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That's the Way of the World(1975)
Record executives want a highly-regarded record producer to focus on a white pop act whom they feel has the sound America wants. To keep his creative integrity, Buckmaster carefully begins to fight the system that has made him the respected producer he has become.
For more about That's the Way of the World and the That's the Way of the World Blu-ray release, see That's the Way of the World Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on February 8, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Harvey Keitel, Bert Parks, Maurice White
Director: Sig Shore
» See full cast & crew
That's the Way of the World Blu-ray Review
Life Before Bieber.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, February 8, 2014
It's easy to dismiss the music business these days as a soulless machine of mediocrity, always chasing a buck with any novelty act or trend it can massage for a few years before moving on to the next big thing. "That's the Way of the World" is a troubling reminder that it's always been this way, with the 1975 picture employing a mildly satiric approach to expose the vulgarity of record companies as they pick and choose popularity, tossing talent aside to invest in pap for the masses. It's a potent message, and one the feature isn't shy to share, often taking the most obvious route possible to expose the mind-numbing predictability of the industry. However, while its messages are about as subtle as an air horn, "That's the Way of the World" remains a successful, entertaining interpretation of vampiric business practices and the burden of selling out, scored to a series of hits from Earth, Wind & Fire, who also appear in the effort.
Buckmaster (Harvey Keitel) is a hotshot music producer working at the prestigious label, A-Chord Records, laboring to shape R&B band The Group (played by Earth, Wind & Fire) into a major success. After spending months on their album, Buckmaster is dismayed when boss Carlton (Ed Nelson) orders him to abandon The Group to help nurture a new sound from The Pages, a deceptively earnest family band comprised of father Franklin (Bert Parks), daughter Velour (Cynthia Bostick), and son Gary (Jimmy Boyd). Armed with "Joy, Joy, Joy," their bland ode to love, The Pages need Buckmaster's genius to craft a hit record, and, working under protest, the producer manages to polish the simplistic tune to perfection. Trying to balance the demands of The Group as he oversees The Pages and their rise to fame, Buckmaster is caught between his artistic aspirations and the demands of commerce, pulled into Velour's orbit when the singer instigates an affair that complicates his position of professional integrity.
Scripted by Robert Lipsyte, "That's the Way of the World" appears to come from a decidedly personal POV, taking on the music industry with the accuracy of an insider who was once burned by his time with a major label. There's too much detail here to merely count as drama, giving the feature a lived-in quality inside and outside the studio as Buckmaster works his magic with The Group and The Pages. He's a complicated character, a man with a "golden ear" who's hoping to transform The Group and their unified sound into a smash hit with the public, only to come up against A-Chord's financial needs, where the company looks to the soothing sounds of The Pages to bring them AM radio gold. The conflict is established with minimal fuss, pushing Buckmaster's back against the wall in the opening act, making "That's the Way of the World" less about resistance and more surrender, with Buckmaster trying to please everyone but himself as he comes up against the oddness of The Pages, with Velour a particular poison who demands consumption.
Despite its musical mood, there's a story to "That's the Way of the World," though its finest moments are found during the recording process for The Pages. Watching Buckmaster work is fascinating, observing the annoyed man hunker down with his collaborators to loosen "Joy, Joy, Joy" up, transforming the folk number into a something with a soul, easing its sing-along potential. Knobs are twirled, studio musicians dutifully file in and out of the building, and Buckmaster tightens the tune to a point where it surprises everyone, making The Pages sound hip, pleasing Carlton. Of course, the work cuts into Buckmaster's belly, forcing the producer to shed integrity to keep his job, prostituting himself for a band that's ungrateful and arrogant.
Despite their prominent placement on the film's marketing materials, Earth, Wind & Fire only appear intermittently, popping up to remind Buckmaster of his egregious professional error and to rock the house in performance sequences, including one set at a roller rink. The hits are present (including "Shining Star"), but the acting is dreadful (mercifully, lead singer Maurice White didn't make this a career), leaving the boys best in band mode, bringing up the energy of the picture when called on to do so. "That's the Way of the World" truly belongs to Keitel, who's stiff but credibly stymied as Buckmaster, employing a taste of the Keitel-brand emotional gut-rot to articulate the producer's disgust with the whole plan.
Special Note: To bring "That's the Way of the World" to Blu-ray, Scorpion Releasing was only allowed access to a PG version of the film (97:05), with language removed and a love scene edited out of the picture. To make up for the loss, the disc also contains the Theatrical Cut (100:58) in standard definition. The HD upgrade is definitely worth a view, but for those concerned about cuts, Scorpion has provided an alternative to satisfy the fan base.
That's the Way of the World Blu-ray, Video Quality
The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation brings "That's the Way of the World" to BD with an encouraging amount of stability. Print damage, with scratches and speckles, is apparent, but adequately controlled, while heavy grain is managed to satisfaction, allowing for a filmic texture. Fine detail is available, but not a priority for this softly-shot feature. Colors do show some fade, but hues remain communicative, best with studio interiors and costuming, while concert lighting provides a rich sense of red and blue. Skintones run pinkish, but remain in the realm of reality. Shadow detail is comfortable, allowing for dimension to low-lit excursions. Age and obscurity do play a part in this HD upgrade, which is successfully handled by Scorpion, working with difficult source materials to put together a disc that represents the original look of the movie.
That's the Way of the World Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix isn't as fulfilling as hoped, lacking a desired sense of order that emphasizes dramatic moments. Dialogue is buried at times, requiring a little volume riding to even out, while layers of screen activity is bunched into one flow of noise at times, losing some emotional impact. Music is the star of the show here, and the tunes are approachable without immersion, with satisfactory instrumentation and a heavier feel to bring out the funky vibe of The Group's songs. Atmospherics are defined, with studio time offering an array of mechanical movement, while street life is passable. Hiss is common, pulling crispness out of the listening experience. Also of note is a slight synch issue that was obvious when viewing part of the film on a PS3. A traditional BD player only displayed minor issues that weren't terribly distracting, but noticeable.
That's the Way of the World Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
That's the Way of the World Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"That's the Way of the World" loses concentration in the final act to arrange a weird scene of comeuppance, stepping away from the details of the business to find a satisfying exit for the audience. It doesn't work, with the majority of the picture is perfectly content in procedural mode, spotlighting recording studio wizardry and Buckmaster's breakdown, underlining the push and pull of artistic integrity. "That's the Way of the World" has much to share on the topic of corruption and the burn of self-preservation, articulated with a wonderfully combative atmosphere and a distinct groove.
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