Notes on a Scandal appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though the transfer started poorly, it quickly improved and became satisfactory.
The first few minutes looked weak. They showed loose definition and a lot of grain. Happily, these tendencies largely dissipated after those early shots. A couple of scenes suffered from slightly soft delineation, but the majority of the flick featured good sharpness. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I noticed only minor edge enhancement. As for source concerns, the flick occasionally became rather grainy again, and I noticed a couple of small marks. It usually seemed clean, however.
Much of Notes went with a subdued palette. A few settings came across as warmer or a little more dynamic, but much of the flick stayed pretty restricted in terms of color. Within those parameters, the tones looked accurate and appropriate. Blacks appeared acceptably dark and dense, while shadows showed good clarity and definition. After a problematic beginning, the transfer rebounded to become reasonably good.
Fewer ups and downs came with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Notes on a Scandal. Actually, I couldn’t locate any particular negatives, just an expected lack of ambition. As one would anticipate from this sort of character piece, the soundfield rarely became too involving. Nonetheless, it presented a good sense of place and ambiance, with accurately located elements that fit together well. Music showed nice stereo imaging, and the surrounds reinforced all the pieces in a solid manner.
Audio quality was consistently positive. Music sounded especially good, as the score offered rich, warm tones. Speech was natural and distinct, while effects came across as accurate and tight. Low-end offered nice depth to the package. Though not a particularly memorable track, the audio was more than satisfactory.
Among the DVD’s extras, we find an audio commentary with director Richard Eyre. He presents a running, screen-specific piece. Eyre discusses cast, characters and working with the actors, story issues and editing, locations, cinematography and point of view, music, the adaptation of the novel, and other production subjects.
From start to finish, Eyre presents a strong commentary. He throws many useful details at us throughout the piece and rarely lets up the pace. Eyre gives us nice insight into various elements and choices during this rich, enjoyable chat.
Next come some featurettes. Notes on a Scandal: The Story of Two Obsessions runs 12 minutes, 20 seconds, and mixes movie snippets, behind the scenes materials, and remarks from Eyre, novelist Zoë Heller, screenwriter Patrick Marber and actors Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, and Andrew Simpson. We learn about the original novel and its adaptation, characters, cast and performances.
Though most programs of this sort turn into promotional blather, “Story” proves quite positive. Sure, there’s a little fluff at times, but the majority of it digs into appropriate issues with gusto and insight. “Story” becomes a tight and informative piece.
For the five-minute, 11-second Notes on a Scandal: Behind the Scenes, we hear from Dench, Blanchett, and Nighy. We get a few more comments about characters, story and performances. However, movie snippets dominate, as does praise for the participants. This ends up as little more than a long ad.
In Character With: Cate Blanchett fills two minutes, seven seconds. Blanchett throws out a few nuggets about her role. The actor gives us decent thoughts but there’s not a lot to be found due to the brevity of the clip.
In addition to the movie’s trailer, we find eight webisodes. These last a total of 13 minutes, 51 seconds as they present quick pieces originally found on the Internet. We get notes from Dench, Blanchett, Marber, Heller, Nighy, and Eyre. We find comments about the actors and characters, the novel and script, and a few other elements.
Each of these brief snippets exists largely to promote the flick. A few of them offer decent details – especially when Heller discusses her book – but most remain pretty insubstantial. Their shortness combined with lots of movie clips leaves them as promotional and not terribly interesting. It doesn’t help that we’ve seen many of the bits in the prior components. Even a chat between Blanchett and Nighy doesn’t go much of anywhere.
The DVD opens with some ads. We get promos for The Last King of Scotland and The History Boys.
With its focus on sex and betrayal, Notes on a Scandal sounds like something tacky that you’d see on late-night cable. However, the project actually offers an intelligent, insightful piece buoyed by excellent acting. The DVD features decent to good picture and audio along with extras highlighted by a very good audio commentary. This fascinating flick deserves your attention.