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Sometimes a Great Notion(1970)
Paul Newman makes his directorial debut in this sweeping saga. Based on the best-selling novel from author Ken Kesey (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST), the story focuses on a two-fisted Oregon family that busks their close-knit timber community to deliver a shipment of logs in defiance of a strike. In the process, one man is killed, the family patriarch (Henry Fonda) is injured, and the eldest son (Paul Newman) almost loses his wife (Lee Remick) to his half brother (Michael Sarrazin). Filled with complex characters and issues that still resonate today, SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION is an intense and riveting portrait of life set against the rugged backdrop of logging.
For more about Sometimes a Great Notion and the Sometimes a Great Notion Blu-ray release, see Sometimes a Great Notion Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 1, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Paul Newman
Writers: Ken Kesey, John Gay (II)
Starring: Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Lee Remick, Michael Sarrazin, Richard Jaeckel, Cliff Potts
» See full cast & crew
Sometimes a Great Notion Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 1, 2013
Paul Newman's "Sometimes a Great Notion" (1970) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout Factory. There are no supplemental features on this Blu-ray disc. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
In the logging town of Wakonda, Oregon everyone has gone on strike - everyone but the Stampers. The injured family patriarch, Henry (Henry Fonda, Once Upon a Time in the West), has decided to stay out of all the drama involving the local union boys and told his eldest son Hank (Paul Newman) and nephew Joe Ben (Richard Jaeckel, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid) to keep working. Each day, he reminds them that they have a contract to fill and families of their own to take care of.
Things change when Henry's younger son and Hank's half-brother, Leeland (Michael Sarrazin, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?), returns home. Leeland has been living in New York City for years and no longer looks like the boy everyone remembers - now he is skinny and has a long dark hair, looking almost like a girl. He isn't entirely sure why he has come back as living in Oregon was never something he enjoyed.
In the days that follow, Leeland is often the recipient of bad jokes. Eventually, a few upset him and he reminds Henry that he should feel at least partially responsible for the death of his mother. He or someone else from the family, Leeland insists, could have at least attended her funeral after she committed suicide. But Henry disagrees - the past cannot be undone and all that matters now is the present.
Meanwhile, some of the union leaders visit Hank's home to remind him that what he and his boys are doing isn't right because it prolongs the strike and hurts local businesses that are trying to survive. But day after day the Stampers continue to cut trees and ship them to their contractor. Then a tragedy shakes up the family.
Based on Ken Kesey's novel, Sometimes a Great Notion is an unusual film to say the least. It is structured as a family drama but there are plenty of interesting social comments in it as well. Its characters all have fascinating stories to tell but none are revealed in their entirety.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the film, however, is the fact that it remains suspiciously neutral while chronicling the Stampers' misery. There are portions of the film where it almost feels as if one should admire their desire to remain independent but then their stubbornness slowly begins to erode the foundation of their unity and one begins to realize that virtually all of them are seriously compromised. It then becomes clear that they also don't have a great deal of respect for each other.
A promising subplot involving Hank's wife, Viv (Lee Remick, Anatomy of a Murder), and Leeland is also left underdeveloped. At one point they warm up to each other but then their interactions are completely ignored, right until the very moment when Viv disappears without a trace. It feels as if there is a crucial piece of the film missing here. (Could it be that the rumored cut scenes used to add some clarity to Viv's final moments with the Stampers?)
The plot inconsistencies aside, Sometimes a Great Notion does have the appropriate epic look. The sequences where Hank, Joe Ben, and Leeland go into the forest and in particular the finale where Hank and Leeland appear with the final load of logs look quite spectacular.
After some tensions during the shooting of Sometimes a Great Notion, Newman replaced Richard A. Colla as the film's director. Newman was also the co-executive producer.
Sometimes a Great Notion was lensed by Richard Moore (Daniel Haller's Devil's Angels, John Huston's The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean). The film's soundtrack was composed by the great Henry Mancini (Victor/Victoria, Charade).
Sometimes a Great Notion Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Paul Newman's Sometimes a Great Notion arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout Factory.
The high-definition transfer is quite inconsistent. It has been struck from a dated source and more often than not it clearly shows. Generally speaking, detail and clarity range from decent to pleasing, but traces of light to moderate sharpening corrections are visible throughout the entire film. Naturally, during close-ups and larger panoramic shots depth isn't pleasing (see screencapture #9). Light electronic noise also sneaks in from time to time (see screencapture #4). Some grain has been retained, but it is almost always mixed with the aforementioned electronic noise as well as some artifacts. Sharpness levels have also been slightly elevated. Color reproduction is at times adequate, but saturation and stability are not impressive. Some light edge flicker is noticeable. All in all, there is definitely quite a bit of room for serious improvements in practically all of the key areas we typically address in these reviews. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location).
Sometimes a Great Notion Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Shout Factory have provided optional yellow English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they split the image frame and the black bar below it.
The lossless track opens up the film in all the right places quite well. Generally speaking, there is good depth and even some decent dynamic movement. The dialog is always crisp, stable, and easy to follow. There is no heavy background hiss. Also, there are no audio dropouts and distortions to report in this review.
Sometimes a Great Notion Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unfortunately, there are no supplemental features to be found on this Blu-ray disc.
Sometimes a Great Notion Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There are portions of Sometimes a Great Notion that are very good, but it does not work quite that well as one piece. I am not familiar with the film's editing history, but I get the feeling that a lot was left on the cutting floor, including some absolutely crucial scenes. Especially during the final third of the film there are subplots that feel seriously underdeveloped. Still, the cast is outstanding, and the cinematography wonderful. The technical presentation, however, is average at best. RENT IT.
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