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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

La ciénaga aka "The Swamp" [Blu-ray]


(Lucrecia Martel, 2001)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: 4K Films

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #743



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

Runtime: 1:41:00.0951

Disc Size: 41,382,995,504 bytes

Feature Size: 29,011,378,176 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.25 Mbps

Chapters: 24

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: January 27th, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio Spanish 2098 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2098 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English, none



• New interview with Martel (18:27)
New interview with filmmaker Andrés Di Tella about Martel and the film (23:41)
Trailer (1:50)
PLUS: An essay by film scholar David Oubiña






Description: The release of Lucrecia Martel’s La Ciénaga heralded the arrival of an astonishingly vital and original voice in Argentine cinema. With a radical and disturbing take on narrative, beautiful cinematography, and a highly sophisticated use of on- and offscreen sound, Martel turns her tale of a dissolute bourgeois extended family, whiling away the hours of one sweaty, sticky summer, into a cinematic marvel. This visceral take on class, nature, sexuality, and the ways that political turmoil and social stagnation can manifest in human relationships is a drama of extraordinary tactility, and one of the great contemporary film debuts.



The Film:

Two families try to make the best of a bad situation as they suffer through a crippling heat wave in this neo-realistic drama, featuring a primarily non-professional cast. Tali (Mercedes Moran) is minding four small children with little help from her husband, who is preoccupied with the opening of hunting season, as a record hot spell grips Argentina. Things aren't much better for her cousin Mecha (Graciela Borges), who is looking after four teenagers and a husband (Martin Adjemian) who can hardly be bothered to help out, but Mecha does have a pool, even if it hasn't been cleaned in quite a while. Tali and her brood end up spending much of the summer with Mecha as the town is riveted by the appearance of the Virgin Carmen on the city's water tower, and a series of thunderstorms add an awful humidity to the summer's unbearable heat. While seemingly improvised, La Cienaga was actually carefully scripted by Lucrecia Martel, who won a screenwriting award at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival prior to making her directorial debut with this feature.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Martel's debut is remarkable, a (presumably autobiographical?) slice of life focusing on the households of middle-aged cousins, the kind and sensible Tali (Morán) and the more neurotic and self-centred Mecha (Borges), over the course of a torpid late Argentinian summer. Mostly it's based in and around Mecha's country house. The swimming pool is green and putrid. The electricity keeps cutting out. The phone rings and rings, and no matter how many times you tell them the Indians won't answer it. Cut across the breast after a drunken accident with a tray of glasses, Mecha sticks to her bed, drinks iced wine and vegetates, while her adolescent children negotiate their own tribulations. Although one plot rivulet does involve a cow stuck up to its nostrils in a swamp, the title points to a more general stasis: an inertia and redundancy which creeps up on Mecha and threatens to suffocate her in a quiescent alcoholic haze. Martel's densely layered soundtrack is even more impressive than her distinctive, confident visuals: the scrape of a pool chair against the concrete is enough to set your teeth on edge. It's not that the film lacks compassion, but that Martel's outlook is singularly bleak.

Excerpt from A.O. Scott at the NY Times located HERE


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

La ciénaga looks excellent on Blu-ray from Criterion.  The image is clean and most colors, like reds and blues, appear strong and rich.  This is dual-layered with a max'ed bitrate and the 1080P captures a real film-like expression with all the film's vérité touches, interesting close-ups and contemplative cinematography. We may eventually compare to the 2010 UK DVD HERE. It is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and contrast and detail are impressive. They are frequent examples of depth. This Blu-ray has no discernable flaws and supplies a wonderful HD presentation.

















Audio :

No score, per-se, but the film's audio is transferred via a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 2098 kbps in original Spanish. Notable for some deadpan silences and dialogue rather than dynamic effects. There are hints of depth. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.


Extras :

Criterion add a new, 20-minute, interview with Lucrecia Martel produced by Criterion in the Fall of 2014 and in it she examines her inspirations and approach to cinema. There is also a new (April 2014) interview with director, writer, and Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema cofounder Andrés Di Tella who examines the cultural context from which Lucrecia Martel emerged, and analyzes her ground breaking first feature. It runs 24-minutes. There is also a trailer and the package contains a liner notes booklet with an essay by film scholar David Oubiña.



Criterion have made a great choice of film to put to Blu-ray. La ciénaga is quite a layered, deep and impressive debut film. Warm, fun, human with middle-class social commentary on subtle levels. I didn't even realize this was the same director of a later feature of of hers that I loved; The Headless Woman (2008). This is very close to a masterpiece and the Criterion Blu-ray package offers a great a/v presentation with keen interviews. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

January 24th, 2015


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.

Gary's Home Theatre:

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
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
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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