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Van's father, Stan, is fond of video, always taping scenes of daily family life. But he does not take care of Van's grandmother, Armen. Although he could afford having her at home, she is spending her days watching TV in an old people's home. Van often visits her. He meets Aline, whose mother is in the next bed. Van wants to get his grandma out of the old people's home. Aline will help. Actually, Van, whose mother left, years ago, is looking for a real family life.
For more about Family Viewing and the Family Viewing Blu-ray release, see Family Viewing Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on August 4, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: David Hemblen, Gabrielle Rose, Arsinée Khanjian, Aidan Tierney, Selma Keklikian
Director: Atom Egoyan
» See full cast & crew
Family Viewing Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 4, 2013
Winner of Best Canadian Feature Film Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, Atom Egoyan's "Family Viewing" (1988) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye. There are no supplemental features on this release. In English, without optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Atom Egoyan's sequel to his excellent Next of Kin is another low-budget, deliciously subversive and very atmospheric piece about people with strange desires and poor communication skills. It goes places which on this side of the Atlantic only David Lynch's films have been comfortable visiting.
Van (Aidan Tierney) wants to take care of his ill grandmother, Armen (Selma Keklikian), who has been placed in a nursing home. But Van's father, Stan (David Hemblen, Speaking Parts, Where the Truth Lies), wants to keep her there so that he can have more time to enjoy the company of his girlfriend, Sandra (Gabrielle Rose, The Five Senses, Missing in America), who lives with him. Sandra is exactly the type of woman Stan has been dreaming about – elegant, straightforward and always ready to play with him. The type of games Stan and Sandra play, and love to tape, usually involve a third person with a sexy voice who would call them at home for a certain fee.
While visiting his grandmother at the nursing home, Van meets Aline (Arsinee Khanjian, Felicia's Journey, Ararat), a phone-sex actress who also has a relative there. Aline desperately needs money to pay what she owes the nursing home, which is why she is considering meeting one of her regular clients who wants her to join him while he is out of town for an important business event. When later on Aline's relative dies, Van replaces her file with that of his grandmother and then secretly moves the 'deceased patient' to a cozy hotel room. Meanwhile, Stan discovers that Van has been replacing his homemade pornography tapes, all of which also happen to contain footage from the times when the entire family was living in harmony, with blanks and immediately hires a private detective to spy on his son.
Egoyan blends video footage with film footage to create a dreamy atmosphere that essentially makes the main characters and their often quite unusual actions look normal. The transitions from the bizarre to the hilarious and back to the bizarre are also done in a very relaxed fashion – there are no sudden switches between these sequences or an intent to compromise the main characters so as to make a point that they may not be as normal as they should be.
Despite its limited budget the film looks very stylish. Each sequence is carefully composed and directed. Because of the precise camera movement even where there is hardly any dialog the rhythm of the narrative is never disrupted.
Considering the subjects Egoyan tackles in the film the acting could have been incredibly problematic, but the cast is truly excellent. Rose is particularly good as the naughty girlfriend who can't stop flirting even though she fully realizes that what she does isn't right. Hemblen is also very convincing as the kooky father who is a lot more interested in playing wild games than taking care of his ill mother. Egoyan's wife, Khanjian also plays the mysterious sex-phone actress to perfection. (The small scene where she talks to a client who wants her to be a naughty French girl is one of the best in the entire film).
Family Viewing was lensed by cinematographers Robert MacDonald (Skin Deep, Drummer Boy) and Peter Mettler (Next of Kin, Leda and the Swan).
The film's soundtrack was composed by Mychael Danna (Exotica, The Adjuster).
Family Viewing Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.32:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Atom Egoyan's Family Viewing arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye.
Family Viewing looks as healthy as the rest of the Egoyan films which Artificial Eye have already released on Blu-ray (Next of Kin, Speaking Parts, and The Adjuster). The film footage boasts excellent depth and clarity, especially during close-ups with plenty of light (see screencaptures #3 and 7). Contrast levels have a tendency to fluctuate, but the effect is clearly intentional. Understandably, the video footage Egoyan blends with the film footage looks softer (see screencaptures #10 and 13). The frequent transitions from film footage to video footage and back to film footage, however, are intended to enhance the film's dreamy atmosphere. Colors are healthy and stable. There are no traces of excessive degraining corrections. Edge-enhancement is also not an issue of concern. Lastly, there are no large damage marks, cuts, debris, or scratches to report in this review. Overall image stability is also very good. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Family Viewing Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English Dolby Digital 2.0. For the record, Artificial Eye have not provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
I would have preferred to have a lossless track, but once again I must say that the lossy track is in fact very good (this was also the case with the lossy track on Speaking Parts). The dialog is fairly limited but it is always clear and very easy to follow. In select sequences Mychael Danna's music has enough depth and richness to effectively enhance the dreamy atmosphere. For the record, there are no pops, audio dropouts, or distortions to report in this review.
Family Viewing Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Most unfortunately, there are no supplemental features to be found on this Blu-ray release.
Family Viewing Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Artificial Eye's Blu-ray releases of Atom Egoyan's early films are some of the year's best treats. I cannot recommend them highly enough. These are bold, very stylish, and hugely entertaining films directed by a true master. If you could play Region-B "locked" discs, I urge you to consider adding the following titles to your library: Family Viewing, Speaking Parts, The Adjuster and Next of Kin.
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