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(aka "Lapsuuden loppu" or "O mikros Liam")

 

directed by  Stephen Frears
UK/Germany/France 2000

 

Set among the Irish working people of Liverpool in the 1930s, Stephen Frears' "Liam" shows us a family where the children are terrified of sin and their parents of poverty. The first is more easily combatted than the second; in two crucial personal transformations, the 7-year-old boy makes his first confession and communion, and his father joins the fascist brownshirts of Oswald Mosley. Both are obsessed with blame; the father blames the Jews for his unemployment and poverty, and his son blames--himself.

Excerpt of review from Roger Ebert located HERE

Poster

Theatrical Release: January 23rd, 2001 (UK)

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DVD Review: Artificial Eye (Spine # 200) - Region 2 - PAL

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Distribution

Artificial Eye

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:27:06 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.75 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Artificial Eye

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Filmographies
• Theatrical Trailer

DVD Release Date: December 26th, 2001
Keep Case

Chapters 20

 

Comments

Stephen Frears is a director whose work runs the gamut from films best left forgotten ("Mary Riley", "Chéri") to near masterpieces ("Prick Up Your Ears", "High Fidelity", etc.). Unfortunately, "Liam", his 2000 theatrical followup to "High Fidelity", which was perhaps his high water mark, falls squarely into the former category. What's more, Artificial Eye's 2001 release of the film on DVD suffers from some of the problems that plague their releases of that era as well. More on that later, but first let's talk about the film. Perhaps my biggest problem with the film is its lack of subtlety. Operating under a script from Jimmy McGovern, a British television writer, the film's politics and message come at you with the grace of a cannon ball. The film's targets, the anti-Irish and anti-Semitic fascism boiling under pre-WWII England, and the crushing morality of the Catholic church are laid on so heavy hear that they make films like "Pink Floyd The Wall" and "The Magdalene Sisters" seem restrained by comparison. The end result is that there are no believable characters in this film. Instead there are merely people put there to hammer home the obvious. The actors often ham it up and the cinematography (think of the camera following the priest and teacher as the walk up and down the aisles of the classroom telling the students about sinning) and music are intentionally manipulative. Not good.

The disc itself suffers from a lot of the problems associated with Artificial Eye around this era. While they have always done a remarkable job with bringing some of the cinema's best to DVD, in the early part of the last decade, a number of their releases suffered from some visual problems, and "Liam" is no exception. The relatively low bitrate on this single layered disc here is indicative of the fact that the image lacks sharpness. The colors are often muddled and blend together. Frankly, it has what can only be called an "uncinematic" look about it. Fortunately, these problems are never too bad. While they exist and are a distraction, the anamorphic and progressive transfer probably pushes this over into the acceptable category. I should note that many of these problems that I spoke of are only present in releases from the early naughts.

The sound here is similarly passable, if unremarkable. The mono track is free of unwanted background noise (hisses, pops, etc.), and dialogue is discernible. Unfortunately there are no subtitles on this disc, which occasionally proved a problem due to the thick accents.

Finally, the extras provided on the disc are a bit of a disappointment. Aside from a theatrical trailer, we only get cast and crew filmographies. Although the case promises additional production notes, none are provided.

I found the film to be a real disappointment, but there was widespread critical praise of it (a 70% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, a 74 at metacritic). Those inclined to seek it out, may want to go this route as it is currently available very cheaply at amazon.uk, or seek out the region one release whose quality I can't comment on.

 - Brian Montgomery

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Artificial Eye

Region 2 - PAL

 

 




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