Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Mirage Enterprises
Blu-ray: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
(as verified by the
Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 44,429,258,665 bytes
Feature Size: 39,306,504,192 bytes
Video Bitrate: 25.57 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: April 27th, 2010
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 4173 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4173
kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS Audio French 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
/ Dolby Surround
English (SDH), English,
French, Spanish, none
• Audio Commentary by Director Sydney Pollack
• Song of Africa Documentary – in 4:3 SD (1:12:30)
• Deleted Scenes – in Letterboxed SD (15:00)
• DVD of the Feature Film (Side B)
I can see a number of good reasons why not everyone warms to
this movie. For starters, Redford is supposed to be an
Englishman, but doesn't sound like one. He speaks his name
from a distance while walking away so that we might fail to
notice the obvious. On the other hand, Meryl Streep affects
an accent so deliberate that the very contrast between them
might make some people seasick.
And so it was with me the first time through in its first
theatrical run. I can't say why exactly, but over time I
seem to have found the movie's heart, or it mine, despite
that Pollack seems to be trying so hard to impress me –
unlike his previous work with Redford in Jeremiah Johnson or
my personal favorite of their seven collaborations, The
Out of Africa is an adaptation for the screen of a number of
books, some by the principle character, Karen Blixen (who
wrote under the name Isak Dinesen); one by her biographer,
Judith Thurman. It is a romantic memoir of her time in
Africa where she ran a farm in the early 1910's and 20's. It
was a time when Europeans pretty much had their way in the
"Dark Continent" and where a number of countries were so
named (Belgian Congo, British East Africa, German East
Africa, French Somaliland – it was quite a list). White
women, however, still had to maintain their proper place –
And it is made quite clear from the outset that the newly
married Baroness Blixen (Streep) was not supposed to be
doing this sort of thing.
The baroness was fiercely independent woman who cared a
great deal for Africa and its native inhabitants, and since
her husband (Klaus Maria Brandauer) preferred hunting to
husbandry, she was ripe to meet her match in the person of
Denys Finch Hatton (Redford), a British expatriate even more
independent than she (no surprise). The movie paints their
romance in fairly broad strokes, with stories recited by the
fire and Mozart played against the trials that her farm
brought her, her coming to terms with the Kikuyu and Maasai,
and the largely British upper class that held her
alternately in contempt and respect. Karen's conversations
with the baron's Somali major domo, Farah, (Malick Bowens)
and various lions on safaris long and short are among the
high points of the drama.
The movie won Oscars for Art Direction, Cinematography,
Picture, Director, Music, Sound Mixing, and Adapted
Screenplay. Whatever you may think of Streep and Redford
here, Bowens and Michael Kitchen (whom we know more recently
from Foyle's War and two Pierce Brosnan Bond films) as Finch
Hatton's close friend, Berkeley Cole, are among the film's
standout actors - the movie is worth seeing just for them, I
think – and Africa, of course.
captures were taken directly from the
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.
One of my favorite images comes near the beginning during
the credit for Director of Photography David Watkins,
appropriately enough: It's a telephoto shot of the train
coming round a curve at dusk (cf. capture #6). The DVD
reminded me how much I liked that moving image when it
sailed past in the theater nearly 25 years ago, but it was
not until I saw it again in high definition that I knew why
I liked it so much: its poetry and contradiction of the mass
of the train against the natural setting on an African plain
traveling into the dark. The DVD conveys no weight nor does
it do justice to its movement – relentless, yet somehow
lyrical, as we feel without effort on the Blu-ray. It augers
well for things to come. And for my money, it was difficult
to redirect attention to technical matters, but some
problems were hard to ignore.
CLICK to see larger
examples of the egregious edge-enhancement 'halos'
Indeed, while the DVD was plagued by edge enhancement, the
Blu-ray is less so, but still very much in evidence. There
is also a general thinning of the color for which I wondered
if a higher bit rate might have helped.
CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
TOP vs. DVD BOTTOM
TOP vs. DVD BOTTOM
TOP vs. DVD BOTTOM
TOP vs. DVD BOTTOM
TOP vs. DVD BOTTOM
Audio & Music:
John Barry's music is so reminiscent of Somewhere in Time we
might guess the effect is calculated, as I'm sure it is. The
way the music is edited into the mix leaves no doubt that
Pollack feels it is as important as the story, or any of his
actors or the photography – indeed, you might think it more
so. The way in which the music score swells into the
foreground - vividly recorded with ripe, solid bass - will
strike some as a fault, as if Pollack feels he cannot depend
on his other assets. But many will enjoy the effect of a
racing heart and a hint of perspiration.
Otherwise, the audio mix is something of a mixed bag:
dialogue is oddly shaped and too loud compared to the
effects. Effects that should have been subtle or offhand,
like the jangling of bracelets on a person running away from
the camera, are placed too forward in the mix. There's a
nice moment where an unseen chorus encircles the actors, and
ambiance, as in the British Men's Club and nighttime
crickets and other animal noises, are often nicely conveyed.
Infinity. . . and beyond!
Taking my cue from Letterman, here are the Ten Best reasons
why the double-sided presentation for this Blu-ray is
imaginative and courageous beyond my wildest:
10. Universal has taken my criticism about unimaginative
artwork to its logical conclusion: No distracting artwork on
either side of the disc.
9. A new concept in video games: Try placing the disc back
in the box without getting your fingerprints on it. 5 for a
smudge. 10 points for a clearly recognizable print. With 20
points, you get to clean the surface and start all over
8. If you damage one side, the other side is still
7. You can always slap some artwork on the disc; the
question is: which side?
6. The Blu-ray movie is on the side that doesn't have the
blue ring, and since your player reads the bottom of the
disc, place the disc in the tray with the blue side facing
up. Got it?
5. Can double-sided Blu-ray TV seasons be far behind!
4. You no longer have to worry about to whom you're going to
give your unwanted DVD .
3. If you lose the DVD you get to re-purchase the Blu-ray,
thus doing your bit for the economy.
2. You no longer need to exercise a smile when opening the
case, for there is nothing there to smile at.
1. Now with only one disc instead of two, there is less
stress to the shelf.
The substantial documentary on the life and times of Karen
Blixen, included on Universal's 2000 Collector's Edition
DVD, is ported over to Blu-ray without any re-rendering of
the image. It still looks pretty shabby, which is not what
we can say of its content. The documentary is a feature
length piece written, produced and directed by Charles
Kiselyek, who has made a number of making-of documentaries –
several on Oliver Stone, and hosted by Blixen's biographer
(and the film's Co-Associate Producer) Judith Thurman, with
assists from Sidney Pollack. It's a good piece that melds
footage from the movie with archival photos of Blixen and
excerpts from her writings. Pollack's sober and informative
commentary from the DVD comes to the Blu-ray at no extra
charge. There are no HD features, but there are a handful of
deleted scenes in letterboxed SD.
Bottom line: 6
A flawed image, despite the wonderful photography, which is
really a shame. And a clear, if unnecessarily heightened
audio mix support this Blu-ray offering from Universal. Some
will find the movie's pace a little slow for them since most
of what happens in Out of Africa is reflective, and only
offers a taste of the big adventure. I think they call it a
April 23rd, 2010