Beasts of the Southern Wild (Blu-ray) (2012)

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Released 18-Jan-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 93:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Benh Zeitlin
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Quvenzhané Wallis
Dwight Henry
Levy Easterly
Lowell Landes
Pamela Harper
Gina Montana
Amber Henry
Jonshel Alexander
Nicholas Clark
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Dan Romer
Benh Zeitlin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Beasts of the Southern Wild was one of the critical successes of 2012. Not only did it win a swag of awards at festivals across the world, it also featured in many top critic’s Best of 2012 lists. Shot on a shoestring budget it managed to recover its money tenfold although the film perhaps failed to capitalise on the groundswell and earn big dollars at the box office. To be truthful it is a strange film, at times joyous and other times disturbing, that will perhaps appeal to a limited audience.

     Six-year-old Hushpuppy (newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis) lives in a remote community known as The Bathtub on the fringes of the Louisiana bayou. Her mother has gone, though whether she left or died is never revealed. Hushpuppy lives in her own adapted trailer house near to that of her father Wink (Dwight Henry). Wink isn't the best of fathers. Frequently drunk, often abusive, he is prone to disappear for days at a time. His fatherly duties seem confined to throwing a chicken on the barbecue and ringing an improvised bell to announce "feeds up"!

     Wink is dying, for reasons that are never very clear. The community of the Bathtub is pretty much a group of outsiders who carouse long into the night and live a totally free lifestyle. Hushpuppy and the other children in the Bathtub get some education, of sorts, from a local wise woman. She tells Hushpuppy about the legendary aurochs, giant beasts that walked the land aeons ago, and are still being found defrosted as the ice caps melt. Entropy is an overarching theme as the Bathtub and Hushpuppy's world seem to be sliding into oblivion.

     When a giant storm threatens the community many evacuate but Wink keeps Hushpuppy around through the frightening winds and rain. The flooded and battered community after the storm provides one of many arresting images in the film. Hushpuppy's journey is an odyssey of sorts. She has to learn an even greater degree of self-sufficiency when facing the inevitable fact that her father may not be around for long.

     As said, Beasts of the Southern Wild is an odd film. The starkness of the imagery and the quality of the performance from Quvenzhané are both quite stunning. The bayou is stark and beautiful. The young girl, not a kiddie actress, gives a performance of genuine emotion, sadness mixed with a ferocious determination. She is worth the price of admission alone. And yet, for all the film’s delving into her life, and the magic realism elements of mighty aurochs melting in the ice caps and making their way towards the Bathtub, the film still has a troubling undercurrent. Wink’s savage determination to keep Hushpuppy as a child of the Bathtub seems not only destructive of himself but of her.

     In an interlude, the remaining denizens in the Bathtub after the hurricane are evacuated to a nearby medical facility where the doctor makes it clear that Wink needs urgent attention to survive. Instead he and his cronies engineer a breakout which is played for laughs, as the remaining outsiders make their way back to their destroyed homes. It is no doubt a celebration of a life lived on the edge and refusal to compromise to societal values but at the same time the film shows us that it is a community in decline with Wink only displaying flashes of humanity.

     Perhaps this is applying a moralistic streak to the film that represents stereotypical response and prejudice to the community and many communities like the Bathtub. Many US critics including A.O. Scott have had no difficulty with the Bathtub lifestyle which in Hushpuppy's case appears to be abandonment and abuse. Nevertheless this remains one of the more interesting films of 2012.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Beasts of the Southern Wild was shot in a collective fashion by a group calling themselves Court 13, based in Louisiana. Director Benh Zeitlin worked from a script developed by Lucy Alibar from her one act play Juicy and Delicious.

     Cinematographer Ben Richardson shot the film on 16mm film. It was blown up to 35mm film for cinematic release and was projected at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The film comes to Blu-ray with the correct aspect ratio.

     The effect of shooting on 16mm and then blowing it up for cinema projection usually results in a higher level of film grain. It is true that this film does display a higher than usual grain level however it seems to suit the rugged location.

     The colours of the bayou are rich and vibrant. The image quality is fairly sharp bearing in mind the limitations of 16mm film.

     The flesh tones are accurate.

     The blacks are deep and the shadows inky.

     There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired.

    There are no technical problems with the image quality.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Beasts of the Southern Wild features a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 English language track.

     The sound is crisp and clear throughout. Dialogue is not so clear given that the film features a number of non-actors speaking in strong accents. Nevertheless, I found the dialogue understandable without the need to play it with the subtitles.

     The surround sound and sub-woofer are used to powerful effect during the hurricane scene, enveloping the viewer with rain, wind and terror. There is also an explosion in the film which utilises the sub-woofer to its full potential.

     Music for the film is by Dan Romer. The film features a very memorable main theme and it must be said that the music throughout is exceptional. It has a southern swamp tinged sound. The score is worth picking up and listening to separately to the film.

    There are no technical problems with the sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras on this Blu-ray release.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The US Region A Blu-ray is a fully featured affair. Fans should buy that version. It includes:

Summary

     Beasts of the Southern Wild takes us into a world on the fringes. As my review attests I enjoyed the film but found myself troubled by what appears to be a celebration of an abusive lifestyle.

     There is no disputing the quality of the Blu-ray despite the 16mm origins; it is at times glorious to watch and the sound is also impressive.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, January 07, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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