The White Planet (La plančte blanche) (2006)

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Released 12-Mar-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Trailer
Featurette-Making Of-The Film
Featurette-Making Of-The Score
DVD-ROM Extras-Study Guide
Interviews-Crew
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 81:18 (Case: 86)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (7:00) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jean Lemire
Thierry Piantanida
Thierry Ragobert
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Sven Eriksson
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Bruno Coulais


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

The White Planet, AKA La Plančte Blanche, is a big screen nature documentary about animal life in the arctic, which it dubs "The White Planet". No doubt buoyed by the success of March of the Penguins, this French/Canadian co-production is a very broad documentary that briefly covers the lives of a wide variety animals at their peak activity periods throughout the year. The film features little narration, most of which simply introduces the various segments of video. Instead it relies on a barrage of opportunely captured video and a new age score to drive the film. The effect is pleasantly mesmerizing, although rarely terribly informational - a bit like reading the summary on the back of a novel rather than the book itself.

The stars of the documentary are without any doubt its animals, certainly more so than the environment. The cast list includes the Arctic Hare, Musk Ox, Polar Bear, Arctic Fox, Raven, Arctic Wolf, Lemming, Harp and Hooded Seals, Caribou, Ptarmigan, Narwhal, Jellyfish, Copepods, Arctic Angels, Bowhead Whale, Greater Snow Goose, King Eider Duck, Arctic Tern, Thick-Billed Murre, Guillemot, Beluga Whale, Giant Pacific Octopus, Crab, Northern Humpback Whale, Tundra Mosquito, Walrus, Black-Legged Kittiwake, Snowy Owl. Each of which gets a few significant moments, but only really the Polar Bear, Caribou, Murre and Seals are provided much in the way of explanation.

A significant portion of the film, around one third, is spent underwater with some of the more unusual animals featured. This segment of the film features the least narration, the most fascinating creatures and the most stunning photography of the film. Footage of an octopus chasing its prey, a crab, is probably the standout of the whole film. The arctic angels are the most fascinating creatures featured, although their appearance is unfortunately brief.

The trailer for the film makes The White Planet out to be an environmentalist film, possibly due to the involvement of the WWF with its production, but it really is hard to take that sort of message form the film. Save for about two out of context lines of narration about global warming threatening the Arctic, none of which includes any explanation (as Mr. Mackey of South Park would put it "Global Warming is bad. mmmkay"), there is no environmental message here. Just a lot of pretty pictures about animals. If that's your thing you will probably quite enjoy The White Planet, though it doesn't really feature anything not seen in dozens of other similar documentaries.

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Transfer Quality

Video

The film is presented in a 1.75:1 aspect ratio, which appears to be an open matte of the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

The photography of the film appears as though it should look stunning. Unfortunately, the video appears to have been poorly converted to PAL from NTSC. The resulting video is a touch soft and littered with low level noise. Interlacing artefacts, which significantly affect the clarity of the image, and a noticeable judder have been introduced by this process. The resulting video looks quite good when the camera is still and animals are moving slowly, but falls apart as soon as things start moving. The judder is particularly noticeable during slow pans. The lack of clarity is painfully obvious whenever wide shots of animal herds are present (the vast numbers of caribou are the most frequent victims here) and in many of the early scenes featuring heavy snowfall.

Low level noise is noticeable throughout the film and becomes distracting on occasion. A mild level of grain is visible in some of the shots, but it is usually due to low light and not terribly distracting. There is a good level of detail in the shadows and darker scenes. Dark, deep underwater scenes in particular feature a glorious level of depth and detail.

Colour levels in the transfer are excellent, again particularly during the underwater scenes where a stunning range of colours are on show. There is a good level of depth and contrast to the many white-on-white scenes.

Colour banding is noticeable in a few scenes, such as in shots of the northern lights, but is not sever enough to really detract from those scenes. No film artefacts are noticeable at any point in the film.

No subtitles are present for the feature.

This is a RSDL disc. The layer break occurs at 7:00 but was not noticeable on my equipment.

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

Audio

A single English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kbps) audio track is present for the film. It is quite a decent stereo soundtrack, although it is a little disappointing that the glorious score was not given a full surround treatment.

What little narration there is is clearly audible and easy to understand.

The film's score, by Bruno Coulais, is simply stunning and compliments the dreamy visuals in the film magnificently. The score layers a variety of vocal touches (singing, harmonics and throat singing) and unusual percussion on top of a beautiful orchestral score. This is truly a highlight of the movie.

There is no surround activity or subwoofer activity at all.

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

Extras

Making Of Featurette (25:49)

A rather interesting "Making Of" featurette that covers the planning, photography and post production of the film. Presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but not 16x9 enhanced, with French audio and English subtitles. The only complaint here is that a significant portion covers the production of the film's score, much of which is repeated in the longer featurette that focuses solely on the score production.

Making Of The Music Featurette (33:01)

A lengthy, but very interesting featurette about the production of the score. Presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but not 16x9 enhanced, with French audio and English subtitles. The score is one of the film's strongest aspects. Furthermore, it combines sensual vocal harmonics from several singers, Tibetan drums and throat singing to an already impressive orchestral layer - which gives the composer/arranger an awful lot to talk about!

Crew Interviews

14 interviews with various members of the cast and crew, from directors to cinematographers to helicopter pilots. The interviews are moderately interesting and run for around an hour in total.

Theatrical and Teaser Trailer (2:00)

Two brief, but rather pretty trailers for the film. Presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but not 16x9 enhanced.

Study Guide DVD ROM

A 20 page PDF study guide for the film. This document provides the timecode for key sequences of the movie, as well as general information about the Arctic and the animals featured in the movie. There is more useful information in this booklet than you will find in the movie itself, but it's not nearly as pretty! Despite being aimed at teachers and students, there is plenty here to make for an interesting read for anybody that enjoyed the film but wants a little more info.

R4 vs R1

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

The White Planet is not currently available in English-speaking territories of Region 1 or Region 2.

Summary

A decent, though far from groundbreaking, documentary on animal life in the Arctic. Did I say documentary? Make that "music video"...

The video is disappointingly artefact-ridden NTSC-PAL conversion of what appears as though it was a commendable original source. The audio is excellent, but lamentably only in stereo.

The film features an excellent package of extras - a rare combination of high volume as well as high quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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