L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

 

Introduction: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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The Women [Blu-ray]

 

(Diane English, 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Picturehouse, Inferno & Double Edge Entertainment

Blu-ray: Warner Home Video

 

Disc:

Region: All

Runtime: 114 min

Chapters:

Size: 25 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case w/ slipcover

Release date: December 23, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1

 

Audio:

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Subtitles:

English

 

Extras:

• The Women: The Legacy (18:46)

• The Women Behind The Women (18:44)

• Additional Scenes

 

 

The Film: 3
It would be so easy to jump on the bandwagon of those who trash this movie, especially in comparison to the MGM's 1939 film version. But I figure: enough is enough, so I shall content myself with a garbage pail with just two broad observations: Somehow, Diane English, Emmy Award winning writer for Murphy Brown (1989), managed to create a movie utterly devoid of edge. Even the MGM movie, hot on the heels of Clare Boothe Luce's popular play (1936), generally described as social satire, rounded and grounded their movie with lots of family warmth, especially between the mother & daughter's Mary. (I still have to close my eyes and ears for the last thirty seconds.)

But English's "updated" version made sure that women had other things on their minds besides men - careers, body image, empowerment, and true girlfriends forever – that the focus became blunted. And that's being kind. We are to believe that Mary – the character (Meg Ryan), whom we like – is so involved with the insult to her pride that her husband has offered her, so hurt by the loss of the dream of family as she considers the possibility of divorce, that she doesn't have a conversation with her daughter about any of this as it affects her child until 90 minutes into the movie! Or that her daughter is more concerned with her weight than the fact that her parents have just separated! I don't think so – not this mother and this daughter. But this kind of carelessness about character is rampant in this movie – until it all comes crashing into my consciousness, which was half asleep until then, when Mary and Sylvia (Annette Bening) have a staged confrontation for my benefit that devolves into a kiss and makeup exchange of lines long ago rejected by Aaron Sorkin. Who are these women!

As for Ms. English, the director – O.K. it was her first effort, but, really, Diane! Focus! Focus! If you decide that you're going to expand a world in which women are occupied only with men to a world where women are occupied with other pursuits, then there's no really good reason to exclude men from the script. It was the very narrow focus of preoccupation with men that – in the play and the 1939 movie - made the device of having no visible men clever, funny and rational. Making bad matters worse, if you deepen your camera's focus to take in an entire downtown street and a department store and everywhere else on location to make sure we see no men, then what you have is a planet with no men instead of women with a preoccupation about men. But if there are no men, really, then who are these women talking about? Who are they hurt by? Who fathers their children (all girls, but the last – and what is that supposed to mean!)?

I shall say no more.


 

 

Image: 5/7
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

The image on this Blu-ray is probably just about what was intended for the theatre: a little saturated with warm tones. Grainy, but no dirt, except as dished, and precious little of that. Sharpness varies, dull and a bit soft: blah and flat – kind of like the movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 6/6
I still can't fathom Warner's unwillingness to use uncompressed audio at all times. It's not just for effects movies, you know. I am usually a big fan of Mark Isham as a film composer, going way back to Never Cry Wolf. But I just don't see what he's doing here.

 

 

 

Operations: 7
There's little to be concerned with. There are few extra features, the menu is straightforward and just as uninteresting.

 

Extras: 3
As for The Women: The Legacy, I was hoping for more about the play, but it got little more than an honorable mention in this 18-minute tribute to Ms. English's tenacity at realizing a dream she's had on the burner (and that's probably the right word for it) for over ten years. The Women Behind the Women is a curious title for what amounts to a nicely produced video blog by a visiting
young woman to the set.

 

 

Bottom line: 3
My advice: Just see the 1939 movie and be done with it. But if you want a good cry, watch the remake afterward and then send Ms. Bening a note of condolence for how Ms. English emasculated her character.

Leonard Norwitz
December 20th, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 





 

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