O Brother, Where Art Thou? Blu-ray Review
Matt Jarvis rediscovers a classic
PictureThis film was one of the first to be produced using a digital intermediate, with traditional film acquisition and editing, but with digital colourising and very minimal digital effects. The 2K intermediate has left a certain harshness to the film grain, giving a slightly gritty feel to the picture. It by no means spoils the movie, but the smoothness of freshly converted film or full digital production is missing here.
The colourising was used to give an antique, slightly sepia image to the film, with muted colours and a yellow – brown tinge to natural tones. It all works very well, with the expansive Mississippi back scenes looking fabulous against the antique cars, dusty towns and atmospheric interiors.
The AVC Mpeg 2.35:1 24fps transfer looks very good, with no noticeable artefacts other than the slightly harsh picture. Shadow detail is fairly good for a film originated movie, but the detailed scenic settings help with this as well. Lighting and cinematography is of superb standards and this is reflected in the transfer with no real issues with brightness or contrast. A few skies are burnt out, but this appears to be deliberate rather than being due to any deficiency in the filming or editing process.
SoundThe DTS-HD MA 5.1 stream is a most faithful reproduction of the original soundtrack and sounds superb. The noise floor is very low, while the track has plenty of dynamic range and a smooth, neutral sound.
The score is an eclectic mix of bluegrass and traditional American folk, with a few spirituals thrown in for good measure. They are for the most part new recordings, but some feature original artists, further adding to the authenticity of the recordings. The soundtrack has significantly outsold the film release, with a number of versions and re-releases over the years.
Returning to the film, the soundtrack makes subtle use of the surround channels and LFE, but without burying the music or dialogue. There really is little to criticise, but if bluegrass is not your thing, you might find it a little too laid back at times.
ExtrasNone. Quite disappointing, given the amount of material kicking around for this movie.
VerdictThe sound track might be almost more famous than the film, but it is still a good, fun movie in its own right. The Cohen Brothers, Clooney and co made a good job of re-telling a classical story in a different and off beat style and the end result is very watchable. The lack of any extras is disappointing and the authoring of the disc feels quite poor as well, with a very lightly branded generic Universal title and menu.
Technically the film looks good for its age. The 2K digital intermediate bottleneck is not as severe as say, Stars Wars Episode II, but there is a certain grittiness to the picture, that feels a little harsh at times. That being said, it does not detract from the overall enjoyment of the movie, the key highlight of which remains the fantastic sound track.
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