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Pariah Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Archived Reviews' started by Kevin EK, Apr 26, 2012.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer

    May 9, 2003
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    Pariah is a movie whose appeal depends the viewer’s interest in its very specific subject matter and milieu.  Unquestionably a well-acted and authentic piece, the movie is about the sexual awakening of a young gay black woman in a Brooklyn neighborhood.  And to be more specific, the movie deals with how she deals with her own emotions and the inability of her parents to understand her.  This is strong material, but it may be a real task for a casual viewer to find this a compelling way to spend 90 minutes.  The new Blu-ray presents the movie in solid HD picture and sound, with a few minutes of interview material thrown in as an extra.


    Studio: Universal/Focus Features/Northstar Pictures/Sundial Pictures

    Year: 2011

    Length: 1 hr 27 mins

    Genre:  Art House Drama/Sexual Awakening

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

    BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, VC-1 @ 35 mbps

    Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 1.7-2.5 mbps, up to 4.1 mbps),

    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

    Film Rating: R (Sexual Content, Language)

    Release Date: April 24, 2012

    Starring:  Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Aasha Davis, Charles Parnell, Sahra Mellesse and Kim Wayans

    Written and Directed by: Dee Rees

    Based Upon her 2007 Short Film Pariah

    Film Rating:    3/5

    Pariah is the kind of movie that does well on the film festival circuit.  It’s well-acted and arranged, it’s uncompromising in its devotion to a specific idea, and it’s bound to only appeal to a very small target audience.  It’s one thing to make a movie that focuses on a young woman dealing with the difficulty of coming out as being gay.  It’s another to place that story within a black neighborhood in Brooklyn, where the issues are compounded.  The movie is clearly a labor of love for writer/director Dee Rees, who expanded it from her 2007 short film of the same title and subject.  Adepero Oduye gives a performance of quiet longing in the lead role of Alike, her eyes conveying a tremendous amount of it in every scene.  And Charles Parnell and Kim Wayans as her parents also give quietly anguished performances.   For a viewer who is invested in Alike’s journey, this will be a rewarding journey.  However, for a more casual viewer, this is not likely to be a journey they will either understand or have much patience experiencing.  When it comes to trying to make a recommendation here, I can only say that if this is a subject matter that interests and affects you, this movie will be worth your efforts.  If this specific subject does not so interest you, this will probably not make for that successful of a movie night.

    Pariah has been released on Blu-ray and standard definition DVD this week.   The Blu-ray edition holds a high definition picture and sound transfer, three tiny interview featurettes in high definition.  There is a BD-Live function included here, but no other Universal Blu-ray extras.  The Blu-ray does not even have a top menu, opting instead to provide a pop-up menu during playback, which starts automatically.  (This is getting to be a habit with Universal.  No less than four titles this year have used this approach.)

    VIDEO QUALITY   3 ½/5

    Pariah is presented in a 1080p VC-1 1.85:1 transfer that, like past art house presentations from Focus Features, does a good job of translating the low-budget film shoot to HD media.  The look of the movie is fairly specific, with a lot of close-ups and a fair amount of use of foreground faces and shoulders to really put the viewer into Alike’s point of view.  I should note this movie received an Excellence in Cinematography award when it premiered at Sundance in 2011.

    AUDIO QUALITY   3 ½/5

    Pariah is presented in a good English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English, which clearly presents the mostly quiet dialogue.  There are some moments where things get louder or livelier – the opening moment in a strip club is but one example, but even here the mix doesn’t go crazy with heavy bass.  The subwoofer is present, but is used in a remarkably restrained fashion.


    The Blu-Ray presentation of Pariah comes with BD-Live as its only nod to Blu-ray functionalilty.   The only other special features are a trio of interview featurettes that come to a total of about seven minutes.

    Dee Rees: A Director’s Style – (2:17, 1080p)  This is a sidewalk interview with writer/director Dee Rees and actresses Adepero Oduye and Pernell Walker about how certain scenes were approached.  Walker mentions how Rees encouraged her to play a scene with Kim Wayans in a somewhat unexpected manner, and Oduye discusses some of her challenges.

    A Walk in Brooklyn – (2:02, 1080p)  The sidewalk interview continues as the three women discuss the challenges and advantages of filming in real locations in Brooklyn.

    Trying Out Identity:  Pariah’s Wardrobe – (2:43, 1080p)  The final part of the interview has the women discussing the specific character nature of the wardrobe in the movie.  Walker talks about how she had to change her own feminine look to be more butch for the movie, and Rees discusses how the movie shows Alike trying multiple looks that don’t fit her, particularly a feminine dress that the mother character assumes will be appropriate but which actually is the worst fit of all.

    BD-Live - The more general BD-Live screen is accessible via the menu, which makes various online materials available, including tickers, trailers and special events.   

    The film and the special features are subtitled in English, French and Spanish.  The usual pop-up menu is present, including a complete chapter menu.  However, there is no top menu available.  The Blu-ray presents a few BD-Live trailers and then goes right into the movie. 

    IN THE END...

    Pariah is a movie that will do well with its very specific target audience.  It’s a well-acted and presented story of a young woman’s gay sexual awakening in a black neighborhood in Brooklyn.   The Blu-ray presents the movie with good HD picture and sound, and a few minutes of interviews with the director and cast.  If the subject matter sounds appealing, the movie will likely make for an engaging evening.  If this doesn’t sound quite like your cup of tea, the movie will not likely convince you otherwise.

    Kevin Koster

    April 26, 2012

    Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:

    Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at “THX” picture mode

    Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver

    Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player

    PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)

    5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)

    2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)

    Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer


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