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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life [Blu-ray]


(Michael Paxton, 1997)




Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: AG Media Corporation Ltd.

Blu-ray: Strand Releasing



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

Runtime: 2:23:49.871 

Disc Size: 24,478,504,715 bytes

Feature Size: 23,176,202,880 bytes

Video Bitrate: 18.46 Mbps

Chapters: 24

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 28th, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1766 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1766 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)



English (SDH), none



Disc 1 - Feature Film on Blu-ray
Remastered Trailer (1:06)

Disc 2 - Bonus Features on DVD
Photo Gallery of some never-before-seen photos: Ayn Rand & Frank O'Connor
To Lorne Dieterling, deleted dance sequence from the film
Stills from the filmed version of Ayn Rand's play, Ideal
Stills of Kay Gonda's 'movie roles' from Ideal
Bonus Footage of outtakes from the film: Additional interviews with friends of Ayn Rand (1:03:30)
The complete filmed version of Ayn Rand's play, Ideal
Episode of Filmmakers - An interview with Director Michael Paxton on the making of Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life
Cast & Crew Bios





Description: Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life is the first authorized film about the life and work of the controversial Russian-born author of such renowned novels as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged is now the subject of a virtual '...multimedia...Ayn Rand Fest:' as reported by Newsweek. Written, produced and directed by Michael Paxton, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life is a flux of events, ideas, emotions and accomplishments - all combining to create an Oscar® nominated portrait of one woman's genius and point of view. Narrated by Emmy® Award-winning actress Sharon Gless, the documentary offers millions of fans the opportunity to relive the drama of Ayn Rand's life and fiction: from her early childhood and escape from Soviet Russia to her struggle and triumph as an American writer whose total book sales have exceeded 30 million copies. Drawing from personal papers and public archives across two continents, the film combines fact, dramatizations and an intimate weave of interviews with Leonard Peikoff (Ayn Rand's intellectual heir), television journalist Mike Wallace and others, as well as rare photos, film footage and an original film-noir scene from her 1934 play, Ideal. The material captures Rand's life-long themes of reason, rational selfishness and political freedom. Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, sweeping from pre-revolutionary Russia to contemporary America, tells the story of a 'ferocious angel,' a woman, and thinker who continues to incite the curiosity and passion of millions.



The Film:

Author and philosopher Ayn Rand (born Alice Rosenbaum) developed an intense following in the 1930s and '40s for her best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and her anti-Communist, pro-Capitalism creed of Objectivism. Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life is a two-and-a-half hour exploration of her life, work, and influence, featuring newsreel footage of Rand and interviews with her friends, associates, and followers. Narrated by actress Sharon Gless, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Documentary Feature of 1998.

Excerpt from the MRQE located HERE




While not exactly Ken Burns territory, this expansive documentary on the multi-tiered life of Russian émigré-cum-novelist-cum-philosopher Rand is nothing if not ambitious. At 147minutes, it may in fact be too ambitious for its own good, slavishly marking everything about Rand from her humble origins in St. Petersburg to her waning years post-Atlas Shrugged when she was making the rounds of such television interview programs as Donahue. Frankly, I haven't seen anything more bizarre in years than the sight of the pudgy-cheeked Rand giving Phil Donohue's silver mane a good what-for -- the pairing of these two (in 1980) was, and remains, one of the oddest philosophical sparring matches in known history. That aside, Paxton has recruited Rand scholars from all over to echo her always controversial opinions and add insight where possible. Colleagues Dr. Harry Binswanger and Dr. Leonard Peikoff recount Rand's transition from a bright if introspective Russian child who, after suffering through the October Revolution, enrolled herself in film school (while still in the Soviet Union) and then managed against all odds to secure a passport to visit relatives in Chicago. Rand never returned to her homeland, nor, it is assumed, did she plan to.

Excerpt from The Austin Chromicle located HERE


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


Firstly, I own the, now out-of-print, 2004 Image-Entertainment DVD of Michael Paxton's Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life but, I never reviewed it and it is not something I will bother with a full comparison. It is not the type of documentary that requires a strong visual presentation, IMO. It is in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio with clips of varying quality and different ARs used in the film.  Strand give us a single-layered 1080P transfer with a modest bitrate.  The more modern interviews (Peikoff etc.) and some of the black and white photography stills seem the most remarkable in HD - others 'pictures' are old and damaged. Even the older video interviews (Synder, Donahue) are not overly flattering but accurate from the original source. But, I don't expect it will, ever, look any superior than this.




















Audio & Music:

The DTS-HD Master 2.0 track at 1766 kbps easily supports Sharon Gless's narration. It is clear and crisp with some affirming background music by Jeff Britting. Strand offer optional English (SDH) subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.





The Blu-ray (Disc 1) only offers a remastered Trailer.

There is a second disc (single-layered DVD) with a few additional video pieces (more interviews -
Peikoff, behind the scenes footage and complete filmed version of Ayn Rand's play, Ideal in poor-quality, chroma filled, SD) plus galleries of stills; ex. never-before-seen photos of Ayn Rand & Frank O'Connor, stills from the filmed version of Ayn Rand's play, Ideal etc. Some of it is interesting but the disc itself is hard to navigate and get to some of the good stuff - it seems padded with less-interesting supplements. I did enjoy hearing from the director Michael Paxton, if only briefly.


I'd have preferred the Blu-ray to be dual-layered with the documentary and supplements all on one disc.


Blu-ray (disc 1)


DVD (disc 2)


Bottom line: With The Fountainhead as one of my favorite films, I am a pretty big Ayn Rand fan. I wouldn't consider myself a staunch 'Objectivist' but I have always found her a totally interesting character and certainly enlightening to listen to. Many commentators, in recent years, dismiss her philosophy, but I think one can gain insight without becoming a devout, cult-like follower. She is often misunderstood. As I stated, I already owned this 2004 Image-Entertainment DVD and have watched many interviews with her on YouTube. IMO, she remains one of the more fascinating human beings of the 20th Century. The Strand Blu-ray offers this, almost 2.5 hour, documentary in 1080P with a few supplemental attempts on the second disc DVD. For those curious - this is a worthwhile spin - but her following may be the most appreciative. Not that it means anything , but I, personally, will watch this again gaining more now than from seeing it years ago. I never seem to tire of hearing her talk. She was an amazing gal...

Gary Tooze

July 21st, 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.

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Gary W. Tooze






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