Monday, 22 September 2014

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

La vie d'Adèle (Blue is the Warmest Color) Review

Now an undeniable critic darling, Blue is the Warmest Color released to universal acclaim and seeks to tell a coming of age story whilst following Adèle a young woman over the course of several years. The film largely focuses on Adèle and is a coming of age story about longing and love and is portrayed via Adele’s relationship with Emma.

Much of the dialogue and interactions in Blue is the Warmest Color are tedious and bloated. The most notable example of this are the now infamous sex scenes (one of which last for over six minutes and fails to portray the passion the characters supposedly fell for one another that other films have done with singular shots that last but a few seconds). Likewise sub plots are introduced to be simply forgotten by the time the next scene arrives and in spite of its three hour run time, Blue is the Warmest Color on several occasions also fails to provide necessary information until after it is needed to understand exactly why what is occurring on screen is happening. Had the information that had been skipped simply been minor details, or had withholding the information been able to successfully add something to the film I would understand. But as it is presented it comes across as nothing more than an oversight by the film makers, who whilst I am certain had their reasons, these reasons are unclear and only succeeded in causing confusion instead of being able to understand the reasons behind such scene.

To make matters worse is whilst the films takes places over several years the pacing of time is often unclear and occasionally unknowable. Instead of simply prompting the viewer with a message such as “two years later” or similar, Blue is the Warmest Color simply skips forward in time with little to no hint of time passing. This isn’t necessarily an issue if the film is able to successfully convey the passing of time by other means. Blue is the Warmest Color is however not successful in doing this, or more to the point makes little effort to do this. The result is whilst Blue is the Warmest Color does take place over several years you could be forgiving (or even expected) to often not realize when the age of the characters has changed. For instance whilst at a party Adèle says she is a teacher when asked what she does. Whilst at this point we know that the she wants to be a teacher it is unclear whether she is responding honestly and is a teacher, or is simply lying, possibly embarrassed that she is several years younger than her partner Emma (and possibly still at high school). This ambiguity could of course work in the films favor if it had been addressed elsewhere or was used to make a point. It however isn't and the film as a result simply furthers the sense that the film is not only bloated but also fragmented. Likewise when Adèle and Emma first meet Emma states she has and is in a relationship that has been going on for two years, but seemingly soon after they meet they enter a relationship with one another, yet no mention of a break up or similar is made.

Whilst the films aim is clearly to show the growth of Adèle as a person over several years the actress portraying the character fails to portray a complex character that was able to hold my interest. Sure she cries (with overbearing frequency) and smiles when upset or happy, but I found little present in her portrayal that gave a real sense of character. Adèle as a result is a rather flat character that not only looks more or less the same at both the beginning and start of the film, but acts in the same way seemingly having learnt little from her life experiences. Thankfully Léa Seydoux as Emma is successfully able to portray a multi-faceted character (especially in the latter half of the film) that gives the film some emotional weight. However as she is only a supporting character this is far from enough to save what is akin to a sinking ship.

Blue is the Warmest Color has lofty aims that it is unsuccessful in reaching and instead is a bloated, overly long mess. There is the possibility for a great film among the copious bloat and rather weak performance by the lead actress. However as it is in its current form it simply unrealized potential and thus Blue is the Warmest Color does not come recommended. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Thoughts on the UHD (4k) Blu-ray Announcement

The long overdue announcement for UHD blu-ray (often incorrectly refereed to as 4k) has been made and it is meant to launch late next year. Whilst the standards still have yet to be released beyond resolution (making this announcement of sorts more of an announcement for an announcement) it does seem as if higher frame rates will be supported along with a larger color gamut and HDR.

I am very glad to see the likely inclusion of a higher color gamut and higher frame rate support (like the recent and upcoming Hobbit films have been shoot at) though currently the content of which is very limited. The same of which can be said about UHD in general, with most films still being made using a 2k digital intermediate and only a select few using a 4k digital intermediate (and even fewer getting an actual 4k release in cinemas). Thus whilst I am excited for a UHD disc format I can't help but fell television manufacturers may be looking to release sooner then the content and market is ready for (as I felt about 3d at home).

Likewise the benefits of the resolution increase is severely limited by the content currently available and we are far from seeing a surge of films using a 4k digital intermediate. Though this may of course change. If and in all likelihood as it does change, I expect it will be a rather slow gradual change. Likewise given how far many sit away from there tv screen, and the size of the average tv screen (last I heard it was still less then 50" from around 10 foot) is is likely few will get any benefit from a higher resolution alone. Thus for many it really comes down only to everything else this new UHD disc format will bring (the higher frame rate, color gamut increase etc) which puts this discussion in an odd situation as all we know is the resolution that will be used and a general estimated release date.

I do have some reservations about HDR (especially as films are made for cinemas first and foremost which as I understand is unable to support HDR and thus I can't see films embracing HDR), but my larger reservation is the general interest for an even higher fidelity video format. I absolutely can see videophiles clamoring for this format. But in a world where blu-ray still only makes up for around thirty per cent of physical movie sales I question whether there will be interest in an even higher fidelity format. This is even moreso the case when convenience seems to be a far larger concern for an increasing number of people. Even when this convenience comes with what I view as a substantial drop in both video and audio fidelity when compared with what is available on a blu-ray disc (though of course streaming isn't of interest or even possible for everyone).

I currently find myself conflicted as to whether the market is one soon to be ready for a new higher fidelity video format. There does seem to be many factors working against it and I can see UHD being little more then a niche product much like LaserDisc was depending on what standards are decided upon and how well it is utilized by content providers. However as nothing beyond resolution and now an estimated release date has thus far been confirmed all we can do is speculate and hope that the changes to the color gamut, support of higher frame rate allows for a substantial upgrade. Color me interested, but not entirely excited.