H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


Gomorrah aka Gomorra [Blu-ray]


(Matteo Garrone, 2008)


Optimum vs. Criterion





Review by Gary Tooze



Production: Fandango

Video: Optimum Home Entertainment vs. Criterion Collection - Spine # 493



Optimum is Region: "B"-locked

Criterion is Region 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)


Runtime: 2:16:34.083  / 2:27:24.235

Disc Size: 46,982,808,968 bytes vs. 48,169,901,374 bytes

Feature Size: 34,665,173,568 bytes vs. 26,965,432,320 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.64 Mbps vs. 20.98 Mbps

Chapters: 10 / 23

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / thick transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: February 9th, 2009 / November 24th, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio Italian 2464 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2464 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

DTS-HD Master Audio Italian 3761 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3761 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)


Subtitles (both):

English, none



• Gomorrah – Five Stories (1:00:03 in SD)
Seven Deleted Scenes (13:27)
Interview with Roberto Saviano (41:20)
Interviews with Servillo, Cantalupo and Imparato (10:07)
Trailer (2:02)

• Five Stories, a 60-minute documentary on the making of Gomorrah (1:02:32 in HD!)
• New video interviews with Garrone (22:37 in HD!) and actor Toni Servillo (13:54 in HD!)
• Interview with writer Roberto Saviano
(43:00 in HD!)
• Short video piece featuring Servillo and actors Gianfelice Imparato and Salvatore Cantalupo (10:14 in HD!)
• Six Deleted scenes
(12:13 in HD!)
• Theatrical trailer (2:28 in HD!)
• 18-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Chuck Stephens










Description: Matteo Garrone's GOMORRAH is a dense, sprawling expose of the corruption plaguing the communities of Naples and Caserta in modern-day Italy. The all-powerful Camorra syndicate influences the lives of even the most innocent citizens. In a manner similar to THE WIRE, Garrone tells his story from many different angles, resulting in a complex narrative that often feels novelistic. In many cases, the revolving stories never overlap or intersect. While that may be jarring to those viewers who are used to having their strings tied neatly for them by a film's conclusion, Garrone's decision results in an experience that feels much more honest and true. We witness the syndicate's impact from the top down and from the inside out, following a cavalcade of characters who are all trying in their own ways to escape the deadly world in which they live.

Based on the book by Roberto Saviano, Garrone's crime epic is a powerful indictment of the corruption that is running rampant in Italy. His decision to present such a wide spectrum of characters enables him to show just how deeply everyone is impacted by this terrifying, unchecked display of criminal power. Cinematically, he employs a dizzying array of styles in order to further establish the frighteningly ungoverned atmosphere that pervades this community. GOMORRAH succeeds as both visceral entertainment and thoughtful social commentary.



The Film:

The film is a curative for the romanticism of "The Godfather" and "Scarface." The characters are the foot soldiers of the Camorra, the crime syndicate based in Naples that is larger than the Mafia but less known. Its revenues in one year are said to be as much as $250 billion -- five times as much as Bernard Madoff took years to steal. The final shot suggests that the Camorra is invested in the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. The film is based on fact, not fiction.

"Gomorrah," which won the grand prize at Cannes 2008 and the European Film Award, is an enormous hit in Europe. It sold 500,000 tickets in France, which at $10 a pop makes it a blockbuster. There was astonishment that the Academy Awards passed it over for foreign film consideration. I'm not so surprised. The academy more often goes for films that look good and provide people we can care about. "Gomorrah" looks grimy and sullen, and has no heroes, only victims.

That is its power. Here is a film about the day laborers of crime. Somewhere above them are the creatures of the $250 billion, so rich, so grand, so distant, with no apparent connection to crime. No doubt New York and federal officials sat down to cordial meals with Camorra members while deciding the World Trade contracts, and were none the wiser.

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.

The image looks fairly thick on the Optimum 1080P transfer and there is some nice film grain visible. From this standpoint it has a realistic look to it - as, I assume, the film intended. Detail on the Blu-ray has strong moments but is never pristinely sharp or glossy. My only complaints about the image would be the colors tend to look a bit over-brightened and artificial at times and the visuals always seemed a bit frail - but, again, this may have been the theatrical appearance. Suitably, it's a gritty 'natural' look and I have nothing to suggest the representation of the 35 Gig feature housed on this dual-layered Blu-ray is anything but accurate. Skin tones seem true - perhaps slightly warm. Daylight scenes are more impressive and there is no intense noise to distract from the darker, lower-lit moments. In the end, this image transfer gives an excellent viewing for the, sometimes intense, film experience.

I don't notice many significant differences - both transfers are excellent. The Criterion may be marginally brighter, a bit more dimensional and, despite it's smaller feature size and lower video bitrate, could be a tad sharper in spots. It is also less green than the Optimum. On the vast majority of systems these differences will be totally negligible. The Criterion starts with 'Martin Scorsese Presents' which I don't recall seeing on the Optimum. Criterion has the verification of stating that their 'transfer is supervised and approved by director Matteo Garrone and director of photography Marco Onorato'. If I was to choose I would go with the Criterion.




Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM




Audio :

The only track available is a DTS-HD 5.1 in Italian at 2464 kbps. I didn't get much from the surround option - even with the heavy gunplay - and it seems most of the action was coming predominantly from the front speakers. I wouldn't say this is a bad thing although some anticipating a more dynamic mix may be disappointed. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu tells me this is a region 'B'-locked Blu-ray.

Similarly the only track available on the Criterion is a DTS-HD 5.1 in Italian - but at, a higher, 3761 kbps. Technically it is a bit more robust but I, honestly couldn't say I noticed. The Criterion may have been better separated but again, I don't know who would be able to differentiate. There seemed to be more subtleties in the mix but I don't know how reliable my opinion on this is. Suffice to say the Criterion surpasses the Optimum - if only a strictly technical, if not also practical, basis. The Criterion also has removable English subtitles and is region 'A'-locked. 



Extras :

Appearing kind of slapped on the disc are some decent extras. Gomorrah – Five Stories runs over an hour in SD and is a behind the scenes look at the making of 5 segmented stories in the film. There are 7 deleted scenes running just under 15-minutes and a lengthy interview with writer Roberto Saviano (40-minutes) as well as a piece with cast members interviews of Servillo, Cantalupo and Imparato for 10-minutes. Finally we have a trailer for Gomorrah. Extras are subtitled in English (see samples directly below).

Criterion makes a more definitive case for vaulting ahead here with all the same supplements as the Optimum (see above paragraph) but they are all in HD! We may actually lose one deleted scene if I counted right in the my Optimum review back in June - BUT we gain new video interviews with Garrone and actor Toni Servillo (over 36-minutes worth) and Criterion have included an 18-page liner notes booklet with color photos and featuring an essay by critic Chuck Stephens.



Well, it's a joyless, but thoroughly impressive, gangster flick. The embers of Mafioso crime still glow with dangerous intensity in its home country.  The Blu-ray, in my opinion, does a great job of exporting the film's harrowing essence. Gomorrah has some real value explicitly avoiding any hint at sentimentality or character redemption. It gave me a very memorable night in my home theater. I, certainly do, recommend!

As the number of region-free'ers via Blu-ray is limited - the recommendation becomes a moot-point. But if anyone were doubting that Criterion would do this title up right - we can reassure them - this intense film looks and sounds fabulous and there are plenty of solid extras to indulge in post-viewing. The Criterion Blu-ray is a great purchase.


NOTE: As it is not available yet in North America - this is another in the list of Blu-rays that may encourage region 'A'-locked viewers to consider purchasing a Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player.  

Gary Tooze

June 11th, 2009

November 11th, 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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