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The Last Wave(1977)
Richard Chamberlain stars as Australian lawyer David Burton, who takes on the defense of a group of aborigines accused of killing one of their own. He suspects the victim has been killed for violating a tribal taboo, but the defendants deny any tribal association. Burton, plagued by apocalyptic visions of war, slowly realized his own involvement with the aborigines...and their prophecies.
For more about The Last Wave and the The Last Wave Blu-ray release, see the The Last Wave Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 15, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Peter Weir
Starring: Richard Chamberlain, Olivia Hamnett, David Gulpilil
» See full cast & crew
The Last Wave Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 15, 2012
Australian director Peter Weir's "The Last Wave" (1977) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of German distributors Koch Media. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film as well as a collection of DVD and VHS cover art, posters, and production and film stills. In English, with optional German subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Richard Chamberlain is David Burton, a Melbourne-based lawyer who has strange dreams. When he sleeps, he sees black rain falling from the sky, his house flooded, and an Aboriginal man trying to give him a small object. When he is awake, David constantly thinks about his dreams but does not know what to make of them.
When a man is killed in what appears to be some sort of a ritual, David volunteers to defend the five Aboriginal men the police have arrested. He begins questioning the men but soon realizes that none of them trust him enough to answer his questions. Chris Lee (David Gulpilil, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Walkabout), the only one who appears to be fluent in English, suggests to David that even if they did he would not understand their answers. Around the same time powerful rainstorms hit the area.
Determined to find out more about the men he is supposed to defend in court, David tries to learn as much as possible about Aboriginal culture. In the beginning his wife Annie (Olivia Hamnett, The Earthling) tries to assist him, but as time goes by she becomes seriously frustrated with his research and the manner in which it is changing her husband. One of David's colleagues also makes it clear that he thinks he might have lost his mind.
But David's persistence pays off -- the eldest of the Aboriginal men agrees to speak with him. Initially, what he reveals to him confuses him, but when he begins to understand its significance terrifies him. Unsure whether he could completely trust the man, or whether he is in fact interpreting his words correctly, David seeks Chris Lee again, hoping that he would point him in the right direction and help him see what he can't.
This film has a type of atmosphere very few contemporary films have. It is quite dark and with a terrific ambient feel that makes it look remarkably stylish. Peter Weir directed it in 1977, exactly two years after completing his equally atmospheric Picnic at Hanging Rock.
The Last Wave is loosely divided into two contrasting acts. In the first, David is presented with a dilemma which he attempts to solve with conventional logic. But the scattered pieces of the puzzle he is presented with do not make sense to him even when it seems like they are arranged properly. This is when then film becomes very interesting.
The second act pushes the film into a territory which X-Files fans are guaranteed to like. There are plenty of very interesting ideas and observations about the nature of life, time, and the manner in which people are taught to understand them. Then Weir brings everything together in a truly superb finale that gives the film a very serious dose of credibility.
Chamberlain is excellent as the confused lawyer who struggles to make sense of his dreams. Gulpilil, Australia's best-known Aboriginal actor, also leaves a memorable impression. Hamnett is believable as the frustrated and confused wife who tries to understand what is driving her husband mad.
The film is complimented by a good soundtrack courtesy of Charles Wain. It simplicity reminds a bit about the fantastic soundtrack from Picnic at Hanging Rock. The film was lensed by acclaimed cinematographer Russell Boyd (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Gallipoli, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World).
Note: In 1978, The Last Wave won Best Achievement in Cinematography (Russell Boyd) and Best Achievement in Sound (Don Connolly, Greg Bell, Phil Judd) Australian Film Institute Awards.
The Last Wave Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Peter Weir's The Last Wave arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of German distributors Koch Media.
The high-definition transfer is quite inconsistent. It has been struck from a dated source and more often than not it shows. Most close-ups appear somewhat flat and soft, while during the darker sequences, especially in the final third of the film, clarity fails to impress. Even though there are no specific issues to address in this review, color reproduction also leaves a lot to be desired - both color saturation and depth are far from convincing. The good news is that there are no traces of excessive sharpening corrections. Some denoising corrections, however, have have been performed, more than likely at the time when the master for this film was prepared in Germany. Finally, there are no large debris and cuts, but some dirt spots occasionally pop up here and there. To sum it all up, this Blu-ray release represents only a small upgrade in terms of visual quality over the R1 Criterion DVD release of The Last Wave. Very clearly, there is plenty of room for improvement in most areas that we typically address in our reviews. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Last Wave Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are three audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, and German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Koch Media have provided optional German subtitles for the main feature.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track opens up the film in selected areas (for example during the dream sequences), but dynamic movement is quite modest. Depth is decent but it never matches the depth and fluidity from the wonderful Picnic at Hanging Rock. The dialog is stable and clean. For the record, there are no distortions or audio dropouts to report in this review.
The Last Wave Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Last Wave Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Peter Weir's The Last Wave is a tremendously atmospheric, deeply absorbing film that desperately needs a Region-A release. I was hoping that this Region-B release, courtesy of German distributors Koch Media, would match the quality of the very good British release of the Australian director's Picnic at Hanging Rock, but it does not. I still think that it is worth picking up because the lossless audio makes quite a big difference, but I really want to see Criterion upgrade their DVD release. If done right, the Blu-ray release will be one of the best in their collection.
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The Last Wave Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Last Wave Blu-ray - June 22, 2012
German distributors Koch Media have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray Australian director Peter Weir's The Last Wave a.k.a Black Rain (1977), starring Richard Chamberlain, Olivia Hamnett and David Gulpilil. The Blu-ray will be available for ...
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