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Being John Malkovich [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: R
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Run Time: 113 Mins.
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 15, 2012
  • List Price: $39.95

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Purchase Being John Malkovich [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:5/5]

Flexing his existentialist and surrealist bravura without a hint of art house pretension, video director Spike Jonze (Adaptation.) struck out into the world of features with Being John Malkovich, from the Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Adaptation.) screenplay. Crafting an almost David Lynch-ian alternate world that is at once quirky, off-putting, yet somehow rooted in the humdrum of real life, Being John Malkovich explores the idea of the human psyche, celebrity, love, lust and gender identification without ever stopping to try.

Unsuccessful puppeteer Craig Schwartz (John Cusack; Serendipity; Say Anything; Grosse Pointe Blank) gets a job as a filing clerk at an office on the seventh-and-a-half floor of an office building at the urging of his oddball, animal-loving wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz; Bad Teacher; Knight and Day). There he finds a door behind a filing cabinet, which, as he soon discovers, is a portal to the mind of actor John Malkovich (played by the actor himself). He takes this surprising news to his beautiful, but hard-to-get co-worker Maxine (Catherine Keener; Into the Wild) and together the two start a booming enterprise selling admission to unhappy people looking for a joy ride in the body and mind of Malkovich. Not to be left out, Craig’s wife Lotte who has been feeling unfulfilled in her life, takes a ride in Malkovich’s body and has an epiphany. Soon she finds herself not only in love with Maxine, but considering a sex change. Meanwhile, Craig is in love with Maxine as well, but Maxine couldn’t be more disinterested. She has the hots for Lotte – but only when she’s riding in John Malkovich. Fortunately for Craig, being the puppeteer, he figures out how to actually take control of Malkovich’s body and get past the fifteen-minute limit that has thus far been imposed on this out of body experience. That’s when the really wild ride begins in this magnificent film.

The acting couldn’t be any better, particularly from Keener who is just devilish as the seductive minx in this existential love triangle. Meanwhile one can’t mention this film without giving kudos to John Malkovich himself for playing along in what is an often unkind look at the personality cult and being able to poke fun at himself while turning in a great performance.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Criterion has done a pretty good job bringing Being John Malkovich to Blu-ray. The AVC 1080p encodement has a very textured layer of grain throughout and lots of detail in clothing and skin. Colors in this film have never really popped, but I’d say that the transfer looks about correct to what I recall it to be in theatres, although, admittedly, it has been awhile since I have seen it on the big screen. I would have liked to have seen a little bit wider contrast, but there is a sufficient amount of shadow detail here to offer a satisfying watch in the numerous darker scenes.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

There isn’t much low frequency extension to speak of in the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) soundtrack, so the “.1” is probably just incidental, however, the surround mix is a good one with mostly audible atmospheric effects in the surround channels, such as the opening applause in the first scene of the film and various office sounds at Craig’s job. Sound spread across the front is good while the score sounds warm and natural, balanced well into the mix. I didn’t detect any crackle in dialogue.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

As usual, Criterion has loaded this up with lots extras relevant to the film. They offer much detail on the film, the actors, and the filmmakers. Going through it all is an absolute must.

The supplements:

  • Selected-Scene Commentary – This selected-scene commentary features Spike Jonze’s friend and competitor the director Michael Gondry. Originally recorded to the full duration of the feature, his commentary has been abridged for reasons of accuracy, audience interest, and legal liability. Occasionally asking questions is Gondry’s longtime editor, Jeff Buchanan.
  • All Noncombatants Please Clear the Set (1.33:1; upscaled; 00:33:21) – Filmmaker Lance Bangs documented the entire shoot of Being John Malkovich. From many hours of footage, he created this half-hour portrait of the atmosphere on set.
  • John Malkovich and John Hodgman (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:27:51) – In this interview, recorded in Brooklyn in November 2011, actor and humorist John Hodgman talks to actor John Malkovich about the experience of making Being John Malkovich.
  • Spike’s Photos (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:15:29) – In this piece, made for the Criterion Collection by filmmaker Lance Bangs, director Spike Jonze shows us some of the photographs he took on the set of Being John Malkovich.
  • 7 ½ Floor Orientation (1.33:1; upscaled; 00:02:12) – The faux orientation video from Being John Malkovich.
  • “American Arts & Culture” Presents John Horatio Malkovich: “Dance of Despair and Disillusionment” (1.33:1; upscaled; 00:04:17) – The faux profile of John Malkovich, puppeteer, from the film, Being John Malkovich.
  • An Intimate Portrait of the Art of Puppeteering (1.33:1; upscaled; 00:07:20)
  • TV Spots:
    • JM Inc.
    • Tunnel
    • Spithead
    • Vessels Humanus
  • Trailer (1.85:1; 1080p/24)
  • Booklet: A booklet featuring a conversation with Spike Jonze, film credits and information on the transfer.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Being John Malkovich is one of the great films to come out of the 90s. Garnering critical praise – and deservedly so – from the minute it hit the silver screen, it created its own niche, one that, arguably, has not been repeated since. This Criterion Collection release does a great justice to the film and should adorn any film lover’s shelf. Highly recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B007A4Y1Q8[/amazon-product]

Purchase Being John Malkovich [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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