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directed by Todd Solondz
USA 2009

 

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.

Newly separated from her husband, Joy is increasingly disassociated. Trish, however, is only a smidge chastened—even though Happiness ended, a decade or so before, with her model husband, Bill, en route to prison for drugging and raping several of his son Billy's fifth-grade classmates. Now, Billy is in college, and Bill (having morphed from bland Dylan Baker to grim Ciarán Hinds) is about to be released just as younger son Timmy (Dylan Snyder), who's been told his father is dead, is preparing to become a man with a bar mitzvah speech full of quasi-religious masochistic imagery.

Excerpt of review from J. Hoberman located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: April 16th, 2010

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DVD Review: Artificial Eye (Spine # 490) - Region 0 - PAL

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Distribution

Artificial Eye

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:33:21
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.99 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 or 5.1)
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Artificial Eye

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical Trailer
• Other Artificial Eye trailers

DVD Release Date: July 12th, 2010
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Chapters 12

 

Comments

Although it’s only just been released theatrically in the US at the time of my writing this, Todd Solondz’s “Life During Wartime” was released on DVD by Artificial Eye in the UK a couple of weeks ago. For those that either enjoyed—if that’s the right word—the film or don’t have it playing anywhere near them, this region free disc should be very attractive. The film itself is typical Solondz fare, dark, gloomy, ultimately redemption free, and using a variation of his casting strategy in “Palindromes” by having all of the roles here filled by new actors (the characters, as the above description makes clear, come from two of Solondz’s previous films: “Happiness” and “Welcome to the Dollhouse”). I found the film to be as good as Solondz’s best work to date and would easily recommend the release on the merits of the film itself.

The print used to make the DVD came from an HD master and looks—one would assume—as the director intended. That being said, some of the scenes are heavily tinted and the detail in them can be slightly soft (other scenes, however come off as remarkably clear). But, again I would like to stress that this is very likely the way that Solondz wants the film to look. If it opens by me, I’ll try to confirm it. My software also identifies the film as interlaced, but thankfully I cannot find any instances of combing.

 

The disc comes with the options of listening to the film in either Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1. For obvious reasons the 5.1 track is the superior of the two in every way, eclipsing the stereo track in terms of depth and clarity. That being said though, neither suffers from any noticeable defects and are both free of all unwanted background noise. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles included on the disc.

The only extras on the disc are trailers for the film, “Katyn”, “The Class”, and “Fish Tank”. While I’m not sure exactly what kind of extras the film would lend itself to (perhaps an interview or two), some more would have been appreciated.

In the final analysis, this is a very good film and those who thought highly of Solondz’s previous work will not be disappointed with his latest. As I said before, if you don’t have the opportunity to view this in a theater and your system can handle PAL , then I strongly suggest getting the disc (currently under £10 on amazon.co.uk). Highly recommended.

  - Brian Montgomery

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Artificial Eye

Region 0 - PAL

 

 




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