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White Material [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Blu-ray Release Date: April 12, 2011
  • List Price: $39.95

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White Material - Widescreen Special

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Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]

Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]

Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

Editor’s Note: Portions of this review unrelated to this review were previously published in our White Material [UK Release] Blu-ray Review.

The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]

The overwhelming malaise of the African heat, the aftereffects of European colonialism, racial tensions between blacks and whites, civil war  — Claire Denis’ (35 Shots of Rum) White Material captures all of these things inherent to the African continent without ever devolving into a preachy narrative. White Material, its very title a reference to a derogatory term used in the film by black Africans to describe white Africans, is like an impressionist painting come to life, concerning itself with the unobtainable emotion of situations, rather than the specifics of detail in what is a series of set pieces so enthralling it captivates the eyes, mind, and spirit.

Focusing on the white Frenchwoman Maria Vial (Isabelle Huppert) and her family’s coffee plantation in the middle of an unnamed African nation on the verge of a civil war, White Material follows their struggle to save one last crop before all chaos breaks out. Adding to her challenge is the arrival of a local rebel hero known as The Boxer (Isaach De Bankolé), who arrives on the plantation seeking to tarry awhile to recover from a life threatening gunshot wound.

A nearly perfect film that explores the politics of Africa by somehow never getting political, Denis’ lens is a beautiful eye on the place that is simply looked upon as a tumultuous home, like anywhere else in the world. It’s a riveting, must-see film that will uplift the mind and soul.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

White Material was previously released in the UK by Artificial Eye. That release and this one, approved by Claire Denis and cinematographer Yves Cape look remarkably similar. They both have similar color timings that render the same diffuse, artistic visualization of the African continent magnificently. If there is much of a difference, it is that, though both look very film-like and cinematic, the Criterion release looks slightly cleaner or softer than the Artificial Eye release and the latter has a slightly sharper appearance with a little more high frequency information.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack (48kHz/24-bit) mastered from the original digital master files using Pro Tools HD is extremely subtle. The surround channels are often deadly silent, although they are also often put to goods use for atmospherics that evoke the dry open space of Africa. Dialogue is full and clean and there is an overall warmth to the sound.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

If the Criterion release surpasses the Artificial Eye in anyway, it is definitely in the area on on-disc supplements. Criterion offers a strong showing here as usual and tops it off with a booklet that is an interesting read.

The supplements provided with this release are:

  • Interviews (1080p/24) – These Interviews with director Claire Denis and actors Isabelle Huppert and Isaach de Bankolé were recorded exclusively for the Criterion Collection in 2010.:
    • Claire Denis (0:24.12)
    • Isabelle Huppert (0:14.21)
    • Isaach de Bankolé (0:13.09)
  • Deleted Scene (2.35:1; 1080i/60) – In this deleted scene, from the finale of White Material, Maria returns to the plantation to find her ex-husband, André, murdered.
  • Écrans Noirs Film Festival, 2010 (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:12.29) – In this short film, director Claire Denis documents her return to Cameroon for the 2010 premiere of White Material at the Écrans Noirs Film Festival.
  • Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24)
  • Booklet: Featuring an essay by film writer Amy Taubin, film credits, and information on the transfer.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

White Material is another strong effort from the wonderful director Claire Denis and it arrives in a reference Criterion package that should be a treasure for all of her fans for years to come. Highly recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product align=”right”]B004JPJHLA[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
White Material - Widescreen Special

Purchase White Material [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

White Material

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]

Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]

Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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