Posts Tagged ‘Cohen Media Group’

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 105 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio: 5.1 English Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.39:1

Notes: A DVD edition of this title is also available.

In June 1944, the Allied Forces stand on the brink of the greatest invasion in history: D-Day and the landing on the beaches of Normandy, France—the first step in the campaign to free Europe from the tyranny of Nazi Germany.

But even as close to one million Allied soldiers are secretly assembled on the south coast of England preparing to invade Nazi-occupied Europe, Great Britain’s iconic Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Brian Cox) struggles with the decision to embark on the operation. Fearful of repeating, on his disastrous command, the mass slaughter of more than 500,000 soldiers during World War I’s Battle of Gallipoli in 1915, he is terrified that if the D-Day landings fail, he will be remembered as the architect of the war’s greatest carnage.

As D-Day approaches, Churchill—exhausted by years of war, plagued by depression and obsessed with fulfilling historical greatness—finds himself at odds with his fellow Allied military leaders-turned-political opponents: U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower (John Slattery) and British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery (Julian Wadham). Meeting with Churchill in the days preceding the planned invasion, the two grow increasingly frustrated by the fearful and fatigued Churchill’s reluctance to invade and attempts to stop the operation. It is only with the intervention of King George VI that Churchill agrees to move forward with the invasion, with the two discussing the possibility of observing the D-Day landings aboard an operational cruiser.

It is Churchill’s brilliant and unflappable wife Clementine Churchill (Miranda Richardson) who keeps him strong during those dark and possibly dire days. By injecting into her husband ever more confidence, courage, and conviction—and acting as both an emotional blanket and a personal sounding board—‘Clemmie’ halts the exceedingly unwell Winston’s physical and mental collapse, inspiring him to become a true hero of his age and Britain’s most celebrated leader.

The film is directed by Jonathan Teplitzky (The Railway Man, Marcella) from an original screenplay by British historian Alex von Tunzelmann (Medici: Masters of Florence) in her feature debut. The film isn’t a critic’s favorite and has received venomous reviews from those who prefer to measure a film against historical accuracy rather than its dramatic aptitude. Andrew Roberts—a noted Churchill biographer—was especially agitated with the film’s inaccuracies and wrote a diatribe against the film that cited a laundry list of inaccuracies:

“The only problem with the movie—written by the historian Alex von Tunzelmann—is that it gets absolutely everything wrong. Never in the course of movie-making have so many specious errors been made in so long a film by so few writers.

The major error of fact, of course, is that although Churchill did indeed oppose an over-hasty return of Allied forces to north-west France in 1942 and 1943, by the time of D-Day in 1944 he was completely committed to the operation. Indeed in the final briefing for senior officers on 15 May, General John Kennedy noted in his diary how Churchill spoke ‘in a robust and even humorous style, and concluded with a moving expression of his hopes and good wishes. He looked much better than at the last conference, and spoke with great vigor, urging offensive leadership, and stressing the ardor for battle which he believed the men felt.’

In this movie, however, Cox’s Churchill is instead shown shouting at his generals, his wife and secretaries, sweeping food, plates and cutlery off the breakfast table onto the floor, and even praying to God on his knees, all because he wants to stop Operation Overlord but had been overruled by a cabal composed of Generals Dwight Eisenhower, Bernard Montgomery, and Alan Brooke, who despise him. The scene where he prays for bad weather for D-Day (‘Please, please, please let it pour tomorrow. Let the heavens open and a deluge burst forth such as has never been seen in the English Channel. Let the sea churn into peaks and troughs and tidal waves!’) is particularly puerile, considering the hopes that Churchill really had for the success of the operation at the time.

If Ms. von Tunzelmannn had more than a passing understanding of British military-civilian relations or indeed the British constitution she would know that as both prime minister and minister of defense Churchill had the ultimate power over deciding whether Operation Overlord should go ahead, unless this film is attempting to claim that there was a military coup in Britain in 1944. The movie is easily incoherent enough to be claiming that, though without the viewer realizing as much. The anti-American statements von Tunzelmann puts into Churchill’s mouth were also precisely the opposite of his warm views about the special relationship in June 1944.

Brian Cox presents Churchill as a petulant, ill-tempered, sarcastic, unpleasant, decrepit, oafish drunken has-been who was trying to disrupt the war effort and was violently opposed the campaign that was ultimately to liberate Europe, and so, therefore, was totally wrong on almost the single most important military decision of the war. It is a depiction that Dr. Goebbels would have been delighted with, but it flies full in the face of every single account left by those around Churchill at that transcendental time in world history. He is shown shouting at his secretary on 3 June 1944, for example, the very day that his actual secretary wrote in her diary: ‘He looked anxious, but he was amiable.’

In this film, Clementine slaps Churchill in the face and abuses him—even packing her bags with the intention of leaving him—whereas even the most cursory knowledge of their very happy marriage makes that a monstrously unfair and completely untrue depiction. In real life—as opposed to in Ms. von Tunzelmann’s perverse fantasy—on 5 June Clementine wrote her husband a note saying, ‘I feel so much for you at this agonizing moment—so full of suspense.’ Hardly the note of an unsupportive wife contemplating divorce.

In this movie Churchill asks Clementine about their relationship: ‘Is this about the war or is this about you and me?’ and talks about their sex life: ‘I know I haven’t been fully a companion to you. I haven’t made you happy, have I?’ Modern clichés infest the screenplay, most of them cringe-making and profoundly unhistorical. Sadly for such a funny man as Churchill, there is no hint of humor in the entire film, unless you count the absurdity of his remark to Clementine: ‘I would understand if you left me. I’d leave me if I could.’

In this sad and pathetic caricature of the great events of June 1944 we see General Montgomery calling Churchill a ‘bastard’ to his face and accusing him of ‘doubt, dithering, and treachery’; the prime minister isn’t even shown the detailed plans for D-Day until 3 June 1944, whereas in fact, he had known them for months beforehand; Churchill is then depicted as attempting to change the plans at the last minute to include attacks on Bordeaux and in Italy; he is depicted as being sarcastic and dismissive towards Field Marshal Jan Christian Smuts, a man he greatly admired and saying ‘We shall never surrender’ in 1944 (when there was no question of Britain surrendering) rather than in 1940 (when there was).

King George VI (played by James Purefoy) leaves a meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff because the argument was getting too heated; Churchill works lying on his back on the floor, then sits quietly at the rear of meetings that in real life he chaired loquaciously. On at least twenty occasions Churchill is shown lamenting the bloodshed involved in the 1915 Gallipoli amphibious operation, as though the World War II operations of Dakar, Salerno, Anzio and Dieppe—of which I doubt Ms. von Tunzelmann has ever heard—had never taken place.

It doesn’t stop there; Churchill credits General Alexander for taking Rome when in fact he was famously beaten to it by the American General Mark Clark. Eisenhower shouts at Churchill ‘You, sir, must be stopped!’ which would have led to an international incident if it had ever happened. Absolutely not one of these things I’ve listed ever took place. There was a moment when I wondered whether the whole movie wasn’t, in fact, a sophisticated comedy satirizing bad war films, rather than in fact being by far the worst war film I have ever seen.

When bad movies get large things wrong they tend to get the small things wrong too. In this farrago, Cox/Churchill wears white tie and tailcoat in the afternoon; Montgomery is given a field-marshal’s uniform when he was at the time a general; Eisenhower wears British campaign medals; Churchill wears workmen’s overalls rather than his velvet siren-suits; Combined Chiefs of Staff top-secret planning meetings are held in the open air on the lawns of country houses; the great Field Marshal Smuts, prime minister of South Africa and member of the War Cabinet, is presented as little more than a butler; the King salutes the man who opens his car door; Churchill shouts bad-humoredly at an American servicewoman; Montgomery addresses him as ‘Churchill,’ and Churchill says of Montgomery ‘That puffed-up little shit; the men won’t follow him.’

The film is so low-budget that the American Joint Chiefs of Staff are portrayed as not including an airman, and the RAF chief meteorologist Group Captain James Stagg is also asked to take the group photographs of the Chiefs of Staff, as though he wouldn’t have been rather busy doing other things the day before D-Day. Furthermore, Ms. von Tunzelmannn seems to labor under the impression that Churchill listened to battles being broadcast in real time over the radio; that Royal Navy Midshipmen were put ashore in the first wave of attacks on Juno beach and were able to send messages back to their sweethearts that same day saying they loved them; that King George VI flew aeroplanes in the Great War (‘Bloody hell, that was exciting,’ he tells Churchill); that Churchill drank whisky because ‘This is the only thing that brings me peace,’ and most extraordinarily of all that Churchill was against the reinforcing of the Gallipoli expedition in 1915—‘I tried to stop the Gallipoli campaign. God knows I tried’—whereas, in fact, he tried hard to execute it.

The speeches Brian Cox is made to say are cod-Churchillian at best. ‘Hitler is trying to menace us with fire….This is not a war for glory, it is a war for freedom….The most important thing in a war is for people to feel truly united,”’ and so on, and so predictably on.

As a Churchill biographer, I never thought I would be bored by a movie about him, but this one achieved that with its interminable periods of longeur. At one point he puts his hat on a stick and waves it at the waves on a beach. It was meant to be poignant but was only farcical. Even when he drinks a glass of water he is made to say: ‘Oh, how I wish it was scotch. Oh well.’

Ms. von Tunzelmannn has written some good history books, though not about the First or Second World Wars. She also wrote one called “Reel History: The World According to the Movies.” Here she wrote: ‘From ancient Egypt to the Tudors to the Nazis, the film industry has often defined how we think of the past. But how much of what you see on the screen is true? And does it really matter if filmmakers just make it all up?’ She clearly thinks it doesn’t matter, but in fact the power of Hollywood to mould public perception of important moments of the past means that it is a disgrace that the public’s money through Creative Scotland, The National Lottery, and the British Film Institute should have been spent denigrating the greatest of civilization’s heroes in this way.

Of course, all films have to take liberties with the truth, especially low-budget ones with a cast of about a dozen, like this one. But Ms. von Tunzelmann—who once had a column in The Guardian that attacked movies for their historical errors—has twisted the truth about Churchill and D-Day in a truly repulsive way, without ever hinting to the viewer that this is a totally untrue account. Indeed in the opening and closing credits, it attempts to present the drama as factual. It is not; it is fraudulent. The film doesn’t seem to have had a historical consultant. Never has a movie needed one more.

One is prompted to ask why Ms. von Tunzelmann did not just tell the true story about a man and a military operation that was packed with genuine drama, excitement, and courage of such an extraordinary order that it would command universal attention, instead of producing this tripe that can only bring universal derision. When this film states of Churchill at the end: ‘He is often acclaimed as the greatest Briton of all time,’ it seems clear that its makers want the audience’s reaction to be: “But he can’t be great because he got D-Day so badly wrong, the moronic old drunk.” It’s a foul slander, of course, and I suspect they know it.

There is a sense of profound decadence in any society that dishonors its greatest heroes; if this movie is anything but a terrible flop, ours will fully deserve its decline and fall.” –Andrew Roberts (The Churchill Project, May 01 2017)

One can understand why Roberts is angered about the film’s inaccuracies, but his rant seems to villainize its writer much more than is necessary. One doubts if most of the changes were made due to lazy ignorance or poor research. In fact, the film’s publicity materials feature a short essay which was written by Tunselmann about the film’s deviations from what had actually occurred—and this essay (which was written long before Andrew Roberts had even seen the film) addresses several of the inaccuracies mentioned in the Roberts review.

“…I was intrigued by the opportunity to approach him not as the colossus of history, but as a human being. The concept of the film was to look at Churchill’s well-documented yet little-known opposition to D-Day and to use that as a window into his character. As the historian behind The Guardian’s Reel History column, assessing the historical veracity of movies, I was extremely conscious of the compromises and choices that must be made whenever history is brought to the screen. I felt slightly like a gamekeeper turned poacher! I knew we would have to make some changes to the timeline to put Churchill under the pressure he needed to be under to give the film its structure. My priority was to get to the character of a man who acknowledged his lifelong struggle with depression and yet who could inspire a nation; who lived with the guilt of his failures and yet could push through that to victory.

Many historians, including Duncan Anderson, Joseph Persico, and Richard Holmes, have linked Churchill’s fears about D-Day to his traumatic memories of the Gallipoli operation in World War I – something which I, as a New Zealander, and director Jonathan Teplitzky, as an Australian, found particularly striking. In real life, Churchill described his reservations about the invasion of France to Eisenhower in graphic terms: ‘When I think of the beaches of Normandy choked with the flower of American and British youth, and when in my mind’s eye I see the tides running red with their blood, I have my doubts—I have my doubts, Ike, I have my doubts.’ I wanted to focus specifically on this profound concern Churchill had for the men he would send to war; how a leader deals with that responsibility and guilt, especially when in the past it has gone badly wrong.

In real life, Churchill was opposed to D-Day some weeks before it happened in June 1944 but was reconciled to it by the time it occurred. In the film, this timeline has been shortened to increase the tension. For instance, the briefing scene in the film where Churchill objects to the D-Day plans in front of Eisenhower and the king is based extremely loosely on the D-Day briefing of 15 May 1944, which took place at St Paul’s School in London; Montgomery’s angry showdown with Churchill over the D-Day arrangements took place on 19 May at Monty’s headquarters. In the film, the timeline has been telescoped so that these events occur just before the operation itself.

It is true, as in the film that Churchill had the idea very late on of going on the D-Day fleet himself: he wanted to sail to Normandy on HMS Belfast along with the king. The real letter that the king wrote to Churchill on 2 June has been dramatized so that the king comes to Churchill personally and tells him he cannot go. The two early-morning meetings of 4 and 5 June that are featured in the film, are presented more or less as they happened, except in real life Churchill did not attend them. For that reason, he is shown as listening but not speaking at these meetings: a way of bringing out his emotional reaction without interfering with the history too much.

There is some historical evidence that Churchill still felt uneasy about the enormous gamble of D-Day on the very eve of the operation. The night it went off, he said to his wife Clemmie: ‘Do you realize that by the time you wake up in the morning 20,000 men may have been killed?’

The best source I found for the personal difficulties Churchill was going through on the run-up to D-Day were the candid diaries of Lord Alanbrooke—‘Brookie’ in the film. While Alanbrooke was fond of Churchill, he was sharply critical of his behavior in those weeks and months beforehand, commenting on his undue interference, his excessive drinking, and his failing energy levels. Churchill’s secretary in the film, ‘Helen’, is a composite of several real secretaries. Their memoirs show him as a man of mercurial temper: one minute raging at them for not knowing that in his private language ‘klop’ meant ‘hole punch’ (an incident recreated in the film), and the next minute capable of extraordinary tenderness.

And then there is Churchill’s relationship with his wife Clementine. I have used some creative sleight of hand here: the most turbulent period of problems in Churchill’s marriage was between the wars. Clementine is thought to have considered divorce in the 1930s and is rumored to have had an affair. While taking care to avoid that allegation directly, the film does explore the strains that Churchill put on his marriage—and Clemmie, as in real life, is no silent ‘angel in the house’ but a woman of remarkable character—holding strong opinions which were quite independent of her husband’s.

Churchill lived at a time when there was little understanding of mental illness and no medication for it: his self-medication with impressive quantities of alcohol is well documented. For me, the most moving parts of all Churchill’s extensive and revealing writing are about his family and his struggles with mental health. I hope we are now at a stage as a society where we understand better that these struggles are not shameful, and that to explore them is not disrespectful. If anything, the fact Churchill achieved everything he did despite his ‘Black Dog’ only makes him more extraordinary. Though he is a polarizing figure, my hope is that the small snapshot of his character shown in this film intrigues audiences enough to find out more about the real life of this fascinating and complicated man.” -Alex von Tunzelmann (Churchill: The Film and the History)

The debate about how strictly films should follow the real-life events that they are sometimes based upon isn’t new, and one expects these debates to continue as long as films are made. This is certainly a valid issue, but this reviewer has always felt any film that has been “based on a true story” should be judged by the same standards as a work of pure fiction. Does the story work on its own terms? Is it well told? Does it stir the emotions and reveal truths about humanity? Is it entertaining? Does it meet the filmmaker’s supposed intentions? In the case of Churchill, one must admit that the film is a diverting character study that manages to entertain the viewer. It is far from a masterpiece, but it isn’t nearly as terrible as many of the film’s critics have indicated.

One Sheet 2

The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is protected by the standard Blu-ray case with the film’s American one sheet artwork slightly altered and framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. It’s really a rather standard presentation.

The animated menus utilize footage from the film with music from the film’s score.

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The digital cinematography was captured in 2K resolution with a variety of Arri Alexa cameras by David Higgs, and it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to discover that the resulting image is gorgeous. Detail is impressive throughout the film (especially in close to mid-range shots) and colors are representative of the filmmaker’s original intentions. The image is only limited by the original source elements, and the result should please discerning viewers.

Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The sound transfer is equally representative of the film’s original elements. The sound design tends to penetrate Churchill’s subconscious mind in interesting ways. Dialogue is consistently clean and clear, but not particularly dynamic. However, the track makes the most of music, effects, and ambience throughout the film’s duration. It’s a strong but subtle track.

Special Features:

2.5 of 5 Stars

Churchill: Behind the Scenes – (22:38)

This “making of” featurette is surprisingly engaging considering that it is built from standard EPK interviews. The program isn’t especially comprehensive, but it is more informative than one expects. It’s really a nice little addition to the disc.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:22)

The film’s theatrical trailer is also included here. It isn’t especially unique, but it certainly does its job.

One Sheet

Final Words:

Churchill might not be a strictly accurate representation of history, but it works as a character study depicting a man’s internal struggle. Cohen Media Groups Blu-ray release offers an excellent transfer and is the best way to experience the film on home video.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: September 05, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 140 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

2.0 Linear PCM Audio

Alternate Audio: 5.1 English Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.66:1

Original One Sheet

“The thing that marks Maurice as a gay film is that its story has a happy ending. Forster always wanted that. He wrote about it and said that. Most gay stories, at least back then, ended with some very bad thing. In that way, it was maybe ahead of its time. And also, I was lucky with my actors, because they weren’t frightened of it. All three guys were straight, but they kissed lustily, and they weren’t afraid of intimacy. Even today, the physical closeness often puts many actors off. And remember that Maurice came out at a time of great tragedy and unhappiness, at the height of the AIDS epidemic. There was no cure yet, and people were losing their lives, and their family and friends.” -James Ivory (The Village Voice, May 15, 2017)

Set against the stifling conformity of pre-World War I English society, Maurice is a moving story about coming to terms with one’s sexuality and identity in the face of disapproval and misunderstanding. It is based on E.M. Forster’s novel, which was written at the height of his career—although he withheld it from publication until after his death due to England’s obscenity laws.

His book and this film adaptation centers on Maurice Hall (James Wilby) and Clive Durham (Hugh Grant), who find themselves falling in love at Cambridge. In a time when homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment, the two must keep their feelings for one another a complete secret. After a friend is arrested and disgraced for “the unspeakable vice of the Greeks,” Clive abandons his forbidden love and marries a young woman. Maurice, however, struggles with his identity and self-confidence. He even seeks the help of a hypnotist to rid himself of his undeniable urges. But while staying with Clive and his wife, Anne, Maurice is seduced by an affectionate and yearning servant named Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves).

Maurice was originally released in 1987 and was the second of James Ivory’s three acclaimed adaptations of E.M. Forster novels (arriving between A Room With a View and Howards End). It was extremely controversial but managed to win three major awards at the 1987 Venice Film Festival: Best Actor (shared by James Wilby and Hugh Grant), Best Director, and Best Music. Those who are familiar with other “Merchant Ivory Productions” will know precisely what to expect, and can probably use their experiences with their other films to judge whether this particular movie will appeal to them—that is if the subject matter hasn’t already dissuaded them. Needless to say, this isn’t a movie that just anyone can enjoy.

The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray discs are protected by the standard Blu-ray case with the film’s 30th Anniversary Re-release poster artwork framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. It is nice to report that the case is further protected by a slip cover that features the same artwork without the “C” logo framing the artwork. One wishes that the original one sheet artwork could have been utilized as it is more elegant.

The animated menus utilize footage from the film with music from the film’s score.

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Cohen’s new 30th Anniversary Edition of Maurice features a gorgeous new 4K restoration transfer taken from the film’s original 35MM negative. This work was overseen and approved by director James Ivory and cinematographer Pierre Lhomme. The resulting image is pristine and doesn’t show any signs of age. There is a nice and organic layer of film grain throughout the film, though it might be a bit heavy for certain viewers. One can assume that the colorists have rendered the image in a manner that is in keeping with the filmmaker’s original intentions since both the director and cinematographer supervised and approved the transfer. It is really a very attractive image—even if (like most films) there are some slight discrepancies in terms of clarity and fine detail. Some scenes simply look slightly superior to others. Contrast is nicely handled and black levels seem to be well handled for the most part. This is a very nice transfer that beats all previous home video releases in terms of quality.

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Cohen Media Group has included two quality sound mixes. The first option is a 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio mix that was created as part of the film’s restoration at Audio Mechanics (Burbank) from the original 35MM magnetic track held at the George Eastman Museum. The film’s sound design isn’t overwhelmingly dynamic in nature and this surround mix isn’t either, but why would anyone expect a 5.1 mix to be anything other than a good (albeit slightly updated) rendering of the filmmaker’s original intentions? The film’s music certainly benefits from the surround as does the well placed atmospherics. This is especially apparent in exterior sequences. It might not be a showy track, but it supports the film admirably. Dialogue is consistently clean, clear, and well prioritized throughout the duration. The restoration team has done an admirable job at cleaning the track of any anomalies such as pops, crackle, hum, and hiss.

The 2.0 Linear PCM Audio track is also quite solid, but one wonders why Cohen has even bothered with the 5.1 Dolby Digital track when the two lossless choices are more than adequate.

Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Cohen Media Group offers over 2 hours and 44 minutes’ worth of informative supplemental entertainment that is sure to thrill admirers of both this film and James Ivory. It looks as if this release also contains the most robust supplemental package on a home video release.

Deleted Scenes and Alternate Takes (with Commentary by James Ivory) – (SD) – (39:03)

Perhaps the strongest and most illuminating of the bonus material included here is this collection of deleted and alternate scenes. James Ivory even offers some interesting commentary to provide contextual information to sweeten the deal.

A Director’s Perspective – (HD) – (40:08)

It’s always fun to hear filmmakers talking shop, and this conversation between James Ivory and Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) is one of the best supplements included in this package.

The Story of Maurice – (SD) – (30:29)

This is a kind of “making of” featurette that includes interview footage with Kit Hesketh Harvey, James Wilby, and Hugh Grant. It isn’t a comprehensive overview and doesn’t delve that much deeper than the standard publicity piece, but it is still a diverting viewing experience.

Q&A with James Ivory and Pierre Lhomme – (HD) – (22:59)

Nicholas Elliott (US Correspondent for Cahiers du Cinema) moderates this Q&A event held at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF). It is an instructive conversation that should appeal to fans of Maurice and James Ivory.

James Ivory and Pierre Lhomme on the Making of Maurice – (HD) – (15:44)

James Ivory and Pierre Lhomme team up again for this discussion held at Cohen’s New York facility. It is enjoyable but slightly less informative than their Q&A.

Conversation with the Filmmakers – (SD) – (12:51)

James Ivory, Ismael Merchant, and Richard Robbins discuss the film in this archival featurette that is illustrated with footage from the film. It isn’t terribly comprehensive, but it is interesting and worthwhile. This is the only feature on the disc that features Ismael Merchant, so it is nice to have here for this reason alone.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (HD) – (00:27)

The original theatrical trailer is short but sweet and is extremely welcome.

30th Anniversary Re-release Trailer – (HD) – (02:21)

Cohen Media Group’s 30th Anniversary Re-release trailer is also here for good measure and is a nice way to round out the disc. It captures the tone of the film rather gracefully.

Re-release One Sheet

Final Words:

Liberal minded viewers with a fondness for stately costume dramas, Merchant-Ivory Productions, or LGBT subject matter will probably want to pick up this excellent 30th Anniversary Edition of Maurice from the Cohen Media Group.

 

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: August 29, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 01:43:16

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 French DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio: 5.1 French Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 2.39:1

Title

“I discovered Maylis de Kerangal’s novel when it came out in January, 2014. The book immediately captivated me. I couldn’t put it down and was totally shaken by the story it tells. The migration of one heart towards another, beyond the sheer dramatic power inherent in such a circumstance, opens up scientific, poetic and metaphysical perspectives.” -Katell Quillévéré (Press Book)

According the official synopsis, Heal the Living follows three seemingly unrelated stories that carefully weave together.” However, this isn’t a particularly accurate description. This really isn’t that kind of film, because at no point does the viewer wonder how these various characters are connected. Their connection is immediately obvious, and the plot is actually astonishingly simple.

Following a morning of surfing the swelling waves off the port city of Le Havre, France, 17 year-old Simon (Gabin Verdet) and his friends get into a severe car crash, sending Simon into a coma. His estranged parents, Marianne (Emmanuelle Seigner) and Vincent (Kool Shen), are alerted and make their way to the hospital only to learn from the senior surgeon Pierre Révol (Bouli Lanners) that their son, who is entirely hooked up to a life-support system, is brain-dead and has no hope of recovery.

A sensitive medical specialist, Thomas Rémige (Tahar Rahim), approaches Simon’s parents and broaches the delicate subject of donating Simon’s organs to the hospital. At first shocked by the enormity of the request, Marianne and Vincent decide that their son would have wanted to proceed with a life-embracing gesture of this sort and they give their consent.

At the same time in Paris, Claire (Anne Dorval), a fragile former musician and the mother of two loving college-age sons, learns that her disabling heart condition is worsening. Claire has been waiting for an organ transplant that will give her a new lease on life, and via the work of Thomas, her medical needs are matched up with Simon in Le Havre. Following the delicate transportation of the healthy organ by both plane and motorcycle, a dedicated and talented team of medical experts and surgeons conduct an operation to place Simon’s heart in Claire’s body.

The finished product has a lot going for it. There are a number of great performances, a beautiful score by Alexandre Desplat, and incredible cinematography by Tom Harari. The beginning of the film is absolutely breathtaking and is rendered with a kind of restrained poetic grace, but this isn’t maintained throughout the entire length of the film. When all is said and done, the experience doesn’t quite live up to the promise made during those opening moments. It’s a very good film and well worth seeing, but it might have been so much more.

SS01

The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray and DVD discs are protected by the standard Blu-ray case with the film’s American one sheet artwork framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. Inside the case is a small booklet that features a few photographs, chapters, and cast credits.

The animated menus utilize footage from the film with music from the film’s score.

SS02

Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Cohen Media Group’s transfer of the film is simply gorgeous. The film was shot digitally on a Red Epic camera and has an extremely crisp image that showcases an extraordinary amount of fine detail. Depth and clarity are also amazing, and the footage looks wonderful in motion. Color are incredibly vibrant while remaining natural. This is an incredible representation of the film’s original elements.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The .1 DTS-HD Master Audio transfer is also excellent—one might even say that it seems to be a perfectly rendered representation of the source audio. The various elements are well mixed and subtly dynamic (although it isn’t likely to give speaker systems much of a workout). Alexandre Desplat’s music is the star of this track, but effects and dialogue are clear and nicely prioritized.

SS04

Special Features:

1.5 of 5 Stars

Interview with Katell Quillevere – (14:53)

Katell Quillevere discusses the origins of Heal the Living (it was adapted from a novel by Maylis De Kerangal) and some of the central themes. It is interesting to hear her discuss the reasoning behind some of her decisions, but it isn’t quite long enough to be the comprehensive examination of the film that many fans will be hoping for.

SS05 -

Final Words:

These themes have been handled better elsewhere, but Heal the Living is certainly worth watching and this Blu-ray transfer is incredible.

SS06

Blu-ray Cover.png

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: April 11, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 112 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC

Main Audio: 2.0 English Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Notes: Cohen Media Group is also releasing a DVD edition of this film.

Julie Dash

Julie Dash broke through racial and gender boundaries with Daughters of the Dust when she became the first African American woman to have a wide and general theatrical release. Photo courtesy of Cohen Film Collection

Daughters of the Dust is a post‐slavery narrative about cultural memory, notions of home and belonging, and conflicts of Black female identity.” –Julie Dash (25th Anniversary Press Book)

Set at the dawn of the 20th century, Daughters of the Dust focuses on the members of the multigenerational Peazant family in the Sea Islands’ Gullah community. This community is made up of former West African slaves who adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions but they struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while planning to migrate to the mainland. On the eve of their departure, an extended family picnic and ritual farewell departure is arranged and “Nana Peazant” (the clan elder) works to keep the family together and pass on the knowledge of their ancestors as they move ever further from their roots.

There are many kinds of films. Most seem to be the equivalent of a short story, others seem to function more like a novel, and then an extremely small fraction are more like narrative poetry. Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust is undeniably poetic—and her liberal use of symbolism only makes this more evident. Of course, this is the film’s greatest strength—but it is also bound to attract a smaller audience. Some will hate it for the same reason others love it, but it should be seen by everyone once if only to determine which category they fall into.

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The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Cohen’s two Blu-ray discs are protected by the standard Blu-ray case with the 25th Anniversary one-sheet framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. Those who have indulged in some of Cohen’s other Blu-ray releases will know exactly what to expect here.

The menu utilizes footage and music from the film and is both attractive and intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Daughters of the Dust received a loving 2K restoration by Cohen Media Group in conjunction with UCLA which was overseen by Arthur Jafa (whose cinematography made Daughters of the Dust such a rich experience). The resulting transfer was well worth their efforts. There is a fine layer of grain which betrays the film’s celluloid roots without ever becoming unwieldy and the image’s color and contrast is just as natural representing the original intentions. Fine detail often impresses but occasionally looks soft, but this seems to be the result of Jafa’s original cinematography. Fabulous!

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 2.0 Linear PCM Audio mix is a solid representation of the film’s original soundtrack. There aren’t any noticeable issues to report—even if some viewers might possibly find the lack of a more dynamic mix disappointing. The important thing is that this is an accurate rendering of the film’s original intentions without any unfortunate anomalies to mar one’s experience.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

DISC 1:

Audio Commentary with Director Julie Dash and Michelle Materre

This is an engaging and above average commentary track—albeit sometimes a bit dry in tone. The commentary takes the form of an interview at times, but the questions asked and the answers given often reveal worthwhile production information or astute analytical observations. There is some unfortunate overlap with some of the other supplements included here, but those who admire this unusual film will find that it was worth their trouble.

DISC 2:

Interview with Julie Dash – (01:12:08)

Dr. Stephane Dunn (Director of Cinema, Television and Emerging Media Studies at Morehouse College) conducts this in-depth interview with Julie Dash (Director). Dash is articulate and engaging throughout the duration and reveals a wealth of information about the film and its production. This is a truly substantial and significant addition to this already incredible set.

Q & A with Julie Dash and Cheryl Lynn Bruce – (24:51)

Regina Taylor moderates this Q&A session between Julie Dash and Cheryl Lynn Bruce which was held at the Chicago International Film Festival and is another interesting interview session—this time bringing an actor’s perspective to the conversation. (Bruce portrayed Viola Peazant in the film). It makes a nice companion to the other interviews found on the disc.

Interview with Cinematographer Arthur Jafa – (25:23)

Considering that the film’s cinematography is one of the film’s strongest and most important attributes, this interview isn’t merely welcome—it is essential. Jafa reveals instructive information about the film’s production as well as his career. It is the perfect way to round off this excellent collection of interviews.

25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer – (01:35)

It is nice to have this re-release trailer included here, but one wishes that the film’s original marketing materials were included as well (or even instead) of this one.

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Final Words:

Daughters of the Dust is a classic of independent cinema and this new restoration release gives those who haven’t had the chance to see it yet a good excuse to remedy this issue. Meanwhile, those who love it will certainly wish to add it to their collection as it has never looked this good on home video.

Review by: Devon Powell

 

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Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: February 21, 2017

Region: Region A

Length:

Betty – 01:43:45

Torment – 01:42:27

The Swindle – 01:45:44

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 French LPCM Audio

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.66:1

Bitrate:

Betty – 32.00 Mbps

Torment – 34.99 Mbps

The Swindle – 34.99 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released in various DVD editions.

claude-chabrol

There is a certain amount of guilt in every individual…” –Claude Chabrol (The Magical Mystery World of Claude Chabrol, Film Quarterly, April 01, 1979)

Claude Chabrol is without a doubt one of the most prolific auteurs to come from the French New Wave and has been often referred to as “the French Hitchcock” due to his tendency towards thrillers exposing mankind’s innate duality. There is usually a dark side lurking just beneath the surface of even his most likable characters.

One understands this comparison. After all, Le Beau Serge (1958) was inspired by Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943), and Chabrol had written fondly of Hitchcock’s work in Cahiers du Cinéma. However, this label ignores some fundamental differences between Chabrol and Hitchcock. The most obvious (and perhaps the most important) of the differences lies in their approach to similar material.

Hitchcock’s thrillers focus on placing the audiences in the mindset of his various characters, and a subjective presentation always ruled the day. Chabrol, on the other hand, seems to have preferred a more objective approach to his material. The French auteur has even gone on record about this fundamental difference in their approach to cinema.

“I don’t consider Lang and Hitchcock from a thematic point of view. I consider them in terms of style, and in this I’m much closer to Lang than to Hitchcock. Hitchcock tries to convey a story subjectively—everything is based on the subjectivity of the character, while Lang seeks the opposite, to objectify all the time. I try to objectify too. It’s characteristic of Hitchcock— even the titles of his films always bear on his personal psychology: Shadow of a Doubt, Suspicion, Psycho… They all have to do with personal, individual things. In Lang, it’s Human Desire—it’s never individual. Intellectually—in terms of pleasure derived—I was more influenced by Hitchcock than by Lang.” –Claude Chabrol (The Magical Mystery World of Claude Chabrol, Film Quarterly, April 01, 1979)

It is best to experience Chabrol’s work on its own terms and there is much to experience. His career spanned over fifty years leaving over fifty films in its wake. Like all directors, the quality of his work varies but nearly every film has something to offer the viewer. Most scholars consider the films made from 1968-1978 to be the director’s best, but there are some notable titles that stand out that weren’t made during what is often described as his golden era.

These three films from late in Chabrol’s career are good examples of this:

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BETTY (1992)

In one of Chabrol’s darkest dramas, Marie Trintignant gives an astonishing performance as Betty, a woman whose alcohol-soaked life has finally fallen to pieces.  She soon falls under the care of an older woman (Stéphane Audran) with a similar background, but her benefactor’s sympathies may be misplaced. The film was made 12 years after Chabrol’s marriage to Stéphane Audran had ended, and her performance in the film is every bit as good as those she gave in their earlier collaborations.

The film’s loose narrative was the result of a conversation that Chabrol had with Georges Simenon wherein the writer asked Chabrol why film directors rely so much on plots. Simenon theorized that because the director could rely on the mysteries behind a human face, that a plot wasn’t particularly essential. Simenon finished writing “Betty” at around that same time, and Chabrol decided to put his theory to the test with a film adaptation of the novel. The result is a decidedly nihilistic journey into the misspent life of a self-destructive alcoholic who has a tendency to destroy those that have the misfortune of entering her life.

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L’ENFER/TORMENT (1994)

Henri-Georges Clouzot tried hard to bring L’Enfer to the screen in 1964, but the production faced numerous production problems. Actors became sick, locations became unavailable, and Clouzot was finally hospitalized after suffering a heart attack. This served as a death blow to the production, and the film was abandoned after three weeks of hard work.

Chabrol utilized Clouzot’s script to bring his own film to the screen, and the final result explores the point at which jealousy and obsession turn to madness.  François Cluzet plays Paul, a young husband who, along with his beautiful wife (Emmanuelle Béart) runs a country hotel.  Paul soon becomes obsessed with his wife’s flirtations, but is it all in his head? The film’s story is told with amazing economy and spirals rapidly into a state of manic sexual frenzy. The result is classic Chabrol.

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THE SWINDLE (1997)

Rien ne va plus (a.k.a. The Swindle) is decidedly lighter and more humorous than the other two features included in the set, but Chabrol’s fingerprints can be seen and felt in every frame of the film. Betty (Isabelle Huppert) and Victor (Michel Serrault) are a couple of small-time con artists looking for the next big game in this psychological thriller tinged with wry humor.  Into their web stumbles a naïve financial courier (François Cluzet) accompanying what might be their biggest score yet.

None of the three films are likely to be included in anyone’s list of top 5 Chabrol films, but fans of the director should at least agree that they are amongst the better films that the director made during this particular phase of his career.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray discs are protected by the standard Blu-ray case with film related graphics framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. Inside the case is an eight-page booklet that features a few photographs and credits. Those who have indulged in some of Cohen’s other Blu-ray releases will know exactly what to expect here.

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The three menus utilize footage from the films with excerpts from Matthieu Chabrol score. They are each quite attractive and intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

All three of the new 2K restoration transfers are vast improvements over previous home video transfers, and the improvements go far beyond the significant increase in resolution. The high bitrates also allow for considerable depth, and the three films showcase a level of detail and clarity that will astonish fans who suffered through the previous DVD transfers. Colors are also more vivid and seem to reflect Chabrol’s original intention better than those earlier transfers (which often looked washed out). Better yet, there is an increase in information on all four sides of the frame, which suggests that the earlier DVD transfers were heavily cropped.

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Sounds Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

All three of Cohen’s LPCM soundtracks are clean representations of that film’s original mix. The uncompressed nature of these tracks allows all of the elements to breathe. It is admittedly difficult for these ears to judge the clarity of the French dialogue since I am not a native speaker, but there aren’t any noticeable issues. None of the tracks are particularly dynamic, but they represent Chabrol’s original intentions adequately.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

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Disc 1 (Betty)

Re-Release Trailer – (01:34)

This particular disc only offers Cohen Media Group’s restoration trailer for the film. It is a less-than-essential addition that makes one wonder why they couldn’t include the original theatrical trailer instead (or as well).

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Disc 2 (Torment)

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Wade Major and Andy Klein

This scholarly commentary track with Wade Major and Andy Klein is surprisingly informative and covers a wide variety of relevant topics. The information here provides fans with some historical information and insight into the film that should enhance their appreciation of the film.

Re-Release Trailer – (01:24)

Cohen Media Group has again seen fit to include their restoration trailer for Torment, and it again feels like including the film’s original theatrical trailer would have been more instructive.

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Disc 3 (The Swindle)

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Wade Major and Andy Klein

Wade Major and Andy Klein return again to supply viewers with another interesting commentary track that again supplies quite a bit of background information on the production.

Many Forms of Love: Interview with François Cluzet – (42:32)

Kent Jones conducts this incredibly interesting 40-minute interview with François Cluzet. The interview is in French and presented with English subtitles which make the process of absorbing the information a bit more challenging, but those who make the effort will be rewarded as Cluzet’s memories about his work with Chabrol and the director’s filmmaking style is both entertaining and enlightening.

Re-Release Trailer – (02:00)

Here we again get Cohen Media Group’s restoration trailer.

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Final Words:

Three of Claude Chabrol’s late career films have arrived on Blu-ray with solid restoration transfers and it is a revelation to see the films in high definition. This release comes highly recommended!

Review by: Devon Powell

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Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 104 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 French, English, Arabic, Flemish, and Pashto DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio: 5.1 French, English, Arabic, Flemish, and Pashto Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Notes: This title is also available on DVD.

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“The screenwriter Laurent Abitbol was actually the first to tell me about the French country‐western festivals. He gave me a great book of photos by Yann Gross on the country-western communities of the Rhone Valley entitled ‘Horizonville.’ Laurent suggested revisiting the theme from classic westerns like The Serchers in this context.” -Thomas Bidegain (Press Book)

Thomas Bidegain’s Les Cowboys takes a simple story premise into interesting territory as it tells the story of Alain, a central figure of his prairie community in the east of France. When his 16 year-old daughter mysteriously disappears, Alain embarks on a relentless search for his daughter, even though it costs him everything and takes him to some far-off places—dark and unsettling places His sole support is Kid, who sacrifices his youth to accompany his father on this seemingly endless quest. Bidegain utilizes the classic tropes of the western genre to tell this decidedly modern story.

“…When I was a boy I’d watch westerns on television and my older brother would say, ‘Just imagine the Indians are Basques.’ That’s the construct for one of the main ideas of the film; since the members of the French country‐western community take themselves to be cowboys, they imagine the Arabs are Indians. With that in mind, we were able to borrow the narrative codes of the Western. For instance, it was clear to us that once he gets to Charleville, the father is in Comanche territory. Likewise, when he and his son are in Antwerp and silhouettes follow them on the rooftops, it just has to be an Indian ambush. Much later, in Pakistan, the son will smoke a peace pipe with the Taliban. Keeping a well‐defined genre like the Western in mind gave me the framework for my first feature, lighting the way a bit and guiding me in my directorial approach.” -Thomas Bidegain (Press Book)

Considering the content of the film, it shouldn’t surprise readers to discover that the film manages to feel topical while recalling the moody classics that were made generations ago. This is solid cinema that takes the trouble to create complex if understated characters in visual terms. The film has been labeled and marketed as a remake of The Searchers, but this is actually quite misleading. It is a unique and original take on a similar years-long search that asks interesting questions—not about the cultural and political climate of the film’s universe, but the various aspects of humanity contained therein. Personally, I think references that compare the film to John Ford’s classic were unwise. These comparisons have prompted critics to greet the film with trepidation. Many immediately polished their poison pens and attacked the film because Bidegain’s film doesn’t meet with their expectations when they should be congratulating the director for spinning the material into something that feels wholly original.

Having said this, there are long stretches when the film loses momentum and this drive towards the less than satisfying climax is sometimes a bit clunky. This is really too bad, because the stronger elements suggest what might have been. Les Cowboys is certainly worth watching, but a rental would probably suffice for most viewers.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray and DVD discs are protected by the standard Blu-ray case with film related graphics framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. Oddly, the film’s original American one sheet artwork isn’t utilized here as it is in many of Cohen’s other home video releases. Inside the case is a small booklet that features a few photographs, chapters, and cast credits.

The animated menus utilize footage from the film with music from the film’s score.

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Cohen’s 1080P image transfer is as good as one would expect from a Blu-ray release of a contemporary film. Color is consistently accurate and there is really an impressive amount of detail throughout the length of the film. Contrast also seems to be well rendered with rich blacks that don’t seem to crush detail. One might take issue with the way the lenses interpreted the occasional flares (this sometimes caused vertical lines to form), but this is a production anomaly and not an issue with this solid transfer.

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The included DTS-HD Master Audio mix is also solid if not overwhelmingly brilliant. It manages to adequately support the image and absorbs the audience into the soundscape without ever making itself known. There are moments when one strains to clearly hear some of the scenes spoken in English, but it seems unfair to blame the sound mix. It is difficult to determine whether the dialogue is perfectly mixed, because accents sometimes get in one’s way. However, ambience, sound effects, and music are decently placed.

[Note: For some inexplicable reason, the disc’s default is set to the inferior Dolby Digital track.]

Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

The Making of Les Cowboys – (HD) – (34:26)

Fans of the film will be happy to hear that this disc boasts a legitimate “making of” documentary that rises above the usual EPK tripe that is usually included on Blu-rays. While the included cast and crew interviews commentary rarely go beyond vague statements about the characters and story, the bulk of material consists of legitimate fly-on-the-wall “behind the scenes” footage. One can see scenes being rehearsed and shot and eves drop on Bidegain directing his actors.

Theatrical Trailer – (HD) – (02:06)

The film’s American theatrical trailer is also included and features advanced critical praise for the film while showcasing some of the film’s more dynamic imagery.

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Final Words:

This is a nice if imperfect film debut for Thomas Bidegain, and those who wish to indulge will find that this Blu-ray release offers a solid transfer of the film.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: June 28, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 1:32:37

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 Icelandic DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.39:1

Notes: A DVD edition of this film is also available for this title.

Title

“Conflicts between neighbors are very common in the countryside in Iceland.  Personally I know of many instances where people living side by side fall out and still have not spoken a word to each other many decades afterwards.  Often they even forget why they are enemies in the first place.  Icelanders are stubborn and autonomous people, they want to stand on their own two feet and they distrust everything that comes from the outside.  There’s a streak of independent thinking that sometimes goes beyond all logic…

… It’s a very tragic state of affairs when people are living in very isolated places, part of very small communities, but can’t speak to their closest neighbor.  And at the same time I find this situation quite comical.” -Grímur Hákonarson(Press Book)

Dry humor is peppered liberally throughout the length of Rams, and these comedic elements element keep the viewer interested in a story that might have otherwise been to recondite to engage the average viewer. However, it is the dramatic and somewhat suspenseful nature of this unusual story that makes the largest impression on its audience.

The story is really rather simple. In a secluded valley in Iceland, Gummi and Kiddi live side by side, tending to their sheep.  Their ancestral sheep-stock is considered one of the country’s best and the two brothers are repeatedly awarded for their prized rams who carry an ancient lineage.  Although they share the land and a way of life, Gummi and Kiddi have not spoken to each other in four decades.

When a lethal disease called “Scrapie” suddenly infects Kiddi’s sheep, the entire valley comes under threat.  The authorities decide to cull all the animals in the area to contain the outbreak. This is a near death sentence for the farmers, whose sheep are their main source of income, and many abandon their land.

Apparently, Grímur Hákonarson (the film’s writer and director) had first-hand knowledge about the disease that his plot hinges upon.

“Scrapie (BSE) is the most harmful disease the Icelandic countryside has ever had to face.  It’s an incurable virus that attacks the brains and spinal cords of sheep and is highly contagious.  The disease originally spread to Iceland through British sheep that arrived in the late 19th century.  So far it has not been possible to eradicate it completely.  This winter we saw at least three cases of scrapie in Northwest Iceland, so it’s very current and still scares people.  I know farmers who have suffered because of scrapie and I know the mental trauma that results when the entire stock needs to be slaughtered…

… Scrapie infected my niece’s sheep stock and it was a big emotional shock for her and her husband.  I experienced firsthand how this affected them psychologically… I started to think how it would feel for someone who lives alone, and who only has sheep, to be forced to slaughter an entire stock.” -Grímur Hákonarson(Press Book)

None of this should lead anyone to believe that the two brothers are willing to give up their land, their livelihood, and their heritage without a fight. Each brother tries to stave off the disaster in his own fashion: Kiddi by using his rifle and Gummi by using his wits.  As the authorities close in, the brothers will need to come together to save the special breed passed down for generations, and themselves, from extinction.

None of this really hints at the sort of cinematic experience that one can expect from Rams. Hákonarson has a way of lulling his audience into an easy state of amusement. One watches the film without realizing that they are being led down a dark alley… and there are many interesting things down this alley, but some of these things have sharp teeth. I believe that Tom McCarthy (director of Spotlight) said it better: “At first it charmed me and then it snuck up and punched me in the gut emotionally. That doesn’t happen a lot. It really caught me off guard.”

This one is really worth checking out if you haven’t already. It is a nice alternative to all of the comic book films floating around.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected by the standard Blu-ray case with a slightly altered version of the film’s one sheet artwork framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. Inside the case is a small booklet that features a chapter menu and film credits. The pages of this booklet is illustrated with various stills and screenshots from the film.

The animated menus utilize footage from the film with music from the film’s score. They are attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Cohen Media Groups remarkably crisp image transfer showcases an exceptional level of detail with nice color balancing and appropriate contrast levels. Blacks are reasonably rich without seeming to crush detail, and digital anomalies never become a problem. This seems to be a relatively accurate reproduction of the HD source (though this reviewer didn’t have the pleasure of experiencing the film in theatres).

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Sound Quality: 

4 of 5 Stars

Cohen’s 5.1 Icelandic DTS-HD Master Audio mix isn’t particularly dynamic, but it certainly serves the film admirably. The subtle scoring has room to breathe, and dialogue is always clear and appropriately mixed. Meanwhile, the sheep farm ambience is appropriately placed in the mix.

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Wrestling (A Short Film by Grímur Hákonarson)(22:26)

Wrestling is Hákonarson’s second short film. It premiered at the Locarno Film Festival in 2007 and went on to win 25 festival prizes around the world. It is also one of the most successful short films from Iceland. The story concerns two gay wrestlers who carry on a secret relationship with one another but might be facing the end of their affair. One’s enjoyment of this film will probably depend as much upon their personal feelings about the subject matter as any aesthetic tastes.

It is always nice to have a director’s early short efforts included in a Blu-ray package. It is too bad that this doesn’t happen more often.

Interview with Grímur Hákonarson (Director) – (04:44)

This is merely a short promotional piece. Don’t expect a comprehensive look into the making of Rams or even a proper discussion about the film. Instead we are shown an edited compilation of interview clips and footage from the film (most of which was included in the trailer). The information provided is interesting but not particularly enlightening.

Theatrical Trailer – (01:28)

A film’s theatrical trailer is always an essential Blu-ray ingredient, and it is especially interesting to see how Rams was marketed to American audiences.

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Final Words:

This eccentric film should be enjoyable viewing for anyone who loves offbeat cinema, and Cohen Media Group’s Blu-ray release is the perfect way to experience it.

Review by: Devon Powell