The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (2001)

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Released 12-Jan-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Featurette-Rumble In The Jungle
Featurette-Q & A With Rolf De Heer And Hugo Weaving
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Rolf De Heer Trailer Reel
Trailer-Osama, Tais Toi, Safe, Springtime In A Small Town
Trailer-Owning Mahowny, Letters To Ali
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 110:29
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (104:52) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Rolf de Heer
Studio
Distributor
Pandora
Madman Entertainment
Starring Richard Dreyfuss
Timothy Spall
Hugo Weaving
Cathy Tyson
Victor Bottenbley
Federico Celada
Luis Hostalot
Guillermo Toledo
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Graham Tardif


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    This is an odd project, which I was aware of before choosing to review this DVD. It sounds like something which could not possibly work. A story set in the Amazonian jungle, featuring jaguars and an old South American man who reads love stories (literally) who is played by a actor who doesn't seem to fit, Richard Dreyfuss; written and directed by Australian director Rolf De Heer famous for films of searing intensity such as Alexandra's Project, The Tracker or Bad Boy Bubby; co-produced by French, Dutch and Spanish interests, filmed in South America in 1999 by a crew who all spoke different languages, released internationally in 2001 and not released cinematically here until earlier this year! Even if you don't take all of those seemingly difficult hurdles into account, this is a remarkable film of great beauty, emotion, action and redemption. When those are taken into account, the quality of this film is truly incredible to behold.

    The Old Man Who Read Love Stories tells the story of Antonio Bolivar (Richard Dreyfuss) a man born in a mountain village who early in his life moved to the Amazonian Jungle with his wife and stayed there until he was more than 60, despite his wife dying shortly after the move. His move was prompted by a government offer of free land and the equipment and support required to farm it. The film starts after Antonio has moved to the outskirts of the jungle into a small community called El Idilio on a bend in the Amazon. He believes he is now too old to live in the jungle itself and instead lives in a small shack in the village. Here he develops a desire to read and as his options are limited, borrows romance novels from the servant of the town's Mayor. The servant's name is Josefina (Cathy Tyson) and their relationship develops over the course of the film. They are originally introduced by a travelling dentist who visits the town regularly (Hugo Weaving). He has some questionable dental methods and his only anaesthetic is rum. The Mayor (Timothy Spall) is a thoroughly unlikeable man who treats everyone like he owns them. They is turn refer to him as the 'Slimy Toad'.

    Into this seemingly quiet environment comes a group of jungle Indians, with a dead body they have found up the river. It is quickly established that he has been mauled to death by a jaguar, in revenge for the shooting of her cubs. After another body is discovered with similar wounds, the Mayor decides that they need to hunt the jaguar down to protect the villagers. Despite his age, Antonio embarks on this mission at the insistence of the Mayor, as he is one of the few villagers with the jungle skills required for the mission. Along the way, Antonio reminisces about his life and we begin to understand more about his motivations, fears and history.

    This is a lyrical, atmospheric and emotional film which features excellent cinematography, some fine acting, especially from Richard Dreyfuss, a fascinating and very original story (based on a novel by Luis Supulveda) and a wonderful score. The film includes some exciting action, sly humour, romance and human drama. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this film, and how well Richard Dreyfuss became a little old South American jungle dweller. Antonio's search for redemption (and why he needs it) is truly haunting and the director uses an excellent technique of changing from the current time and place to events that occurred previously in Antonio's life, which adds significantly to this effect. It was filmed completely on location in the jungles of French Guiana in South America.

    I would highly recommend this film to lovers of fine cinema.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is excellent.

    The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was beautifully clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. It showed off the magnificent cinematography and locations. There was some extremely light grain in some scenes. The shadow detail was excellent.

    The colour was excellent and was well saturated with no colour artefacts. The beautiful greens of the jungle and the pitch black of the night scenes were beautifully rendered.

    There were no noticeable artefacts of any kind.

    There are no subtitles at all.

    The layer change occurs at approximately 104:52, somewhere in chapter 17, however I needed to use my PC to find it.
    

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

Audio

    The audio quality is excellent.

    This DVD contains two audio options, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 224 Kb/s. Detailed comments here refer to the 5.1 track, however the stereo track would be fine for those without a full 5.1 setup.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this film by Graham Tardif (a regular Rolf De Heer collaborator) is magnificent, featuring both haunting and evocative parts and tense and action filled sections as required. The music came across extremely well in this transfer.

    The surround speakers provided some excellent surround effects, especially jungle ambience and rainfall sounds. The surround use was very immersive and really made you feel that you were in the Amazon jungle. A scene at 90:40 shows off a great collection of surround effects and LFE.

     The subwoofer was mostly used to add bass to the score but it really added excellent tension during the hunting and chase scenes with the jaguar. As mentioned above, the scene at 90:40 includes some great sound design.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu includes stills from the film, music and the ability to select scenes and audio options.

'Rumble in the Jungle' featurette (36:48)

    A interesting but slightly overlong making of featurette which features interviews with the important cast members discussing their characters, problems encountered during the shoot, heat and rain and other problems. Rolf De Heer chimes in with some comments about the location and the difficulties of the co-production and the many languages of the crew. Worth watching. Presented 4x3 and in 2.0 sound, with fairly ordinary picture quality.

Q&A with Rolf De Heer & Hugo Weaving (36:59)

    A question and answer session with the director and Hugo Weaving after a screening of the film in Sydney in March 2004. Rolf does most of the talking and is very open, honest and discusses the financial issues which delayed its release, some funny anecdotes, how he was concerned that Richard Dreyfuss would be a difficult fit but how happy he was with the result. Hugo mostly leads the cheer squad but also adds some interesting comments. The audience generally ask sensible questions but the actual interviewer is quite annoying. One of the most honest extras I have ever seen on a DVD. Definitely worth watching.

Trailer Reel - Rolf De Heer

    Trailers for The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (1:57), The Tracker (2:06) and Alexandra's Project (2:14). All three are excellent trailers and I am now keen to see the other two films.

Madman Propaganda

    Trailers for Osama, Tais Toi, Safe, Springtime in a Small Town, Owning Mahoney & Letters to Ali.

R4 vs R1

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

    This disc is coded for all regions and as far as I can tell the film has only previously been released in non-English speaking European countries. For English-speaking audiences the Region 4 disc is definitely the go.

Summary

    A wonderful, haunting, atmospheric and beautifully made film about an old man and his search for love and redemption, set in the Amazonian jungle. I find this film almost impossible to encapsulate in one sentence.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The disc has a small selection of quality extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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