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A young sister and brother are abandoned in the harsh Australian outback and must learn to exist in the natural world, without their usual comforts, in this hypnotic masterpiece from Nicolas Roeg. Along the way, they meet a young aborigine on his “walkabout,” a rite of passage in which adolescent boys are initiated into manhood by journeying into the wilderness alone. Walkabout is a thrilling adventure as well as a provocative rumination on time and civilization.
For more about Walkabout and the Walkabout Blu-ray release, see Walkabout Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 14, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Writer: Edward Bond
Starring: Jenny Agutter, Luc Roeg, David Gulpilil, John Meillon, Robert McDarra, Peter Carver
» See full cast & crew
Walkabout Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 14, 2012
Nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Nicolas Roeg's "Walkabout" (1971) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios-UK. There are no supplemental features included with this release. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
A man (John Meillon, The Fourth Wish) decides to take his teenage daughter (Jenny Agutter, An American Werewolf in London) and son (Luc Roeg) deep into the Australian Outback for a picnic. Once there, he goes berserk and attempts to kill them. When they run away, he torches his car and then blows his brains out. Alone, the girl and the boy embark on a treacherous journey back to civilization.
Along the way the two meet a young Aboriginal boy (David Gulpilil, Rabbit-Proof Fence) who is on a "walkabout", a rite of passage into manhood. He does not speak their language and they don't speak his. Nevertheless, the Aboriginal boy begins teaching his new friends how to survive.
The more time the three spent together, the more interested they become in each other. Eventually, mesmerized by the girl's beauty, the Aboriginal boy decides to reveal his feelings to her. He performs a traditional mating dance, but the girl misinterprets it and rejects his advances, which forces him to commit suicide. Shocked and heartbroken, the girl and her brother continue their journey. Eventually, they reach civilization, but quickly discover that everything has changed.
Based on James Vance Marshall's book, Nicholas Roeg's Walkabout is a fascinating exploration of two very different cultures. One seems primitive, the other advanced and modern. Both are aware of each other, but only the former is interested in reaching out.
The main characters in the film are innocent young people whose minds have not yet been corrupted by fear or hatred. They meet by chance and connect out of curiosity. They learn to communicate with each other but not by speaking a common language; rather by avoiding words and following their instincts. They also observe each other and gradually begin to learn about the things that make them different.
The message Walkabout delivers, however, is not that despite of their cultural differences people could connect with each other. Rather, it is a message that points to the fact that it is the environment people live in that determines what their limitations are, what their talents are, and what they would become. There is a good reason why the main characters in Walkabout are young people who have not yet completed their cultural training - the girl is still in school while the Aboriginal boy is on his way to complete his final educational course, the walkabout - and are later on seen struggling to survive after they are forced out of their comfort zones.
The dialog in Walkabout is rather limited, and communication is done primarily through images. Also, there are a variety of different flashbacks that pop up throughout the film that draw parallels between urban life and life in the Outback, as well as how men treat nature in general.
I imagine that Walkabout would not resonate with modern audiences in the same way it did with those who saw it during the early 70s. The film does look dated and its fragmented structure, which was once a hot topic of discussion, does not seem as controversial.
Still, it is impossible not to admire Roeg, who prior to 1970 worked as a cinematographer for such renowned directors as FranÃ§ois Truffaut (Fahrenheit 451) and John Schlesinger (Far from the Madding Crowd), for his ability to capture life in such a poetic fashion. This is a simple yet so profoundly moving film - and if you think carefully about what it attempts to convey to its audience, so incredibly accurate.
Note: In 1971, Walkabout was nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or award the Cannes Film Festival. However, when the film was eventually released in Australia, many local critics were not overly impressed with it.
Walkabout Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios.
The high-definition transfer appears to have been sourced from the same master Criterion worked with when they prepared their Blu-ray release of this most beautiful film for the U.S. market - and this is definitely very good news. In fact, Criterion's logo appears before the film's main credits. However, the UK and U.S. releases are not identical.
Generally speaking, detail and clarity are very good. Because natural light has a very important role in the film, some minor image fluctuations are present (they are very easy to spot during sunsets and sunrises). Understandably, the nighttime footage also looks slightly softer than the rest of the film. There are no traces of excessive degraining and denoising corrections. There are absolutely no traces of edge-enhancement either. Unsurprisingly, the film has a solid organic look. Brightness levels have been slightly elevated (or those on the Criterion release slightly toned down). As a result, colors appear marginally richer and better balanced on the Criterion release (compare screencapture #2 with screencapture #17 from our review of the Criterion release, as well as screencaptures #3 from the two reviews). Additionally, compression is also better on the Criterion release (which uses a BD-50). As a result, some of the light grain is slightly more prominent and image depth slightly better (compare screencapture #9 with screencapture 12 from our review of the Criterion release). Regardless, fans of Walkabout residing in the UK should be very pleased with the presentation as the high-definition transfer is easily one of the very best I have seen Universal Studios use for a catalog release. Well done. (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).
Walkabout Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Universal Studios have provided optional English SDH subtitles for he main feature.
The lossless track is very good. The audio has good depth and clarity, while balance issues from previous DVD releases of Walkabout have been eliminated. The most important improvement for UK viewers, however, should be the elimination of the PAL speed-up that plagued the R2 DVD releases of the film. The dialog is crisp, clean, and easy to follow.
Walkabout Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Most unfortunately, there are no supplemental features to be found on this Blu-ray disc.
Walkabout Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release of director Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout is a very good alternative for fans of the film residing outside of North America that could not take advantage of Criterion's Region-A "locked" release. I still prefer the Criterion release because of its excellent supplemental features, but as far as the technical presentation is concerned this is easily one of the most competent releases to come out of Universal's vaults. RECOMMENDED.
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Walkabout Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout Heads to the UK - June 19, 2012
The UK branch of Universal Studios has revealed that it is planning to release on Blu-ray director Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout (1971), starring Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil and Luc Roeg. In 1971, the film was nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or Award at the ...
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