Youth Without Youth—Sony Pictures Classics (Blu-ray)
Hollywood confuses me sometimes. When I was growing up names like Coppola, Forman, Lean, Spielberg, and Kubrick meant a lot to moviegoers. These days it doesn't seem to matter any more. I've seen picture after picture relocated to small venues and limited releases despite heavyweight directors and storytellers attached. Take a look at last year's Best Picture nominees for example. How many of those films were even opened wide upon initial release? But how many films that probably lower your IQ at an alarming rate are opened wide every week. I guess the mighty dollar is still king and art and great storytelling is something now reserved for straight to video fare. I remember when the opposite was true.
Coppola's newest film brings the director back behind the camera after a very long hiatus. Youth Without Youth is a great story that combines a bit of the fantasy with a interesting love story and was a far better film than I was expecting given the lackluster reviews during its blip at the theaters. Roth turns in a great performance (doesn't he always?) and the concepts of the film kept me interested from beginning to end. While I admit it isn't Coppola's strongest work, it is a nice return to the big screen for the director and definitely worth a look.
This film was shot with a digital camera and has that depth and detail we've come to love from HD camera work. The camera used was the same one we saw with Crank and MI:III and it delivers breathtaking detail but with some tradeoffs. Like Crank some minor ringing is noticeable in some of the harder contrast transitions. I'm not sure if this is a product of scaling or if the image has been artificially sharpened during some moments but it was quite obvious from time to time. Thankfully I didn't see it very often. Most of the outdoor shots have incredible depth that may be some of the best I've seen on HD to date. This is a disc I would be happy to use for demonstration purposes on depth alone. Colors can be striking at times and the lack of chroma noise coupled with the saturation make for even more inviting demo material. There is some stock footage thrown in from time to time that doesn't blend well with the HD footage, but overall this is a great HD presentation of a beautifully shot film.
Sony continues to favor Dolby TrueHD for its Blu-ray releases. This soundtrack had far more dynamic range than I was expecting from a film in this genre. Atmosphere and presence were superbly rendered and the soundstage was far more enveloping than what we typically see from a film like this. Deep bass is both articulate and ominous and the score does a great job of carrying the mood of the film. Dialogue was the only issue I had. The dubbing on this film isn't that good. You can tell that most of the voice work was recorded on a soundstage and not in the moment. Not only is it a bit too forward, tonal balance varies considerably between actors. Some of the ADR doesn't synch up well either creating some distracting lip synch delay at times. While not a disappointing soundtrack by any means, it does have some minor issues that hold it back.
Extras are a bit thin for this release. There is a feature commentary with Coppola and a look at the production and score of the film. You also get an inside look at the makeup work done in the film.
This was a pleasant surprise for me. Coppola returns to the big screen in fine form and with a challenging story that is unlike anything else he's done. Sony delivers a solid video presentation yet again and I hope they continue to give smaller releases like this a chance on Blu-ray.