Jean-Pierre Jeunet Is Unhappy with the ‘Alien Anthology’… Maybe

When the ‘Alien Anthology‘ box set was released on Blu-ray a few weeks ago, most reviewers (and many fans) pointed out that only the first two movies in the series had been freshly remastered for optimal picture quality. The latter two entries were sourced from older high-def transfers prepared for the last DVD release. Now, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has spoken out about his disappointment with the treatment that his film, ‘Alien Resurrection’, received.

On his official blog, Jeunet writes:

Quand on retravaille les masters numériques, se pose toujours la question de la rénovation. jusqu’où aller pour améliorer l’image, quitte à dépasser la qualité d’origine. Sur Delicatessen, nous avons ‘dégrainé’, c’est-à-dire supprimé la presque totalité du grain sur la majorité des séquences. Il en reste un peu sur quelques plans qui avait été tournés en 400 asa, et qui seraient devenus anormalement soft si on avait poussé plus le dégrainage. Les couleurs sont celles que l’on avait toujours souhaité, et le résultat est, même s’il est imparfait, magnifique par rapport au support de départ.

Quand au Bluray ‘ALIEN ANTHOLOGIE’, la pub dit ‘En Bluray, tout le monde vous entendra crier’. Pour ça, ils ont raison ! Crier de rage ! Contrairement aux infos diffusées deci delà, non, les réalisateurs n’ont pas été concernés par la remasterisation, en tout cas pas moi. Il pararaît que la Fox y a consacré deux ans de travail. Visiblement, les Américains n’ont jamais entendu parler de dégrainage. Ce bluray a, disons, la qualité d’un DVD très moyen.

That’s in French, obviously. Since I speak about 5 words of French, and Jeunet didn’t ask where the bibliothèque is, I’m going to have to rely on a messy Google auto-translation:

When reworking the digital masters, there is always the question of renovation. go far to improve the image, even exceed the original quality. Delicatessen on, we have “finger drop”, that is to say, removed almost all the grain on most sequences. It is a little on some planes had been shot at 400 asa, and who would have become unusually soft if it had grown more dégrainage. The colors are those that we had always wanted, and the result is, even if imperfect, wonderful support from the start.

As for Bluray “ALIEN ANTHOLOGY,” the ad says “In Bluray, everyone will hear you scream.” For that, they’re right! Scream with rage! Contrary to news broadcast deci than not, the filmmakers were not concerned with the remastering, certainly not me. It Pararas that Fox has devoted two years of work. Obviously, Americans have never heard of dégrainage. This has bluray, say, a DVD quality very average.

If any of our readers are fluent in the language, perhaps one of you can clean this up for the rest of us?

[Update: The following is reader EM’s stab at it.]

When one is redoing digital masters, there’s always the question of renovation: how far to go to improve the image, even if it means exceeding the original quality. On Delicatessen, we “degrained,” i.e., removed almost all the grain on most sequences. There still is a little in some shots which had been filmed at 400 ASA and which would have become unusually soft if further degraining had been applied. The colors are what we had always wished for, and the result is – even if imperfect – magnificent when compared with the original material.

As for the ‘ALIEN ANTHOLOGY’ Blu-ray, the ad says, “In Blu-ray, everyone will hear you scream.” On that, they’re right! Scream with rage! Contrary to the information circulated here and there, no, the filmmakers were not involved with the remastering; in any case, I wasn’t. It seems that Fox has devoted two years of work to this. Obviously, the Americans have never heard of degraining. This Blu-ray has, shall we say, the quality of a very mediocre DVD.

It appears that the gist of Jeunet’s complaint is that Fox never consulted him about remastering the movie. He also seems upset that the Blu-ray hasn’t been “degrained” enough. That’s a very troubling phrase that tends to strike the fear of DNR into home theater fans, but I’m not going to jump the gun with outrage until I can read a more accurate translation to see what Jeunet actually said. Also, as we recently learned, directors sometimes throw around inaccurate buzzwords that they think will appeal to a non-techie audience.

I’ve watched all four of the movies in the ‘Alien’ set for my review in ‘Home Theater’ magazine, and it’s clear that the last two aren’t up to the same transfer quality standard as the first two. With that said, I think that ‘Alien Resurrection’ looks decent enough overall, and is a step up over the ‘Alien3’ transfer. The grain levels look fairly appropriate considering the dark and dank photographic style of cinematographer Darius Khondji. I’m sure that it could look sharper, more detailed, and perhaps a little less grainy with a new scan on state-of-the-art equipment, but it’s not terrible by any means.

(Also, at least the movie hasn’t been tinted teal in every scene.)

However, I certainly agree in principle that Fox should have consulted all four directors (assuming David Fincher would take the call) and struck new transfers for all of the movies in the expensive ‘Alien Anthology’ set, not just the first two. That’s a pretty glaring mistake in an otherwise stellar Blu-ray release.


  1. Yeah, my french is rough too, but it sounds like, because of the technology at the time, the film was shot with – and I may be wrong, an iso setting of 400. 🙁 Basically, what it sounds like is that while the film captured the color pallet he wanted, the filmmaking process introduced more grain or noise into the picture than he was happy with, and he would like to have seen it cleaned up some. However, it sounds like he also stated that DNR would have softened up the picture too much.

    Pretty much, it sounds like he just wishes that Fox had of got with him, so he could have fixed a couple of things he was unhappy with.

  2. This doesnt surprise me in the least, FOX always gets something wrong with their Bluray releases anymore, screwing up AVP:Requiem, Predator and now not bothering to even go back and remaster Alien 3 or Resurrection for Bluray…..

    But having watched Alien 3 for the first time in a long time, I thought the Bluray transfer was fantastic and I’m not sure how you decided that it looked worse than the first two, I thought the clarity and detail were the best I’ve seen for this film ever, they did a great job at cleaning it up and I’m not sure how it would have looked better if they did go back and remaster it again as I felt it looked top notch

    • Josh Zyber

      While Alien 3 certainly looks better than the DVD edition, the Blu-ray transfer is very washed out in both contrast and color. It doesn’t look anything like Fincher’s other movies from the time period, or my memories of the theatrical release. It should be contrastier and more vibrant. It’s also clearly an old transfer and is very lacking in detail compared to any of the other movies in the set (even Resurrection).

  3. EM

    If Jeunet is disappointed with “Alien Resurrection”, perhaps he can better appreciate the position of so many who have seen the film, too. 😉

    I’m not much of a translator, but here’s a stab at cleanup:

    “When one is redoing digital masters, there’s always the question of renovation: how far to go to improve the image, even if it means exceeding the original quality. On ‘Delicatessen’, we ‘degrained’, i.e., removed almost all the grain on most sequences. There still is a little in some shots which had been filmed at 400 ASA and which would have become unusually soft if further degraining had been applied. The colors are what we had always wished for, and the result is—even if imperfect—magnificent when compared with the original material.

    ”As for the ‘ALIEN ANTHOLOGY’ Blu-ray, the ad says, ‘In Blu-ray, everyone will hear you scream.’ On that, they’re right! Scream with rage! Contrary to the information circulated here and there, no, the filmmakers were not involved with the remastering; in any case, I wasn’t. It seems that Fox has devoted two years of work to this. Obviously, the Americans have never heard of degraining. This Blu-ray has, shall we say, the quality of a very mediocre DVD.”

    Josh, I’ll bite: où est la bibliothèque ? 😉

    • Josh Zyber

      Thanks, EM. That’s much more coherent than the Google translation.

      I have the Delicatessen Blu-ray sitting here. I really ought to get around to watching it, to see if it’s really been “degrained” as Jeunet claims, or if he’s just exaggerating.

      Ou est le bibliotheque?
      Voila mon passport
      Ah, Gerard Depardieu
      Un baguette, ah ha ha, oh oh oh oh

      I learned all my French from the Conchords. 🙂

      • EM

        The Google translation wasn’t completely horrid—I was pleasantly amazed that at one point the robot even managed to come up with an appropriate English phrase despite Jeunet’s having erroneously replaced a word with its homonym (kind-of like mixing up “your” and “you’re”)—but on the other hand, my mind is still reeling from the “finger drop”. Sacré bleu, what the hell—?!? 🙂

        I didn’t try to convey other instances of faultiness in Jeunet’s prose. In translation, as in digital remastering, there is always the question of renovation. 🙂

  4. EM

    In any case, I’m somewhat amused by Jeunet’s contention that “the Americans” have not heard of degraining. I’m not sure whether he means Americans as a whole, or just the Americans involved with the Blu-ray’s production—certainly, the Americans who have been reading Josh’s blog entries have heard of it. 🙂

    Looking at Jeunet’s blog, I’m excited to see that a Blu-ray of his “la Cité des enfants perdus” (“The City of Lost Children”) is planned, though my excitement is tempered by my concerns about the sorts of remastering issues we’ve been discussing. Wait and see…

  5. I know I am in the minority on this forum (and other forums ran by purists – ahem, HTF), but think I am in the majority of most viewers in America – that is, I am okay with fine grain structures in film, and love the grain that we see in movies such as Wizard of Oz. The problem comes when there is so much grain, it detracts from my joy of watching the movie (the Independance Day Blu-Ray is one that comes to mind). A little DNR for me is okay. A LOT of DNR – to the point that it no longer looks like film, skin turns to wax and details are softened to hell, bug me.

    There is also the issue of noise that gets introduced in the picture when shooting on certain film-stock in very low lighting.

    I am also okay with edge enhancement / sharpening, as long as its not introducing Artifacts and halos into the picture.

    BAD degraining / DNR annoys the crap out of me. Young Frankenstein is a great example. It was shot with heavy grain to try to make it look like an older movie. The DNR was SO badly done that in many areas, grain would get “stuck” on the screen. 🙁

    I guess my point is, if you are going to use DNR on a movie, you can’t just set the settings to auto, go off, and hope you get a decent looking picture. A group of technicians should work together, tweaking it here and there in the movie. DNR stands for Digital Noise REDUCTION, not Digitally Remove every last speck of grain from the film.

    • EM

      I suspect that the typical American (perhaps typical person worldwide) lacks conscious knowledge of the film-grain phenomenon. I expect that film grain is an issue where a little knowledge is dangerous. By that I mean: if such a person is given a minuscule amount of information about the grain concept—in words, without any demonstration—the most common reaction would be that grain is a Bad Thing or at least something that one should be very, very wary of and keep to a strict minimum. However, I would also expect that person to not consciously notice the grain in most presentations of mainstream movies that have it (such as the “Wizard of Oz” example).

      If I am correct about all this, then I further expect that throwing around language like “grain reduction” is probably in general an excellent selling point for Blu-rays—it’ll please the quasi-informed and probably just sail past the utterly uninformed without much ill effect—although it might provoke a lot more concern among many of the persons more deeply steeped in the topic. This might be a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too situation, in that a studio can reap bigger profits by promoting “grain reduction” while actually applying very little: in general the quasi-informed will be pleased by the rhetoric and pleased with the product; the uninformed will be immune to the rhetoric and pleased with the product; and the well-informed minority might be concerned by the rhetoric but will end up pleased with the product if they end up buying it, which they will do whether they are adventurous or whether they just wait for reviews or word-of-mouth that assuages their concerns. Indeed, if it becomes the norm for the studios to promote grain reduction while applying little, likely the well-informed will generally stop paying attention to the claim altogether.

      • Great insight.

        Degraining is probably a great buzz-word. Most people I know mistakenly think that grain is like dirt and noise that should be removed. My pastor was so proud when he got his HDTV (they had only had a little 13 inch tube for years). He bought a Blu-Ray player, borrowed an HDMI cable from me until he could order one from Amazon, and bought his first movie. Two hours later, he is calling me, telling me something is messed up with his player, that the movie “isn’t playing in HD” and had “tons of snow in the picture”, and nothing he could do could fix it.

        I got to his house, and there were a couple of guys there all complaining that something must be wrong. I had him show me the movie he had bought – “Taken”. Turns out, Taken is one of the most grain-heavy films to come out in a while, and this was his “snow” he was refering to. As for his picutre “not being HD”, this was because the movie was showing in its Original Aspect Ratio, and didn’t fill the screen. I tried to explain to him that it was supposed to look like that, tried to explain Film Grain and director’s intent to him, and to explain something about OAR. I finally had to pop in Cars to prove to him there was nothing wrong with his setup. After seeing that, he then asked if he could buy movies that would fill his screen, like he could back when he had DVD, and if there was a feature he could turn on in the player to get rid of the “noise”, or if there was a place he could go to find out if a movie “was dirty” before he bought it. Sigh! Sadly, I think his understanding is how the majority of Americans think HD should be.

        Truth be told, though, while I understand grain, I try to reduce the crap out of it as well when I work with video in the computer, or especially when I scan old photos. I can tell you, it was never mine or my parents intent to have all that grain, dust and scratches visable in our photos. 🙂

        • Josh Zyber

          It really amazes me when people who have been watching movies on DVD for 13 years now get a Blu-ray player, and suddenly it’s “WTF, why doesn’t the picture fill my screen?!”

          While there are certainly a number of DVDs that have been “modified to fill the screen” (a 4:3 screen), by far the vast majority of DVDs respect OAR. I really don’t understand the disconnect where a person can watch a movie letterboxed on DVD and still not get why the Blu-ray of the same movie would also be letterboxed.

          • To be fair, the whole 16:9 thing confuses the hell out of people. They see letterboxing on their old 4:3 television, get a new widescreen TV and it’s still not wide enough. “So what was the point of getting a wider TV?”

            And it’s kind of a bummer that the picture on a fancy new Blu-ray is smaller than that of a TV show or videogame.

            As far as the obsession with filling the screen goes… My parents used to have a 32 inch set that they sat 8-10 feet from. Zoom was necessary :p

          • EM

            I say someone should rotate his camera 45° and make diamond-shaped movies—that’ll really mess with those people!!

          • I think what gets people is that, with 4×3 letterbox, they GET that movies are rectangle, their screen is square. I think the disconnect is “I know have a rectangle screen, I am showing a rectangle movie, why doesn’t it fill my screen”. I was like that when I bought my first HDTV 4 years ago. I was like, WTF!

            Maybe they need to put a warning on Blu-Ray like they used to do with VHS and early DVD – “This movie is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 – which is wider than most HDTVs. The black bars at the top and bottom of your screen is normal”.

          • Josh Zyber

            Yes but, clearly, some of those rectangles are wider than others. Why would someone assume that all of those different rectangles would suddenly become the same as one another?

          • @Josh – because people are uneducated. I can guarentee you that most people don’t notice that the curtain in a particular theater is open up wider for some movies than for others. I certainly didn’t until I started understanding about different aspect ratios and stuff.

          • Exactly. Most folks don’t notice the curtains opening more for certain movies.

            I think this is a combination of two things. People failing to understand technology and companies failing to educate the consumers.

            Take a look at TV ads for example. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Best Buy ad where the HDTVs had black bars on top and bottom.

        • EM

          Indeed, I don’t understand this obsession with filling the entire screen. Do they get mad when reading a book and finding that the last page of a chapter has a lot of blank space? Heck, do they take a razor or pair of scissors to the book to eliminate the margins?!?

          If their TV or player has a magnification option, tell ’em to use that—it’ll likely fill the screen. 🙂

    • Patrick A Crone

      I have always dug the grainy look to Cameron’s Aliens. It gave the film a gritty look that complimented the story. I haven’t seen the Bluray yet, but I’ve been told that the grain is still there.

      • It works for some movies – Aliens being one of them. It adds to the story-telling device. But I PREFER less grain, which I know makes me a minority on the forum. For example, I LOVE what Disney does to their movies – you hardly see the grain at all, but its not done to the effect that it crushes detail or makes skin appear waxy.