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Being John Malkovich(1999)
Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a struggling street puppeteer. In order to make some money, Craig takes a job as a filing clerk. One day he accidentally discovers a door...a portal into the brain of John Malkovich! For 15 minutes, he experiences the ultimate head trip - HE is being John Malkovich! Then he's dumped onto the New Jersey turnpike. With his beautiful office mate Maxine (Catherine Keener) and his pet-obsessed wife (Cameron Diaz), they hatch a plan to let others into John's brain for just $200 a trip.
For more about Being John Malkovich and the Being John Malkovich Blu-ray release, see Being John Malkovich Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 1, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, Ned Bellamy, Octavia Spencer
Director: Spike Jonze
» See full cast & crew
Being John Malkovich Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 1, 2012
Nominated for three Oscar Awards, including Best Director and Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Spike Jonze's "Being John Malkovich" (1999) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; exclusive new interview with actor John Malkovich; selected-scene commentary by director director Michel Gondry; video interview with director Spike Jonze; and a lot more. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring a conversation between director Spike Jonze and pop culture critic Perkus Tooth. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Craig (John Cusack, The Grifters, The Thin Red Line), a disillusioned puppeteer, gets an office job in a strange building. On the 7 ½ floor, where his office is, he accidentally discovers a portal that leads straight into the head of movie star John Malkovich. He enters it and realizes that, among other things, he could manipulate Malkovich's thoughts and feelings.
Even though he is already married to Lotte (Cameron Diaz, Any Given Sunday), a goofy animal lover who is convinced that the right time for her to get pregnant has come, Craig allows himself to fall madly in love with his elegant and ambitious coworker Maxine (Catherine Keener, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, Into the Wild). He hopes for a passionate affair, but Maxine quickly makes it perfectly clear that she isn't interested in him.
Things change when Craig tells Maxine about the secret portal. She warms up to him and the two decide to set up a small business – for a proper fee, they would let people into Malkovich's head for approximately 15 minutes. The instant success of their business surprises them both.
Craig also allows Lotte to explore Malkovich's head – which is when things begin to unravel. While Maxine flirts with Malkovich, Lotte, who observes her from inside his head, falls in love with her. Soon after, Maxine meets Lotte and confesses to her that she also finds her attractive – but only when she is inside Malkovich. Realizing that the two women in his life are drifting away from him, Craig stages a decisive comeback - he barricades inside Malkovich's head to stall the progression of their 'relationship'.
Meanwhile, Malkovich begins investigating the unusual headaches and memory lapses he has been suffering –and ends up on the 7 ½ floor, where a large group of excited people are patiently waiting to get inside his head. When he confronts Craig and Lotte, they show him the portal. Then, they invite him to take a trip inside his own head, for free.
Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich is a wild and truly unpredictable film that does something few other contemporary American films do – it entertains while it forces one to seriously think about a variety of different issues. The film fires in all sorts of different directions with observations that, thirteen years after its premiere, are shockingly accurate.
The one that really sticks out is about the forthcoming end of privacy. Long before the social media craze, the film clearly shows how and why privacy will eventually be treated as a commodity. The initial exchanges between Craig and Malkovich are particularly interesting as they essentially reflect a common dilemma many stars and public figures nowadays face.
The accuracy of these observations has drastically changed the film's DNA. The many wildly hilarious sequences now look sad and even depressing because their absurd points are now a fact of life. This is not to say that the humor is completely lost, but it certainly feels strange to see how the surreal now looks quite real (the entire film was truly a blueprint for the 'reality shows' that today rule the TV charts).
It is difficult to imagine that another actor could have played the disillusioned puppeteer as well as Cusack does. His performance is pure gold. Malkovich is also outstanding, especially after he discovers that his head no longer belongs to him. Keener is, as usual, a pleasure to behold.
Being John Malkovich Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85.1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Supervised by director Spike Jonze and cinematographer Lance Acord, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a DFT SCANITY film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative. The data was then color corrected on a DaVinci Resolve at Company 3, with colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld, who recently cut off his ponytail of twenty years.
Telecine supervisors: Lance Acord, Spike Jonze, Lee Kline.
Colorist: Stefan Sonnenfeld/Company 3, Santa Monica, CA."
The high-definition transfer is one of the best I've seen used for a catalog release of a contemporary film distributed by Universal Studios. This is not to imply that it is flawless, but it clearly has the organic qualities we expect to see retained when older films transition to Blu-ray.
The majority of the close-ups convey strong detail and good natural sharpness. Clarity is also pleasing. Generally speaking, they are also free of problematic denoising corrections and overzealous sharpening (see screencaptures #2 and 3). Immediately after fast cuts and zooms, however, occasionally mild softness sneaks in (see screencapture #1, which is from a series of short but fast imaginary flashbacks). Contrast levels are stable, excluding, of course, the head peeks where together with clarity they fluctuate. The color-scheme is pleasing, with the prominent grays, browns, and blues looking stable and unmanipulated. Like contrast and clarity, however, color saturation also tends to fluctuate. Lastly, there are no purely transfer-specific anomalies. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. All in all, the presentation should please fans of the film who have previously owned it only on DVD. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Being John Malkovich Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
I am convinced that anyone who has previously seen Being John Malkovich only on DVD will be tremendously impressed by the lossless audio track. It is surprisingly intense during selected sequences (the 'entry ride' into Malkovich's head, in particular, is very effective), while the surround channels are used very intelligently. Clearly, the film was carefully mixed and the strong lossless track now makes it easy to appreciate the mixers' good work. The dialog is consistently crisp, stable, and very easy to follow.
Being John Malkovich Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Being John Malkovich Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I find Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich to be a hilarious but at the same enormously sad film. Thirteen years after it was released theatrically some of its most absurd observations are now a fact of life and we don't seem to care much. Once you see the film, I urge you to also see the excellent exclusive interview with John Malkovich in which he discusses some of the film's prophetic points. It is fascinating, and I personally wholeheartedly agree with him. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Being John Malkovich Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Blu-ray in May: Kassovitz, Jonze, Kiarostami, Bergman - February 16, 2012
After much speculation, the Criterion Collection has posted its full roster of Blu-ray releases for May 2012. Titles include Mathieu Kassovitz's La Haine, Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich, Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy, and two features from Ingmar Bergman ...
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