Gosford Park (2001)

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Released 27-Nov-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Menu Animation & Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-The Authenticity Of Gosford Park
Featurette-Cast & Filmmaker Q&A Session
Deleted Scenes-+/- commentary
Audio Commentary-Robert Altman, Stephen Altman & David Levy
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 131:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (83:36) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Altman
Studio
Distributor
Capitol Films
Warner Home Video
Starring Maggie Smith
Michael Gambon
Kristin Scott Thomas
Jeremy Northam
Bob Balaban
Ryan Phillippe
Kelly Macdonald
Clive Owen
Helen Mirren
Emily Watson
Alan Bates
Richard E Grant
Derek Jacobi
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Patrick Doyle


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, the credits start to roll over the final shot.

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

Plot Synopsis

    Officially, Gosford Park is a murder mystery in the grand tradition of Agatha Christie, but in this whodunit the actual murder is only incidental to the story and simply serves as an excuse for the real purpose - a study of the British class system. This is well illustrated by the fact that the murder only takes place around two-thirds of the way through the picture, and even then there is never a real resolution to the plot. So what does this movie do then, if not deal with a murder? Well, not much really, and that is the beauty of it.

    In so many recent offerings, characters are being pared down to the bare necessities, often only represented by a look, and have no more motivation for their actions than a will, desire, or mental state. In Gosford Park every character has their own agenda, and their own detailed history. It is this that takes the majority of the time - developing intricate characters and carefully giving each and every one of them a motivation - and it is fascinating. To watch not only the interaction and power-plays of the well-to-do upstairs people with each other, but the way they interact with their servants, and the way those servants are not only accepting of their positions, but as often as not entirely happy with them. For anyone starved of rich characterisation and annoyed by the tendency of Hollywood to place cardboard-cut-out heroes in front of an audience with the implication we should like them simply because they are there, this movie comes as a refreshing, and meaty, change.

    Another thing this movie has going for it is the cast - but then, any movie that can have an actor of the calibre of Derek Jacobi in what amounts to little more than a bit-part is never going to be in any real trouble. The casting is superb - every character is spot on, and all the actors hit high-points in this movie. The stand-outs however are the relative unknowns Kelly Macdonald and Clive Owen - Macdonald especially as she easily handles the pressure associated with being the pseudo lead of this enormous ensemble cast. Her performance as Mary Maceachran is warm and engaging, really helping to provide the movie with an innocence, and at the same time allowing the audience to view the chaos of the servants quarters from her eyes.

    Gosford Park is certainly not for everyone. It is very slow - we are talking about a murder mystery with an already thin plot that has been stretched out to over two hours - and the lack of any actual action or plot progression (of the normal type at least) for long periods of time may cause some to become annoyed with it. However, at all times there is plenty happening - every line of dialogue, every look, every action is loaded with meaning and information, and for those looking for something to really sink their teeth into - this movie is it. Gosford Park gets better with every viewing - while the murder mystery plot may have been a second consideration, it is still abundantly present, and this is the type of movie where virtually every viewing brings new insight into how the dialogue beforehand sets up the events, and the eventual conclusions form the end of the film. This is character-based film making at its best, and with so many characters, it will take many viewings to find all the nuances. While its problems justifiably kept it from the Best Picture Oscar, the screen writing award was well deserved, as is the attention of the movie-viewing public.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer presented for Gosford Park is, while watchable, very far from good.

    The first of the problems, and it is by no means a small one, is that the film is presented at 1.78:1 instead of the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is a "full frame" transfer in that the mattes have been opened to the 1.78:1 ratio, so fortunately no information has actually been lost, however there is never any excuse for changing the aspect ratio of a transfer, and Icon should be ashamed. A small saving grace is that the transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The entire presentation is quite soft, although a lot of this is due to the original source material and it appeared this way during the theatrical run. Early on there is a very high, and persistent, level of grain that only subsides slightly as the movie progresses. The worst scenes take place outdoors where the sky crawls with grain, however there are many indoor scenes where grain is painfully obvious as well, such as from 86:36 to 86:57. Shadow detail is surprisingly good given the general softness and the high grain levels. While the usual problems of grain escalation are occasionally present, the darker areas of the screen are usually just as clear as the lighter areas. There is no low-level noise present, although on occasion the grain does bring up a similar appearance.

    Colours are a contrast of two conditions. Outside, under the grey and oppressive English heavens, the colours are quite muted. This is not aided by the characters being attired almost exclusively in darker colours (hunting greys and browns), and almost no outdoor colour highlights. Indoors, however, where the lighting is carefully controlled, the colours are very good. They display a richness and opulence that seems just right for an old English country mansion.

    The only compression artefacts are a number of instances of pixelisation that occur when the grain becomes more obvious, such as at 3:54. Early on, there is almost no aliasing, but as the film progresses and the image clears up somewhat, there are a number of instances that occur, such as on the desk at 75:20, on Mrs Wilson's collar at 81:48, or the car grille at 126:59. These become progressively more obvious until the last few are actually somewhat distracting. There are a number of film artefacts present, but all, such as the small black flecks at 5:04 are small and not particularly distracting.

    There are no subtitles on this disc.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change occurring at 83:36 during chapter 13. It is reasonably well placed, as it occurs on a static image with little sound, however there are other locations where it could have been placed without even disturbing the sound.

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

Audio

    Without being spectacular, this is a good audio transfer.

    There are two audio tracks present on this disc, being the original English dialogue presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps), and the audio commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (at 192 Kbps).

    Dialogue is clear at all times, although those that have difficulty with heavy accents should be warned that there are a number of thick Scottish and English accents used in this movie. While they are always clear and easy enough to understand if you are used to them, they could be a source of consternation - certainly not aided by the lack of subtitles.

    Audio sync is spot on throughout the transfer and never causes a problem.

    The music is credited to Patrick Doyle and is largely period fare, and as such does a very good job of setting the mood and generating the right feelings. There are also a number of Ivor Novello songs used (and played by the character in the film).

    The surround use is a little subdued, but for what is a dialogue-driven drama it really is not that much to complain about. There are number of instances of interesting surround use, such as the thunder at the start and the scream of the discovered body that come from different locations in the sound-scape, but all up there is little for the surrounds to do, as both the score and the ambient noises are predominately placed across the front of the soundstage.

    The subwoofer has almost nothing to do here, and largely remains dormant.

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

Extras

    There is a sizeable selection of extras presented here, and they are all quite interesting.

Menu

    The menu is 16x9 enhanced, themed around the movie, very elegantly animated, and features a stereo PCM audio track.

Trailer (1:48)

    Presented at 1.85:1, and 16x9 enhanced, this trailer features a somewhat jarring American voice-over, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack.

Featurette: The Making of Gosford Park (19:52)

    Presented at 1.33:1 (not 16x9 enhanced), and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this is a good Making Of featurette, not being overly promotional in nature, and focusing more on the actual film making process. Definitely worth a watch.

Featurette: The Authenticity of Gosford Park (8:39)

    Presented at 1.33:1 (not 16x9 enhanced), and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this featurette looks at the lengths that Robert Altman went to in order to ensure Gosford Park was as authentic as possible. It includes interviews with the "technical advisors" - people who were actually in service during the period when the film is set. It is an interesting insight into life in service.

Cast and Filmmaker Q&A Session (25:01)

    This fascinating inclusion is a session held at an academy theatre where Gosford Park has just been screened, and members of both the cast and the crew are on stage to take questions from the audience. While many of the questions are already covered in other material, it is still worth watching for a different look at the cast of the movie. Presented at 1.33:1 (not 16x9 enhanced), this features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Deleted Scenes (20)

    Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio (finally!) of 2.35:1 these deleted scenes are 16x9 enhanced. There is the option of both the original dialogue or audio commentary from director Robert Altman, and production designer Stephen Altman, both in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

Audio Commentary - Robert Altman (Director), Stephen Altman(Production Designer), David Levy(Producer)

    This commentary is a somewhat subdued effort, although it still contains a lot of interesting information. While it is certainly worth a listen, some may find it difficult to sit through due to the slow nature.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     There is a clear win here to the Region 1 disc, as it not only contains the original theatrical aspect ratio, but a commentary from Academy Award winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes. While the win is not so distant as to leave the shopper with no choice, a particular fan of the film will have to go to region 1.

Summary

    Gosford Park is a fantastic film that very much deserved its best film nomination but probably did not deserve to beat A Beautiful Mind. Overall, it is with eager anticipation that I return to Gosford Park each time, and each time it is at least as enjoyable, if not more, than before.

    The video quality is not very good, showing too much grain, and being in the wrong aspect ratio.

    The audio quality was good without being spectacular. There is little use of the surround channels and almost no subwoofer, although for a dialogue-driven film that is not such a large issue.

    The extras are extensive and interesting, making this a very worthwhile package. It is just a shame that the Region 1 is still superior.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Sunday, September 22, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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Comments (Add)
they've done it again - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)
does it really matter that its in 1:78:1 - Anonymous
RE: does it really matter that its in 1:78:1 - Anonymous - Kakio (This is my biography)