Microcosmos (Le peuple de l'herbe): Special Edition (1996)

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Released 4-Sep-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-The Making of Microcosmos
Interviews-Crew-An Interview with the Directors
Featurette-The Story of Five Cesars
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 72:21
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Claude Nuridsany
Marie Pérennou
Studio
Distributor
Entertainment One Starring Kristin Scott-Thomas
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Bruno Coulais


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     There is certainly no shortage of films and television programs exploring the marvels of the natural world. Some are highly informative documentaries and others simply showcase the spectacle and wonder of their subject. One film which fits the latter category is the 1996 French made film, Microcosmos (Le peuple de l'herbe). Microcosmos takes its audience on an extraordinary journey into the insect world. Most of us take insects for granted. For humans, insects are often a source of great destruction on a commercial level and an annoyance on a personal level. But the fact is, the insect world is a vitally important element in the ecology of the planet. In Microcosmos we view the routine of life from the insect's perspective and become entwined in their tiny covert world.

     Filmmakers, Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou spent some fifteen years researching and three years filming Microcosmos. They used various time lapse and macro filming techniques, which were developed over a two year period especially for the film. The premise of Microcosmos is really quite simple, yet it provides the perfect narrative structure. Instead of using a traditional documentary style, the viewer is left to discover the wonders of the insect world independently. The only accompaniment to the vision is a very brief opening and closing narration by British actress, Kristin Scott Thomas and a beautiful music score by Bruno Coulais.

     The film opens in a grassy meadow somewhere in the world. It is early morning and a brief narration describes the almost invisible world which is thriving at ground level. The camera soon ventures beneath the long flowing grass to reveal a micro cosmos of insects beginning another day in their short life cycle. During the course of the day we witness a myriad of fascinating critters as they endure the wind, rain and many other sources of intimidation. This visual spectacle is poetic, funny and most importantly, totally beguiling. Even the presence of a couple of lustful ladybirds and smooching snails can't diminish this film's appeal as first-class family entertainment. This is guaranteed to keep the kids engrossed - and without a single CGI effect. After watching this aptly titled film you are likely to gain a whole new respect for these amazing little critters. I defy anyone, young or old, not to look just a little bit closer the next time they venture into the garden.

     Microcosmos was a deserving winner of five César Awards in 1997. These included Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Music, Best Producer and Best Sound. Highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     This Special Edition of Microcosmos is an obvious improvement on the previous edition released by Shock Records way back in July 2001 (click here to read Anthony Kable's 2001 review). Although I don't own a copy of that earlier edition, I printed Anthony's review and compared his findings against this Special Edition. Thankfully, none of the complaints associated with the previous edition still exist in this new release. It seems every aspect of the DVD presentation has been improved.

     Microcosmos is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, which is 16x9 enhanced. The film’s correct aspect ratio is reported to be 1.85:1.

     The transfer is quite stunning. Sharpness and clarity was excellent throughout and often appeared close to HD in quality. Blacks were deep and clean. Shadow detail was also of a high calibre. Colours were fresh, vibrant and beautifully balanced. There were no MPEG artefacts evident. Film-to-video artefacts were negligible and film artefacts were virtually non-existent.

     Unfortunately, the disc doesn't feature any subtitles. This is a shame, considering the film contains only a couple of minutes of dialogue.

     This is a DVD 9, dual layer disc. The layer change occurs at 14:18 during The Story of Five Césars featurette.

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

Audio

     There are two audio tracks available on the disc, English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

     As previously mentioned, there are only a couple of minutes of dialogue through the entire film. I certainly had no trouble with any of Kristin Scott-Thomas' narration. There were no apparent issues with audio sync. The original music score by Bruno Coulais captures the very essence of the film so incredibly well. The score is serene with occasional dramatic overtones.

     The surround channels were used aggressively to immerse the viewer in the world of the insect. My cat was constantly bewildered by the rapidly moving buzzing sounds. A nice example of this occurs at 8:20 with a bee. Another fine example of surround activity occurs at 43:45 with a rain storm. Naturally, the surround channels also carried the music soundtrack with great distinction. The subwoofer was not overly active, but was predominate during the aforementioned rain storm.

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

Extras

Menu

    The main menu is animated, 16x9 enhanced and features a sample of music from the film.

The World of Microcosmos - An Interview with the Directors (40:47)

     As the title suggests, this 2001 interview features Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou discussing various aspects of their film.

Featurette - The Making of Microcosmos (12:56)

     This short "making of" featurette concentrates mainly on the filming of the insects. Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou discuss and display the camera techniques which were developed especially for the film.

The Story of Five Césars (48:46)

     As I mentioned in the synopsis, Microcosmos won five César Awards in 1997. This piece takes a closer look at each award by category, interviewing the recipients and discussing their contribution to the film.

R4 vs R1

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

     There is a bare-bones Region 1 edition of Microcosmos available. It was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment in May 2005. While it is a 16x9 enhanced transfer, it only includes the original stereo audio track and no extras. There are also various European editions available. These seem to be very similar to this Special Edition release.

     A European Blu-ray edition is also currently available. The Blu-ray features a 1080p transfer in the 1.66:1 ratio. It also has the addition of a DTS 5.1 audio track and it appears to contain the same extras as this Special Edition.

     In terms of DVD editions though, there seems little reason to look past this Special Edition from Hopscotch.

Summary

     Microcosmos opens up a whole world of discovery - one that most of us simply take for granted. This Special Edition is a great addition to any DVD collection and is first-class entertainment for the entire family.

     The video and audio transfers are excellent. The selection of extras is interesting and relevant.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD35 Blu Ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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