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Fame cover

Blu-ray Reviews: Fame

Originally published in Australian HI-FI, Nov/Dec 2009, v.40#06
Last updated 14 November 2009

1980 - Warner Bros Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd
Director: Alan Parker
Starring: Irene Cara, Lee Curreri, Laura Dean, Tresa Hughes, Paul McCrane, Anne Meara, Barry Miller and Gene Anthony Ray

Movie: 4 Picture: 4 Sound: 4 Extras: 4

I can't say I'm much of a fan of Alan Parker. I haven't been since 1978, when I saw his astonishingly deceitful and mean-spirited Midnight Express. But perhaps that was all the fault of the scriptwriter, Oliver Stone.

Parker redeemed himself by following up two years later with Fame, a rather odd story about a bunch of youngsters at a New York high school for the dramatic and performing arts. Even though it is telling the stories of half a dozen primary characters over a period of four years, much of its runtime deals with their environment, rather than them. They are dealt with in short vignettes. Some of the character stories are finished by the end. One carries through the whole movie, and remains unresolved, and another is introduced in the last half hour and left hanging.

But, still, I enjoyed it. It has that depressing 1970s New York ambience, that depressing New York Public School chaos, yet it was somewhat moving and the characters were quite engaging.

I've given a 'B' for the video, not because of a poor Blu-ray delivery, but because of cinematography then in vogue for this documentary style shoot. Focus is variable, dull browns predominate and the film grain dances from frame to frame.

The sound, presented in lossless Dolby TrueHD is also variable. The acoustic instruments tend to be lifeless and underdone, and the surround ambience of the school doesn't quite hit the mark. The electric instruments are dealt with more strongly and are quite punchy and pleasing.

Amongst the extras, there are a dozen cast and crew interviews which are really quite interesting, and which you can watch either directly from the Special Features menu, or at a relevant time within the movie. In the latter case you select a special playback mode which shows an icon whenever one of the interviews is available.

Unfortunately this is implemented using BD-Java, rather than using an 'Interactive Graphics' stream, so the disc is slow to load and loses the ability to resume playback at the place where you last stopped it. The clips are in 480i60 format, so your display has to resync each time one starts, causing a delay of several seconds in most cases.

Running time: 134 minutes
Picture: 1.78:1, 1080p24, VC1 @ 23.08Mbps
Sound: English: Dolby TrueHD 16/48 3/2.1 @ 1511kbps (core: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 640kbps); French, German, Italian, Commentary: Dolby Digital 2/0.0 @ 192kbps; Italian: Dolby Digital 1/0.0 @ 192kbps
Subtitles: Japanese, English for the Hearing Impaired, French, German for the Hearing Impaired, Italian, Italian for the Hearing Impaired, Spanish (Castellano), Chinese, Korean, Spanish (Espanol), Bahasa Indonesian, Japanese (Commentary), Chinese (Commentary), Korean (Commentary)
Extras: 2 Featurettes (4:3, 480i60, VC1, DPL2.0 @ 192kbps - 23 mins); 12 Cast and Crew interviews (4:3, 480i60, VC1, DPL2.0 @ 192kbps - 23 mins); Trailer (480i60, VC1, DPL2.0 @ 192kbps - 3 mins); Optional links to Cast and Crew interviews throughout movie (employing BD-Java)
Restrictions: Rated M (Australian rating); Region Free

The following video bitrate graph was generated by BDInfo 0.5.2:

Fame video bitrate graph

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