Dolby Digital Trailer-Egypt
Audio Commentary-Gary Ross (Director, Writer & Producer)
Featurette-The Art Of Pleasantville
Music Video-Fiona Apple
Biographies-Cast & Crew
|Year Of Production||1998|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (78:06)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Gary Ross|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
William H. Macy
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Pleasantville the movie is about two siblings; David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon). Their mum is going away for the weekend, and each of them have grand plans for what they will do in her absence. David is an avid Pleasantville fan who knows all the episodes and who did what to whom and wants to enter a trivia quiz held as part of a Pleasantville marathon on a cable channel. Jennifer has a hot date and they plan to spend the evening watching the TV. Needless to say, both David and Jennifer soon start arguing over which channel to watch and in the process break the remote control. A mysterious TV repairman (Don Knotts) appears without being summoned and replaces the remote control with a funky retro looking one. When they start using it they find themselves magically transported into the universe of the Pleasantville TV series, substituting for two characters in the show who are also siblings: Bud and Mary Sue Parker.
The rest of the movie is about how David and Jennifer deal with their new roles as Bud and Mary Sue in the black-and-white surreal world of Pleasantville. The other characters are curiously naive and innocent and have no knowledge of things that have not been scripted in the series. All roads curve back into the town, books are full of blank pages and their "on-screen" parents, George (William H. Macy) and Betty (Joan Allen) Parker are cardboard cut-outs of stereotypical perfect American parents. Jeff Daniels plays Mr. Bill Johnson, the soda shop owner who really wants to be an artist.
Bud is almost half-pleased that he has somehow landed inside his favourite TV series but Jennifer begins rebelling against the sterile niceness. Soon she discovers her rebellion begins to introduce change into Pleasantville and introduces the concept of free will as well as knowledge into the Pleasantville universe. Each change evolves Pleasantville from an artificial fantasy of what life is into something more approximating reality (both the good and bad bits). Each change is signified in the movie by a person or object becoming 'coloured' instead of black-and-white. What causes the colour change varies from person to person - for Betty it is her awakening sexuality, for George it is his love for his wife, for others it may be anger, passion, violence, the acquisition of knowledge or the appreciation of art/literature. Pretty soon we are wondering how this is going to end, and in the meantime the TV repairman is getting annoyed that his favourite TV show is changing before his eyes!
Pleasantville is a gorgeous movie to watch. Even though a lot of special effects have been utilized (all the black and white scenes have been shot in colour, digitized and then processed to remove colour and to enhance brightness/contrast to give the same look as real black and white film), the effects never intrude into the movie. I get so engrossed in the movie that the transition from colour to black and white and back to colour seems completely natural, although the first appearance of colour in Pleasantville (the red rose at 35:45) looks really surprising and almost overpowering. My favourite scene is Chapter 26, when Bud and his girlfriend drive to Lover's Lane for the first time. I love the little detail touches in the film, for example colour objects against a background of black and white will also have colour reflections in shiny black and white objects.
I first watched Pleasantville on one of those really tiny LCD screens you get in planes, and I thought that the movie was watchable but a bit trite and contrived. On rewatching it on the big projector screen I have grown to like this movie. Watching it on the big screen makes a huge difference as this is in many respects a pure cinema movie - the plot would not have made as much a dramatic impact in any other art form (novel, play, opera, whatever). The scenes when the "black and whites" section of the populace start ostracizing the "coloureds" send a powerful message about tolerance without being too preachy.
In short, I like this movie and recommend that you watch it.
Needless to say when news of the impending R4 DVD release reached me, I begged - nay, demanded - for the chance to review this disc.
The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with 16x9 enhancement. The video transfer on this disc (downconverted from an HDTV transfer) is exceptional and deserving of being labelled "reference quality". Sharpness is basically perfect with no visible signs of edge enhancement, and the detail is so good you can actually read the pages off the book at 52:45. Shadow detail and colour saturation is likewise perfect. Indeed, I have never seen colour saturation being depicted more accurately on any other DVD - every colour, especially flesh tones, looks absolutely spot on. The reproduction of colour is so accurate that even the slight blue tinge that they deliberately mixed into the black and white components of the moonlight scene by Lover's Lane can be discerned on the projector.
The movie exhibits no visible MPEG artefacts whatsoever - an amazing achievement and the first movie other than A Bug's Life for which I can say that. The flashes of colour at the beginning of the movie exhibit no posterization whatsoever, likewise there are no signs of ringing of bright objects. The black and white scenes in the movie look perfectly black and white with no colour seepage.
The only negative comment (and it is an exceedingly minor one) is that the film source is obviously very good but not perfect as there are minor film artefacts (mostly dust and scratches) occasionally in the movie. The "scratches" in the excerpt from the TV series from 2.00-2.09 look like fake scratches deliberately introduced into the film, but I am not so sure about the ones that are clearly visible at 4.47. There are no signs of film grain in the transfer
The only subtitle track on this DVD is an English subtitle track, which I did try out. The subtitles are reasonably accurate apart from a few minor words and lines in the dialogue that didn't make it to the subtitles.
This is a single sided dual layer disc (RSDL) and the layer change occurs at 78:06. The layer change occurs at the optimal spot in the movie, during a natural pause in the film in which the entire screen is saturated white, and is completely unnoticeable unless your DVD player provides an indication of when a layer change happens. On my DVD player, the layer change took less than half a second - any delays longer than that (or if the DVD player blanks the screen instead of freezing the picture during a layer change) may cause the layer change to be noticeable.
There are three audio tracks in this DVD: the main one being the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at the higher bitrate of 448Kb/s. In addition, there is a English Dolby 2.0 audio track encoded at 192Kb/s and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 track, also at 192Kb/s. I listened to the Dolby Digital 5.1 track and the audio commentary track.
Dialogue quality is really good on this DVD and I can hear and understand every line spoken with no difficulties. There are no audio synchronization problems with this DVD.
I really liked the original musical score by Randy Newman. It complements the film perfectly, and accentuates key dramatic moments. It doesn't sound derivative or hackneyed.
The surround speakers are mostly used for ambient noises and music. Although the surround speakers are not used as aggressively as in an action movie, I think they are intelligently used. The subtle but very effective use of surround contributes to making me feel I'm part of each scene instead of just watching the movie.
The subwoofer track is hardly used by the transfer.
|Surround Channel Use|
I was particularly grateful to him for explaining two apparent plot inconsistencies in the movie. The description of these plot inconsistencies may act as "spoilers" so I have "hidden" them in case you have not seen the film yet. To read the following text just highlight them using your mouse on the browser:
Apparent Plot Inconsistency #1: (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) If Pleasantville is a completely self-enclosed world of its own, how come the basketball team gets to play with a "visiting" team, since there is no place for the team to have come from?
Explanation: (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) The "visiting" team is a permanent fixture of Pleasantville and every day the home and visiting team replays the same game.
Apparent Plot Inconsistency #2: (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) If Jennifer (as Mary Sue Parker) decides to go to college in Pleasantville, won't her real life mother, friends, police etc. miss her?
Explanation: (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Pleasantville is shown as half hour episodes once a week on television, so each seven days in Pleasantville corresponds to half an hour in the real world. Even if Mary Sue Parker spends four years in college, it would only correspond to a few days in the real world, which is not long enough for anyone to miss her. Personally, I find this explanation a bit lame, myself, but it's nice of Gary to think of an explanation.
Gary also takes the trouble to point out features like when the first appearance of colour occurs in Pleasantville (the red rose at 35:45), the colour reflection of the girl in the red sweater in the glass before we see the girl herself at 53:48, and the changing faces of the Red Indian in the test pattern (we initially see a normal Indian at 14:03, then an angry looking Indian at 61:57 and finally the weeping Indian at 84:41). I also liked Gary pointing out the references to other movies such as Citizen Kane and Shawshank Redemption in the cinematography.
In addition, I was able to compare the R4 disc with my personal copy of the Region 2 version. The R2 version seems to contain identical features to the R4 version with the exception of missing the Dolby Digital Egypt trailer. In addition, the R4 menus look nicer (less MPEG artefacts) and are 16x9 enhanced whereas the R2 version menus are not. My slight preference therefore is for the R4 version over R2.
At first I had the impression that the transfer on the R2 version seem to have less film artefacts (mainly dust and scratches) but comparisons of specific scenes never revealed any real differences. Therefore I conclude that both versions are probably sourced from the same transfer. I have to warn though that the R4 version that I reviewed is a "test" disc but my copy of the R2 version is the release pressing.
The video quality is superb, and is of reference quality.
The audio quality is superb.
The extras are acceptable and probably above average compared to other DVDs, but now that I know that the Region One version has even more, I want those as well.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-626D, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (203cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front left/right: B&W DM603; centre: B&W CC6S2, rear left/right: B&W DM601|