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HTF Blu-Ray Review: The Duchess



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#1 of 1 PatWahlquist

PatWahlquist

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Posted December 30 2008 - 10:50 AM


The Duchess (Blu-Ray)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: PG-13 (for sexual content, brief nudity and thematic material)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+
Time: 109 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2008
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 28, 2008


The Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) has found his bride in the person of the young Georgiana (Keira Knightly), with the express task of providing the Duke with a male heir. Georgiana goes on to produce three daughters instead, much to the dismay of the Duke. Georgiana displays numerous feminist ideals such as wanting recognition for her role in and contribution to the Duke’s life, as well as expecting her husband to treat her like a wife and not simply as a means to get his heir. Georgiana makes friends with Bess Foster (Hayley Atwell), and so too does the Duke, who takes advantage of Bess’s history of cranking out boys to get his heir. Georgiana has a romantic interest in upcoming politician Charles Gray (Dominic Cooper) and as the coldness of her marriage begins to eclipse her whole world, she finds refuge in Gray’s arms. Deals are made between the parties, both political and emotional, and combinations of each, to ensure all appearance of propriety is met regardless of the feelings of any one person.

The Duchess comes across as Merchant/ Ivory light, with the story really not delving too deep into any one aspect of it or its characters. It shows us how the royals, and Georgiana in particular, were treated and behaved like celebrities, making them very close in word and deed to their modern day counterparts. Georgiana is even called the “Empress of Fashion” due to her elaborate gowns, and she uses her celebrity to influence the politics of mid-1700’s England. The Duke is a cold, emotionally distant character (“emotionally constipated”, as Fiennes puts it) who is only concerned with his legacy and appearance. Most of the trappings of a costumed period piece are present: adultery, back-stabbing, propriety vs. impropriety, heartbreak, but the picture simply shows these things without really making us feel for the characters as they experience them. While I could see how one could feel sorry for Georgiana, I never really felt it, and it wasn’t from Knightly’s acting as she is quite good as usual. Maybe we’ve been down the cobblestone roads so many times now it takes much more to hold our interest and invest in such stuffy period pieces with so little reward.

Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

The Blu-Ray disc is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The picture is flawless and free from any dirt or debris, nor is there any edge enhancement or DNR. The picture has a basic and natural color palate that shows off the variations in the characters makeup and the exquisite detail of the costumes and settings. Detail and sharpness are excellent allowing us, again, to see the work that went into the production design and costuming. Black levels are good and show good shadow detail.


Audio:
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is front heavy, so much so that I don’t even recall any information coming from the surrounds. There is minor surround information there, but only used as environmental effects. The soundtrack still provides a good up front sound field reminding me more of watching a play than seeing a movie. There is good panning between the channels and voices sounded natural and rich. LFE’s are very minor and simply support the score.


Bonus Material: all items are in HD.

How Far She Went: Making The Duchess (22:48): the piece is split up into six chapters where the historical characters, the costuming, the shoot and other production stories are shared. It’s a fine and basic piece that gives us about as much as the movie does, and I would have liked more discussion on the historical events of the story and the characters. I guess I’ll just have to go buy a book!

Georgiana In Her Own Words (7:48): I get my wish with some insight into the letters that were the basis for Amanda Foreman’s book, “Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire”. The piece shows us the actual letters written by Georgiana and Foreman gives her commentary on them. We see some artists’ renderings of the real Georgiana and Knightly doesn’t quite match up to the Ruben-esque paintings.

Costume Diary (5:37): perhaps the most stunning part of the movie is the exquisite costumes and Costume Designer Michael O’Connor discusses how they contribute to the picture and its themes.

Two theatrical trailers.


Conclusions:
I believe historical pieces should inspire you to go out and read more about their subjects, but this one doesn’t do that for me. The movie, while it displays great production values, merely skims the surface of the history it’s trying to portray. The disc itself looks great, but leaves me underwhelmed on the audio side. The extras maintain the minimalist attitude of the movie itself.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.





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