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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt Pratt@moviecitynews.com

The Da Vinci Code: Extended Cut

Exclusive to Blu-ray, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released a 175-minute Extended Cut 2-Disc Set presentation of Ron Howard’s The Da Vinci Code. In terms of entertainment, the shorter version works better. The film may have been rightly lambasted by critics, but it has a breathless pull-you-through-it pace and creates an intriguing blend of historical trivia and speculation as the academic hero, played by Tom Hanks, runs away from the French police after being accused of murdering a fellow scholar, and attempts to decipher the messages the scholar had left for him. The longer version, adding more background detail and character development, stretches things out a bit and slows that pace down, making a viewer more aware of how superficial the characters are and how artificially manipulative the ‘puzzles’ are. But cinematically, the longer version is a great improvement. One of the first added sequences is a stroll down a hallway in the Louvre as the hero and the cop who will be chasing him, played by Jean Reno, approach the crime scene. The conversation is a little absurd (they talk about the expense of security cameras) and it makes sense that Howard jumped over it to get to the corpse, but, especially on Blu-ray with its vivid, crisp image reproduction, the enormous, genuine Louvre canvasses that the two actors pass as they talk are stunning, and there is a strong temptation to back up the scene a couple of times to replay the visual pleasure it provides. There is also a terrific flashback earthquake sequence that was not necessary for the advancement of the narrative but is unlike any earthquake scene previously staged for film (there are extensive, and quite effective, long shots). Since most fans of the movie will have accepted its limitations anyway, Extended Cut, which is the only version available in the BD format, will be a worthy upgrade from the DVD.

The letterboxing has an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1. A couple of the added shots are a touch out of focus, but otherwise, the quality of the BD image is compelling, especially in the film’s exploration of architecture, sculpture and other antiquities (although one of Howard’s questionable choices as a director is to not have given The Last Supper a more detailed pan or a longer steady closeup while the conversations of the heroes ensue). The TrueHD 5.1 sound is less engaging. Although Hans Zimmer’s orchestral score has a suitable body that is well supported by the quality of the playback, the separation details in the mix are rarely interesting and there is a general blandness to the film’s sound design as a whole. There is an alternate French track in TrueHD 5.1, and optional English and French subtitles.

An option on the BD brings up a dizzying array of alternative background segments activated by a variety of icons as the film unspools. Most of the documentary material is available in other special features, but there are also trivia details, and a deconstruction of the film’s various symbols and codes. Additionally, Howard speaks over 39 minutes of clips from the Extended Cut, talking about both original scenes and new scenes, as well as about working with the various cast members and the challenges of shooting in various locations. An 8-minute promotional segment for the 2009 installment of the adventures of Hanks’ character,Angels & Demons, is also featured.

The DVD came with 106 minutes of decent production featurettes. The second platter of the BD includes those, and adds another 66 minutes. The new material is of ‘lesser’ importance, but is still informative not only to the construction of the film, but also to the context of the story and its interpretation of history.

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at www.DVDLaser.com

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“But okay, I promise you now that if I ever retire again, I’m going to ensure that I can’t walk it back. I’ll post a series of the most disgusting, offensive, outrageous statements you can ever imagine. That way it will be impossible for me to ever be employed again. No one is going to take my calls. No one is going to want to be seen with me. Oh, it will be scorched earth. I will have torched everything. I’m going to flame out in the most legendary fashion.”
~ Steven Soderbergh

I feel strongly connected to young cinephile culture. The thing about filmmaking—and cinephilia—is that you can’t keep hanging out with your own age group as you get older. They drop off, move somewhere. You can’t put together a crew of sixty-somethings. It’s the same for cinephilia: my original set of cinephile friends are watching DVDs at home or delving into 1958 episodes of ‘Gunsmoke,’ something like that. The people who are out there tend to be young, and I happen to be doing the same thing still, so it’s natural that I move in their circles.

In terms of the filmmaking, there was a gear shift: my first movies focused on people around my age, and I followed them for three films. Until The Unspeakable Act, I was using the same actors, not because of an affinity for people at a specific age, but because of my affinity for the actors. I like to work with actors a second time, especially if I don’t feel confident casting a new film. But The Unspeakable Act was a different script, and I had to cast all new people. Even for the older roles, I couldn’t get the people I’d worked with before. But when it was over, the same thing happened: I wanted to work with Tallie again in the worst way, and I started the process all over again.

I think Rohmer did something similar around the time of Perceval and Catherine de HeilbronnHe developed new groups of people that he liked to work with. These gear shifts are natural. Even if you want to follow certain actors to the end of their life (which I kind of do) the variety of ideas that you generate makes it necessary to change. And once you’ve made the change, you’ve got all these new people around.”
~ Dan Sallitt