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Life During Wartime(2009)
Separated from her incarcerated husband Bill, Trish is about to be married again. Bill is a pedophile, so Trish couldn't be more excited to have Harvey, a "normal" father figure for her two sons. But when Bill is released from prison and the boys finally meet their future stepdad, the family is forced to decide whether to forgive or to forget. Trish's sister, the virginal, angelic Joy, is also haunted by ghosts of lovers past. On leave from her degenerate husband, Allen, and her job at a New Jersey correctional facility, Joy unwittingly leaves behind a trail of shame and exposed secrets wherever she goes. In one of the film's most stylized sequences, the image of Joy walking the dark streets of Miami in her nightgown maintains her innocence against a backdrop of self-affliction and desire.
For more about Life During Wartime and the Life During Wartime Blu-ray release, see Life During Wartime Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 31, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Shirley Henderson (I), Allison Janney, Ally Sheedy, Michael Lerner, Paul Reubens, Charlotte Rampling
Director: Todd Solondz
» See full cast & crew
Life During Wartime Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 31, 2011
Winner of Golden Osella Award for Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival, Todd Solondz's "Life During Wartime" (2009) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; collection of video interviews with actors Ciarán Hinds, Shirley Henderson, Allison Janney, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Lerner, Paul Reubens, and Ally Sheedy; exclusive video interview with director of photography Ed Lachman; and Q&A with director Todd Solondz. The disc also arrives with a 16-page illustrated booklet featuring an essay by David Sterritt. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
The main protagonists in Todd Solondz's Life During Wartime are social outcasts. They are hurt, disillusioned and lonely people living in comfy bubbles. It is difficult to care about them and even they seem to know it.
Trish (Allison Janney, Juno, TV's The West Wing) lives in Florida with her son Timmy (Dylan Riley Snyder), who is excited about his upcoming bar mitzvah. She has just started seeing Harvey (Michael Lerner, Barton Fink, Safe Men), who is extremely nervous because he does not remember how to make love. Trish has not been with a man ever since her pedophile husband, Bill (Ciarán Hinds, The Eclipse), was sent to jail.
Joy (Shirley Henderson, Topsy-Turvy, 24 Hour Party People), Trish's sister, helps convicts get back into society. She has married a former convict, Allen (Michael Kenneth Williams, Brooklyn's Finest), who has managed to turn his life around. However, she spends most of her time with a ghost, Andy (Paul Reubens, Blow), a former boyfriend who committed suicide years ago.
Helen (Ally Sheedy, The Breakfast Club), Trish's other sister, is a neurotic Hollywood screenwriter. Her professional life has been an impressive success story, but her personal life has been a disaster. She loves giving advices but hates getting any.
Bill has just been released from jail. At an upscale bar, he meets Jacqueline (Charlotte Rampling, Under the Sand, Lemming), a lonely and disillusioned woman who is convinced that she is a monster. The two decide to spend the night in a nearby hotel. After they make love, Bill steals Jacqueline's money and heads to Oregon to see his son Billy (Chris Marquette, The Tic Code), who has been told by Trish that his father is dead.
Life During Wartime is an incredibly sad film. It is populated with people whose lives are either irreversibly broken or devoid of everything that makes life worth living. They know it, which is why they seem to be attracted to each other.
The film is shot in such a way that it is difficult to tell whether Solondz cares about these people. After he bares their souls, he does not bring closure to their misery. He simply leaves them in a very painful state of free falling, constantly asking pointless questions and looking for irrelevant answers.
The bigger story the film tells -- that of a country whose identity has been dramatically changed after the September 11 attacks -- is slightly more convincing. The "war on terror" has in different ways affected the lives of these people and made them aware that there is a world outside of their world, and that something has gone wrong in it. They do not necessarily have a clear understanding of what is underway but have become aware that something has changed. This awareness, the film seems to argue, is part of a bigger trend.
Ultimately, however, the film is too unfocused. The disturbing and hilarious that made Solontz's previous films so fascinating to behold are here, but the mix is unappealing. The characters are ghosts and their dilemmas too artificial. Indeed, there was a time when suburban depression was chic, but that time is now long gone.
The film is so bright and crisp that at times sunny Florida looks like a fancy, over-sanitized hospital which only the privileged could enter.
Note: In 2009, Life During Wartime won Golden Osella Award for Best Screenplay (Todd Solondz) at the Venice Film Festival.
Life During Wartime Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Todd Solondz's Life During Wartime arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Director of photography Ed Lachman supervised and approved this new transfer, which took place in New York at Technicolor and Final Frame. The film was shot with the RED One Digital Camera at 4K resolution and the entire production was completed in a fully digital workflow. During the grading sessions, the original .r3d RED files were used and standard DPX files were rendered out from SCRATCH. The final color-corrected DPX files were also output to Rec. 709 high-definition color space for BD and DVD release."
RED digital colorist: Tim Stipan/Technicolor, New York.
Color correction supervisor: Ed Lachman.
Additional color correction: Joe Gawler."
Life During Wartime looks exceptional. There are selected sequences in the film that convey clarity and depth that are simply overwhelming. Che, which was also shot with the RED One Digital Camera, is the only release that comes close to matching this truly remarkable image quality, but there is a sense of balance here that Che lacks. Even the darker footage looks remarkably fluid -- there are no contrast fluctuations or sporadic image softness. What impresses the most, however, is the color reproduction. The variety of yellows, greens, and especially browns and blacks are simply superb. Some of the outdoor scenes convey a degree of crispness that is at times borderline distracting (see screencapture #8). Finally, there are absolutely no transfer related anomalies whatsoever. (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).
Life During Wartime 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.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This film features a fully digital soundtrack. The 5.1 surround audio was mastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master using Pro Tools HD."
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is flawless. The dialog is exceptionally crisp and fluid, and there are absolutely no distortions whatsoever. The surround channels are not overly active, but when they are used, they are indeed very effective. Similarly, the bass rarely comes alive, but its presence is certainly felt. All in all, it is clear that the audio has been optimized as best as possible.
Life During Wartime Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Life During Wartime Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I could not warm up to this film. It is terrifically acted but lacks the energy and zest of Todd Solondz's previous films, and specifically his Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness. The few political overtones in the film also feel foreign. Criterion's Blu-ray of Life During Wartime, however, is flawless. It is one of the very best discs the company has produced. Recommended only to fans of Todd Solondz and his work.
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