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Mister Johnson – The Criterion Collection #774 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 19, 2015 by  



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While director Bruce Beresford will be known for directing “Driving Miss Daisy”, his film “Mister Johnson” has a subtle message that has relevancy in today’s world for major countries and their involvement in trying to modernize and civilize developing countries.  And because of that, “Mister Johnson” is no doubt Beresford’s most powerful film in his oeuvre and a film that I highly recommend.

Image courtesy of © 1990 Mister Johnson Enterprises Inc. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Mister Johnson – The Criterion Collection #774

YEAR OF FILM: 1990

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English Stereo, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: September 22, 2015


Directed by Bruce Beresford

Based on the Novel by Joyce Cary

Written by William Boyd

Produced by Michael Fitzgerald

Executive Producer: Bill Benenson

Associate Producer: Eva Monley

Co-Producer: Penelope Glass

Music by Georges Delerue

Cinematography by Peter James

Edited by Humphrey Dixon

Casting by Susie Bruffin

Production Design byHerbert Pinter

Set Decoration by Graham Sumner

Costume Design by Rosemary Burrows


Starring:

Maynard Eziashi as Mister Johnson

Pierce Brosnan as Harry Rudbeck

Edward Woodward as Sargy Gollup

Beatie Edney as Celia Rudbeck

Denis Quilley as Bulteen

Nick Reding as Tring

Bella Enaharo as Bamu

Femi Fatoba as Waziri

Q as Benjamin

Hubert Ogunde as Brimah


A decade after he broke through with Breaker Morant, Australian director Bruce Beresford made another acclaimed film about the effects of colonialism on the individual. In a performance that earned him the Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear for best actor, Maynard Eziashi (Bopha!) plays the title character, a Nigerian villager eager to work as a civil servant for the British authorities, including a sympathetic district officer (GoldenEye’s Pierce Brosnan), in the hopes that it will benefit him in the future. Instead, his ambition leads to his tragic downfall. Mister Johnson, based on a 1939 novel by Joyce Cary, is a graceful, heartfelt drama about the limits of idealism, affectingly acted and handsomely shot.


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Back in 1990, from Director Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy”, “Double Jeopardy”, “Breaker Morant”) came a film adaptation of Joyce Cary’s 1939 novel, “Mister Johnson”.

The film would star Maynard Eziashi (“The Contract”, “Ace Ventura: When Natura Calls”), Pierce Brosnan (“GoldenEye”, “Tomorrow Never Dies”, “Die Another Day”), Edward Woodward (“The Equalizer”, “The Wicker Man”, “Breaker Moran”), Beatie Edney (“Highlander”, “In the Name of the Father”, “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”), Bella Enaharo (“Pie in the Sky”, “The Secret Laughter of Women”), Denis Quiley (“Murder on the Orient Express”, “Evil Under the Sun”) and Nick Reding (“Bood Diamond”, “The Constant Gardener”).

The film received positive reviews and earned Maynard Eziashi a “Silver Bear for Best Actor” at the 41st Berlin International Film Festival.

And now “Mister Johnson” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“Mister Johnson” is set in Nigeria and focuses on an African civil servant named Mister Johnson (portrayed by Maynard Eziashi).

Mister Johnson works in the office of the British district administrator, Harry Rudbeck (portrayed by Pierce Brosnan).

Mister Johnson tries to do his best to adopt the British culture and unlike his fellow Nigerians, he wears a white tropical suit and looks at the British culture as his own, and blind to the plight of his fellow countrymen.  Not knowing that the laws set by the British protect the British, not Nigerians like his countrymen or himself.

But while Mister Johnson sees himself like a Brit, he is also a man in debt.  He owes villagers and recently marrying Bamu (portrayed by Bella Enaharo), he must pay a monthly marriage bride fee.  Since he has no money, she is taken back to the village by the elders.

Meanwhile, Harry dreams of seeing a road (for a 100 miles) built from the wilderness to their outpost and directly to the capital.  But to do so, it will take some capital.  Mister Johnson looks at the positive of building a road because it would civilize his people.

But through the process of building a road and seeing himself as one of the British, Mister Johnson will learn lessons that will make him understand that no matter what suit he wears, no matter if he has a job with the British, he will never be like them.


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VIDEO:

“Mister Johnson – The Criterion Collection #774” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks fantastic in HD. Details of closeups are amazing, shot outdoors, the colors via natural light are vibrant. There are no signs of DNR or any issues at all, “Mister Johnson” looks magnificent on Blu-ray! I didn’t see any signs of artifacts or banding issues, this is a 4K scan that looks amazing!

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative at Deluxe London. The color grading was supervised by director Bruce Beresford. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, flicker, and jitter.ording to the Criterion Collection, “This film was shot with an ARRI ALEXA digital camera, and the entire production was completed in a fully digital workflow. Supervised by director of photography Alain Marcoen and approved by directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the final color-corrected DPX files were output to Rec. 709 high-definition color space for Blu-ray and DVD.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Mister Johnson – The Criterion Collection #774”. The film is presented in English LPCM 2.0.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original stereo soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from teh 12-track 35 mm magnetic tracks.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 4.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mister Johnson – The Criterion Collection #774” comes with the following special features:

  • Bruce Beresford – (15:32) A 2015 interview conducted by the Criterion Collection with director Bruce Beresford.
  • Michael Fitzgerald – (11:11) An interview conducted by the Criterion Collection with producer Michael Fitzgerald, who was inspired by the original novel.
  • Maynard Eziashi – (12:10) A 2015 interview conducted by the Criterion Collection with actor Maynard Eziashi.
  • Pierce Brosnan – (8:59) A 2015 interview conducted by the Criterion Collection with actor Pierce Brosnan.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Mister Johnson”.

EXTRAS:

“Mister Johnson – The Criterion Collection #774” comes with a five-page fold-out insert with the essay “Off the Beaten Track” by Neil Sinyard.


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Having watched “Mister Johnson” multiple times, watching it makes me think about how international presence in another country, stripping away a country’s way of life to enforce our own lifestyle or as others hope, to civilize or modernize a country, is it even worth it?

While many would say yes, each time I watch “Mister Johnson”, it’s no doubt a film that I find thought-provoking and relevant even today.

Mister Johnson is a character, in my opinion, reflects a lot of people who are tired of one’s culture and begins to appreciate or even start to incorporate another country’s culture to their own.

Mister Johnson likes to wear a tropical suit in the middle of the heat, unlike his countrymen.  He begins to look down on them and starts to see himself like the British, as if he is among their elite.

But when you live within that facade, being stripped away from all the ego and false beliefs, what are you left with?

It’s quite interesting because I see it today. Friends and associates who would like to think they are British, French, Italian, German, Japanese, etc. and forgotten about their own culture and where they came from.  Some who learn the hard way by moving to that country and learning that no matter if you speak like them, try to incorporate their culture to your own, in the eyes of the government of that country, you’re still a person from a different country.

With “Mister Johnson”, he still lives in his own country but tries his best to think he is among the British, his way of living is of British-style and his treatment to his own people, are reflective of how the British have treated his own people.  But strip that from him and what does he become?

“Mister Johnson” is no doubt a tragic tale but a film that must be viewed for its overall message.  People who are forced to change their culture, a culture practice for centuries but must change for the sake of modernism and to force another country’s people to become civilized.  This is where I feel that director Bruce Beresford has done a wonderful job in trying to capture in the film.

Actor Maynard Eziashi does a wonderful job as Mister Johnson and seeing a man so intent of being British, but a man who also has made bad decisions that will no doubt come to haunt him.

Pierce Brosnan also does a good job of playing the boss of Mister Johnson.  While a man that is looked as a father figure for Maynard, there is also a sense of sadness because Brosnan’s character, Harry Rudbeck, has impact on Mister Johnson.  But Rudbeck makes a final decision that he, no doubt, will probably have to face.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality for this remastered film looks amazing on Blu-ray.  Details closeup are magnificent, natural lighting and also overall scenery are breathtaking or just well-captured by cinematographer Peter James.  The lossless soundtrack is stereo, but the dialogue and music are crystal clear.  As for special features, you get 2015 interviews with director Bruce Beresford, producer Michael Fitzgerald and interviews with actors Maynard Eziashi and Pierce Brosnan.

While director Bruce Beresford will be known for directing “Driving Miss Daisy”, his film “Mister Johnson” has a subtle message that has relevancy in today’s world for major countries and their involvement in trying to modernize and civilize developing countries.  And because of that, “Mister Johnson” is no doubt Beresford’s most powerful film in his oeuvre and a film that I highly recommend.






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