A Few Words About A few words about...™ The Horse Whisperer -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Jul 6, 2012.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I recall when Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer arrived in 1998 I received a report from a friend who had seen it that it was a sappy, soap opera.

    As a huge fan of Mr. Redford's work, I still went to see it. And while I came away understanding the comments, I disagreed, especially looking at the big picture.

    Roger Ebert begins his review, which you can find here:

    http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19980515/REVIEWS/805150301

    with the following opening.

    "The Horse Whisperer is about a man of great patience, faced with a woman, a child and a horse in great need of it."

    I like this film. A great deal. Mr. Redford takes a multi-layered story, drops it down in the middle of Montana, and from then on can do no wrong.

    At 170 minutes, the film isn't short. It takes its time telling the story, and the point is made that it is partially the time taken that helps in the healing.

    Cinematographer Robert Richardson creates a Montana that may not sync precisely with reality. His use of filters helps to tell the story. In one shot a very young (she's still young) Scarlett Johansson is sitting in a meadow with a boy about the same age. Viewing the shot, I realized that in the background, there's a rainbow. I don't know if there are rainbows all the time in Montana, but it's certainly a great way to bring in visitors.

    This is a film that really needs Blu-ray quality to be a fully enjoyable experience, and Disney's new Blu-ray does it justice, with a single caveat, and as I don't recall what the film originally looked like, it may simply be the way it is designed.

    Outdoor sequences are spectacular, with wide vistas and Technicolored skies. What I found odd were occasional facial tones, which tend toward a definite red push. I also noted is occasionally in Newsies. I can't speak to whether this is correct or not. While it doesn't seem to harm anything, it just appeared -- at least to my eye -- a bit off.

    The Horse Whisper is a very good film. I don't want to call it a great one. But it works.

    Image - 3.5/4

    Audio - 5

    Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. theonemacduff

    theonemacduff Second Unit

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    Maybe my memory is going because I'm getting old, but when I saw the film at Vancouver's one 70mm house, I seem to recall that while the movie starts in one ratio (about 1.85), when they go to Montana, it opens right out to 2.35. Was I dreaming? Was the projectionist asleep at the switch for the first reel? What I'd like to know is, do they do the same trick for the blu-ray? Or is it at one ratio all the way through?
     
  3. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    Yes the film's A.R. varys with a narrower composition at the start of the film that opens up to a 2.35 AR (when the film switches to Montana?) From the review over at highdefdigest - the Bd presentation mirrors the theatrical one in that regard.
    Personally, I would not hesitate to call this a great film. Easily in my top 5 for that year. It is a nice July with this film one week and Chariots of Fire the next, and Singin' in the Rain the following week. What a month!
    - Walter.
     
  4. davidmatychuk

    davidmatychuk Screenwriter

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    Essentially, this movie has not been issued on home video until now - that's how good (and how much better than the old DVD) this Blu-Ray is.
    It's amusing to see the "Avengers" trailer on this disc.
     
  5. davidmatychuk

    davidmatychuk Screenwriter

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    It's amusing to see the "Avengers" trailer on this disc.
     
  6. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I have to admit this title was one of my favorites from it's released year. I bought this disc and will be watching it in the coming week.








    Crawdaddy
     
  7. trajan

    trajan Screenwriter

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    In the theater, the aspect switch was ok, but on home video it just looks like another non anamorphic disc. I believe the dvd was 2;35 all the way, which I liked better.
     
  8. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    Your few words inspired an impulse blind purchase today, and for that I thank you. It is a film I will come back to, and not one destined to forever sit on the shelf.
    But the "Roger Rabbit" Blu-Ray trailer looked absolutely magnificent. Can't wait for that one.
    I'm glad they preserved the original theatrical presentation, even if it was a bit awkward. What we're seeing isn't really any different than what audiences would have seen in common width theaters during the original theatrical run. Only common height theaters would have provided the experience the filmmakers intended.
    I thought everything with the girl and the horse was great. I understand the horse rehabilitation stuff was controversial with the professionals in that field, but from a storytelling standpoint it completely worked. Scarlett Johansson is phenomenal as Grace, and her on-screen dynamic with Redford's lead is pitch-perfect. The vast majority of 12-13 year old girls would taken the words on the page and played this role as petulant. That would have been a devastating mistake. Grace is not a petulant child and when she's caustic, it comes from very adult anger and not childish sulking. An absolutely remarkable performance.
    Kristin Scott Thomas has seemed to make a career out of getting audiences to empathize with unlikable characters, and Annie is a standout example. It is her nature that makes her unlikable, but the film wisely doesn't drive the point home; from the moment she imposes herself upon the Montana landscape, she does her best to accommodate herself to those who are accommodating her daughter and herself. There were a lot of potential pitfalls with this story, and the film avoids most of them. However:
    The central conundrum of what to do with Annie and Tom does not resolve itself satisfyingly. My understanding is that the source novel, which has different ending, is much soapier with the illicit affair between the two adult leads. The film lets the Montana landscape wipe most of that away, and builds their relationship instead on largely innocent shared experiences. It sidesteps the easy route of making Annie's husband (and Grace's father) an unlikable prick. Indeed, the early passages of the film convey the impression that Sam Neill's character is the primary parental figure in Grace's life, and he loves his family wholeheartedly. We head west liking him more than his wife, and then the film puts us in the odd position of having to decide whether to root for infidelity. It was a fact that kept me at arm's length as their romance, such as it was, developed. The melancholy ending is fitting for the tensions inherent in the triangle. But it's unsatisfying. Had she stayed, I would have felt bad for her husband and I would have felt bad for Grace. As it is, I feel bad for Tom, who did so much to heal these people, and I feel bad for her. Will she ever love her husband as much as she could have loved Tom? Will she resent the choice she's made? Given, the heartwarming (rather conventional) arc of the other storyline, the unsettled nature of the love story threw me.
     
  9. ackbak

    ackbak Extra

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    This was a pleasant surprise for me when I first viewed this movie on DVD years ago. I had passed on it when it was released in the theater and on DVD originally, but my wife convinced me to watch the movie (she is a fan) and I really enjoyed it. I fully intent on upgrading to the Blu-Ray version of the film, and will surprise the wife :)
     

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