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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Religion > Fantasy > Politics > Life Of Pi (2012/Fox Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray + DVD)/The Song Of Bernadette (1943/Fox/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)

Life Of Pi (2012/Fox Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray + DVD)/The Song Of Bernadette (1943/Fox/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)

 

3D Picture: B     2D Picture: B- & C/B-     Sound: B+ & B-/B-     Extras: C/C+     Films: C/C+

 

 

PLEASE NOTE:  The Song Of Bernadette Blu-ray is limited to 3,000 copies and is available exclusively at the Screen Archives website which can be reached at the link at the end of this review.

 

 

Religion on film has never been an easy proposition as film is an artform and religion is usually about dogma more than spirituality, especially since it became more extreme in the last few decades.  Trying to convey various subjects and stories through the medium led to a epics genre that widescreen filmmaking finally killed in the 1960s and though we cannot say religious films ever became a full genre otherwise, we have seen a new cycle and surge of them.

 

 

Ang Lee is the most overrated filmmaker today.  We’ll forget about his arrogance and how everyone forgets his many bombs and somehow only remembers his few hits.  Life Of Pi (2012) was based on Yann Martel’s allegedly unfilmable book, but the visuals we do get are constantly, obviously digital and were originally designed for 3D.  Fox has now issued the film in the Blu-ray 3D format with a 2D Blu-ray and even DVD, so wee get a chance to really look at these visuals.

 

For some, including those who voted this wacky work several Academy Awards, it somehow worked for them.  Was it because it was just “so nice” or was it those who read the book projecting their reading into the film?  Either way, this was like an M. Night Shyamalan film finding religion, boring and slow, with more drag than anything either filmmaker has done before.

 

On the one hand, the actors and some of the ideas are not bad, want to have some kind of sense of wonderment, but even that seems like a stale Spielberg impersonation and since Lee is already known for Tigers and Dragons, the overuse of animals plays like a elongated cliché (with more than a few common denominators with Wizard Of Oz) and for most of the time one feels like they are being talked at (if not always down to) as the storyline takes the very concept of nature and tries to remystify it as all under a singular God.  This brings it to a borderline anti-evolution stance that is condescending enough to put one off, but this is also incredibly smug as it is overly impressed with its visual effects which are frankly no better than the CGI add-ons on the better 70mm IMAX nature documentaries.

 

Adding insult to injury and proving the smugness, Lee (we should have seen this coming) did not even acknowledge the people who did the extensive digital visual effects when accepting his Oscars.  Lame!

 

The story has Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) trapped on a small rowboat with a Bengal Tiger, at first hidden under a covering that pushes credibility.  They have to co-exist to survive.  Can Pi handle the threat?  Can we handle not falling asleep?  As Darren Aronofsky’s Pi (a better film) reminds us, the number can have religious significance and many religious structures are built on numbers suggesting “God’s design” can be proven by math.  Lee’s work is never that profound, while the 3D often looks fake like a pop-up book, with a simplicity to match in the worst possible ways.

 

The result is pure fluff and you should stick with the book, because showing what the book want to show visually makes it all too literal and I just never bought it.  The only thing is, it odes introduce a new kind of phoniness to bad cinema, so it will likely be remembered for that and make future viewers wonder what the big fuss was about.  Gerard Depardieu, known for his off-camera antics of late, also shows up putting the icing on this mess.

 

Extras include a Digital Copy and Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while the disc extras include the Original Theatrical Trailer, Deleted Scenes and two featurettes in 3D on the Blu-ray 3D and an Art Gallery and Storyboards and three more featurettes in HD, plus the standard definition DVD version.

 

 

70 years ago, Fox released Henry King’s The Song Of Bernadette (1943) with Jennifer Jones as the title character, a young woman who believes she sees a female apparition.  Suddenly, the community she lives in of 1858 France really jumps the gun and thinks she has seen the Virgin Mary!  However, she never said that, but everyone has to jump in (apparently having no life) and we watch as the Church and morons in the government dismiss her and even despise her.  However, she suddenly gets an unexpected swelling of support from the people around her until a phenomenon arises that cannot be ignored.

 

Though the film is far too long at 156 minutes, it is a far more sincere work of filmmaking and deals more with faith than bells and whistles.  Jones was using her new name for the first time as husband David O. Selznick was trying to push her as the next big new Hollywood star and though she never became big box office; she could act and had a career that is sometimes underrated.  She is able to carry this film well and is more responsible for it working than she gets credit for.  Even with a supporting cast that includes Vincent Price, Lee J. Cobb, Charles Bickford, Gladys Cooper, Mary Anderson, Anne Revere, Charles Dingle, Sig Ruman, Jerome Cowan and an uncredited Linda Darnell as The Virgin Mary, this is very long and is practically Biblical Epic length.  It almost qualifies as one of those films before they broke out in the 1950s with a vengeance.

 

Not for everyone, it is worth a look for the curious and the professional work here.  This is definitely a work for adults, which is something I cannot totally say about Pi, which never seems as religious by comparison.

 

Extras include a nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and another fine essay by Julie Kirgo, while the Blu-ray adds a Restoration Comparison, Original Theatrical Trailer, feature length audio commentary track by film historians Jon Burlingame, Edward Z. Epstein & Donald Spoto and an Isolated Music Score track of the music by legendary Fox film music composer Alfred Newman.

 

 

The 1.85 X 1, 1080p full HD MVC-encoded 3-D – Full Resolution digital High Definition AVC @ 30 MBPS image on Pi may be fake, but it functions well and best in 3D, so if you can or must see this, try it in 3D since that is the native way it is shot.  By comparison, the 1080p 1.85 X 1 AVC @ 25 MBPS digital High Definition image on the 2D Blu-ray shows the limits of flattening the image, but it is still passable and better than the soft, anamorphically enhanced DVD also included.  The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black and white on Song won the Best Cinematography Academy Award as shot by Director of Photography Arthur C. Miller and remains a good-looking film and a bit better than the 2D Pi image.  Unfortunately, despite the restoration work that has fixed the film up nicely, there are still some inherent print flaws and age issues that show up during its long length that hold it back a bit.  Otherwise, this is easily the best the film has looked in a very long time.

 

Pi joins Taken 2 and Brave as the first films we have reviewed on Blu-ray that happen to have been shown in theaters especially equipped with the new Dolby Atmos system.  Offering something akin to 11.1 tracks, we’ll talk more about the system down the line, but Fox offers the film in a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix that is the default highlight of the presentation, with a fine soundfield and soundmix throughout.  Still, it was far from 2012’s best, but it is just about as state-of-the-art as you will get from that year and though the DVD’s lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 is passable, it cannot compete with the DTS-MA mix.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 1.0 Mono lossless track on Song is as cleaned up as it is going to get from its optical mono theatrical release, but the music sounds a bit better in the isolated track which makes watching portions of the film that way worth your time over again just with the music-only.

 

 

As noted above, Song Of Bernadette can be ordered while supplies last at:

 

www.screenarchives.com

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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