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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Polytechnique [Blu-ray]

 

(Denis Villeneuve, 2009)

 

 

There is also a Blu-ray sold in the US but I am unsure if it is the same (different ASIN#)

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Remstar Media Partners

Video: Alliance

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:17:01.867 (both)

Disc Size: 38,450,536,205 bytes

Feature Size: English: 17,069,568,000 bytes / French: 17,090,457,600 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.49 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: June 10th, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

English:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3136 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3136 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps

French:

DTS-HD Master Audio French 3115 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3115 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48
kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), French, none

 

Extras (in French only - no subs):

Enjeux (45:56)

• Ici Comme Ailleurs (5:07)

• Trailers (Sticky Fingers - 1:37, The Master Key - 1:51)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Based on the true events that occurred on December 6, 1989, at the Montreal’s Polytechnique School, the movie tells us about that specific day through the eyes of two students, Valérie and Jean-François, whose lives have been changed forever, when a young man entered the school with one idea in mind: kill himself and take with him as many women as possible.

 

 

The Film:

Denis Villeneuve’s somber and meticulous “Polytechnique,” about killings that took place more than 20 years ago at a Montreal technical school, feels both shocking and dreadfully familiar. The way horror erupts into the routines of an ordinary day, in drab, functional, institutional spaces — we know this from news reports, from our own imaginations and from movies like Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant,” a film loosely based on the Columbine High School shootings that casts an ambiguous shadow over “Polytechnique.”

Mr. Villeneuve, a Québécois filmmaker recently celebrated for “Incendies,” a larger and more ambitious history of violence than “Polytechnique,” is perhaps not as coy an artist as Mr. Van Sant, but they are similar in addressing the reconstruction of a terrible event as a formal and ethical challenge. Both “Elephant” and this film steer away from trying to explain or moralize about what is depicted on screen, perhaps on the assumption that such work will be done, exhaustively, elsewhere. Instead they stick to the basics of time, space and human behavior and allow meaning to seep in gradually and obliquely through the edges.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

Quebec's Denis Villeneuve (Maelström) doesn't attempt to answer the "why" question in Polytechnique, his skilfully devastating account of Dec. 6, 1989, when gunman Marc Lépine shot and killed 14 women at Montreal's École Polytechnique, also wounding 10 women and four men before taking his own life.

Nor do Villeneuve and screenwriter Jacques Davidts seek to make a grand statement about what it all means. They leave it to journalists and other so-called "experts" to try to explain how solitary madness applies to society at large.

Instead they show, with minimal speculation and admirable restraint, the horror of that awful day when the rage of one became the grief of many.

Excerpt from The Toronto Star located HERE

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

Firstly, There were two versions of the film produced, one in English and one in French. The director Denis Villeneuve hoped the film would enter into the English-Canadian market, as well as the American one.

 

NOTE: this is not referencing that both films offer two versions of the critical moment when the massacre begins.

 

Alliance continue to make head-scratching decisions (see their SD transfers of two other Canadian films; Atanarjuat or The Red Violin or David Lynch's The Straight Story.) Who makes these odd authoring decisions? Someone out of touch, IMO. And here we go again...

 

Polytechnique came out on Blu-ray a while back but, looking closely, the film is transferred twice - once in an English (DUB) option and separately in the original French. By not simply adding alternate audio tracks to the transfer (and it is the exact same film as far as I can determine) they are spreading the transfer's file space and thereby limiting the bitrate. Firstly, I thought one would be black and white and the other in color. No - that isn't the case. Villeneuve shot the film in black and white, so as to avoid the distraction and exploitive attention when deep red blood appears in a scene. Or I thought that they would be differently cut (edited) films - I don't believe so or it probably wouldn't have the exact same running time to the 1/1000th of a second. Now, it may be some weird contractual thing (starting with different logos? - but that could have easily been seamlessly-branched) - but even if it is - the result is a sloppy, unnecessarily wasteful transfer. Now, the film is short, at an hour 17-minutes, which still doesn't justify the decision - as it could/should have had a max'ed out bitrate. Baffling but consistent with Alliance's past transfer decisions. If I am wrong, I am willing to correct this - I watched both - exact same film - aside from the audio.

 

It is dual-layered with a reasonable bitrate. It is predictably clean and the 1080P provides a very pleasing HD presentation in the film's original black and white. I might have seen one or two slight instances of noise but it was never distracting. Pierre Gill's cinematography (extensive, well-thought out, pans and unique angles) does a great job adding a vérité, and disturbingly haunting feel.  The video quality is adept - often rich and pleasing but I suspect it could have been better (crisper) - accentuating the contrast and adding more consistency to the grain textures - if it had a more robust bitrate. This Blu-ray does an acceptable, but not stellar, job in presenting the film.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Alliance use a DTS-HD Master in 5.1 surround at a healthy 3136 kbps for both English and French versions (as well as lossy Dolby 5.1 options for both languages as well.) Audio quality is great with a supportive score by Benoît Charest - beautiful, haunting and contemplative - it works very well with the narrative. The gunfire effects are explosive and will rattle your home theater with their bomb-like depth. The film doesn't have a lot of dialogue but what I did see in the English version did not seem like a distracting out-of-synch DUB. There are optional English subtitles (sample above) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'.

 

Extras :

Both supplements featurettes are in French (Quebecois) with no English subtitle or DUB option on the 2 extras. This is a drawback. Ici comme ailleurs is a TV clip from 1989 about the event. Enjeux - "Tuerie a l'ecole Polytechque - 10 ans apres runs 47-minutes and is from 1999 with some interviews with individuals about the horrific shooting. There are also two trailers for other Alliance productions.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I have become quite a fan of Denis Villeneuve. I loved Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario (the latter coming to 4K Ultra HD) all showcase his unique skill as a filmmaker. Polytechnique is a shocking and memorable film - exceptionally realized. I was blown away and am still a bit rattled from my viewing of last night. The name of the shooter is never mentioned in the film and the end credits list Maxim Gaudette's character, simply as, "The killer". The Alliance Blu-ray - with its unusual transfer(s) - would seem the best way to view this eviscerating visual film experience at present. I can see myself revisiting Polytechnique multiple times. Certainly the film is strongly recommended and I hope we can compare it to another BD edition soon.

Gary Tooze

March 2nd, 2016

 

There is also a Blu-ray sold in the US but I am unsure if it is the same (different ASIN#)

 

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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