The relationship between Liberace and his lover, Scott Thorson.
Behind the Candelabra Blu-ray ReviewFor years Liberace angrily disputed claims that he was gay, often suing those who made such claims for damages. So outwardly homophobic was Hollywood at the time, not to mention society on the whole, that Liberace felt it would hurt his popularity greatly if it were ever to become public knowledge. Many years later, when veteran director Steven Soderberg attempted to get funding for his biopic based on the memoirs of one of Liberace's lovers, Scott Thornson, he was met with a similar disdain towards the subject matter of his picture. Hollywood wouldn't touch it because it was “too gay” (Soderberg's own words).
Thankfully, Soderberg is not a director who lacks determination. Nor is he a director who lacks courage, and he persevered until long-time stalwart of quality television production and entertainment media giant, HBO, optioned the rights. Soderberg had his money, and not only that, but he had his cast too, with Michael Douglas already signed on to play the fabulous entertainer, and Matt Damon set to play opposite him. I have to say, doing a little research on what Soderberg claims will be his final directorial outing, I was delighted to hear that both Douglas and Damon had been attached to the picture long before the director got funding. They didn't jump ship at the balking of Hollywood, or the raised eyebrows in the media – they stuck to it like glue. I have a new-found respect for both actors because of this, not least because neither of them disappoint when it comes to performance.
Behind the Candelabra Blu-ray Picture QualityBehind the Candelabra comes in with Region B locked 1.78:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer, and it looks every bit as fabulous as you might expect. The image is sharp and clarity is very impressive overall. Outlines and details are impeccable, allowing the audience to pick out individual feathers on Liberace's many coats with a crisp clarity. Soderberg allegedly acted as his own cinematographer on Behind the Candelabra, which is not something he's new to, but the truth is, he didn't need anyone else. The job he's done is clever and intriguing and stands up extremely well against any other modern release. It's shot on Red Epic, and it does bear some of the hallmarks of the increasngly popular camera. Motion seems to flow a little better from the Red Epic cameras, and it feels as though Soderberg didn't get the sudden compulsion to laden his image with grain. I didn't miss the absence of it too much if I'm honest, what grain is present was adequate.
One thing he did do though, was mess with the colour palette quite a lot. Not in an obtrusive way, but in a clever directorial way. Whenever we're watching Liberace in his private life, there's a yellow or, rather more appropriate I suppose, "golden" glow to the image. It's a great way to associate the audience with the setting, and Soderberg executes this extremely well by contrasting it with much more natural colours during other scenes. Skin tones are good, though affected by the grading, and blacks are rich and deep.
All in all, an impressive image that will unlikely disappoint.
Behind the Candelabra Blu-ray Sound QualityThe audio presentation for Behind the Candelabra is delivered in an impressive and clean sounding DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless track. It covers all bases in terms of what it had to do, and and it does it well. Not surprising since Soderberg himself oversaw the mix - control freak?
Dialogue is clear and concise and never gets lost. It occupies the centre channel predominantly, but does broaden out at times to cover the frontal array. The dynamic range on show is very impressive indeed, with low level audio being just as clear and precise as the louder and more robust sounding sections. Intimate conversations between the two main protagonists are pristine, demonstrating the gritty gravel in Michael Douglas's voice wonderfully, and in contrast to this, the stage presentations in Las Vegas where Liberace is performing on the piano shows off an excellent array of audio attention to detail. The surrounds are filled with reverb and slapback delays, the piano sings beautifully from the frontal array, and every note that Liberace hits is beatufully and carelly treated with exactly the right room ambiences. Sub only really kicks in to add warmth to the lower end, it's subtle, but it's adding depth to the overally sound.
It's a very nice audio presentation on the whole.
Behind the Candelabra Blu-ray ExtrasThe Making of Behind the Candelabra - Pretty self explanatory really. It's a 15 minute documentary in which cast and crew discuss the making of the movie over images of behind the scenes action. Worth a watch.
Is Behind the Candelabra Blu-ray Worth BuyingThere's a bitter and painful sense of irony shared between this movie's road to creation, and the outrageously flamboyant and colourful music prodigy himself in that the one thing that Liberace fought hardest to keep secret about himself, almost ended up being the very thing that prevented this movie from ever being made. Soderberg explores a man who led an extroverted, colourful and glitzy life and in doing so he reveals the frailty and fragility of the man behind the candelabra – Lee Liberace. It's a stylish, yet totally heartfelt drama that's got more glitz and glamour than you could shake a pink feather boa at.
In terms of the package, it's a fine image and an excellent audio track to boot, but with only one small extra which is delivered as a 1080i 15 minute making of, I did feel a little short changed, especially since this is allegedly Soderbergs final feature movie. Still worth owning if you're a fan of the man, or if you're simply a fan of good cinema. Recommended.
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