American Beauty (1999)
Audio Commentary-Sam Mendes (Director) & Alan Ball (Writer)
|Year Of Production||1999|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (54:56)||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Sam Mendes|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The selfish behaviour of Lester acts as a catalyst for both Carolyn and Jane and they too begin to pursue the things they perceive as important. Carolyn becomes even more obsessed with making herself appear important, happy and successful while Jane explores a relationship with the intense young man that lives next door. Carolyn's desires lead her into the arms of the sleazy and yet successful Real Estate Agent Buddy King (Peter Gallagher). Jane's relationship with Ricky (Wes Bentley) changes her outlook on life and she re-assesses her friendship with Angela. The selfish behaviour of each brings with it consequences...consequences that will effect not only the family but also their friends and neighbours.
This film is more complex than implied by the above synopsis, but it is the sort of film that you must experience for yourselves and so I'll not reveal any more of the plot. I encourage you to watch this film as it is a wonderful example of thoughtful film-making. If you need convincing, this film won 5 Academy Awards and, at the time of writing, sits at number 8 on the Internet Movie Database top 250 with a rating of 8.8.
A pleasing level of detail is revealed by this transfer. For example the period 34:48-37:43 contains sections of footage that are very sharp and very detailed. Other fine examples of the sharpness and detail in this transfer can be seen at 04:01-04:06, 08:59-09:09, 18:40-19:15 and 27:13-27:32. I did find one short section in which Mena Suvari is not in sharp focus. It can be found at 26:18-26:58. This is not a problem with the transfer, it is a camera focus problem. The black level in this movie is spot-on and the level of detail in the darker scenes very good. The director and cinematographer have often darkened a set so that only the point of interest is revealed but this is a creative choice and not a fault with this transfer.
The colours in this transfer are wonderful. In some scenes there isn't much colour at all and the look is almost monochromatic while in others there are many strong and vibrant colours on display that are beautifully balanced. At no point did the level of colour become overly saturated. See 02:07-03:53 and 36:20-37:42 for examples of the wonderful colours of this movie. A lot of comment has been made about the use of the rose throughout the film. You can find a good example of this splash of colour in an otherwise muted scene at 98:47-100:22. The reproduction of skin tones is also excellent in this transfer and this can be seen during the period 02:07-03:53.
MPEG artefacts are present in this transfer and take the form of pixelization. The most obvious examples of this artefact can be found at 01:54-02:07 and 18:17-18:22. These examples are the most significant I could find and aren't at all distracting. Film grain can be seen but is quite fine and not bothersome. I've noted a couple of examples for you, both are scenes in which the sky is shown. See 01:12-01:15 and 108:27-108:37.
Film-to-video artefacts can also be found in this transfer and take the form of aliasing and moiré effects. Aliasing is well-controlled and while present in many scenes, is minor. You can find examples of aliasing at 01:12-01:23 and 06:03-06:06. Moiré effects are also well-controlled but do occur in a few places. See 26:09-26:18 and 43:16-44:08 for examples.
This print is fairly clean but film artefacts do occur throughout. They are mainly small white or black flecks plus the occasional fibre. I've noted three examples for you to look at. See 01:31-01:40, 02:07-02:18 and 10:11-10:14.
This is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 54:56. It is placed on a scene change just after Kevin Spacey finishes speaking a line. This is a noticeable layer change as there is an obvious pause but on my DVD player, the change is negotiated within a 1/4 of a second and due to its placement, is not particularly disruptive.
This is a very good soundtrack but also a subtle one. Firstly, thank you Dreamworks for giving us another audio track encoded at the highest Dolby Digital bit rate. I think that this is an important factor in revealing the subtleties of this soundtrack.
The audio sync is spot on in this film and dialogue is always clear. There is one short scene in which Kevin Spacey mumbles under his breath and at lower than reference levels I think that this would be hard to make out.
The score is by Thomas Newman who has crafted a wonderfully subtle and yet involving score that beautifully supports the action. It is mixed into the surrounds as well as the front speakers and is so beautifully balanced that you find that you are often sitting in a bubble of soft and sophisticated sound. I've noted a couple of examples of this for you to listen to. They can be found at 08:50-09:54 and 59:29-62:16. Slightly more aggressive examples of the score can be heard at 10:19-11:51, 15:38-16:32, 18:20-19:14 and 35:00-35:58. This score does repeat the same few themes but they are so well-written that they don't become boring. There are also a number of older 60s and 70s songs played in a number of scenes. They are used to represent the differing moods and directions of Annette Bening and Kevin Spacey.
The surrounds are used throughout the film mainly to open the soundstage. There is little in the way of split surround activity and when it does occur it is only across the front channels. Still, when used, these effects are appropriate. Examples of this can be heard at 11:07-11:12, 11:37-11:42,21:32-21:59 and 70:27-70:34. In other places all channels are used for ambient sounds such as insects, birds, crowds and so forth. Good examples can be found at 13:14-14:25 and 15:38-16:32. As this is a mainly dialogue driven film there are also many passages where there is little or no surround activity however, these are usually appropriate as the scenes take place in quiet rooms.
The subwoofer is used to support the score and to put a floor on some of the ambient sounds. Its use is mainly subtle but there are sections, during some of Lester's fantasies, where it is very obvious but still appropriate. Examples of subwoofer use can be found at 01:57-04:13, 15:38-16:32, 21:32-21:59 and 35:00-35:58.
|Surround Channel Use|
Structure and content-wise it is similar to many of the "making-of" featurettes that find their way on to DVDs these days. It is too short and contains too little information of substance to be called very good but is interesting enough to watch once.
As this was clearly made for television, the quality of this full-frame video transfer is fine. While by no means as sharp as the film itself, the image is still nicely defined and the colour palette accurate.
The audio for this featurette is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. It is always easy to understand and there are no pops, clicks or dropouts. There is one section which features an interview segment with Annette Bening in which the audio is slightly distorted. The amount of distortion is fairly minor and I doubt that anyone would find it distracting.
The screen is split in half vertically with story boards for a particular scene shown on the left and small images from the same point in the movie, on the right. Sam Mendes (Director) and Conrad L. Hall (Cinematographer) then talk about what is shown on the screen. For the first 10 minutes or so they spend much of the time telling each other how great they are but then settle down and actually address what is on the screen. I think that this is an interesting feature and something I'd like to see more of. It was perhaps a little too long but it is nevertheless an interesting insight into the world of film-making.
The video is presented full-frame and suffers from what seems to be a cross between moiré effects and aliasing. The storyboards are the most effected by this with large portions strobing/flickering in an obvious and annoying way. Due to their small size, the images from the film are lacking in detail but are clear enough to see what is being discussed.
The audio for this featurette is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround although only the centre channel is used as this is a dialogue only extra. Both men are easy to understand and there are no obvious faults with this audio track.
The audio of this trailer is Dolby Digital 5.1 and perfectly clear.
The audio of this trailer is again, the same as trailer 1.
The back page of the booklet also lists the scene selections available from the menu.
The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:
The video transfer is very good but it does have a number of minor artefacts that keep it from being of reference quality.
The audio transfer is also very good but don't expect this disc to be a demonstration of surround use because you will be disappointed. It is however a beautifully executed sound track.
|DVD||Loewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output|
|Display||Grundig MW82-50/8. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Mains and Rears: Tannoy Mercury M1. Centre: Tannoy Mercury MC. Subwoofer: Aaton SUB-120.|