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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Life During Wartime [Blu-ray]


(Todd Solondz, 2009)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Werc Werk Works

Video: Criterion - Spine # 574



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

Runtime: 1:37:40.896

Disc Size: 43,250,928,966 bytes

Feature Size: 27,164,086,272 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.98 Mbps

Chapters: 18

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 26th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3212 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3212 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English (SDH), none



• Ask Todd, an audio Q&A with director Todd Solondz in which he responds to viewers’ questions (44:46)
• Making “Life During Wartime,” a new documentary featuring interviews with actors Shirley Henderson, Ciarán Hinds, Allison Janney, Michael Lerner, Paul Reubens, Ally Sheedy, and Michael Kenneth Williams, as well as on-set footage (29:54)
• New interview with Lachman (10:52), Screen Specific Commentary (6 scenes - 9:51), 5 Questions (7:12)

Original theatrical trailer (2:08)
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt





Description: Life During Wartime, independent filmmaker Todd Solondz explores contemporary American existence and the nature of forgiveness with his customary dry humor and queasy precision. The film functions as a distorted mirror image of Solondz’s acclaimed 1998 dark comedy Happiness, its emotionally stunted characters now groping for the possibility of change in a post-9/11 world. Happiness’s grim New Jersey setting is transposed mainly to sunny Florida, but the biggest twist is that new actors fill the roles from the earlier film—including Shirley Henderson, Allison Janney, and Ally Sheedy as alarmingly dissimilar sisters, and Ciarán Hinds hauntingly embodying a reformed pedophile. Shot in expressionistic tones by cinematographer extraordinaire Ed Lachman, Solondz’s film finds the humor in the tragic and the tragic in the everyday.


A group of people struggle to find a place for themselves in an unpredictable and volatile world. The past haunts the... present and imperils the future: ghosts circle and loom, trouble and console. The question of forgiveness and its limits threads throughout a series of intersecting love stories, offering clarity and possibly alternatives to the comforts of forgetting.



The Film:

Daring the discomfited viewer to laugh at shame and suffering, and then wonder why we're laughing, Todd Solondz is back. Life During Wartime, which won Best Screenplay at Venice and had its local premiere at the New York Film Festival, shows the misanthropic moralizer as confounding and trigger-happy as ever, his big clown thumb poised over a garish assortment of hot buttons—race, suicide, autism, sexual misery, self-hatred, Israel, and, his old favorite, pedophilia.

Life During Wartime's opening echoes that of Solondz's relentlessly miserablist comedy
Happiness (1998), to which the new movie is both sequel and remake. The three Jordan sisters—banal Trish, the self-satisfied mom; high-strung Helen, the bitchy career gal; and hapless Joy, the professional bleeding heart—are back, albeit played by an alternate trio of actresses (Allison Janney, Ally Sheedy, and Shirley Henderson respectively). Trish has relocated from suburban New Jersey to South Florida, where fragile little Joy arrives for a visit.

Excerpt of review from J. Hoberman at The Village Voice located HERE

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

Life During Wartime looks immaculate on Blu-ray from Criterion - easily eclipsing the Artificial Eye PAL edition compared below and reviewed HERE.  Brain commented in the SD review about the tinting and it is easier to distinguish as being intentional here in this pristine presentation. Golden yellows and pastel greens and blues sneak into specific scenes. Detail is wonderful on the dual-layered transfer with a high bitrate. It was shot with Red One Camera but I never noticed any DV limitations (contrast) and it has some impressive clarity. The precise art direction (Matteo De Cosmo) shouldn't be left out accolades towards the appealing visuals. Skin tones seem quite true and nothing is overly glossy. This is without any major transfer flaws that I can identify.


NOTE: Max tells us in email: "Just read your review of Life during Wartime. The tinting that you and the previous reviewer refer to is only partially intentional, in the sense that this is what the first Red One camera looked like. Their new chip is much better (Social Network was shot on that for instance), but this is shot on the first model and that chip was incapable of reproducing natural colors. Skin tones were notoriously brownish and plastic looking and the dynamic range was very limited. Many films shot on that camera had to go for that same look (such as Knowing and The Book of Eli), because the camera could not be made to look anything different. If you had not mentioned that it was shot on the Red, I would have immediately guessed it by looking at the stills you put up. Take that last one, the close-up of the girl for instance. The bright part on her nose and cheek is extremely ugly, it looks almost solarized." (Thanks Max!)




Artificial Eye (Spine # 490) - Region 0 - PAL (reviewed HERE) TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM
















Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 track at 3212 kbps seems as flawless as the video. The film's audio is passive and the dynamic track doesn't get tested much with Solondz weighted dialogue-driven cinema. Part of the style has many extended pauses or moments without sound. Effects are minimal and depth and separation never dominate. There are optional English subtitles and m Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

Supplements give us 'Ask Todd' - a 45-minute audio (only) Q&A with director Solondz in which he responds to viewers’ questions. This is from March 2011 and questions are from Criterion Collection invited viewers. The next section is entitled Actor's Reflections and is a making of “Life During Wartime” documentary featuring interviews with actors Shirley Henderson, Ciarán Hinds, Allison Janney, Michael Lerner, Paul Reubens, Ally Sheedy, and Michael Kenneth Williams, as well as on-set footage. It runs 30-minutes in HD. There is also a new interview with DoP Ed Lachman running just shy of 11-minutes and he includes both a 6-scene/10-minute screen-specific Commentary and answers 5 Questions for an additional 7 minutes. Lastly is an original theatrical trailer and the package houses a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt.



While I still think Happiness is my favorite of the director's work - Life During Wartime has Solondz patented signature - evoking the same pleasures and bitter-sweet humor. We are talking a lot of sadness here with a wry smile seeking amusement out of life's awkwardness. I really enjoyed it. Criterion have put together another grand Blu-ray package - leaving little reason to complain. This is certainly worth a spin or re-visitation and the 1080P transfer here won't be bested anytime soon (or ever). Enjoy! 

Gary Tooze

July 13th, 2011



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 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 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.

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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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