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Richard Eyre
Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Tom Georgeson, Michael Maloney, Joanna Scanlan, Shaun Parkes, Emma Kennedy, Syreeta Kumar, Andrew Simpson
Writing Credits:
Patrick Marber, Zoe Heller (novel)

One Woman's Mistake Is Another's Opportunity ...

Academy Award winners Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett give wickedly entertaining, Oscar-nominated performances - one as a woman consumed by her colleague's guilty secret, the other, a victim to her own dark obsessions - in this sexy, stylish thriller. Dench mesmerizes as Barbara Covett, a teacher who rules over her classroom with an iron fist, yet leads a desperate, solitary life outside it. That is, until she meets radiant new art teacher Sheba Hart (Blanchett). Although at first overjoyed with her newfound kindred spirit, when Barbara discovers that Sheba is having an affair with a teenage student, her jealously and rage spiral out of control.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$5.090 thousand on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$17.061 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 4/17/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Richard Eyre
• Deleted Scenes
• “Notes on a Scandal: The Story of Two Obsessions” Featurette
• “Notes on a Scandal: Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• “In Character With: Cate Blanchett” Featurette
• Webisodes
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Notes On A Scandal (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 27, 2007)

Two of cinema's most praised current screen actresses face off in 2006’s Notes on a Scandal. We meet Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), a long-established history teacher of teens. A new art instructor comes to her school: Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett). Sheba stirs the attentions of the faculty, Barbara among them, as she finds her new colleague to be oddly beguiling.

Slowly Barbara infiltrates Sheba’s world. She comes to lunch with her family: significantly older husband Richard (Bill Nighy), teen daughter Polly (Juno Temple), and Down Syndrome-affected 12-year-old son Ben (Max Lewis). Sheba’s artsy, bohemian lifestyle seems at odds with Barbara’s tart, cynical pragmatism, but the older instructor becomes positively obsessed.

This means it comes as an enormous shock when Barbara discovers that Sheba carries on an affair with a student named Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson). Initially this angers Barbara, but she soon realizes that she can use the situation to her advantage. The rest of the flick follows the repercussions of the affair and its effect on the various relationships involved.

At the risk of sounding snobby, I dare say that a flick like Notes wouldn’t work if made by Americans. It walks a thin line near soap opera territory, and I fear US filmmakers would have pushed it too far into the realm of sudsiness. The more cynical, staid British mindset proves more effective for a film with such dodgy morals.

As it stands, Notes offers a somewhat odd piece. Half psychological character drama, half Single White Female horror flick, the movie creates something unusual. If it existed only as an excuse to pair Dench and Blanchett, it’d still serve a purpose. Both earned Oscar nods for their performances, and both deserved them. They provide three-dimensional work that never reduces their characters to the glib stereotypes they could’ve become.

Part of the credit also goes to the script, as it fails to offer the actors easy character traits. It wouldn’t have been difficult for Barbara to be a simple bitter old bag or for Sheba to turn into a basic bohemian with a longing for youth, but neither the script nor the actors allows that. The roles come across as real people – extreme examples of people at times, but real nonetheless.

I like the fact that Notes also doesn’t burden us with simplistic exposition. It throws out some facts about our leads but allows us to create our own impressions of them. Why is Barbara such a needy, manipulative crone? We must come to our own conclusions, as the film sure doesn’t form them for us. I could live without the tip-offs created by the names “Covett” and “Hart”, but the rest of the time, Notes delivers its parts with subtlety and depth.

Notes follows a sensational affair but never gives into temptations to become cheap or tawdry. It offers a deep, involving tale of human weakness without moralizing elements or an exploitative side. Because of those trends, it becomes all the more satisfying.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

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.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7647 Stars Number of Votes: 17
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