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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

A Master Builder [Blu-ray]

 

(Jonathan Demme, 2014)

 

Also available in Criterion package of André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films (My Dinner with André, Vanya on 42nd Street, A Master Builder) also released on June 15th, 2015

  

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Westward Productions

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #762

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 2:07:30.059

Disc Size: 46,034,526,766 bytes

Feature Size: 28,242,137,088 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.50 Mbps

Chapters: 15

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: June 16th, 2015

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 and 2.39:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3436 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3436 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• New interview with director Jonathan Demme, stage director–actor André Gregory, and writer-actor Wallace Shawn, conducted by film critic David Edelstein (33:41)
New conversation between actors Julie Hagerty and Lisa Joyce (33:09)
New program featuring Gregory, Shawn, and their friend the author Fran Lebowitz in conversation (52:52)
Trailer (2:14)
PLUS: An essay by film critic Michael Sragow

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Twenty years after their brilliant cinema-theater experiment Vanya on 42nd Street, Wallace Shawn and André Gregory reunited to produce another idiosyncratic film version of a classic play, this time Henrik Ibsen’s Bygmester Solness (Master Builder Solness.) Brought pristinely to the screen by Jonathan Demme, this compellingly abstract reimagining features Shawn (who also wrote the adaptation) as a visionary but tyrannical middle-aged architect haunted by figures from his past, most acutely an attractive, vivacious young woman (the breathtaking newcomer Lisa Joyce) who has appeared on his doorstep. Also featuring standout supporting performances by Julie Hagerty, Larry Pine, and Gregory, A Master Builder, like Vanya, is the result of many years of rehearsals, a living, breathing, constantly shifting work that unites theater, film, and dream.

 

 

The Film:

A Master Builder unites Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme with two of American theatre and cinema's most ingenious provocateurs, André Gregory and Wallace Shawn. It is based on Gregory's near-legendary theatrical production of Shawn's adaptation of Ibsen's Master Builder Solness. Halvard Solness (Wallace Shawn), a successful and egomaniacal architect who spent a lifetime bullying everyone around him, now faces his own mortality. When Hilde (Lisa Joyce), a mysterious young woman, comes to visit, the once dominating, controlling and narcissistic Solness finds himself revived in every possible way. Intense, intimate and painful, A Master Builder is a witty, mystical and psychologically complex interpretation of Ibsen's masterpiece.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Like a lot of people, I tend to have this vague knowledge that Wallace Shawn is more than the guy with the funny voice and the odd face, that he's a playwright and an actor who has been a central part of some of the artiest of art-house films. "A Master Builder" offers up a glimpse of the more somber, serious-minded Shawn, and it's an eye-opening reminder of what he can do that even his less completely comedic roles don't always hint at. In fact, it's almost strange when something like his frequent screen persona emerges.

Shawn plays Halvard Solness, the architect of the title, who is a petty tyrant even as he receives visitors on his sickbed. First is Knut Brovik (Andre Gregory), father to Solness's apprentice Ragnar (Jeff Biehl) - himself engaged to the firm's secretary/bookkeeper Kaia Fosli (Emily Cass McDonnell) - begging his former student to allow Ragnar to take the lead on an upcoming project, so that he can see something his son built before he dies. Then comes Dr. Herdal (Larry Pine), who is not just the family physician but probably the only friend Halvard's wife Aline (Julie Hagerty) has. And, finally, there is Hilde Wangel (Lisa Joyce), a 22-year-old traveler who claims Solness made certain promises to her ten years ago, an encounter he finds it distressingly difficult to remember.

Excerpt from eCritic located HERE

 

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

A Master Builder looks authentic on Blu-ray from Criterion.  The film offers two aspect ratios: a 1.78:1 in the opening death-bed scenes and the bulk of the film is in a 2.4:1 widescreen ratio. Another modern film shot with the versatile Arri Alexa - Demme uses it with plenty of hand-held, intentional, jitter - perhaps adding a vérité 'live' theatrical sense. Lighting is at a low level and some sequences are quite dim. This is dual-layered with a reasonable bitrate and we can guess that it is a solid representation of the film. The frequent close-ups are impressive with a crisp sense of detail. This Blu-ray has no discernable flaws and supplies a wonderfully 1080P presentation with plenty of depth.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Criterion use a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround at a strong 3436 kbps, although there is nothing in the way of aggression to export although the track handles the film's subtleties and dialogue with casual ease. I made some notes that I recall hearing some classical music - yet I can find no evidence of what it was. Perhaps I am mistaken? Anyway, there isn't a lot of separation and the robust transfer easily handles what the film requires. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.

 

Extras :

Criterion include some new extras - we get a 1/2 hour interview with director Jonathan Demme, stage director–actor André Gregory, and writer-actor Wallace Shawn, conducted by film critic David Edelstein about the 'Making of' A Master Builder. Also a new 1/2 conversation conversation between actors Julie Hagerty and Lisa Joyce recorded by Criterion in February 2015 as they discuss their roles in A Master Builder. Lastly a 52-minute long new program featuring Gregory, Shawn, and their friend the author Fran Lebowitz in conversation about their long collaboration in theatre and film. There is also a trailer and the package has a liner notes booklet with an essay by film critic Michael Sragow.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I can see why critics distanced themselves from A Master Builder, but I liked the long dialogue scenes and Wallace Shawn does require some suspension of disbelief as the love interest of the gals. Yes, it has an artsy-edge and the jittery camera movement and frequent close-ups may deter some - but I am okay with both. It's worth seeing in my opinion but it may not be a film one revisits often. The Criterion Blu-ray package offers a flawless a/v presentation with interesting and relevant extras. For those open to the artsy-theatre leaning - this is recommended! 

Gary Tooze

May 24th, 2015

Also available in Criterion package of André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films (My Dinner with André, Vanya on 42nd Street, A Master Builder) also released on June 15th, 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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