this location of a movie that means so much to her was like.
Also: Criterion’s usual color bars.
Positive: This is a wonderful little film that gets fresh new life on Criterion’s enjoyable DVD package, which includes good presentation quality and some strong supplemental features. Those who are fans of Powell/Pressburger’s film will likely be thrilled with the opportunity to own it on DVD, and should be pleased with Criterion’s offering.
Negative: Criterion’s $39.99 retail price tag for special editions may be a bit restrictive for those who are interested who haven’t seen the film before, but if it can be found at a lower price, “I Know Where I’m Going” is certainly worth a look.
The Film ****
Video 81/B = (324/400 possible points)
Audio: 80/B- = (320/400 possible points)
Extras: 87/B = (261/300 possible points)
Menus: 75/C = (150/200 possible points)
Value: 83/B = (249/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ****
DVD GRADE: B