Beauty (2011)

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Released 9-Jan-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer-(1:32) 2.35:1 : An excellent trailer for the film.
Theatrical Trailer-King of Devil's Island (2:19) 2.35:1 and 16x9.
Theatrical Trailer-Declaration of War (1:33) 1.78:1 and 16x9.
Theatrical Trailer-How I Ended the Summer (2:27) 1.78:1 and 16x9.
Theatrical Trailer-Blue Valentine (1:54) 1.78:1 and 16x9
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 100:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:52) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Oliver Hermanus
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Deon Lotz
Charlie Keegan
Michelle Scott
Albert Maritz
Sue Diepeveen
Roeline Daneel
Drikus Volschenk
Morne Visser
Leon Kruger
Robin Smith
Jeroen Kranenburg
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $29.95 Music Ben Ludik


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

"O what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!"

     Those lines of Sir Walter Scott's kept coming to mind as I watched Beauty, or Skoonheid to give the film its Afrikaner title, one of the most challenging, disturbing and shocking films I have seen in years. It makes Michael Fassbender's Shame look like a Mills and Boon romance. The director, Oliver Hermanus, still only twenty-eight years old, is currently preparing his third film, The Well, ”an English language period film that will shed light on the complex relationship between Judas and Jesus". The first film from Hermanus was Shirley Adams in 2009, the success and acclaim for that film propelling the young filmmaker into Beauty, which became the first Afrikaans film to go to Cannes, and also to become a contender for the 2011 Oscars. The central figure of this exceptional film is a man who has built a life which is a web of deception and lies, trapping himself at the centre of a life which has become a negation of living.

     Set in modern day South Africa the film strips bare the life of a forty-something businessman, Francois (Deon Lotz). Francois owns and runs a successful lumber business, and the opening of the film sees him and his wife Elena (Michelle Scott) midst the celebrations at the wedding of his older daughter, Linda. A guest at the wedding is Francois' oldest friend, Willem, attending with his wife and their sublimely handsome twenty-three year old son, Christian (Charlie Keegan). The smiling and devastatingly charming Christian has become a magnet not only for Francois younger daughter, Anika (Roeline Daneel), but for the furtive, admiring eyes of Francois. The young man looks to Francois as a possibly more compassionate father figure, and is urged by Francois to drop the "uncle" tag and simply call him by his first name. Once the parents of the bride are alone, festivities done, we see that this is a loveless marriage, the lives of the couple touching only in cold civility. One day in a break from work Francois drives to an outer urban house where a group of half a dozen or so middle aged men gather. Their initial socialising is awkward as they share beers in the kitchen. A new older male arrives, with a very young coloured youth in tow. He is instantly evicted from the group - we learn that the rules are "no faggots - no coloureds". The offending couple leave, and those remaining are soon participating in raw, ugly, sweaty sex. Francois is of a generation and a culture in which prejudices involving sex and race are openly voiced, even by the man himself while he conceals the fact that he is a practising homosexual. As a consequence of Francois' double life, he does not relate to those closest to him. At business and with casual acquaintances, those not involving sex, he is an affable and likeable man. With his wife he is cold and remote, as she is with him. As we follow him through the film - and I am sure there is not one scene without this central character - we see him as an observer of life rather than as a participant. He watches, from the safety of a car, from behind bushes or from a solitary restaurant table. His fascination with Christian becomes an obsession and he stalks him to the beach, where the beautiful young man is enjoying the sun with none other than Anika. Gradually Francois' life begins to unravel, reaching its devastatingly ugly and violent resolution in a hotel room after Christian asks Francois to finance him in a business venture. This is a scene almost unbearable to watch, with its relentless sexual violence.

     The filmmaker's technique is an integral part of the storytelling of this film. The superb opening shot establishes that we are in the hands of a gifted filmmaker. The camera, natural sounds and the sensitive musical theme isolate Christian from the other guests. Not until the end of the shot do we realise that the camera has, in fact, been the enthralled eyes of Francois. The soundscape begins with silence that gradually envelops the audience, and at other times through the action builds to an unbearable cacophony. Contrasted with this we have the almost silent sequences showing Francois waiting for life to enter his field of vision. The images too, are controlled and steady, like the exterior that Francois presents to fool the world. Francois is even fooling himself, telling Christian late in the film : "Some people don't know how to keep it together ... but I do. You know what I mean?"

     This tragically flawed man - and I don't mean flawed because of his homosexuality - emotionally unravels while we recoil in absolute revulsion. Some have criticised the film for being too slow, no doubt being annoyed by the quite lengthy passages of superficial inertia. Empty cars are parked outside an innocuous, unattractive house while we watch wondering whose house this is and who belongs to these cars. Francois, I think twice in the film, leaves a scene and we wait for some seconds for him to eventually re-enter. However, I found these static moments to be incredibly involving, forcing me to consider what is happening on the screen and, more importantly, what is going on in Francois' head. The screenplay from the director and Didier Costet, his first feature, leaves unanswered questions, although the fact that we ask the question in the first place does, I believe, give us the unavoidable answers. There are consequences for our actions, and the consequences may not be as black and white as in the morality tales of days gone by.

     This is an immensely troubling film; totally engrossing, superbly acted, and beautifully crafted. It is a psychological drama, even a thriller, that examines the life of one man with a ruthless honesty that is extremely rare - possibly unique - in film. It is also about toleration, and the differing attitudes of different generations. It takes its specifics from South Africa, but the tragedy of the central character has a universality that makes Beauty, or Skoonheid, a profoundly troubling and moving film. It is a film dominated by pain and poetry, pulsing in every frame of this very fine film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Beauty is given a very handsome standard DVD transfer.

     The film is presented at the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and the image is 16x9 enhanced.

     The excellent cinematography by Jamie Ramsay (Shirley Adams) makes excellent use of the widescreen frame, with some arresting compositions. At times these images are virtually frozen on screen for us - and the protagonist - to contemplate. The photography is obviously totally in tune with the director's intentions. The camera, and the images captured, are totally controlled, like the main character. The general image quality is excellent, with admirable detail both in the brightly lit scenes and the darker interiors. The colour is generally rich, but natural, with exceptionally delicate skin tones. The colour is totally consistent throughout the film.

     The transfer was clean without a trace of any artefact.

     The dialogue is mostly in Afrikaans, with English subtitles, with a small amount of dialogue actually spoken in English.

     The layer change is marked by a momentary freeze of the image at 61:52.

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

Audio

     There is one audio stream, Afrikaans, subtitled, Dolby Digital 5.1.

     As with the visual aspects of this film, the audio design superbly reinforces the director's intentions. I have read overseas reviews that dismiss the soundtrack as very basic, and limited by the filmmaker's budget. Nothing could be further from the truth. This soundtrack is a work of art in itself. The masterful opening is classic filmmaking, building from the black-screen silence into the babble of the wedding guests, and then the plaintive theme entering as the camera ever so slowly dollies in selecting the charismatic Christian from the throng. There is, in fact, much silence in this film, and there are other scenes in which the sounds are a tumultuous barrage. The film's dialogue is basically front and centre, but there is ample action across the front speakers. Off-screen entrances and conversations surround us with the sounds of Francois' world. The surrounds are in action extensively, as in the car scenes, the scenes at the timber business and the street scenes, particularly the walk through the gay area of Cape Town at night. The subwoofer does not have much opportunity to perform in most of the film, but the bar music in this Cape Town sequence has a pounding insistent bass. This rock music is in complete contrast to the original concerto-like score composed by Ben Ludik, which is reproduced beautifully through all channels.

     This is an arresting soundtrack to an intelligent, beautifully crafted film.

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

Extras

     As with the Region 1 release, there is a disappointing absence of extras.

Menu

     The menu reproduces the still from the slick with audio of a song from the film. There is no animation.

Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

     Very good quality theatrical trailer presented at the ratio of 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded audio.

More from Palace Films (8:13)

     Four trailers, all of excellent quality : King of Devil's Island (2:19) : ratio 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced, Declaration of War (1:33) : ratio 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced, How I Ended this Summer (2:27) : ratio 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced and Blue Valentine (1:54) : ratio 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    The local release is the same as the barebones Region 1 release.

Summary

     Beauty is a shattering drama from a young filmmaker who must have some great films ahead of him. It has an excellent screenplay, outstanding performances and is beautifully shot and recorded. Its characters and situations provide troubling food for thought, and the contemplative presentation allows us the time to think and ponder. It has a scene of explicit gay sex, and contains one of the most genuinely violent scenes I have ever seen. Beauty takes provocative to another level. The absence of extras is so disappointing when there is much that could have been said about the creation of this remarkably mature film from such youthful creators.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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