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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes
  • Audio commentary
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Production notes
  • Photo gallery
  • Behind the scenes footage

House of Sand and Fog

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 121 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Wow. I start reviewing DVDs again after a long hiatus, and the first disc I pick up is this. I'm not going to do it justice, and I apologise in advance.

Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly) is a recovering addict, living alone in a house left to her by her father. Unbeknownst to her family, her husband left her 8 months ago and she's barely keeping herself together. As we soon discover, she's so strung out that she's not even reading her mail; the council take possession of the house, believing that she's behind in business taxes. As Kathy is attempting to organise her legal defense, the council sell her property to immigrant Massoud Amir Behrani (Ben Kingsley), who sees the house as his ticket to re-establishing his honour after being forced to flee Iran and working two jobs to support his wife and son.

I meant to watch House of Sand and Fog at the cinema, and I'm rather annoyed that I missed it. There are moments during the film where you feel your soul being slowly crushed by what's happening onscreen, and to share that kind of emotion with hundreds of people would have been special.

This is tragedy of Shakespearian proportions, but what makes it more painful is how easy it is to empathise with the lead characters. What they do is believable and honest. The events that unfold could not have happened any differently without violating their beliefs and outlook. Kingsley in particular is outstanding, a pillar of dignity amidst the torrent. And this is director Vadim Perelman's first film? Outstanding.

  Video
Contract

This disc looks beautiful. Naturally it's 16x9 enhanced, with excellent detail and definition. Colours are muted and sombre, without ever feeling artificial. This is mostly due to Roger Deakins' cinematography. I believe the man could reveal the stark, austere beauty of a cereal packet.

There's the very faintest trace of film grain,but no artifacts. I'd suggest that this video transfer is reference quality. It's not eye-popping, but it's gorgeous never-the-less.

  Audio
Contract

The audio is what you'd expect from a modern 5.1 drama soundtrack, with generally subtle use of the surround channels. As is typical with modern recording and mixing techniques and technology, the fidelity is excellent. There's a nice, wide soundstage and dialogue is smooth and natural. James Horner provides the score, and manages to not soak it in saccharine.

  Extras
Contract

This disc isn't classified as a special edition, but it still has as many extras as you would have expected on the 'collector's editions' back in the early days of DVD. There's a commentary track with Perelman, Kingsley and writer Andre Dubus, who wrote the novel the film's based on. It's quite chatty and informal, being more interested in reminiscing on the making of the production than dissecting the techical aspects, although they do touch on them as well.

There are also five deleted scenes (with commentary). Apparently they were intended to be produced in 16x9 and somebody forgot to flick a switch, resulting in a 4x3 image. Everything is stretched vertically.

Additionally, there's a 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, an audition tape of Shohreh Aghdashloo (who plays Behrani's wife) and the usual photo gallery and production notes.

  Overall  
Contract

An excellent script, excellent acting and a gut-wrenching climax, all backed up with a superb transfer to disc. It's not for everybody, but I heartily recommend it.


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      And I quote...
    "If tragedy was pudding, you wouldn't be able to get off the couch."
    - Paul Dossett
      Review Equipment
    • TV:
          Mitsubishi Diva 33
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha DSP-A1
    • Speakers:
          Richter Excalibur
    • Centre Speaker:
          Richter Unicorn
    • Surrounds:
          Richter Hydras
    • Audio Cables:
          Monster RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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