H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


Elephant [Blu-ray]


(Gus Van Sant, 2003)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: HBO Films

Video: Optimum Home Entertainment



Region: 'B'-locked! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:21:25.630

Disc Size: 17,251,050,392 bytes

Feature Size: 17,105,088,960 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.99 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray (thicker UK) case

Release date: July 20th, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1:33 matted to 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080P - 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 2199 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2199 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit)
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit






• None





Description: Gus Van Sant's drifty, eloquent, and effortlessly poignant ELEPHANT is loosely based on the massacre at Columbine High School. (On April 20, 1999 in Littleton, Colorado two 17-year-old boys fired semi-automatic weapons on their high school classmates, killing 13, injuring 25, and then taking their own lives.) Van Sant's film is set in Portland, Oregon and uses non-actors chosen from an open casting call of high school students. On a crisp, sunny Autumn day, with colourful leaves on the trees and puffy clouds drifting across blue skies, students arrive at school as usual. Eli takes photographs for his portfolio, John manages problems with his alcoholic father, Acadia attends a gay-lesbian meeting, Nate plays a game of tag football, and Michelle works in the library. Meanwhile, two outsiders, Eric and Alex, harbour hatred for their peers. Each of ELEPHANT's students have unique interests and personalities, and the film respectfully emphasises their individuality. It also demonstrates how school is an unpredictable blender where students' differences are constantly agitated. Harris Savides' excellent photography--shot in 1:33 aspect ratio, making the movie a cube in the centre of the screen--follows and floats, sometimes blurring and juxtaposing the light to achieve an ethereal mood; while Leslie Shatz's ambient sound design and a soundtrack of soft Beethoven piano music completes that feeling. The film is structured in brief overlapping chapters all taking place on the morning of the 11:35 A.M. attack.
ELEPHANT won the Palme D'Or and Best Director at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.



The Film:

Gus Van Sant's "Elephant" is a record of a day at a high school like Columbine, on the day of a massacre much like the one that left 13 dead. It offers no explanation for the tragedy, no insights into the psyches of the killers, no theories about teenagers or society or guns or psychopathic behavior. It simply looks at the day as it unfolds, and that is a brave and radical act; it refuses to supply reasons and assign cures, so that we can close the case and move on.

Van Sant seems to believe there are no reasons for Columbine and no remedies to prevent senseless violence from happening again. Many viewers will leave this film as unsatisfied and angry as Variety's Todd McCarthy, who wrote after it won the Golden Palm at Cannes 2003 that it was "pointless at best and irresponsible at worst." I think its responsibility comes precisely in its refusal to provide a point.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE



Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

This transfer is progressive and adheres to the original 1.37 ratio (unlike the Blu-ray of Van Sant's Paranoid Park which was moved to 1.78 - NOTE: The region 1 DVD, reviewed HERE, is indeed in 1.33).  Despite being single-layered with the feature taking up less than 18 Gig - this looks quite good. Colors are bright, detail is strong and the visuals export healthy contrast. Skin tones are not overly warm. Daylight scenes look the most impressive and there is some darker, or questionably lit, sequences that reflect the vérité signature of the film. This Blu-ray looks impressive and has some occasional depth. The MPEG-4 encode has done some viable justice to the film's appearance. Thumbs up on the visual front!
















Audio :

There are two English audio tracks available for the film. A DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 2199 kbps and a competent and serviceable 2.0 channel linear PCM. Both tracks are clean and clear without notable flaws and both report equally adeptly with the 5.1 supporting the centre channel dialogue and frequent classical music to a marginally higher degree. It is really the film's silence that is most haunting and effecting though. The surround is used sparingly but has some decent, and subtle, moments. I had no complaints at all. There are no subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.




Extras :

None - which is unfortunate as the film certainly warrants some discussion. What a shame.



This is easily one of the best films of 2003. This Blu-ray is infinitely superior to the past DVD editions in terms of AV transfer. While I am disappointed at the lack of supplements - we may never see it looking any better and I recommend! 

Gary Tooze

August 17th, 2009






About the Reviewer: 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 7500 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
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze








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