The Blu-ray Disc
Red Desert is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. At first blush, the presentation here is perhaps a little less visually striking than most of the other fantastic Criterion Blu-rays, although clarity and a nice film-like grain structure are quite nice. Still, it becomes clear that this is a very solid transfer, with color contrast between the monotony of the landscape and colors such as Giuliana’s green jacket or the yellow smoke from the factories looking very strong. The presentation captures the visual aesthetic nicely, and the fantasy interlude, with a pink sand beach and crystal clear water, is absolutely gorgeous. The print does have several instances of fairly significant damage, but overall, it’s been cleaned up very well.
The audio, presented in an uncompressed monaural soundtrack, features typically over-dubbed Italian dialogue, which doesn’t have much oomph, but is plenty clear. The film is often very quiet, resulting in a clean track that is pretty much completely free of hissing. The metallic, droning portion of the score by Vittorio Gelmetti is particularly striking.
Supplements on the disc include an audio commentary ported over from the BFI edition by Italian film scholar David Forgacs as well as archival interviews with Antonioni and Vitti and about 30 minutes of silent dailies from the original production. The highlights of the extras are two short films from Antonioni — early short documentaries with a neorealist flair. "Gente del Po" (1943-1947) looks at the lives of people living in the Po Valley, while "N.U." (1948) examines the tasks of street cleaners in Rome. The disc also includes the theatrical trailer and a booklet with an essay by Mark Le Fanu and an Antonioni interview by Jean-Luc Godard for Cahiers du Cinéma.
The Bottom Line
The beautiful and haunting images of Red Desert stick with you long after the film is over. Highly recommended.