H D - S E N S E I

A view on Hi-def DVDs by Gary W. Tooze


Introduction: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 5600 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:
Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)
Harmon Cardon DD/DTS receiver
Ascent (main) + Boston Acoustics (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze







Youth Without Youth [Blu-ray]

(Francis Ford Coppola, 2007)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Sony Pictures

Blu-ray: Sony Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 2:03:47

Chapters: 34

Size: 50GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 13th, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, DUB: French: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English SDH, English, French, none



• Commentary by Director Francis Ford Coppola


Making of...

The Music for Youth Without Youth

Youth Without Youth - The Makeup

Blu-ray trailers



Synopsis: Francis Ford Coppola returns to the realm of his mastery with a new film about growing young. A bolt of lightning strikes Dominic Matei (Tim Roth) so close to death that he begins to age backwards. When he grows from 70 to 40 in a week, he draws the attention of the Nazis and the world. Now he's running for his life with a new love and no hope of knowing his phenomenal fate.


Dominic Matei (Tim Roth), an aging professor of linguistics, survives a cataclysmic event to find his youth miraculously restored. Dominic's physical rejuvenation is matched by a highly evolved intellect, which attracts the attention of Nazi scientists, forcing him into exile. While on the run, he reunites with his lost love, Laura, and works to complete his research into the origins of human language. When his research threatens Laura's well being, Dominic is forced to choose between his life's work and the great love of his life.


The Film:

The years have brought no peace to Francis Ford Coppola, a decade MIA and the victim of his own history. If his early masterpiece, The Godfather, was a remarkable feat of alchemy—transforming Mario Puzo’s tawdry potboiler into an epic meditation on American family—Coppola today leases his seriousness from the highbrow. The source for Youth Without Youth is an excruciatingly obtuse novella by Romanian religious historian Mircea Eliade, about a professor struck by lightning who awakes to find his body 30 years younger. As played by Tim Roth, Dominic Mattei is an obvious stand-in for Coppola himself (though if Dominic’s life’s work—discovering the origin of language—represents the true scope of Coppola’s ambitions, it may be time to return to pinot noir).

Coppola works overtime on mood—opening with beguiling Vertigo-inspired credits, turning his camera upside down and sideways, upstaging his actors with a meticulous set design. Tracing the connections among physician Bruno Ganz, a Nazi dominatrix, a lost love (also a reincarnated Indian noble) and Dominic’s Dostoyevsky-by-way-of-Gollum double is a tantalizing proposition, but it requires more trust than Coppola earns. Increasingly protective of his artistic integrity, the director resembles The Conversation’s Harry Caul—tearing up the walls and playing his music, even if no one is listening.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE




Image: Visually this film on 1080P looks quite marvelous. The striking cinematography seems to pick-up steam as the film progresses. Detail has some moments but is rather conservative / moderate for Blu-ray (although it is consistent throughout the film), but colors look true - never expanding behind their borders of hue and brilliance and contrast is tight - without stooping to crushing black levels. Noise is very minor (I only noted two semi-prominent instances) and overall the image quality is above-average - even for 1080 resolution. Now, it is a modern film and pristinely clean, but the combination of expert framing and outdoorsy vistas, later in the film, reflect a professional presentation worthy of fans of this new format.   









Audio & Music: We are given only given a very adept Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track (and similar French DUB). This is suitable for the mostly dialogue driven film and the levels remain consistent. There is some interesting Românian (eastern Europe anyway) music on viola, Balogh and Kálmán (cymbalom) that reminded me much of Kaufman's The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera’s “unfilmable” novel). It is all very subtle and understated and Coppola never resorts to overusing the soundtrack to elicit emotion. It is supported by  English (CC or stan.), or French subtitles.

NOTE: For the non-English dialogue in the film (and there is a fair amount), my DVD defaulted to showing the non-removable text in French (same font as chosen subs) - could be it uses the last sub option for its standard. It changed to Eng. when I ran the English subtitles for a few moments - then selected 'none' again. 




Extras: Coppola gives a standard commentary giving away some explanations as to onscreen events... and his ideas behind/motivations. I think some would get a lot out of it - especially fans of the director. On top of that are three relatively short featurettes on the Making of... (production details, often behind the scenes, with Coppola), Music, and make-up (extensively utilized - very detailed - in Youth Without Youth). 





Bottom line: I suppose purchase of this might rest on a decision of the film's value. I'll say this - it was extremely interesting and I don't know if it became purposely meandering in the final third but I was still attentive throughout. I don't think I fully understood it but the commentary helped a lot. Some will appreciate the vagueness - drawing conclusion by themselves, and others might dismiss it as confusing. Regardless, I doubt anyone will be disappointed in the film's inventiveness or imaginative directions. Visually, the cinematography is a huge plus.


The Blu-ray itself is quite gorgeous and a fine, upstanding transfer to 1080P. I have no quibbles with the image or audio and the extras (especially the commentary) may be appealing enough to shift the balance towards a purchase. I'll be watching this again at some point - it was quite a unique viewing experience.  

Gary Tooze
May 10th, 2008






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