My Brilliant Career Blu-ray Review
Criterion UK have released My Brilliant Career on Blu-ray, spine number 973. The film has always ha d a U certificate in the UK since its original cinema release, though some mild language (a “bloody” and a “bugger”) might raise it to a PG if it were resubmitted to the BBFC today. The package carries a 12 certificate due to references to abortion in the short film One Hundred a Day.
The Blu-ray transfer is in the correct ratio of 1.85:1 (confirmed by Armstrong in her commentary) and is derived from the National Film and Sound Archive’s 4K restoration from the original camera negative. Given that I hadn’t seen the film in a cinema before (only on television and on DVD), this is the best I’ve seen the film look, with the flaws of previous discs eliminated, colours strong and grain natural and filmlike.
The soundtrack is the original mono, rendered as LPCM 1.0 and it’s clear with dialogue, sound effects and the music score well balanced. English subtitles for the hard of hearing are available.
The extras begin with a commentary by Gillian Armstrong, carried forward from previous DVD editions. This is brisk and does impart a lot of information along the way. Armstrong points out a link with another title in her filmography, in that Miles Franklin – a teenager when she wrote the novel – was most likely influenced by a well-known novel often read in childhood, namely Little Women. Armstrong made a fine film version of that novel in 1994.
There are two new interviews on this disc. The first is with Gillian Armstrong (25:02) which inevitably duplicates a lot of material from the commentary. The second is with Luciana Arrighi (13:42) who talks about the often-undersung work of the production designer, often in collaboration with the costume designer and the cinematographer, both of whom she has plenty of praise for. She also has praise for Armstrong, who hired her again in Mrs. Soffel and Oscar and Lucinda. Meanwhile, Arrighi won an Oscar for Howards End.
From the archives is another interview, this time with Judy Davis (24:31). This was part of the French television series Ciné Regards, broadcast on 10 April 1980. Catherine Laporte-Coolen visits Davis at home and they have lunch and talk (in English – there are French subtitles in yellow). This is more a personal conversation, with Laporte-Coolen beginning by saying that Davis has a striking face. It’s less of a career interview as Davis, then two weeks from her twenty-fifth birthday, had only had two feature films released. She says she was happy to stay in Australia and had no plans to move to Hollywood, though within a couple of years she was making films internationally.
Next up is One Hundred a Day (8:22), a short film made by Armstrong at AFTRS in 1973. Shot in black and white 16mm, it centres on factory worker Leilia (Rosalie Fletcher) who has found out that she is pregnant, and how her co workers help her out. Finally on the disc is the trailer for My Brilliant Career (2:59).
Also included is a fold-out leaflet which includes an essay, “Unapologetic Women” by Carrie Rickey, who first saw the film in New York on its original release in 1980. As well as discussing the film’s history, she discusses its themes and those of the novel, such as its undoing of the common literary ending-device, the “marriage plot”.