Jefferson in Paris (1995)

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Released 2-Sep-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 133:41
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:17) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By James Ivory
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Nick Nolte
Gwyneth Paltrow
Estelle Eonnet
Thandie Newton
Seth Gilliam
Todd Boyce
Nigel Whitney
Nicolas Silberg
Catherine Samie
Lionel Robert
Stanislas Carré de Malberg
Jean Rupert
Yvette Petit
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Richard Robbins


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
French Titling
German Titling
Spanish Titling
English Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Jefferson in Paris is a period drama from the production team known as Merchant Ivory. Director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant have been responsible for some of the more interesting and stylish period pieces of recent years, such as The Remains Of The Day, Howard's End, and A Room With A View. Lavish production values that just ooze authenticity are their trademark, coupled with a somewhat slow and methodical delivery style (some may label it boring). Authentic and stately is probably the best way to describe how their films look.

    Jefferson in Paris is no exception and satisfies the criteria for the Merchant Ivory film catalogue to a tee. This film takes place in the mid 1780s and is obviously dedicated to the time that Thomas Jefferson spent in Paris. This period is before he became the third President of the United States Of America (1801-1809), when he was the foreign representative of George Washington to the court of Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette. Thomas Jefferson was apparently an intriguing character and noble statesmen. A man fascinated by architecture, mathematics, and natural sciences, he played a key role in the drafting of the Declaration Of Independence and though he kept slaves he was adamant that they would be released if it were in his power to do so. There was also a touch of controversy surrounding him. It is this controversy that is the subject of this film, even though there is no definitive historical account of the more sordid parts actually being true.

    Nick Nolte stars as Jefferson. He's a somewhat odd choice, and the detached and slightly eccentric manner in which he portrays Jefferson may at first make the choice even odder. Jefferson's wife died during childbirth, and though he was adamant that he would not remarry, he did take the odd mistress or two. In his time in Paris he manages to have a bit of a fling with Maria Cosway (Greta Scacchi), the wife of an English noble (played with gay abandon by Simon Callow). But this relationship dances around the periphery of the story and merely serves as a backdrop for Jefferson to experience the decadence of the French Royal court and its pending demise at the hands of the people and the coming revolution. The story really cracks along when Jefferson learns that his youngest daughter, living back home in America, has died. With his oldest daughter Patsy (a young Gwyneth Paltrow) already living with him in Paris, Jefferson decides to now send for his only other living daughter, Polly, to come and live with them. She is too young to travel alone and so a slave girl is sent to accompany her. This slave girl is the 15-year old Sally Hemmings (Thandie Newton).

    Polly and Sally arrive in Paris, and very soon Jefferson finds himself besotted with the young slave girl. He makes her gifts and even agrees to the unthinkable request to pay her wages for the work she does. But the relationship with Sally is about to enter a whole new realm of unspeakable acts (as Jefferson's deeply devout daughter Patsy labels them) when it is discovered that Sally is expecting a child. Much of their relationship is left off screen (the sordid details, including the supposed conception anyway), so we are left to ponder just what might happen should the child really belong to Jefferson and just what is going to happen to the baby and mother now that Jefferson has been ordered back to the United States.

    This film is a little slow for sure, just like the many other films of similar ilk. But it's also a delight to look at and at times it provides the viewer with just the occasional glimpse of something rather intriguing and beguiling. Jefferson was obviously a complex and multi-layered individual who left an indelible mark on the history of the United States. This story just adds a little bit more to the legend.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a fairly decent video transfer that is only marred by a handful of rather obvious film artefacts.

    Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is also 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is reasonably sharp throughout and though there is a small amount of edge enhancement present it is not an issue. The level of shadow detail is excellent and there is no low level noise.

    Colours are nice and deeply saturated which is just as well because there are plenty of scenes with lots of brilliant reds, blues, and greens on display. Black levels are solid.

    There are no compression artefacts. There are also no major film-to-video artefacts, with aliasing in particular absent. Film artefacts are not so much consistent throughout, since overall I'd say this is quite a clean print. It's just that on a couple of occasions some really large and obnoxious artefacts appear. Check out the example at 38:36 where there's a large horizontal scratch to see what I mean.
   
    There are several sets of subtitles present. I sampled the English variety and found them adequate, without being 100 per cent accurate.

    This is a dual layered disc with the layer change occurring at 68:17. It is placed on a scene change and is barely perceptible.

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

Audio

     There are a total of four audio soundtracks on this disc. There are three Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack in English, French, and Spanish with all three having the surround flag embedded in the bitstream. The final track is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in German. While at first glance it may appear we English speakers are being short changed, there is really nothing to get excited over since all four soundtrack offer virtually the same sonic experience. There is little surround use - the odd door slamming or horse galloping. Aside from that the action is directed to the front, with the obvious domination of the soundtrack by the dialogue from the centre speaker.

    Said dialogue, which really does make up a significant proportion of this film, is clear and easily balanced in the overall soundtrack mix. There are no audio sync problems.

    There is only a little surround channel use and virtually no redirected subwoofer use.



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

Extras

Menu Audio

    Aside from a little menu audio on a very static main menu there is nothing that qualifies as an extra on this disc.

R4 vs R1

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

    I can't find a whole lot of technical detail about a Region 1 release of this title. From the information available it would appear the discs are almost identical, with perhaps the obvious differences being soundtracks. The Region 1 release definitely has no extras.

Summary

    Jefferson In Paris is a somewhat slow-burning period piece that on the surface may appear a little dull, but dig a little deeper and it reveals itself to be a quite beguiling tale about an obviously extraordinary man. Dealing with the years Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United State of America, spent in Paris, it is also set around the time of the French Revolution. Just before Jefferson ascended the highest office in America, it details a time in the life of the man that not many will be familiar with.

    The video has scrubbed up pretty well, except for a handful of large film artefacts.

    The audio features a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack - but it's in German. For those of us requiring an English soundtrack we have to make do with the Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track. However, rest assured that both this track and the more highly specified German soundtrack are virtually the same.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Monday, October 25, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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