Senior HTF Member
- Feb 24, 1999
uncutdirector’sversionStudio:MIRAMAX Year:1996RunTime:94 minutesAspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 1.85:1 OARAudio:DD 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 English, 5.1 DD French.Subtitles:English (captions for the hearing impaired)SpecialFeatures:Feature Commentary, Deleted Scenes, making-of Featurette, Canes Film Festival Interviews, Trailers (yes, trailers), Gallery, more…ReleaseDate:June 1, 2004
Viewing Trainspotting on DVD for this review was my first real introduction to this film. I’m quite impressed, and now I understand why this film has achieved such a cult-status among so many film enthusiasts. Trainspotting unsettles us with vulgar Pulp-Fiction like visuals and charms us at the same time with unexpected humor. Binding the story together is an exploration of friendship that is as disturbing as it is comforting. Trainspotting immerses us into a dark subculture of heroin addiction as depicted in Irvine Welsh’s novel (Welsh as also involved in the adaptation to film) and the struggles of a group of friends united by their drug use.
Stylistically Trainspotting makes use of a marvelous color palette that is a drab and subdued as its subject matter. Images are beautifully composed and provocatively sensual, and at times perhaps even homo-erotic. If any of you have a special fancy for McGregor, you’ll certainly enjoy watching him (from every angle and stage of dress) in this film. The sensual, sexualized portrayal of the young male characters helps communicate a tangible sense of “lovemaking” that exists between the users and shooting up. Trainspotting makes that relationship between users and drug feel very real; as a viewer you can feel the power of seduction that heroin holds over this group of friends.
And now I'll forever have the toilet scene burned into my memory...egads...
I’m sure those of you who’ve seen and enjoyed this movie have much more to say. So post your own comments and share your insights with the rest of us.
The picture is very good, and above average for the DVDs Disney has been sending me lately. On my digital projector (BenQ 8700+ being driving by a DVI connection from a 1280 x 720 scaling Momitsu v800 DVD player) the image is nicely detailed with a very natural color palette. Shadow detail is excellent (good as there are many low-light scenes) and MPEG noise is not an issue. The image also has a nice sense of 3-dimensionality in scenes that are filmed sharp-focus. This DVD picture has a lot going for it.
The downside seems to be my normal gripe with these Disney/Miramax transfers, there’s a tad bit of ringing that seems to be applied both in the vertical and horizontal domain (affecting hard vertical and horizontal lines) that for the most part is relatively benign. But on occasion this HF boost evinces itself as bonifide “EE” like on the contours of the mountains in the background when the boys are walking out in a country field. Also, the slight HF emphasis takes the gentle fine-film-grain structure of the transfer and “hardens” it, giving it a slightly electronic/digital appearance. That’s when it becomes a real bother and I really wish is wasn’t there. I’ve seen DVD transfers that preserve fine-film-grain structure without electronic HF emphasis and DVD, even at just 720 x 480 resolution, is capable of delivering a very natural, detailed, and film-like appearance.
Also worth noting is that MIRAMAX has preserved the actual 1.85:1 aspect ratio in the 16x9 frame with very mild letterboxing that most folks will never see due to overscan on their displays (this is good as it means Left/Right info wasn’t cropped in the process of encoding the 1.85:1 image into the 1.78:1 16x9 frame area).
Trainspotting comes close to being an excellent transfer, but the slight digital glare (from the mild HF boost) keeps it from making this coveted mark. Still, it’s got a lot of good qualities meriting it a very fairly appointed grade of…
Picture: 4.5/ 5
Let’s start with what’s missing first. Surround activity. I am a bit surprised to find so little of it. Even the more action-oriented scenes or those backed up with a “swelling” musical score seem to make oddly little use of the rear channels. Oh well, the audio mix isn’t an accident, so we’ll just have accept the mixing choices that were made by the talent who produce this film (keep in mind that this film was made almost 10 years ago when mixing philosophy wasn’t quite as affected by the 5.1 extravaganzas we take for granted today).
Good: Fidelity. While this mix is very front heavy, it has excellent frequency response, dynamic range, and a relaxed sense of image depth that I notice especially on some of the musical recordings. The narration by McGregor sounds a bit flat and “studio dubbed” in comparison to the rest of the “movie” soundtrack, but that’s forgivable (the DTS presentation helps slightly with this). MIRAMAX has provided both 5.1 DD and DTS encoded English Audio tracks, and this is a case of the two codecs running a very close race. To my ears, audio level sounds about the same (without one version sounding noticeably louder or softer than the other). However, I still do hear a slight improvement with the DTS in my system…namely that vocals sound a bit more “round” with a more natural sense of low-level acoustic detail. Subtle, yes. But if you’re an audiophile who spends hours listening and adjusting his speaker position to get the best imaging, you’re the type of listener who might appreciate this improvement.
Ok, so please forgive me if I shave a point off for the general lack of surround use…yes this is matter of artistic differences so this is entirely subjective (technically, the DVD audio does an excellent job of presenting the film’s soundtrack as indeed it should).
Sound: 4/ 5
The bonus features for this DVD are plentiful and I imagine most fans will be well pleased. The most die-hard fans may object to what, in some cases, may be some material being recycled from the Criterion laserdisc. But hey, what if you never bought the laserdisc? Isn’t it nice to have it all here? And indeed much of this special feature content is new and recorded just for this DVD. In my book, that’s the best of both worlds.
[*]Feature Commentary: This is probably this disc’s richest bonus feature. The feature-length commentary, recorded in 1996, is in-depth and offers screen-specific commentary from Ewan McGregor, Director Danny Boyle, Producer Andrew Macdonald, and Screenplay writer John Hodge. Ewan introduces the commentary by saying “Welcome to the Criterion Collection Special Edition of Trainspotting”. I’ve never owned a previous edition of this title but I’m sure some of you out there can inform us about the Criterion (laserdisc?) edition from which this commentary was borrowed. Recycled or not, the commentary is first-rate and fans should appreciate its inclusion. The commentary can be accessed either through a menu selection or by simply toggling your audio option to audio track “4” on your remote.
[*]Deleted Scenes: There are quite a few scenes here and I don’t have time to go into detail about each one. They are all presented in 4x3 lbx and are from “video” source. Fans will enjoy viewing them all and while I found them interesting it was also clear why some were cut as they either slowed the film down or would have distracted the audience by taking the plot into a dead-end direction (the scene where the den “mother” is in the hospital with the amputated leg is an example of this). You can view the deleted scenes with or without director’s commentary and you can switch back/forth by using the audio button on your remote control (in addition to the menu selection).
[*]Making Of Documentary 4x3 full frame. This documentary is interesting and those of you who don’t have the stamina to drill through all the special features on this disc should at least watch this and the deleted scenes. While it spends a bit too much time for my taste interposing clips from the feature film, there is still plenty of interesting stuff here like brief actor and production talent interviews and various behind-the-scenes details and making-of trivia.
[*]Trailers: Yes, a Disney/Miramax DVD with trailers. Try to stay calm. Both trailers (there are two) are 4x3 full-frame. One appears to be the “official” trailer that would have been circulated in theaters and the other looks like it may have aired on television. If you know more feel free to discuss it. Video quality is lacking and audio quality is extremely lacking, but hey, they are trailers and they are here.
[*]Retrospective: This area is sub-divided into four parts. The first two of these are further subdivided into a “Then” and “Now” perspective. While in general I enjoyed the content here, I found it annoying that I constantly had to grab the remote and navigate through the menu system as each isolated feature was only a few short minutes in length. What would have been nicer would have been a menu system that allowed a “play all” option in addition to being able to search out each individual element as presented here. All features are 4x3 lbxed 1.66:1 aspect ratio and about 3-4 minutes in length (give or take).
[*]Look of the film: THEN An interview with production designer Kave Quinn (1995). Kave does an excellent job discussion the inspiration for the imagery of the various scenes. The most fascinating element for me was the scrap-book of photos used as inspiration for various themes in the film. NOW Extracts from interviews filmed in 2003. Danny Boyle (director), Andrew Macdonald (actor), and John Hodge (screen play writer) all share some thoughts about the film which are worth noting.
[*]Sound of the film: THEN An interview conducted in Nov 1995 during the audio dubbing of the film. Danny Boyle (director) walks us through an interesting discussion of the basic process of audio mixing. He also speaks candidly about musical selections and how these choices affect the impression of the on-screen imagery. Andrew Macdonald (producer) also comments about the various musical themes and his comments blend nicely with Boyle’s. This feature was a bit longer than the average at about 7 minutes. NOW These same two personalities discuss how music was used in the film and his comments here expand upon those in the previous interview. Here they get into the specifics of various song-references and why they were chosen (Iggy Pop and Lou Reed).
[*]Interviews: This feature side-steps the “Then and Now” formula and simply gives us four interviews with Irvine Welsh (book author), John Hodge (screenplay writer), Danny Boyle (Director), and Andrew Macdonald (producer). Even more casual viewers will find these interviews interesting and I encourage everyone to check them out. Hey, I’m starting to bore myself reading this…let’s get movin’!
[*]Behind the Needle: This feature also breaks the “Then/Now” formula. There are 3 shorts that study a scene where an injection is taking place—namely a close-up of a needle penetrating the skin of an arm. I was amazed to find that this scene made use of a prosthetic (it looked very real in the film). I was a bit confused by the 3 “angles” here which all include identical audio but with slightly different video presentations. If you can figure it out tell me.
Also part of this area is the “Calton Athletic Boys” where Ewan talks VERY briefly about heroin. This feature will definitely make you wonder why you didn’t have a “play all” option.[/list][*]Cannes Film Festival Interviews: Contains four brief filmed interview snippets from the 1996 Cannes Film Festival with Martin Landau, Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn, and Ewan McGregor. There is also a “Snapshots” section here with much smaller snippets from various celebrities, critics, and film-industry folks recorded during a party at the ’96 festival. These briefs are not very enlightening, but will be of interest to any film fan and certainly document a historical moment in the life of this film and the talent that created it
.[*]Biographies: The key talent from the film (director, writer, actors etc.) are cataloged here with a brief text-driven description of their career history. Interesting if you had a question about one of the actors or wanted to know something more about those responsible for this film.
[*]Galleries: Rather unusual for a film of this type, the gallery is “animated” and automatically cycles through the various photographs. You can fast-forward through the gallery but you can’t step or skip picture-to-picture. There is music accompanying this “video montage” of still-frame images. That didn't bother me and actually I liked the "sit back and watch" approach to the gallery...but what did bother me was the realtively small screen-area used for the actual images. I mean, DVD is already starting with a handicap of only 720 x 480 pixels of resolution...to then take an image and surround it with thick borders/matting on the screen further reduces resolution. I'd like to see images use the fullest resolution possible...which means they should either take up the full height or width of the screen depending on their shape. Ok, so I'm much pickier than most about stuff like this...hey...I'm a DVD reviewer!
Trainspotting is a challenging film. It’s not for the faint-of-heart. If you haven’t seen it and are wondering if it’s a film you might enjoy, I think that Pulp Fiction would be a good litmus test. Whether or not it's your cup of tea, Trainspotting is powerful film and one that is masterfully put together. MIRAMAX has delivered a DVD rife with special features to satisfy the most avid fan, a very good image transfer that will hold up well on screens viewed farther than 1.75:1 screen-widths away, and audio encoding that includes DTS. If you love this movie or if you’ve been waiting for the right time to add it to your collection on a hunch, the time is now.