Kramer vs. Kramer Blu-ray Review
'Kramer vs. Kramer' comes to Blu-ray presented in widescreen 1.85:1, with a very good 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer. I could have sworn I was watching a nice, sharp 35mm print of the movie at home. There's no dirt or dust evident, so they've either struck a new print or spent significant time doing a digital cleanup. Skin tones are natural, in a Hollywood way, as they have suntans compared to our pink or pale blue, weather beaten British look.
They've avoided trying to make the colours jump off the screen at you, as this would produce an unnatural and distracting look to a film that is primarily about human relationships. The black levels are deep and solid as witnessed on the opening close-up of Meryl Streep's face as she looks down at the young son that she's about to leave. There's no ringing around faces or outlines to suggest over sharpening. I live in hope that this problem is now a thing of the past. There are no visible digital artefacts. There's occasional light grain, but come on folks, this is film. It's hardly noticeable and you'll be so engrossed with the story and performances that you won't spot it.
The audio on 'Kramer vs. Kramer' is supplied in an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that is very much dialogue oriented, due to the 'talky' nature of the film. Everything seemed to come from my centre speaker, including the gentle music played by New York guitarist Frederic Hand, so there was very little work for the main stereo pair, surrounds or sub-woofer. But, do you know what? I didn't mind it one bit, because the sparkle of this film is in the wonderfully natural dialogue and in the performance of the three main characters. It would be terrible if the dialogue was muddy, but it's not - it's clear as a bell. There are some whispered scenes where the dialogue is also clear and the dynamic range is set such that there's no need to reach for the volume control to make them audible.
The Blu-ray release of 'Kramer vs. Kramer' is somewhat sparse in terms of extras.There's no director's commentary, but there is a very good featurette documentary.
'Finding the truth - The Making of Kramer vs. Kramer'.
Most docos about the production of a movie usually run to about 25 minutes, but this one weighs in at a significantly chunky 48 minutes and is presented in HD, but with a 4:3 aspect ratio.
It looks like it may have been ported from an SD master as some of the shots are a bit on the fuzzy side. It does, however, provide a fascinating insight into the work that went into the film and includes interviews with Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep and a now grown up Justin Henry. Most people want to know what child actors look like when they grow up.
We hear how each of the stars approached their respective roles and the experiences they drew upon to breathe life into their 'on screen' characters. We also hear from director Robert Benton on how they worked collaboratively with Hoffman in an improvisational manner to extract a natural performance from an eight year old, to avoid him behaving like a 'TV kid'. A weak performance here would have scuppered the movie. This is a very interesting documentary and I felt I learned more from it than I would have from a director's commentary.
The only other extras are trailers for 'Open Season 2' and Ang Lee's 'Sense and Sensibility'.
'Kramer vs. Kramer' is a multi-Oscar winning picture that is head and shoulders above any other movie of its type that has been produced since its release in 1979.
The performances of Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep and the eight year old Justin Henry are just waiting to be discovered by a new generation of movie fans, thanks to its release on Blu-ray. This is a master class in acting, scriptwriting and directing - all rolled into one.
The Blu-ray sports a clean, sharp, very natural looking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that is free from digital artefacts. They haven't attempted to make it look like something it's not. It's a faithful reproduction of the way the film was originally meant to look.
The same pretty much applies to the sound, for although we are given an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track, all of the action is very much focussed on the front centre speakers, so your eyes and ears are locked firmly on the screen.
Anything else would have been a distraction.
There's also a very interesting featurette about the making of the movie which includes interviews with the stars and the director. It's a chance to see how eight year old Justin Henry looks all grown up.
In short - a very well made, absorbing movie about human emotions with a nice Blu-ray release.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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