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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Changeling [Blu-ray]

 

(Clint Eastwood, 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Malpaso

Blu-ray: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: FREE

Runtime: 142 min

Chapters: 20

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 17, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; English DTS 5.1.

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish & French

 

Extras:

• Partners in Crime: Clint Eastwood & Angelina Jolie (13:33)

• The Common Thread: Angelina Jolie Becomes Christine Collins (4:58)U-Control Picture-in-Picture: behind-the-scenes making-of, cast & crew interviews

• U-Control: Los Angeles: Then and Now

• U-Control: Archives: Images & Documents about the People in the Story

 

 

The Film:

We exist on a savage planet where the rule is kill and be killed. For those of us who live in civilized societies, we need a reminder of this fact from time to time to keep things in perspective. The BBC series, Planet Earth, was one vivid reminder. Clint Eastwood's movie, Changeling, is another.

All human societies develop rules that presume to govern behavior and guarantee a certain level of predictability and, therefore, the illusion of safety. When a serious crime is committed, it is not just the act, but the reason for it that so fascinates us: the sheer wantonness of the crime begs the question of our commitment to the rule of law.

A changeling, as it is described in European folklore, is the very essence of horror: Like the bogeyman's murder spree in Halloween, it is a crime, at once primitive and archaic and apparently without motive – at least not one the victim can grasp. We come home on a day like any other to find that our child is gone and in it's a place, another. It's not meant as a trade, but arrives as an insult to civilization, to our belief that we are safe if we ourselves obey the rules.

 

 


J. Michael Straczynski is very much interested in motive, and Eastwood makes certain that the horror behind the motive is exposed, if not explained. Why would a child go off in the company of a stranger? Why would someone murder children he doesn't even know, secretly and without gain? Why would those we hire, elect and certify to protect and serve conspire to commit crimes against those it is sworn to defend, fully cognizant of its effect? Why would the public say nothing for as long as it does? While the movie centers on the real life experience of one woman, it cannot help but hold up a mirror for society to examine its own culpability.

The Movie: 8
Cast against type, Angelina Jolie plays Christine Collins, a working single mother with a good job. She is respected by her boss who sees in her the possibilities of a career. Christine is maternal and all too understanding of her responsibilities – both to her nine year old son, Walter, and her job, which she can't afford to lose for obvious reasons. Walter, for his part, isn't at all happy about being raised without a father who apparently skipped out on his responsibility when Walter was born. Walter is at an age where he likes to pretend he's tougher than he is and doesn't require looking after even when mom leaves him at home for an unplanned work assignment.

Christine returns later that day, but Walter is nowhere to be found. She checks the neighborhood before calling the police, who put off looking into the matter until the next day, saying that most children turn up on their own, which we suppose they do. (In one of the few missteps in the movie, Christine does not check with the people she told Walter would look in on him while she was at work, leading us to suspect them unnecessarily.)

The Rev. Gustav Briegleb (played by John Malkovich who, despite his being cast in this role, is also not to be suspected) uses the case for his firebrand radio newscasts from the pulpit to lash out at a department that he sees as little more than thugs. Several months after the boy is reported missing, the police locate a boy in another state that matches Walter's description and, in something of a media circus, pawn him off as Walter despite Christine's immediate protestations that this boy is not her son. Jeffrey Donovan, as Police Capt. J. J. Jones, morphs into a conspiratorial murderer himself, as we catch faint traces that he not only knows that this boy is a changeling but that he is not entirely convinced of his role in the matter. It is essential that there be such traces, because it is all the more a horror story if, like many Nazis, he has misgivings. If he is simply a monster, it doesn't really count.

Briegleb enters the fray in some force at this point though he is careful to point out to Mrs. Collins that the police do not take kindly to being called incompetent liars. She resists the impulse even though the evidence that this boy is not her son is manifest. But the police take umbrage anyhow, finding not entirely outrageous rationalizations to explain why Christine might not want to see this boy as Walter. After a time, they begin to cast her as the perpetrator here: an unfit, delusional woman who refuses to accept her responsibility (there's that word again!) and would as soon resume her life as an unencumbered single woman.

As Christine clings to hope, Detective Lester Ybarra (Michael Kelly), in pursuit of a routine investigation at an isolated chicken ranch, comes across evidence of what might be the murder of a number of missing children.

 


 

Image: 8/9
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.

Though strong and well resolved, the image is neither soft nor razor sharp, which is just about as it should be for a movie that looks back to another era where the politics are murky and the consequences, brutal. As expected, there are no visible artifacts or blemishes. The blacks are solid, the contrast appropriate, and the color intentionally somewhat desaturated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/8
This is the fifth movie that Clint Eastwood has scored and he gives it his characteristic understated touch – a fact for which we are grateful in a movie otherwise relentless in its examination of the willful sins inflicted on one's neighbors. The movie is largely dialogue-driven, though surrounds are effectively used for ambiance and the occasional brief moments of disturbing mayhem.
 

Operations: 8
The menu is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays. Arrows tell you which way to direct your remote, and the bonus feature instructions are detailed and intuitive. The chapter menu includes buttons for U-Control in case you want to approach those functions from that point. And, there are the usual number of U-Control opportunities to invite and confuse.

 

 

 

Extras: 6
There may not be much to boast of here, but neither are there any wasted moments. The Blu-ray offers, in addition to BD-Live content, two featurettes and several U-Control items. "Partners in Crime: Clint Eastwood & Angelina Jolie" is a relaxed, if oddly titled look at Eastwood's directorial style, the script's genesis from news and court archives, and the film's production design. "The Common Thread" is a brief segment about how Angelina Jolie was transformed into Christina Collins. Not as EPK as you might anticipate, it considers the dress designs and makeup of the period and how they were adapted for the movie. On U-Control the PIP button appears frequently but not in depth. Los Angeles Then and Now permits us to view the one or the other, and the Archives show fragments of news clippings and police evidence pertinent to the events of 1928-1935.

 

 

Bottom line: 9
Scarcely four months after its theatrical release, and days before the Oscar envelopes are opened to see how its three nominations fared, Clint Eastwood's Changeling appears simultaneously on DVD and Blu-ray. Set in Prohibition Era Los Angeles, coincidentally a time when women had just been given the vote but with precious little power to back it up. As we have come to expect in a Clint Eastwood movie, Changeling is deliberately unflinching in its portrayal of crimes against society. The Blu-ray is superb in all departments. Highly recommended, but do take its R-Rating seriously. This movie is not for children, despite their presence in it.

Leonard Norwitz
January 31st, 2009

 

 

 

 

 


 

 





 

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