Velvet Goldmine (US - BD RA)
Jonathan takes a quick technical look at Todd Haynes' glam rock drama..
Ewan McGregor ( Moulin Rouge!), Jonathan Rhys Meyers ("The Tudors") and Christian Bale ( The Dark Knight, The Fighter) star in this alluring journey through rock 'n' roll's most outrageous era. It's been 10 years since glam-rock superstar Brian Slade (Meyers) faked his own death and vanished from the spotlight. Now, it's the job of an investigative reporter (Bale) to uncover the truth behind his disappearance. Directed by Todd Todd Haynes ( Far From Heaven) and acclaimed by critics, Velvet Goldmine delves into the vibrant 70's music scene with an all-access pass and an uncompromising look at the flamboyance and excesses of its larger-than-life stars. (From the Lionsgate synopsis)
Lionsgate gives Velvet Goldmine a 1080p transfer with an opened up 1.78:1 aspect ratio (the packaging erroneously lists 1.85:1 on the back). The feature film, audio included, takes up approximately 20.7 GB of space on a BD-25. For a two hour feature, those numbers make for a low bitrate. With its psychedelic colours, flamboyant fashion on display, and a wide variety of filming styles and techniques, this digital transfer was bound to have its work cut out for it. Unfortunately, the transition from film to digital was pretty rough in this instance. A good portion of the film grain has taken the form of a chunky, blocky appearance that is most evident against white backgrounds. It appears as though edge enhancement has been applied in many scenes, making the blocking stand out more. It leaves a lot to be desired, but as you can hopefully tell from the screen caps, it is still a sizable upgrade from the original non-anamorphic Miramax DVD in terms of detail. The slight horizontal stretching is also cured, and the colours are less overblown to let more visible detail in. I never saw the film during its theatrical run so I can't say which is more accurate, but the Blu-ray has a decidedly warmer push to it and a big boost in brightness (watch Meyer's hair go from brown to red in the second cap). The picture quality is disappointing, but this Blu-ray presentation is still by far the best option available on the US market.
I was let down by the video presentation, but thankfully Lionsgate's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track came through for me. Velvet Goldmine has a sprawling energetic soundtrack that never lets up throughout the runtime of the film. Artists on the soundtrack include T. Rex, Brian Eno, Lou Reed and many many more, as well as some original music. It all sounds fantastic and more dynamic than ever, from the shrill guitars to the deep bass drums. The constant music makes sure that your speakers, bass included, are always at work. I was concerned about dialogue levels taking a backseat to the prominent music, but everything was perfectly clear. There isn't a wealth of directional effects aside from the background noise of audiences or a concert happening off screen, but the music is the main focus here and it fills the room gloriously. When going through the old DVD release to take screen caps, the snippets of audio quality I heard could not compare. I really can't imagine the film sounding much better than this.
Aside from the theatrical trailer, the only feature is a new audio commentary track with writer/director Todd Haynes and producer Christine Vachon. Haynes mentions at the beginning that he brought a lot of notes with him to help him be as informative as possible during the commentary. It's great, because he has a lot of interesting things to say, but it is a little distracting when you can tell that he is reading from the notes he has scripted for the occasion. He makes it quite clear that the movie was never made to be an authentic depiction of the era, which the movie has been criticized for. He goes into a lot of detail about the entire production, especially the music choices and their inspiration. Vachon doesn't talk nearly as much as Haynes, but she chimes in with some valuable information. For die-hard fans that want to know as much as possible about the movie, here is your ticket.
Velvet Goldmine is a lovingly made piece of nostalgia with some interesting things to say about pop culture. It falls short in the storytelling department, but it has enough style and memorable performances to make it more than worth seeing. This Blu-ray from Lionsgate has a disappointing transfer, but it's still a massive upgrade from the DVD and features an impressive boisterous audio track. The new commentary track is incredibly detailed and should please fans.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 13th December 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Todd Haynes and Producer Christine Vachon, Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Todd Haynes
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Christian Bale, Toni Collette, Eddie Izzard
Length: 119 minutes
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