Sarah's Key (Blu-ray) (2010)

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Released 2-May-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Making Of-The Making of Sarah's Key (1.05:40)
Theatrical Trailer-(1.45)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 111:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Kristin Scott Thomas
Mélusine Mayance
Niels Arestrup
Frédéric Pierrot
Michel Duchaussoy
Dominique Frot
Gisèle Casadesus
Aidan Quinn
Natasha Mashkevich
Case ?
RPI ? Music Max Richter


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Linear PCM 96/24 5.1 (4608Kb/s)
French Linear PCM 96/24 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

  On 16 and 17 July 1942 a mass roundup of Jews occurred in Paris. Men, women and children were hauled out of their houses and taken to a local velodrome, known as the Vel'd'Hiv, kept in appalling conditions, without water or sanitation, before being shipped off to internment camps. To many, the horror did not end there as the majority were then sent to concentration camps such as Auschwitz from whence they did not return.

It is a horrifying story in itself and on its face a further indictment of the indefensible Nazi regime. Except these were not the Nazis doing the roundup. Instead, it was the constabulary of occupied France in control. Frenchmen arresting other French men and women.

There have been two films recently released as we approach the 70th anniversary of the Vel'd'Hiv Round-up. The Rosalyne Bosch directed film, titled The Round Up, was recently released to critical acclaim.Such acclaim also attached to Sarah's Key, directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, and starring English/French actress Kristin Scott Thomas.

Scott Thomas plays Julia an American-born journalist living with her husband Bertrand (Frederic Pierrot) and teenage daughter in Paris. Co-incidence intervenes when Bertrand's ageing auntie Mame (Gisele Casadeus) has to abandon the home where she and her brother Eduard (Michel Duchaussoy) grew up. Bertrand and Julia decided to renovate the place and move in at the same time that Julia begins work on an article her magazine dealing with the Round-up.

It is 1942 and the Starzynski family are disturbed by a knock on the door. It is the police come to take the family away. The Starzynski's have believed, like many other Jews living in Paris, that whilst the able-bodied men may be the target of arrest,that families were as safe. Surely the occupiers would not start wiping out the Jews in France. For this reason Monseur Starzynski is in hiding.

However, the police are adamant. They must all pack their belongings quickly and leave. Sarah makes a fateful decision, locking her younger brother in a hidden cupboard, and holding onto the key. Surely they will be able to get back quickly and let him out?

As Juliet digs deeper she finds that Mame's apartment has a history, a history that coincides with the unfortunate Starzynski family. From comfortable lodgings the Jewish family were taken to the infamous velodrome where there is no food, no water, no sanitation and no pity. From the velodrome they were sent to the countryside holding camp to be divided into age and sex groups and for eventual transportation to concentration camps.

Sarah's Key is a very moving story which amplifies the complexities of the French position. It was based on a best selling novel by Tatiana de Rosnay. It expertly combines the two stories, the past and the present until they meet in a fateful manner.

As angry as she is at the authorities who let this happen, Julia is quick to question another journalist who harps on about the moral weakness of the French gendarmerie. "What would you have done?" she asks of the journalist giving us, the audience, moments to think about our own reaction to persecution. As Juliet digs deeper the truth becomes clearer and yet more troubling and complicated leading to questions as to whether her investigations are doing more harm than good.

This is a well directed and well performed film. Scott Thomas has rarely been better in the role of Julia, a woman to whom a quest to find the truth mirrors her own quest for identity and meaning in her troubled marriage. Some quality French actors occupy main roles including Neils Arestrup, recently seen in Un Prophete, Giselle Casadeus from Afternoons with Marguerite and Aidan Quinn as an American man living in Italy with no idea of his connection to Sarah. Special mention must go to Melusine Mayance, the young actress playing Sarah Starczynski. Her role is a difficult one which she plays without any forced "acting".

Though based on a novel and not a true story nevertheless Sarah's Key has an awful ring of truth to it. Some scenes are unwatchably sad.It is an excellent film and one that will appeal to drama lovers and those with an interest in World War II.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   Sarah's Key was shot on the Red One Camera and was transferred to 35mm film for cinema showing. It carried an original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

That aspect ratio has been observed for the Blu-ray release.

The use of the Red One Camera means a high quality image throughout this film. The scenes set in the past are drab, intentionally so, compared to the modern scenes carrying less colour though no less fidelity. The colours in the modern scenes are bright and clear.

There are no technical problems with the transfer. The digital imagery is effective in the dark scenes with strong shadows.The image is sharp.

Flesh tones are accurate throughout. There are subtitles in English for the scenes spoken in French. Some scenes in German are not subtitled to mirror situations where the characters cannot understand what is being said.

The subtitles are bright and clear and easy to read. A word of warning, however. My prime Blu-ray player is the Cambridge Audio 650 BD which is an All Region Player. In my playback of this title it refused to convey all the subtitles. For about 20 minutes I forged on bravely, prepared to consider the lack of subtitles as a directorial intention, until I realised something was genuinely amiss. Eventually I ran the disc through a PlayStation 3 which had no difficulties conveying the subtitles accurately.

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

Audio

  There are two soundtracks for the film (both lossless LPCM).

There is a 5.1 track running at 4608KB/S and a 2.0 track running at 1536KB/S.

The tracks are predominantly in French with some English scenes.

Both soundtracks are effective at carrying the dialogue for this film. The actors appear to be in audio sync.

The higher bit rate track has more punch but otherwise both are acceptable.

The stereo separation is quite effective at times. In the opening minutes, when the gendarmerie bang on the Starczynski's door it sounded to all the world as if there was someone outside my home theatre room!

The surround is used to convey ambience, particularly in the velodrome scenes, when noise is coming from everywhere in order to give the impression of chaos. The sub-woofer is used sparingly for effect.

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

Extras

There is only one real extra contained with this Blu-ray disc. However, it is a sizeable extra.

Featurette-Making Of

The Making of feature is in fact a series of small features dealing with different aspects of the production. It is oceans away from a studio puff piece. Not only are there extensive discussions with the director and original novelist, but there is extensive behind-the-scenes footage of the filming process. A featurette on the young actress shows her hard at work at preparing and performing her role.

Equally interesting are a couple of featurettes regarding the production department and the catering section. It has been a long time, if ever, since I have seen the caterers interviewed about their work process!

The segment on the production crew was fascinating. First to arrive and the last to leave the set, this featurette shows how something as expensive and complicated as a feature film can only operate if the small details behind-the-scenes are attended to. Witness the production department posting arrows on street signs at 5.30 in the morning to make sure that no one gets lost on their way to a country shoot. Also see the struggles in getting a belligerent resident of an area where shooting is to take place the move is brothers van!

The joy of this Making of feature is its somewhat freewheeling nature. Some may find that, however, a less attractive proposition as there is not a singular thread running through the mini features. Also, material involving Kristin Scott Thomas is scarce. Her contribution is confined to a fairly brief but interesting segment where she and her co-star work through their lines and talk about their characterisation.

A worthy watch.

Theatrical Trailer

This is a quality theatrical trailer.

R4 vs R1

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

 I can find no mention of this Blu-ray having been released in other regions. It is designated Region B and therefore should be available in the UK .

Summary

  Even dedicated World War II film buffs would probably concede that there were few stories left to tell about the Holocaust. Yet, even so, this is a fascinating account of evil and tragedy that manages to raise complex questions of complicity in the face of the fear.

Sarah's Key is an excellent film given a high quality Blu-ray transfer including a making of feature which is fascinating if somewhat haphazard.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, July 01, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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Subtitles - stevo