The advent of 4K resolution was considered by some to be the watershed moment for digital film restoration. Short of finding a celluloid screening - which is increasingly hard major cities - such restorations are the closest the audiences have got yet to being able to appreciate classic films in an image quality in the vicinity of a 35mm print. With Panasonic 4K TV sets becoming all the more prevalent in increasingly tantalising home entertainment setups, the possibility of enjoying a great film in visual splendour is all the greater. Fortunately, boutique distributors are servicing the needs of more discerning cinephiles in this regard and here are five gems of world cinema that are prime for enjoyment in 4000 glorious pixels.
Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin is the very definition of a revolutionary film. The narrative concerns a naval mutiny in the failed 1905 revolution but more importantly it's the standout example of the pioneering filmmaker's innovations in film form, most notably the visual dichotomy of montage. This is particularly evident in the famous Odessa Steps scene which puts Eisenstein's five rules of montage to use in creating incredible emotional effect through his landmark visuals.
One of the premier visual comedians of the cinema screen, Jacques Tati's Playtime is the director's crowning glory. However, rather than grandstanding slapstick, this is a film of deeply-rooted absurdism in an immaculately designed satire of a sterilised, right-angled futurec Paris. Tati's signature character, M. Hulot blends into the meticulously orchestrated background in a film that gleans its humour by utilises the space of his mega-construct, 'Tativille'. It's like an epic visual comedy of whispers and almost-pratfalls.
La Dolce Vita
Facile and materialistic life might be according to Federico Fellini's melodramatic satire La Dolce Vita, but doesn't it look beautiful. While its rightful place in the Italian master's canon is perennially up for debate, the brilliance of its crisp and layered monochrome images is surely not. There are POV shots and pans, but it's in the exquisite composition of Fellini and his cinematographer Otello Martelli that has made some of the film's sumptuous moments as iconic an eternal as the city in which they're framed.
There are few animated films quite as striking, or a disquieting, as René Laloux and Roland Topor's Fantastic Planet. Employing Topor's 'articulated cutouts' stop-motion method, they created something that seemed to pull against the trend towards naturalism that dominated the medium otherwise. It serves to add the inherent strangeness of their film which centres on a planet in which humans are minute pests to a giant, blue-skinned humanoid race, the Oms. The narrative is engaging but it's the aesthetic that sticks in the mind.
It's almost impossible to accept that Akira Kurosawa was almost blind during the filming of his last great samurai epic Ran. A spectacular interpretation of Shakespeare's King Lear, it's arguably the director's most undeniably visual work, constructed by close collaborators from description and preparatory storyboards. Even the most internal elements and conflicts are wrought in breathtaking imagery: existential torment transforms into screen-enveloping storms that rage across the plains; betrayal is literally painted on the face of Tatsuya Nakadai's beleaguered warlord.