directed by Gary Burns and Jim Brown
Canada 2006

 

Canadian director Gary Burns (“Waydowntown”) teams up with journalist and co-director Jim Brown to tell a horror story cloaked as a documentary. The boogey man in this case is the creeping terror men call… THE SUBURBS!!!

The film focuses on the Moss family, an all-Canadian nuclear unit (mom, dad, son, and two daughters) that has just relocated from the inner city to a community in the suburbs. Mom, constantly sporting turtleneck sweaters that threaten to swallow her head entirely, works frenetically to make the move work for everyone; dad and the kids are less enthusiastic. Mom is sensitive to every perceived slight on her beloved suburban dream, and tensions mount when dad joins the cast of “Suburb: The Musical.”

The documentary also mixes in several experts (mostly writers and designers) who share their philosophies about the rapid development of suburban sprawl in North America. Burns and Brown feel no compunction to provide a “fair and balanced” view on the issue; the suburbs are not only unsustainable in an increasingly energy-starved world, they also destroy the very fabric of society. You want a second opinion? OK, they’re ugly too!

The documentary features a “twist” that, to me, is so utterly unsurprising I didn’t even realize that it was being kept a secret up to that point. However, I won’t spoil it for you here, which limits how much I can say about the film. Aside from the final twenty minutes, which I found superfluous and fairly pointless, I was quite engaged by this film. Burns is best known for his off-kilter comedies, and he applies his comic tough at the right moments to bring the Moss’s story to life and even to make some of his potentially dry and preachy talking heads a whole lot more interesting.

As a suburban boy myself, I don’t agree with everything the documentary has to say about the supposed horrors of suburbia (living stacked like sardines in overpriced apartments in the city is better?) but the filmmakers state their case forcefully and (usually) eloquently. I’m much more impressed by the ways in which Burns and Brown play with the form of the documentary, marrying several different styles into a unique product. It would be hard to categorize this film into one of the traditional modes of documentary filmmaking: we can call it a poetic/expository/observational/reflexive documentary, or we can just keep things simple and call it something fresh.

 

Christopher Long

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Theatrical Release: May 30, 2007 (USA)

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DVD Review: Koch Lorber - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Christopher Long for the Review!

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Distribution

Koch Lorber

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.74 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Koch Lorber

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• trailer (2:30)

DVD Release Date: Mar 4, 2008

Chapters 12

 

Comments:

The interlaced transfer shows many instances of combing; it’s difficult to get clean captures from any scenes with even the slightest bit of movement which is most of them since the documentary is shot on hand-held cameras. The colors look a bit muted, but it’s hard to tell if that’s from the source material. The image quality is generally acceptable, but this is not an impressive DVD image by any means.

However, it’s not so bad that it should prevent you from checking out this intriguing and unusual documentary. There are no extras offered in this bare bones package, nor are there any subtitles.

 - Christopher Long

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Koch Lorber

Region 1 - NTSC




 

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