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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Ari Folman
Cast:
Ron Ben-Yishai, Ronny Dayag, Ari Folman, Dror Harazi, Yehezkel Lazarov, Mickey Leon, Ori Sivan, Zahava Solomon
Writing Credits:
Ari Folman

Synopsis:
In reflecting upon his time spent in the Israeli army, filmmaker Ari Folman has produced Waltz With Bashir, a profoundly moving antiwar meditation that is equal parts personal memoir, history lesson, and animated fever dream. In 1982, Folman was a soldier during Israel's first invasion of Lebanon. This was a painful moment in history, when the newly elected president of Lebanon, Bashir Gemayel, was killed in an explosion. Furious, his party, the Christian Phalangists, retaliated by storming into the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and massacring thousands of innocent victims. Over 20 years later, Folman is disturbed to realize that he has no memory of this incident even though he was there at the time. In order to remember, he tracks down several of his friends and soldiers who were there with him to find out what really happened.

Waltz With Bashir is as difficult to categorize as it is to forget. It is a truly startling achievement, a film that can be classified as animation and documentary and history and fiction. It is all of those things at once, and it is also much more than that. Folman uses a combination of Flash animation, 3D, and classic animation to bring his film to visual life, but it is the beautifully haunting score by acclaimed German composer Max Richter that provides the film with its heart and soul. As Waltz With Bashir unfolds in dreamlike waves, Folman understands that guilt is a dangerous thing, and war is even worse.

Box Office:
Budget
$1.5 million.
Opening Weekend
$69.055 thousand on 5 screens.
Domestic Gross
$2.283 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.78:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1
Hebrew Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 6/23/2009

Supplements:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Ari Folman
• Q&A with Writer/Director Ari Folman
• “Surreal Soldiers: Making Waltz with Bashir” Featurette
• Animatics
• Trailer
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Waltz With Bashir [Blu-Ray] (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 22, 2009)

An unusual autobiographical animated documentary, 2008’s Waltz with Bashir examines the experiences of filmmaker Ari Folman. An Israeli who fought in 1982’s First Lebanon War, Folman hears from another vet named Boaz Rein-Buskila. He’s experiencing disturbing dreams of vicious dogs that reflect his time in the war.

When quizzed, Folman states that he never has flashbacks to the war. However, that night one memory reawakens, and he decides to seek out more. Folman revisits other who fought in the war and documents their memories as he attempts to recapture his own experiences.

While it technically falls into the documentary category, Waltz certainly doesn’t present itself anything like the usual fare – and not just because it works in animation. A more traditional documentary would mix “talking head” interviews with archival footage. To some degree, Waltz goes with the former, as most of the information comes from statements made by the various veterans. However, since these usually appear in conversations with Folman, they feel less staged and more part of his journey.

That side of things still fits with the standard documentary presentation, though, whereas the use of animation is where Waltz really turns into something different, and not just because we get cartoons instead of actual footage. The animation allows the film to take on much more of a first-person perspective. Normally we’d hear about experiences and see material that vaguely equates to those thoughts. Instead, Waltz graphically depicts the information.

That technique more fully pulls us into the material. Of course, traditional documentaries can be awfully powerful on their own, but the visual side of things here gives the memories a more immediate feel. When we watch the events, they lose the potential dryness that sometimes comes with standard documentaries.

Of course, Waltz also differs from most documentaries due to its emphasis on Folman’s personal journey. While I like the use of the animation, I’m less sold on this other side of things. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think that Folman’s quest for answers harms the movie. However, I’m not sure it’s particularly necessary, and occasionally it becomes a distraction.

As does the style of animation. Made on a limited budget, obviously I don’t expect state of the art animation from Waltz, but the stiff quality of the presentation can take us out of the story at times. In particular, the weird warping that affects faces can be a little creepy. Most of the animation is acceptable, but some sequences don’t work very well.

Despite these criticisms, most of Waltz proves to be quite effective. The movie takes on subject matter largely unfamiliar to American audiences and presents it in a clever, involving manner. It doesn’t always succeed, but it winds up as a smart, interesting film in the end.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Waltz with Bashir appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the movie looked great.

Sharpness remained immaculate. Not a hint of softness infected this clear, tight presentation. Even the widest shots were crisp and well-defined. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement didn’t mar the film. In addition, the flick lacked any source flaws. Night scenes were a bit grainy, but the movie failed to present specks, marks or other defects.

Waltz went with stylized tones that varied dependent on the film’s setting and tone. Mostly it stayed with subdued, desaturated colors, though. These looked very good within the constraints of the production design. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows seemed solid. Night shots could appear slightly dense, but they were fine overall. I felt very pleased with this very strong transfer.

While not as impressive, the Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Waltz worked well. The Blu-ray featured both the original Hebrew audio along with an English dub; I went with the former. Music offered nice stereo presentation and used the surrounds for good reinforcement.

Given all the film’s battle scenes, it offered many opportunities to open up the soundfield. It did fairly well in that regard, as the gunfire, explosions and other war elements used the five speakers in a logical manner. This wasn’t anything as active as Saving Private Ryan, but it served the flick in a satisfying manner.

Audio quality was very good. Speech always came across as concise and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music showed solid range and clarity. Effects offered positive presence and impact. Those elements were consistently accurate and well-defined, and they featured strong bass when appropriate. The soundtrack fit with the material and seemed more than satisfactory.

When we shift to the disc’s supplements, we open with an audio commentary from writer/director Ari Folman. He provides a running, screen-specific look at the opening sequence and the film’s tone, the choice to use animation and related techniques, music and audio, characters and research, visual design, and story topics.

Expect a decent chat here. Folman does give us a mix of good thoughts about the movie, and we learn a reasonable amount about it. However, he focuses on technical subjects more than I’d like, and he also falls silent a bit too frequently. Folman does enough to make this a worthwhile listen, but he doesn’t provide a scintillating commentary.

We get more from the filmmaker in a Q&A with writer/director Ari Folman. In this nine-minute and 19-second piece, he discusses the film’s financing, the screenplay and animation issues, the history behind the story, and a few other related notes. Folman throws out some interesting thoughts he doesn’t cover in the commentary, and we get a few cool glimpses of the animation process. This is a pretty good piece.

Surreal Soldiers: Making Waltz with Bashir goes for 12 minutes, three seconds. It features Folman, art director/illustrator David Polonsky, and director of animation Yoni Goodman. “Soldiers” mostly looks at art and animation subjects. I don’t expect much from short featurettes like this, but “Soldiers” packs a lot of good info into a brief space. It helps that we get plenty of footage that demonstrates various aspects of the animation. We learn a lot here.

Next we find a collection of Animatics. These look at four scenes: “Beirut Street Battle with Ron Ben-Yishai” (8:52), “The Fighting Arts with Shmuel Frenkel” (2:02), “Tank Patrol with Dror Harazi” (3:59), and “Attacked in the Orange Grove” (1:21). Across these, we see live-action reference footage and storyboards accompanied by movie audio along with other broken down parts of the artwork. The “Animatics” offer another cool way to inspect the animation processes used for the film.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Blu-ray Disc, Persepolis, Frozen River and Synechdoche, New York. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for The Sky Crawlers, The International, Blood: The Last Vampire, The Counterfeiters, The Lives of Others, Casino Royale, The Da Vinci Code, and Ghostbusters. Finally, the trailer for Waltz shows up here.

An interesting combination of animation and documentary, Waltz with Bashir provides an intriguing take on its subject. Not all aspects of it succeed, but enough of them fly to make the movie emotional and engrossing. The Blu-ray offers excellent picture quality, very good audio and a selection of useful supplements. A powerful movie and a high quality Blu-ray, Waltz deserves your attention.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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