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Footnote Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Archived Reviews' started by Richard Gallagher, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    Footnote was a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film of 2011. Directed by Joseph Cedar, the film tells to story of two Talmudic scholars in Israel - Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar Aba) and his son, Uriel (Liot Ashkenazi). Eliezer is a bitter, taciturn old man who is convinced that his contributions to Talmudic Studies have been downplayed or ignored by the establishment. The high point of his career is that he was once commended in a footnote of a book written by one of Israel's greatest scholars. Uriel, on the other hand, is a rising star in his field who has been receiving many accolades, the likes of which have not been bestowed upon his father.




    Footnote

    Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
    Year: 2011
    Rated: PG
    Program Length: 105 minutes                 
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p
    Languages: Hebrew, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA
    Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

    The Program

    A decade ago I saw an item in the New York Times Book Review which said that an author named Melanie Rehak was writing a book about Mildred Wirt Benson and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, the two women who were primarily responsible for the enduring popularity of fictional teen detective Nancy Drew. I was intrigued by this because in 1973 I had conducted a lengthy interview with Harriet Stratemeyer Adams as part of an independent study history project I was working on in college. I got in touch with Ms. Rehak and provided her with copies of my research materials and the paper I wrote. In 2005 her book, Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her was published, and it won a prestigious Edgar Award in 2006. When I met Ms. Rehak at a book signing, she made a point of showing me that she had cited my work twice in the book's footnotes.

    I was reminded of this anecdote while viewing the new Blu-ray disc of Footnote, a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film of 2011. Directed by Joseph Cedar, the film tells to story of two Talmudic scholars in Israel - Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar Aba) and his son, Uriel (Liot Ashkenazi). Eliezer is a bitter, taciturn old man who is convinced that his contributions to Talmudic Studies have been downplayed or ignored by the establishment. The high point of his career is that he was once commended in a footnote of a book written by one of Israel's greatest scholars. Uriel, on the other hand, is a rising star in his field who has been receiving many accolades, the likes of which have not been bestowed upon his father.

    Each year for two decades Eliezer has been nominated for the Israel Prize, the highest honor an Israeli scholar can receive, but each year someone else has won the award and Eliezer now has no illusions that he will ever be selected. He also is jealous of the attention which is given to Uriel, whom Eliezer does not consider to be a serious scholar. It is against this backdrop that one day Eliezer receives a cell phone call advising him that he has been selected as the winner of the year's Israel Prize.

    Alas, it turns out to be a case of mistaken identity. It is actually Uriel who was selected for the Israel Prize, but due to a mix-up the congratulatory call is made to the wrong Professor Skolnick. Once the error is discovered, Uriel is faced with a difficult choice. Should he accept the award which was intended for him, even though the revelation is likely to destroy his father's sense of self-respect? The relationship between father and son is not exactly warm, so Uriel's decision is not an easy one.

    Footnote is a literate, sensitive and sometimes funny portrayal of a strained father-son dynamic and academic politics. Eliezer is not an easy person to like. He is dismissive of his son and he barely speaks with his wife. He has a very small circle of friends and he may be carrying on an illicit affair with another woman. On the other hand, he has been badly treated by his scholarly colleagues and there is reason to believe that he could be redeemed by the validation he would receive by winning the Israel Prize.

    Director Cedar and his cast of Israeli actors are mostly unknown to American audiences, but they have succeeded in making an interesting and insightful film. There undoubtedly is a limited audience for Footnote, but those who may be intrigued by the premise (and who may be interested in learning more about Jewish culture) will find that it offers many rewards. And, speaking of rewards, I can attest to the fact that being mentioned in a footnote of a successful book can be an honor to cherish.

    The Video

    Footnote is properly framed at 2.35:1 and is a pleasure to watch. The picture is highly detailed and often displays brilliant, solid colors. There is great attention to detail which may produce some eye-openers for people who have never been to Israel. For example, it is a bit jarring to see the security arrangements which are put into place for an academic awards ceremony, not the sort of event where Americans would expect to see guards armed with automatic weapons. Sony has done its usual superb job with this Blu-ray presentation, avoiding excessive digital manipulation and producing a satisfying, film-like experience.

    The Audio

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio is excellent. There is not much in the way of ambient sound effects, but Footnote has a sweeping musical score by Amit Poznansky which is given a wide and pleasing soundstage. The English subtitles are unobtrusive and easy to read.

    The Supplements

    The Blu-ray of Footnote contains just a few extras.

    There is a 24-minute "Behind the Scenes" featurette which examines every aspect of the making of the film, including the casting, music, etc. This featurette is in standard definition and is subtitled.

    "An Evening With Joseph Cedar" is a ten-minute question & answer session with the director. Cedar was raised in Israel but was born in New York City and he speaks English is this featurette.

    Sony has included the theatrical trailer for Footnote, as well as previews of Damsels in Distress; Darling Companion; A Separation; Where Do We Go Now?; and Neil Young Journeys.

    The Packaging

    The single disc comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

    The Final Analysis

    Footnote is a well-made, original and entertaining film which will not appeal to all tastes. It may well be best appreciated by those who have an interest in Jewish culture and traditions, but even the casual viewer is likely to be intrigued by the film's portrayal of a contentious father-son relationship and the complications caused by an identity mix-up.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
    Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specification by Gregg Loewen
    Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
    BIC Acoustech speakers
    Interconnects: Monster Cable

    Release Date: July 24, 2012

     

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