Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-A Behind The Scenes Look
Featurette-I Play The Palace
|Year Of Production||2001|
|Running Time||170:31 (Case: 184)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Robert Allan Ackerman|
John Benjamin Hickey
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
As is unfortunately but, it seems not unexpectedly, so often the case with the most brilliant, most famous and most extraordinary of us, public showings of glamour, success and unending happiness are but a flimsy facade shielding intrusive eyes (often not too successfully) from private anguish and debilitating illness or self doubt. In a postmodern world obsessed with irony there is perhaps none greater than that which haunts the story of Frances Gumm, or as she was more famously known, Judy Garland, the little girl with the big voice who stole our hearts as the sunny Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz. Signed to MGM in her early teens, her immortal role in one of the greatest films of arguably the greatest year for Hollywood moviemaking in history, 1939, launched into the Hollywood stratosphere an extraordinary career that spanned stage, film, television and radio. It couldn't, however, stop her, and in many ways it could be said it actually saw her, become a woman wracked with illness and crippling personal crises that led ultimately to her tragically early death at the age of forty seven.
During her series of marriages, some successful, others not so, Garland had three children - the eldest, Liza Minnelli, who went on to become a star of stage and screen in her own right, and a son and daughter to her manager Sid Luft, who feature far more prominently than Minnelli in the almost three hour biopic produced for American television, Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, based on a book written by Lorna Luft about her experiences as Garland's daughter. In the starring role, in an extraordinary Emmy winning performance, is Australian actress Judy Davis. Davis, who shares the role with an equally impressive Tammy Blanchard as the young Garland, seems to be channelling the famed performer in many scenes, conveying all of her tormented genius.
Davis and Blanchard are ably supported by a large and generally excellent supporting cast, which includes Hugh Laurie as Vincente Minnelli, Victor Garber as Sid Luft and a host of less well known character actors and talented young performers, in particular Alison Pill as Lorna, in lesser roles. At three hours, the biopic, which was screened as a miniseries, covers a lot of territory, from Garland's or more appropriately Gumm's modest beginnings as a member of a family vaudeville act through her successful but troubled times under contract at MGM, where her drug addiction began, thanks largely to studio expectations that she not eat but still have energy to work! Davis takes over during the final years with MGM, which saw her meet and marry Minnelli and finally have her contract terminated. Disaster and success followed in rapid succession, and would continue to do so, from her Oscar nominated performance (according to many she was robbed by the Academy - how unusual! - the award going to Grace Kelly) in perhaps her greatest role in A Star is Born, to her years trying to keep herself and her family together (and the IRS at bay) with stage performance after stage performance, both at home and abroad, including an infamous concert in Melbourne when she, overmedicated, forgot lines of her songs and was booed off the stage. Davis is excellent throughout but far better suited to portraying Garland in the latter stages of her life - it takes a genuine leap of faith to buy her in a long wig amidst candy store colours during the shooting of Meet Me in St. Louis. When the neuroses and high drama takes over the character, Davis proves to be in her element.
Even with its substantial running time, the film sometimes feels a little rushed - moments clipped a little too early when a few extra moments would have added a degree more emotional resonance. That said, the performances, set design, costumes and of course, the music (all songs are 'sung' by Garland, lip synched by Blanchard and Davis, most of the time convincingly) are fantastic, and the time skips along - which cannot be said for all biographical films and miniseries. It is obviously asking too much to expect any biopic to completely successfully capture the life of one of the most iconic performers in history and the film does succeed more than it fails. Some may quibble about the focus on Lorna Luft's character, at the expense of Liza Minnelli's - there were rumours the two feuded over the book and film, but in spite of portraying her most desperate times, the film is a fitting and humble tribute to a woman who Frank Sinatra once said of, "The rest of us will be forgotten - never Judy Garland."
The video transfer we have been afforded is decent if not spectacular. It is a full frame, 1.33:1 transfer, without 16x9 enhancement.
There are good levels of sharpness throughout. Blacks were mostly clean and clear and shadow detail was generally very good.
Colours are realistic and life-like, and well rendered.
Compression artefacts were a concern at times, but were not too intrusive. Some of the scenes look deliberately 'older' - and thus have touches of grain I suspect were intentional. Occasionally there was some aliasing but this was not a major distraction.
For a recent production one would expect minimal film artefacts and that's what we get. The print looks very clean indeed.
All in all, this is a very commendable transfer.
The audio is very good. We have a solitary English 5.1 track, with no subtitle options, which performs its job admirably.
Audio sync is terrific.
Dialogue is clear and easy to understand.
There were no obvious audio blemishes or dropouts.
The surrounds and subwoofer are used sparingly to add some depth to the musical numbers.
|Surround Channel Use|
The extras included are unexciting.
An enjoyable, and at time interesting audio commentary, featuring Garland's daughter Lorna Luft, director Robert Ackerman and costume designer Donna Granada. It is nice to have Luft's reminisces of life with her mother, as well as how she wrote the book. They speak for a good portion of the three hours, and their contributions are well articulated.
A nine minute puff piece that barely scratches the surface of the film's making - featuring tiny sound grabs from the major players, including Luft and Davis, which offer next to no insight. Disappointing though not unexpected.
Lastly, is a fantastically melodramatic trailer for the DVD release, featuring some of the best over-the-top moments from the film.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 release has only an additional two audio tracks - an English Dolby Stereo 2.0 track and a French counterpart. For this reason I would prefer our local release for its superior PAL formatting.
An intriguing biopic with fantastic performances and music.
The video quality is good.
The audio quality is very good.
The audio commentary is the only extra of any lasting worth.
|DVD||Yamaha DVR-S100, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||Yamaha DVR-S100 (built in)|
|Speakers||Yamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer|