An inspirational effort where the visual tapestry and musical accompaniment result in a heart-warming film
Big Eyes Film Review
Margaret Ulbrich was an artist. Walter Keane was a pretender. And when they met they took on the pretentiousness of the artistic establishment – and rocked it to the core.Tim Burton directs Big Eyes, the heart-warming true story of the life of Margret Keane, a woman of meagre means, but headstrong in her protection of her daughter - she left her first husband to go it alone, something a 1950’s woman would never do. Margaret fell under the spell of a charismatic salesman who wanted nothing more than to be an artist. Allowing him to take the credit for her ‘big eyes’ style of painting, Walter circumvented the artistic establishment and brought art ‘to the masses’ by producing and selling reproductions as well as the real deal, rubbed shoulders with the wealthy and famous, becoming incredibly well known and loved.However, this took its toll on Margaret who for ten years lived almost as a prisoner, with no friends, working out of a closet studio producing paintings that her husband took sole credit for. When he eventually became unhinged, Margret, once again fled, and found the strength to take back her name, her paintings and her life in a dramatic court case that not only shocked the nation but, at times, is too incredulous to believe. More than just a biography, Burton taps into the essence of a woman who through adversity and necessity both struggled and dominated to become free not only of her oppressive relationship but of herself.
Blu-ray Picture QualityThe disc presents a theatrically correct 1.85:1 1080p/24 transfer using the AVC codec and is region locked to B. Being shot digitally, detail is extremely well realised, skin has clear texture, clothing has definite weaves and the paintings have discernible brush strokes. Distance shots show just as much detail, with buildings and trees holding defiant edges against the sky, or the establishing shots of San Francisco (particularly the bridge) which are picture postcard perfect in their representation.
But it is with the colouring that the image really comes into its own. Burton and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel bathe the screen in bright bold, primary infused colour, particularly during scenes that show a ‘bright future’ (early scenes with Margret, or in Hawaii) where blues, reds and greens really shine off the screen in an almost cartoonish manner. Many of the images look like paintings themselves. Darker scenes, when things aren’t going quite so well, push more earthy tones, representative of Margaret’s own dark mood and trapped nature. Being both lush and vibrant with deep resonance, gives the colour pallet a boldness which is ‘thick’ and ‘layered’ on, much like an artist’s paint.
It is with the colouring that the image really comes into its own
Contrast and brightness are set to give deep penetrating blacks that add a serious punch to the picture creating instant depth. Shadow detail is defined well, particularly in Margret’s studio, and while there are not that many occasions where black is dominant, the few night scenes, or when Walter finally goes off the rails, make good use of the inky depths. Digitally there were no compression problems, no edge enhancement or any other issues to report. Being digital the original print is in pristine condition. Excellent stuff.
Blu-ray Sound QualityOn the aural front there is only the one track to choose from: English dts- HD Master Audio 5.1 surround. Much like the picture the sound is an excellent reproduction with no issues to report. Stereo effects are used to enhance the visuals well, cars moving off screen, directionality with the dialogue, for example but it is with the score where the most is made, by being placed nicely in the centre of the room. Dialogue is clear, precise and sounds perfectly natural and dominated by the fontal array. Bass is well realised though this isn’t an action blockbuster, don’t expect sub thumping LF effects, no, this is far more restrained on the ‘natural’ side; and it works excellently.
Blu-ray ExtrasMaking of Big Eyes – A twenty minute featurette that encompasses many interviews with cast and crew and some behind the scenes filming; although if you subtract all the finished scenes included, it would have run for about five minutes – you get the idea.
Q&A – Of much greater value are two sessions filmed after a screening of the film, the first at about ten minutes long has Margaret Keane herself on stage, look out for her closing quip, it’s a doozy! The second runs for twenty five minutes, or so, and feature the main cast and Burton. Quite interesting hearing the various takes on the film.
Big Eyes Blu-ray VerdictBig Eyes is the true life biographical tale of artist Margaret Keane and her husband who tried to take credit for her work for years, by Tim Burton and is a slight departure from his normal fantastic tales (even that of Ed Wood) in which he explores not just the events that lead to the fabrication but the woman behind the paint brush as she follows her heart and finds her strength.
Everyone involved with the project givea an excellent performance and Amy Adams is, once again, at her very best portraying this real life character (who is still alive) showing deep emotional resonance with a simple look or body language. As her nemesis Christoph Waltz captures the pure essence of Walter, so much so that the real life Keane was reportedly reduced to tears when she saw the film. More than a true life (stranger than fiction) story, it is also an inspirational effort where the visual tapestry is mimicked by the musical accompaniment that makes for a heart-warming and rewarding watch.
An inspirational effort
As a Blu-ray set, EiV has produced a fairly basic disc for Big Eyes; the picture is fantastic though, being detailed, bright and gloriously coloured, while the sound is perfect in its replication. The extras are a little thin, but the Q&A is well worth a watch if only for the real Keane’s quip about the director!
You can buy Big Eyes on Blu-ray here
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