PictureBeing There gets here at 1.85:1 widescreen, 1080p, using the VC-1 codec and whilst this disc is far superior in every facet to the original Region 1 offering I have all is not well in this particular garden.
First and foremost the skin tones are pretty much spot on for this release, the other colours far more vibrant, solid and contained within their respective borders. There's generally no hint of banding or colour fluctuations. Contrast is acceptable enough but the blacks do look a little gray in places removing some of the detail in the old man's house at the start of the movie and in Ben's mansion later on. Whites though are pretty pristine and crisp and don't spill into their surrounding
There's some enhancement and whilst it is pretty consistent across the run of the movie it never really becomes too intrusive. There are no other encoding errors though with no noise or blocking on show. The film stock itself looks good with only the very slightest amount of dirt and the odd blemish to be found here and there. There is a surprising lack of grain in this feature and that now leads me onto the dreaded DNR.
This release of Being There has been heavily post processed, the DNR has wiped the print of any natural grain and whilst this has cleaned the film up somewhat, and no doubt the people out there who tend not to enjoy this filmic experience will be pleased, it has in fact introduced problems of its own. The characters faces are more wax-work like than any I have seen before, there is loss of detail in textures and some backgrounds and there is a hint of colour smear every now and again. DNR is a long running debate for another time but I do feel that in this instance, although as mentioned the video is very good in itself, it perhaps could have been a lot better had this technique not been applied.
SoundThere are two English tracks to choose from here, the original mono and a rather weak Dolby Digital TrueHD 2.0 track which is essentially the same beast. My Denon 2808 displayed Dolby PL-II when choosing this track, not TrueHD as it normally does so I cannot say if the flags on the track are incorrect or the amp is having some difficulty in identifying it correctly. There's very little, if anything, to choose between the two on comparison.
It's all up front is this one and all firmly rooted in the centre channel. This though does not detract from the film as a whole. You're not expecting subtle ambiance from the surrounds, you're not expecting thunderous LFE as Ben is wheeled down the corridors of power. The score is subtle and decidedly in the background with only a few bursts of sound strengthening the mix somewhat. The funked up version of "Also Sprach Zarusthra" ( theme used in 2001 ) is a good enough listen.
Dialogue is excellent, quiet at times, almost hushed, but always distinct, easy on the ears and always defined. Tonal range is somewhat limited by the source and the nature of the film but again doesn't detract from the general enjoyment to be had from watching this film. More than good enough for what it is.
- Memories of Being There. - 0:14:48 - 480i/VC-1
A short EPK where Illeana Douglas, granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas, recounts her memories from this film. From being on set with her grandfather, how much she loved Peter Sellers and her joy of watching the film after it was finished. She discusses the relationship which Sellers and Douglas had on set, discussing some shared history.
- Additional Scenes. - 0:01:42 - 1080i/VC-1
A couple of additional scenes, one with Eve wishing Chance well before his television appearance, another with Chance outside the basketball courts when he left his house. Neither of these really add any depth to the film and I can see why they were not included.
- Alternate Ending. - 0:02:02 - 1080i/VC-1
The original ending before Hal Ashby changed it. It's more or less the same as what we finally received, but it does have Eve also leaving the funeral to join Chance in the woods. The final version is far superior.
- Gag Reel. - 0:06:15 - 1080i/VC-1
A collection of some out-takes all of which are rather amusing. The majority though have already been shown in the final credit sequence. Still these brought a smile to my face. There's an interesting comedy interview by Sellers on Ashby which is worth a good look, but it's just a little too short.
- Original Trailer. 0:02:44 - 480i/VC-1
As the name suggests.
Being There demands so much more than this basic offering. An in depth documentary for starters, the history beind the novel and the death of the author for another would be interesting additions to this package. Unfortunately though Being There has never been one for extensive extras.
VerdictI believe Peter Sellers will be happy that he managed to get this one under his belt before he took the long walk to being somewhere else. At heart Sellers was a private character who once said he had no personality of his own, you get a sterling performance from an incredible acting talent and those few outtakes at the end show his true nature. Although the other actors contributed well this is Sellers' film and more or less his alone.
The video is better than it ever has been but the application of DNR has to be seen, certainly by myself, as an error in this instance. Other discs may at some point be re-released without this dreaded processing but I fear that Being There will not be included in such a schedule. The audio will never get any better, it is what it is, a product of its time.
A must see, and a must own. It's an off the wall satire, working on a number of different levels, a good look at sections of society all wrapped up very nicely in some excellent comedy scenes and acting. Although technically this was not to be his last film, The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu coming afterwards, I for one think of this as his final curtain call, and if life is just a state of mind then this film has one of its own. Don't let the video or audio put you off this though because Being There is richly unique and highly recommended.
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- Memories of Being There. - 0:14:48 - 480i/VC-1