For, Feb. 28, 2014

The Criterion Collection has re-released the 1979 theatrical film "Tess" (PG), adapted from Thomas Hardy's novel "Tess of the d'Urbervilles," and given it a stunning Blu-ray upgrade which only adds to the gorgeously photographed countryside (French landscapes convincingly substituting for English scenery).

The film's lush visual backdrop superbly accentuates the compelling story of the title character, a young peasant (played perfectly by Nastassja Kinski) who is thrust into aristocratic society, but whose fate remains in the hands of men and the social mores of 1890 England.

Her reactions to the situations in which she finds herself, none of her own volition, are what provide the character — and the actress — with a meaty role, and it comes together wonderfully as a cinematic treat.

Still, this is very much a director's film and Roman Polanski was at the peak of his artistic form with this one, arguably his most restrained film. There is sex and violence, but it's all off screen, allowing viewers' imaginations to do the work.

Would that more films, especially today, could realize that cinema is a visual medium blown up to ridiculous proportions, and therefore benefits from subtlety.

Despite its three-hour length, "Tess" is far from dull. Quite the opposite. Few films are as completely entrancing as this one.