|Out of Africa (25th Anniversary Edition) (1985)|
|Blu-ray Romantic Drama|
|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Monday, 26 April 2010|
The film is based on the true story of a Danish woman, Karen (Meryl Streep) who left her home in the mid 1910s to live in Africa with her boyfriend's brother. Sadly, she is unable to find a companion in her new husband and is left with no sense of purpose and alone, miles away from home.
She soon discovers pleasures in working on her plantation. But she still longs for her husband to be at home and not off on every adventure that he can find. The added pressures of World War I and health issues forces Karen to return to Denmark. After an undisclosed amount of time she returns to Africa to continue her duties on her coffee plantation.
Her marriage is disintegrating leaving her vulnerable in the arms of another man. A safari/adventurer known as Dennis (Robert Redford) comforts Karen. However, Karen stills lacks that sense of belonging to someone and having someone belong to her.
The film has two main ideas flowing behind it. The first is romance and the longing for companionship. The other motivation behind the film is the sharing of the changing of the face of Africa. As modernization sets in as the British take over after WWI, the continent begins to "westernize" so to speak. Planes are introduced, train tracks, litter, etc. These are the distressing facts that haunt Dennis, as he is fond of Africa's native behavior. He conflicts with Karen on that matter, as she is a Baroness that believes, more or less, that she should have privileges and complete comfort in Africa. After all she brought all her fancy china and crystal with her form Denmark.
The late, great Sydney Pollack is the director and creator of this film. His eye for detail is incredible. He pulls the most from his actors. In 1985 this film is right on pace. By today's standards it is like "Bridges Over Madison County," long and drawn out drama. That is a rough comparison, as Pollack's film is much more of a success, both critically and for audiences. However, if it weren't for the films that were released in 1985, I don't seen this film ever receiving seven Oscars at any other time, certainly not Best Picture.
Despite the "majestic imagery" quote on the cover of the Blu-ray, this video transfer is a bit disappointing. It is pretty much were I expected it to land, but far from were I hoped it would be. With a film that takes place in Africa I was hoping against hope that the video quality would bring the lush lands of the plains to life on the big screen. Sadly, they pale in comparison to actually witnessing them firsthand. (Thought, probably nothing will come as close as actually standing on the continent). Still, I guess I will simply have to wait for a great IMAX Blu-ray release on Africa to reclaim some of the imagery. "Out of Africa" has a AVC encode in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio that simply doesn't hold up well over time.
First, black levels and contrast are solid. While they are not superb, they do offer better quality than the standard DVD. Details have also been improved on the Blu-ray edition. But that is about it folks, the rest of the video quality falls flat. The colors are weak. While there are breathtaking scenes in the film, especially during Karen and Dennis' safari, there is no breathtaking imagery in the transfer. There is a lack of depth on screen. Fleshtones waver constantly within each shot. You can watch as the hue of Meryl Streep's face goes back and forth between pale yellow and red. The video image is cover with grain and dirt that takes away from any possibility of terrific imagery. The Blu-ray format also allows for old filmmaking techniques to be readily noticeable. I was stunned at the outset to see that green screens and projection techniques were used to create the opening Denmark sequences. With the nice contrast levels, the separation between the actors and the background is simply ghastly. Things of this nature continue later in the film as Dennis and Karen walk on the plantation the frame rate is off, creating a jittery image until the two stop. I thought it might be a glitch in my player, but several rewinds failed to remedy the issue. As with most all Blu-ray editions, this is an upgrade from the DVD, but only every so slightly.
The audio track fairs a bit better than the video quality. The originally stereo track has been given the same 5.1 audio track that was present on the previous standard DVD. It has been upgraded to DTS-HD MA 5.1. The only real improvement over the DVD is the increase in dynamics. There are instances that have a bit too sudden of a change, but still it is somewhat welcomed in a rather low-key audio track. As you may have guessed, this is a dialogue driven film, and I am happy to report that dialogue is clean and nicely prioritized. However, many lines, especially at the beginning of the film fail to cut through. It is not because they are up against music of sound effects, it is simply a matter of the original production dialogue being recorded from the wrong location, causing a muttering-type sound for some dialogue lines. This improves as the film carries on. The LFE channel is absent and surround activity is minimal. The film remains mainly stereo with a bit of bleed in the rear channels. This is a nice transfer for what the audio track initially has to offer.
The Blu-ray contains the special features present on the previous standard DVD release. There is a terrific audio commentary from Pollack. The "Song of Africa" documentary is highly informative and at just over an hour in length, is almost better than the movie in my opinion. The disc also contains some deleted scenes (hard to imagine anything was deleted from this film) and a trailer. The disc is BD-Live enabled and is a flipper disc, with a DVD-9 layer on the flip side.
"Out of Africa" doesn't exactly hold up in today's cinema world, and will likely be despised by anyone born after the early 80s. However, it still holds power as a great cinematic achievement. It is just unfortunate that the Blu-ray edition could not deliver an equal achievement. This is recommended for fans.