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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 April 29, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 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, April 29, 2010
Nicolas Roeg's "Walkabout" (1971) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary with director Nicholas Roeg and Jenny Agutter; Darlene Johnson's documentary film "Gulpilil - One Red Blood" (2002); an interview with actress Jenny Agutter conducted for Potemkine Films in France; an interview with Luc Roeg, son of director Nicholas Roeg; and a theatrical trailer. The disc also arrives with a 28-page illustrated booklet containing Paul Ryan's essay "Landscapes of Memory". With optional English subtitles. Region-A "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 François 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 Criterion.
The following text appears in the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition transfer was scanned in 2K on a 4K Spirit Datacine from a new 35mm preservation interpositive made from the original camera negative. The color timing was approved by director Nicholas Roeg. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction".
If you have seen what Criterion's old, non-anamorphic, SDVD release of Walkabout looks like, then I guarantee that you would be very pleased with this Blu-ray release; the improvements are dramatic. Fine object detail is convincing, clarity substantially better and contrast levels very pleasing. The main corrections, however, are with the color-scheme. Walkabout is a very delicate film, one in which natural lighting has a very important role, and for the first time now one could fully appreciate how unique its lensing is. On the SDVD release a number of scenes looked muddy, unfocused, and blocky; here, they look healthy. The variety of different yellows, greens, blues, browns and blacks are still warm and soft, but now they look natural. Depending on the specific locations, the film gran fluctuates quite a bit but is never compromised. Furthermore, neither edge-enhancement nor macroblocking affect the integrity of the presentation. Also, I noticed some mild background flicker - which I am fairly certain is inherited - but did not spot any stability issues to report in this review. I also did not see any large cuts, warps, splices, or marks while viewing the film. To sum it all up, I believe that we finally have a proper release of director Roeg's Walkabout, which I am convinced fans of the film would be enormously pleased with. (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).
Walkabout Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM Mono. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
According to the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc, the monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35mm optical soundtrack print. Again, I think that the improvements are quite obvious here. For example, the separation between the strings, brass and choir on John Barry's terrific score is clearer; the animal noises are also a lot more convincing. Stability is also improved. The dialog is clean and stable; there are no problematic audio dropouts either. Finally, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or hissings to report in this review.
Walkabout Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Luc Roeg - Nicolas Roeg's son Luc played the young boy in Walkabout (credited as Lucien John). Luc Roeg is now a London-based film producer whose credits include Let Him Have It, Spider, and Nicolas Roeg's Two Deaths. In this video interview, recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2010 in London, he talks about the poetic beauty of Walkabout, the shooting process, his father's legacy, etc. In English, not subtitled. (21 min, 1080p).
Jenny Agutter - an interview with actress Jenny Agutter conducted in 2008 for Potemkine Films in France. In it, she recalls how director Nicholas Roeg approached her, her encounter with David Gulpilil, how certain parts of Walkabout were filmed, her initial impressions of it, etc. In English, not subtitled. (20 min, 1080i).
Gulpilil - One Red Blood - a truly fascinating documentary film by Darlene Johnson about the famous actor and his colorful life, as well as his homeland. The film was shot in 2002. In English, not subtitled. (57 min, 1080i).
Commentary - this audio commentary with director Nicholas Roeg and Jenny Agutter was recorded for Criterion in 1996, and it appeared on their SDVD release of Walkabout. The commentary is excellent - it is very personal, revealing details about the production process and how specific scenes were shot, as well as the complex thematic structure of the film and its message.
Trailer - the original theatrical trailer for the film. (5 min, 1080p).
Booklet - a 28-page illustrated booklet containing Paul Ryan's essay "Landscapes of Memory" (the author is a writer and actor whose books include Never Apologise: The Collected Writings of Lindsay Anderson).
Walkabout Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I cannot even begin to imagine what this hobby that we are all so passionate about would have looked like without Criterion. Really, there has never been a better time to collect films, folks!
Approved by director Nicholas Roeg, the new high-definition transfer that has been used for this Blu-ray release of his Walkabout should make a lot of people very happy. I have never seen this wonderful film look so good. This is definitely one of my favorite releases of 2010! VERY HIGHLY 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 ...
• Criterion Reports Walkabout Blu-ray Playback Problem - June 9, 2010
The Criterion Collection has posted a note on its website informing that they have been alerted to a manufacturing problem with the Blu-ray edition of Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout, which affects playback on "a limited number of players." Replacement copies will be ...
• This Week on Blu-ray, May 18th - May 19, 2010
At the end of this month, Clint Eastwood turns 80. When he directed and starred in the acclaimed Gran Torino, many thought it was the way that the veteran actor and filmmaker had chosen to take a bow and retire from the scene. But far from slowing down, he jumped ...
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