Great Sadness

This week, the Paweł Pawlikowski film, Cold War, was released on home video. I missed this in the cinema, even though I found the film’s trailer utterly entrancing.

So I thought I would treat myself to a Blu Ray copy of the film. Earlier in the week I actually saw an advertisement for the film in the paper, letting me know it was out on DVD in Sainsbury’s. That didn’t seem the likeliest home for it, but a good film is a good film.

I could, of course, have ordered the disk from Amazon. But that would take a day to arrive, and I wanted to watch the film that evening. No matter, the walk to an external meeting would route me past the Covent Garden branch of Fopp. I’d pick up a copy there.

Except, I wouldn’t.

I’d popped into that same branch of Fopp a week or so earlier, and had bought a couple of things then. I had wondered whether to commiserate with staff in light of the HMV news. I decided against it, thinking that perhaps the staff would prefer not to be reminded about the potential of them losing their jobs fairly imminently.

When I visited the branch again this week, there was nothing obvious to say that there were any problems. The shelves were full of stock as ever. But looking closer, I couldn’t find a copy Cold War. This surprised me, as in normal circumstances I’m sure that this branch would sell plenty of copies.

I confess that my first thought was that they’d actually sold out. Cold War is on the Best Foreign Language film shortlists for both the BAFTAs and Oscars.

Eventually, having spent a few minutes failing to find a copy, I asked an assistant. He first of all suggested that it had yet to be released, because it had only been in the cinema fairly recently. I replied that I thought not because I’d seen it advertised that week. Then he admitted that they weren’t receiving fresh stock at the moment.

Of course. With the parent company, HMV, in administration, suppliers like Curzon Artificial Eye, are not supplying Fopp or HMV, because of uncertainty about whether they will ever get paid. That’s desperately sad, since Fopp is probably the natural high street home of a release like this.

I left, saddened.

My mind turned to where else in central London I might get a copy? HMV is the obvious alternative, but they will have the same stock issues. Beyond that, there’s basically nowhere.

I looked into the mid-sized Covent Garden Tesco Metro (bigger than an Express; smaller than a retail park branch). The previous year, I’d popped in there to get a blue security tag removed from the Dunkirk Blu Ray I’d bought at another branch. Without that tag removed, you can’t get into the case! However, a year later, and the branch no longer sells any discs – music or video.

In the end, I nipped over Waterloo Bridge to the BFI Shop where I grabbed a copy – making use of my BFI membership card to bring the price lower than that which Amazon charge! But fine though that specialist store is, it’s scary to think than in future, if I want a physical disc, that might be the only place in Central London to go to!

Sure, I could have downloaded or streamed a digital copy of the film, but there are good reasons to prefer physical media. Discs tend to be encoded at a higher quality than many streams offer. There aren’t bit-rate limitations that your internet connection might cause. That’s important if you’re watching on a big TV.

Then there are the extras on the disc. It’s rare that the digital providers offer these. And I’m the kind of person who likes to watch at least some of them. Commentary tracks too!

Finally, of course, there are the vast quantity of titles that just haven’t been released digitally.

I’m hopeful that there’ll be some kind of eleventh hour saving of the HMV group – at least in some semblance. Otherwise I will have to become 100% reliant on Amazon, or use film distribution companies directly.

Cold War is an amazing film by the way. It’s probably the most beautiful film I’ve seen for an awfully long time. Every shot is just stunningly framed, and a visual treat. The performances are excellent and the music is just gorgeous.