Bamboozled (2000)

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Released 21-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Featurette-Making Of
Deleted Scenes-19
Featurette-Animated Art Gallery
Music Video-Blak Iz Blak-Mau Maus
Music Video-Dream With No Love-Gerald Levert
Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Audio Commentary-Spike Lee (Writer/Director)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 130:07
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (116:19) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Spike Lee
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $34.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded 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 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    As life goes on, we can become very complacent in our outlook. We drift through life without any great awareness of what is happening around us. We can become very insular, then someone comes along and shakes our tree. This can come as a great shock to the system as we are shown something outside of our normal experience.

    Bamboozled hits like a freight train. It is a biting and controversial look at the media portrayal of African Americans directed by Spike Lee. Unlike many political satires, it does not have a single target. Just about everybody gets a serve, black or white. The entire film is brilliant, using comedy to open our eyes and cut through our prejudices and preconceptions.

    When I saw that this film had come up for review, I quickly read the synopsis and because of the very preconceptions that this film hits out at, thought that I was getting a typical Americana comedy, something like an Eddy Murphy film. Boy was I wrong!

    The research that has gone into this film is incredible. The references and material that has been collected from a long and sad history of degradation of African Americans is shocking. The 'toys' that are used as props throughout the film are real eye-openers. They even have an original brochure that describes how to make your own blackface makeup as used in the original black and white minstrel shows.

    The story is told from the point of view of an African American writer, Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans), working for a very large television network. All his quality scripts showing successful black people have been rejected, and his boss, Dunwitty (Michael Rapaport) is putting on the pressure for Pierre to come up with a new show to improve the network's flagging ratings. In an attempt to get fired so that he can break his contract, he comes up with the most racist, obscene show that he can. He puts forward the idea of resurrecting the black and white minstrel shows, in particular actors in blackface. He sets up the pitch for the show and brings in two street performers Manray (Savion Glover) and Womack (Tommy Davidson). Manray becomes the character Mantan and Womack Sleep'n Eat.

    Instead of his boss firing him, Pierre's show is received with enthusiasm. The network grabs control of the production and script and runs with the idea. The show becomes an instant hit. Pierre is now caught between the shame of having created a completely racist show and joy over having a successful show.

    As the film continues, we see the effect of the show on the public and the actors involved. The show slowly tears apart their lives leading to a shocking conclusion. Nobody escapes the cutting satire in this film; the networks, the actors, the public, or sections of the African American community.

    To save cost, this movie was filmed using digital video for the majority of the footage, not high grade commercial cameras but average consumer grade units. Spike Lee tells us that this film would not have been made without the cost savings that this produced. It also had some very interesting side effects. The film is shot in a documentary style and the video feel adds to the impression that this is real life being documented. It also allows Lee to use up to fifteen cameras in some scenes. This gives the actors a great deal of freedom. As all the angles and shots were captured in one take, they could improvise without having to worry about remembering what they did for the usual subsequent takes. It also meant that the pace of filming was very fast. This again gives an overall feel to the film which heightens its impact and adds to the realism. The actual show that they produce during the film is shot on 16mm film. This gives a contrast to the rest of the footage and gives a visual cue as to where we are in the film. The digital footage and the 16mm footage were then printed onto 35mm film for release.

    I believe this film is a masterpiece of film-making , as well as a very hard-hitting satire. The actors all bring home fantastic performances and you would be hard-pressed not to come away from this film with a lot to think about.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Unfortunately, the video transfer is very poor. There are a large number of compression artefacts throughout the transfer along with other problems, including severe aliasing.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. I was unable to locate information on the original ratio.

    Sharpness varies greatly throughout the film. It is affected by both the original material and by the amount of compression that has been applied. Some scenes have acceptable levels of sharpness, such as at 13:56, while others are very soft, such as at 26:47. Shadow detail also varies. While mostly good, there are scenes where the shadow detail disappears and others where there is no black, only a dark grey. The pixelization is so bad in places it is hard to identify exactly what is going on, but the dark scenes in particular exhibit low level noise. Examples can be found at 32:15 and 4:25. The scenes shot on 16mm film are sharper overall but still exhibit these problems to a lesser extent.

    The colours are exactly what you would expect from a small digital video camera. The saturation is quite good, but not the same as 35mm film would produce. There is a small amount of chroma noise but it is hidden under the other problems.

    There is severe macro blocking right from the start of the film. The artefacts are also somewhat unusual. The level of macro blocking is somewhat dependant upon the level of light in the scene, with darker scenes being far worse than the bright scenes. Examine the dark scene at 32:15 for some of the worst examples. The blocking does not follow the normal pattern. Normally we would see noise and blocking in the background, but in some scenes the background is excellent with the blocking only present in the foreground. At 6:14 is an interesting example where the background is good but a moving person leaves a trail of artefacts behind him as he moves and the encoder struggles to keep up. There is also evidence of posterization such as in that actor's face at 5:05.

    From what I can tell, the transfer has been taken from a 35mm master and has an unfortunate amount of aliasing. Right at the start of the film, there is a shot that shows this clearly as we pan across a series of vertical and horizontal lines. Edge enhancement leads to halos around sharp transitions, a clear example being on the dark suit worn by the actor at 4:36.

    The film master seems to have been very clean and there are no noticeable spots or scratches.

    The subtitles are reasonably accurate but are missing the occasional word or two when compared to the onscreen dialogue.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change at a very late 116:19, only 14-odd minutes from the end of the film. It occurs on a scene change and is only noticeable because the music pauses for a short time.

   

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

Audio

    In contrast to the video, the audio is excellent.

    There are three audio tracks. The default English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack which is surround-encoded and has the surround flag set and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary track which is also in surround and has the surround flag set. I listened to both the 5.1 and the commentary tracks and sampled the 2.0 surround track. It was a great idea to use the surround track for the commentary instead of a stereo track as you still could enjoy a great soundtrack when the director was not speaking.

    Dialogue quality was good throughout the film. There were a couple of minor problems with understanding some of the accents, but this was rare.

    The audio was in sync throughout the film.

    The music is excellent. We are presented with a wide range of music types, from full orchestral, through jazz to rap. It is integrated into the film with great skill and really has impact. In particular, the music has been used both to increase the bite of the satire and to draw you into the emotions of the film.

    The surrounds are well-integrated. They are used to expand the sound stage and to give an impression of the ambience of a scene, particularly crowd scenes. You are inside the soundtrack right from the start, and again this increases the impact of the film. Every part of the soundtrack of this film is crafted with great skill.

    The subwoofer is used both for some effects and during the bass-heavy rap music. This is a full range soundtrack.

    The only thing that the surround track misses out on is the split surrounds. The rest matches up very well, even during the commentary.

   

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

Extras

    The extras on this disc are as hard-hitting as the film, in particular the documentary.

Menu

    We are presented with a static picture that is 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced, underscored with a 62 second sound clip of the film's theme playing in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Director's Commentary - Spike Lee (Director)

    This is an excellent commentary. We are told about the ideas behind the film, the choice of actors, what he was trying to achieve and how scenes were shot. In particular, we are given an insight into the construction of the characters and what his message was for each character. This is a 2 hour 10 minute film and I did not notice the time passing either watching the film or listening to the commentary. The only slight criticism is that he starts to run out of steam a little after the first 1 1/2 hours, but considering the density of the material in the first part, way beyond what most commentaries give us, this can be forgiven.

Documentary - Making of Bamboozled

    This is a real eye-opener and is a very good documentary. We meet the actors and director and are given an insight into the effect making a film like this had on them. We also see the research that went into the film as well as information about the filming and equipment used. A very interesting 53 minutes and 20 seconds. It is accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 sound track and is presented in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. It is of a similar quality to the main feature. One of the best documentaries I have seen.

Deleted Scenes

    There are 19 deleted scenes included on the disc. Working your way through these is interesting as you can see the effect on the story these deletions have had and get an idea of how the film probably evolved during the shooting and post production work. It would have been great if these had been accompanied by a commentary. There are presented at 1.78:1 and are 16x9 enhanced with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Artwork Gallery

    This runs for 2:36 and consists of the movie posters from the film. Each stays on screen for a short time and then a simple wipe takes us to the next poster. It is accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 sound track. They have really reproduced the look and feel of the black and white minstrel shows and their advertising material.

Video Clips

    Mau Mau : Blak Iz Blak (sic) is the music video a group within the film produce. It is integral to the storyline. This is presented at 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

    Gerald Levert : Dream With No Love is presented at 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is presented at 1.78:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded track with the surround flag set.

Cast and Crew Bios

    A series of text pages outlining the careers of the cast and crew.

    .

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;

    Not having seen the Region 1 version personally to compare image quality makes a recommendation difficult.

   

Summary

    Bamboozled is a great film; drama and satire wrapped up into one. I will be watching this film again even though its impact is somewhat uncomfortable. Life in Australia can be a little insular and this is an excellent look at part of American culture.

    The video quality is poor.

    The audio is excellent

    The extras are great.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Saturday, November 10, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252Q CRT Projector, 254cm custom built 1.0 gain screen. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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