The Bear (L' Ours) (1988)
Main Menu Audio
Trailer-Umbrella Propaganda (3)
|Year Of Production||1988|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Jean-Jacques Annaud|
Bart the Bear
Youk the Bear
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Before I get into too much detail, this is a wonderful film, a joy to watch with superb cinematography and simply astounding real life animal action. The story is one that the entire family can enjoy. It is a simple tale told with great skill.
There is almost no dialogue in the film. Most of the time we are focused on the two bears that star in this film but the story comes across very clearly, maybe even more clearly due to the lack of words. We follow two bears in the wilderness of British Columbia in 1885. Both bears are Kodiacs, one an obscenely cute little bear cub, and the other a truly awe-inspiring full grown male. We follow them through a few days of their lives, extremely trying and turbulent days in which one of the most powerful creatures of the wilderness meets with the only other creature that can match it blow for blow; man.
The men are hunters, looking to collect bear skins for trade and they have the male bear in their sights. One of the men will come to face mother nature at her most ferocious, though as portrayed in the film this is a natural part of the wheel of life, and come away a changed man.
Yes, the men and to some extent the bears are portrayed as stereotypes, the men cruel, heartless and out for the furs, the bears part of the natural order, although they are not Disney bears - they hunt and kill to supply their own needs, but again as part of the natural order. While I agree with this in the majority of cases, there are two caveats; the first is that this is the late 1800's and man at the time was only a little above nature in his reliance on the natural order. Synthetic fibres had not yet been invented and furs were an essential part of life (this of course no longer applies), and the second is that man is part of nature so an attempt to show a disparity between nature and man is a little discordant. These fur hunters did overhunt their region and brought destruction on the natural order and themselves but there is a feel of applying modern ethics to the 1800's. On the side of the bears, well, they are maybe just a little too cute at times - the red tooth and claw of mother nature has been somewhat mollified.
The animal training in this film is nothing short of astounding. They have a full grown Kodiac, a Kodiac cub and a bobcat all acting out their parts, interacting with each other and humans in ways that will leave you wondering how they managed to create such scenes.
While this is a family film, I must make a distinction between this and a Disney type family film. There is blood and violence, even though the film has received a G rating. Animals are shot, hunted by dogs and injured (the credits assure us that this is all simulated) and the younger kiddies might find themselves hiding their heads under your arm at certain times. Despite this, I do recommend it for children from about age five as the violence is part of nature (man included) and is far more in context than the average night's news.
This transfer has me in something of a quandary trying to decide just where the problems that exist originate from. Parts of the transfer have the look of encoding problems but they exhibit in strange ways without the usual group of problems that typically goes together.
The film is thankfully shown in its 2.35:1 glory and is 16x9 enhanced.
Sharpness is where the first of the problems occurs. Still and slow moving objects are sharp and clearly defined. Moving objects are blurred and lack any fine detail. These moving objects, or the background during a pan, have ghost images that appear either leading or following the object in question, sometimes up to two frames ahead. This can create great confusion when it is a complex background such as a group of bushes and leads to a very blurred image. Clear examples can be found where the bear cub is waving its paw at 6:43 and in the background at 6:46 and again at 18:02. Shadow detail is good and there is only very minor amounts of low level noise in a couple of scenes. Overall contrast fluctuates a little depending on the lighting which appears to be all natural. On an overcast day the image is somewhat softer than on a clear blue sky day - this has an effect on the colour saturation as well.
The colour palette is all natural and consists of the greens of the forests, the blue of the skies and the brown of the bears. They are well saturated and free of noise.
This is where I am slightly confused - the above problems with moving objects are usually associated with MPEG artefacts but I could not find a single case of pixelization. The scene changes also contain information from the previous and next frames (6:47), another sign that there might be compression problems but again no pixelization or posterization. (Ed. This could well be an NTSC to PAL conversion.) The bit rate is a healthy (for a single layered disc) average somewhere just under 7Mbps. There are some film artefacts such as some black specks and more noticeable white flecks that are fairly constant, though not really that distracting.
Unfortunately there are no subtitles on this single layered disc.
There is almost no dialogue but what is there can be easily understood.
The audio sync is good except of course for the fact that this is a French film and the actors have been dubbed, leading to the usual lip sync disparity.
Music is also used sparingly but very effectively. It offers a nice orchestral backdrop to some scenes.
The surrounds are constantly active with subtle split surround information from the world around the characters. There are also some good directional effects, a sterling effort that leaves you completely immersed in the film.
There are some deep subwoofer moments that work well and are not overdone.
|Surround Channel Use|
A static menu presented at 1.76:1, 16x9 enhanced with no audio. There is a scene from the movie as the backdrop containing the big bear that fades to black on the left side where the menu selections reside.
Presented at 2.35:1 with 16x9 enhancement and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. They have put together a series of scenes from the film in a different order than they appear in the main feature. This gives a good feel for what the movie is about but appears to change the actual storyline a little.
Trailers for three other Umbrella releases; Paul is Live in Concert (2:53, 1.33:1), Cyrano De Bergerac (1:39, 1.33:1), the Depardieu version, and Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo (1:00, 1.33:1). The truly sad thing about this trailer is that I recognise the episode that it is drawn from, the result of a childhood spent in front of the TV.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The R1 version of this disc misses out on:
The R4 version of this disc misses out on:
The two featurettes are only about six odd minutes each and as such are extended trailers rather than true documentaries but this still gives R1 the win.
This is a great family film that is very engrossing for both the adults and the kids. There are elements for everyone in the film and it is very hard not to fall completely in love with the little bear. The director has done a fantastic job crafting this film and has stepped out of the usual by giving us two dream sequences from the little bear's perspective. (Actually, one of the sequences is from when he finds a patch of magic mushrooms but the kids watching won't know that if you don't tell them.)
The video is confused.
The audio is excellent.
The extras are missing.
|DVD||Skyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output|
|Display||Sony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.|
|Speakers||B&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)|