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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Behind the Candelabra [Blu-ray]


(Steven Soderbergh, 2013)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: HBO Films

Video: HBO Home Video



Region: A (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:58:34.315

Disc Size: 21,683,263,401 bytes

Feature Size: 19,113,627,648 bytes

Video Bitrate: 17.95 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 10th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1943 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1943 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DUB: DTS Audio Spanish 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / 24-bit



English (SDH), French, Spanish, none



• Making of Behind the Candelabra(14:04)

Code for digital copy





Description: Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and executive produced by Jerry Weintraub, this HBO Films drama recreates the glittering private world of Liberace (Michael Douglas), the flamboyant, phenomenally successful entertainer whose extravagant costumes, trademark candelabra, and elaborate stage shows made him the most bankable entertainer of his time. The story focuses on Liberace's tempestuous relationship with Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) in Las Vegas from 1977 to 1982 - a time when Liberace was at the peak of his popularity but remained closeted as a homosexual. Featuring a pair of electrifying performances by Douglas and Damon (the first time either has starred in an HBO production), Behind the Candelabra captures the essence of Liberace's appeal while reminding viewers how different attitudes were at the time, as few high-profile entertainers (including Liberace) could admit they were gay, at least in front of the public which made them stars.



The Film:

Despite the fact he worked hard to keep his private life secret, Liberace (or Lee to his intimates) would probably have adored Steven Soderbergh’s interpretation of his life, relationships and talents.

Soderbergh, who has said he is now taking a break from directing, possibly definitively, has worked with Richard LaGravenese on an insightful and razor sharp script full of wry self-deprecating asides.

Michael Douglas nails Liberace not just in a flurry of feathers, bejeweled fingers, sequins and wigs but also poignantly reaches to the heart of the man whose music and stage presence incredibly set female hearts aflutter all over the globe.

Excerpt from Eye for Film located HERE

Steven Soderbergh's addictively funny and watchable Behind the Candelabra is about the love match between the pianist Liberace and his avowedly bisexual young companion Scott Thorson; they are brilliantly played by a reptilian Michael Douglas and monumentally buff Matt Damon. Their love emerges from this film as one of the most tempestuous affairs in showbusiness history, reeking with anxiety, unhappiness, passion and denial – probably topped only by the relationship between Elton John and Watford Football Club in the 1980s.

The movie takes us from the couple's ecstatic first meeting backstage in Las Vegas in 1976, right through to Scott having to be ejected, with zero dignity, from his kept-man apartment some years later. Since this premiered last month at the Cannes film festival, it has dawned on us all that Thorson himself may not have been exactly on oath with every detail in his 1988 autobiography, Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace, on which the film is based. This applies especially to his jaw-dropping assertion that the cosmetic surgery he underwent was forced on him by his famous lover, specifically to make him look like a younger Liberace.

Excerpt from The Guardian located HERE

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

Behind the Candelabra comes to Blu-ray - made for HBO - this played in competition at the Cannes Film Festival (May).  The 1.78:1 framed image quality showcases the excellent art direction with flaring fluorescent lighting suitable with use of the RED digital camera. The smokey, clouded look fits perfectly for a period representation. This is only single-layered with a modest bitrate for the 2-hour film. Detail in close-ups is strong but there is little depth. It's nothing remarkable in terms of 1080P but I suggest this is till an accurate representation of the presentation. This Blu-ray does its job and I have doubts that something more robust would be dramatically eye-popping. This looks as the production intended.



















Audio :

Audio is transferred via a DTS-HD Master in 5.1 surround at 1943 kbps. It's clean, frequently vigorous from the period (starting with the late 70's) music to a score by Marvin Hamlisch and plenty of piano performed by Liberace. The music is really a strong part of establishing the time and mood. The lossless sounds quite good with touches of depth. There are optional subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'.


Extras :

The only extras is a 14-minute, standard, Making of... with input from the leads and director but really only touching the totality of the production. There is also code to access a digital copy for portable devices.



Parts of Behind the Candelabra made me uncomfortable -the dissolved-relationship process was... ugly. It was a little like watching a train wreck. But, by contrast, the film was beautifully acted. Douglas does a great job, bordering on incredible (certainly, aptly, over-the-top at times), and kudos to Damon as well. I didn't know much about Liberace beforehand and it was all very fascinating and educational although there was, surely, some poetic licence. It's a good film that escalates your interest in the topic - and this surely does - LaGravenese's great script from Thorson's book. The HBO Blu-ray does its job with the 1080P presentation. No demo, for sure, but good for a viewing! 

Gary Tooze

September 5th, 2013


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 5000 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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Gary W. Tooze






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