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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Brian Montgomery

Lou Reed's Berlin (Spine # 001 BD) [Blu-ray]

(aka "Berlin" or "Lou Reed: Berlin" or "Lou Reed's BERLIN")


(Julian Schnabel, 2007)






Review by Brian Montgomery



Theatrical: Waterboy Productions

Blu-ray: Artificial Eye



Region: FREE!

Runtime: 1:20:54.307

Disc Size: 14,013,862,692 bytes

Feature Size: 13,384,126,464 bytes

Video Bitrate: 17.997 Mbps

Chapters: 14

Case: Standard Blu-Ray Case

Release date: October 27th, 2008



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080P / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video




English (DTS-HD Master Audio 2151 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2151 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit))
English (Dolby Digital Audio 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)


Subtitles: none




• Cast & Crew Biographies

• Trailer

• Illustrated Booklet with Song Lyrics


Description: Staging Berlin has been discussed for over 30 years and in December of 2006 it became a reality. Berlin was said to be one of the most depressing albums ever made and as it was brought to life it was far from dismal. Using the divided city of Berlin as its backdrop the story of Caroline and her lovers is told through the emotive and provocative words of Lou Reed. With performers like Fernando Saunders, Antony, Steve Hunter, Rob Wassermann, Rupert Christie and Sharon Jones, a seven piece orchestra and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus all working to create a captivating and enveloping world, Lou Reed is able to take the audience with him as he bares witness to Caroline's self-destruction. Julian's set design creates the backdrop of a hotel with greenish walls and Lola Schnabel‚'s films display the beauty and tragedy of the narrator's leading lady (played by Emmanuelle Seigner), adding to the experience which is so devastating and beautiful at the same time.



The Film:

...The result is Lou Reed's Berlin, a concert film by technicality, a cinematic trance in practicality. True to its source material, this is a mood piece. From the noisy cabaret confusion of wistful opener "Berlin" to the affecting coda "Sad Song," we are adrift in a live Lou Reed performance that Schnabel has captured in grainy-film reverie, all flickering silhouettes, soft-focus flourishes, and dreamy sepia tones. Onstage, the band stands before a backdrop that Schnabel made to evoke the residential hotel where Caroline lives in "Lady Day"—beneath a tawny-green pattern, Lou looks imprisoned by mildew fractals and water stains. Projections also flutter behind him, interpretive scenes shot by Schnabel's daughter Lola that end up interspersed within the film's final cut. This is where we meet Caroline, a carefree, grinning, drooly-mouthed blonde with bicep bruises and high eyes, played—or, more accurately, mimed—by French actress Emmanuelle Seigner. One minute, the infamously irascible Reed is onstage actually smiling, the next Seigner's arm-in-arm with some doofus in a Betty Boop shirt. When it comes to films spun off soundtracks, essaying visuals can be pretty worrisome—ever seen Oliver Stone's The Doors? Thankfully, Schnabel uses these pseudo-narrations sparingly: In the end, ambience is the only plot, atmosphere Reed's only worthy co-star.

Excerpt of review from Camille Dodero located HERE

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

The 1.78 image on the disc looks quite nice indeed! Going into the screening, I was a little worried because this was Artificial Eye's first HD release and the film has a relatively small amount of information dedicated to feature (not to mention a bitrate that's also fairly low for the format). However, after a grainy rough patch at the beginning of the film (the way that Schnabel intended it to look, no doubt) the image settled down into a clear and surprisingly strong HD mix. Colors look true in the dark lighting on stage and fine object detail is very strong. The images of the projected film are obviously much weaker and duller than the live material, but I doubt that they were ever intended to be very strong. There's no damage (aside from the intentional damage on the supplementary film) or artifacting to speak of.














Audio & Music:

Thankfully since this is a concert film, the audio is quite strong and should serve as a major selling point for the release. The music sounds alive and the roar of the crowd in the HD really puts you in the mood for more. If you have a good stereo system, turn off the lights, crank it up, and you'll feel like your in the middle of the crowd! Unfortunately the disc does not come with any subtitles.




Now this is a little weird. Artificial Eye's website for the release promises an interview with Reed conducted by Paul Morely, but this is nowhere to be found on the disc. Instead, we get biographies of the star and director, along with a trailer for the film. The trailer is PAL encoded and won't play on most North American Blu-Ray players. Additionally, the disc comes with an insert that contains lyrics for all of the songs featured in the film.




Bottom line:

Although I'm a big fan of the Velvet Underground, I'm shcokingly ignorant of some of Lou Reed's solo work and had previously only heard bits and pieces of his 1973 album "Berlin". In Julian Schnabel's 2007 concert film, Reed performs the entire album live. Taken together, the songs on the disc tells to the story of a pair of doomed drug addicted lovers. While not the cheeriest of subjects, its one that Schnabel tries to recount visually as well through a series of vignettes projected (and occasionally shown in place of the concert) behind the band as they play. By the end, I had to admit that most of this material was far from my favorite by Reed, but invaluable to his fans nonetheless. It's definitely recommended for those interested, and for those looking for the film in HD this is your only option.

Brian Montgomery
August 24th, 2010






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