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October 20, 2009
Disgrace Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
18/6/200920/10/2009Icon FilmsSteve Jacobs
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD MA 5.1MJohn Malkovich

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John Malkovich gets brutal in Disgrace.

Disgrace is based on a 1999 Booker Prize winning novel by J.M. Coetzee, a South African author. We have never read the book, so can't state how similar, or dissimilar this movie is to that literature, or if it is a worthy interpretation, so we can judge this as a movie.

Professor David Lurie's life falls apart after he has an impulsive affair with one of his students. Forced to resign from the university he escapes to his daughter's farm on the Eastern Cape. The relationship is tested when they both become victims of a vicious attack and get caught up in a mess of post-apartheid politics.

Performances across the board are absolutely superb. John Malkovich is a little monotone, but it really does suit the character perfectly. Slightly askew of "normal" life, with social difficulties and a misguided lust for women and power, his performance comes across brilliantly. The two female lead actors are also impressive including Antoinette Engel as the student Melanie Isaacs and also Jessica Haines is superb in her first movie role as Lucy. Kudos must also go to veteran actor Eriq Ebouaney as the black land tenant Petrus. Such a likable character that has torn loyalties and motives tha play out through the film.

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John Malkovich is copping a beating.
What I find fascinating about this film is more then the film itself. It was financed by the Australian Film Finance Corporation - the Federal government's primary funding body, but the movie isn't set in this country, but rather very specifically about South African racism and life. We can understand this is based upon the award winning novel, but a similar movie could have been made with an Australian setting. There's noo denying that we, Australians, have just as many issues regarding race and indigenous rights as those living in South Africa.

Disgrace is an interesting movie, quite slow for the majority, but very thought provoking on several levels. How long would you tolerate an unjust society? How far would you go to seek vengeance? Could you control your urges, and at what cost to your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. Performances are brilliant across the board, and this is a movie well and truly worth checking out.

Disgrace comes to Blu-Ray encoded at 1.78:1 using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. This is somewhat disappointing as the movie was originally show on 35mm film and was presented theatrically at 2.35:1. Having no reference material to go on we are unsure if the sides have been cropped out, if the top and bottom have been opened up, or if there is a mixture of the two throughout.

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Antoinette Engel as Melanie Isaacs in Disgrace.
At times the image has a bit of a muted tone to it however there are moments of brilliant colour - walking through the flowerbeds (27:42-28:05) or at the markets (29:35 to 31:01) are two examples. There were times, though, when the image in darker scenes didn't seem to hold good black levels, and looked excessively grainy. Take the scene in the car where David is getting, ermm, satisfied (1:29:56 to 1:30:33) as an example of some quite visual grain.

Disgrace comes to Blu-Ray with a single lossless audio track, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 effort (16-bit, 48Khz). The movie is very simplistic in its audio design with plenty of dialogue, and some rather emotive music from composer Graham Koehne throughout. Don't expect too many scenes where surround sound channels come into play, or any which will have your room shaking but what is here is quite clear, even the scenes with the thicker South African dialogues.

This disc does come with a single subtitle track for the feature movie, that being English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired. This track has good pacing, and is clear to see on screen with different coloured text for different characters talking.

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That's a serious burn on David Lurie.
For such a powerful movie I was really hoping for some detailed extras, if not about the making of the film, then about the actual circumstances in South Africa now. Alas we only have one brief extra.

The Making of Disgrace (9:48): Large chunks of this extra are devoid of any dialogue (it is almost 2 minutes before we get any speaking), and it give little insight into making this movie.

Disgrace is a fascinating and thought provoking movie filled with brilliant performances. It's probably not one you would add to your collection if you're an action fan, but it is certainly worth a look if you like dramatic movies.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Icon Films. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.