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  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
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  • Music video
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Magnolia

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 180 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

A trophy wife’s guilt-ridden love for her dying husband.
A lonely cop’s search for companionship.
A cheating husband seeking forgiveness in his hour of need.
A son’s conflicting hatred and love for his dying father.
A father profiting from his child’s genius.

And so begins the tightly woven tapestry that is Magnolia, the 3rd feature film from writer/director P.T. Anderson. Magnolia is a movie that defies classification - hailed as a masterpiece, and canned as excessively self-indulgent by critics in equal measure.

The follow-up to Anderson's critically acclaimed ‘Boogie Nights’, Magnolia is set over a 24-hour period, and follows the lives of nine seemingly unrelated characters in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley - all lost souls searching for redemption from the collective misery that is their tortured modern lives.

Presented as a patchwork of tangential subplots, Magnolia follows each of these characters on an emotional journey - all individual, yet somehow connected. Each is pushed to the edge of despair by circumstances out of their past, and seemingly beyond their control.

"The book may say that we are through with the past, but the past is not through with us "

Excellent writing, direction and an ensemble cast make Magnolia a wonderful and moving movie experience. There is no central narrative, no protagonist, no top billing. Each of the subplots, presented concurrently, provide a deeply moving character study – each a well crafted drama in their own right. More importantly, the direction and editing are so effective that Anderson, cutting back and forth between various scenes, builds and builds a dramatic tension that leaves you awe-struck. Each of the subplots feeds the dramatic tension at just the right rate, simultaneously culminating in an apocalyptic climax of biblical proportions.

At over 3 hours, Magnolia is long. Personally, I hardly noticed. Anderson (in his wisdom), provides plenty of time for the characters to develop – just leaving the camera on his actors and letting them flourish. Some will feel that the movie is the worse for it - seeming to drag out each chunk of exposition into excruciating monotony. For others (including myself), Anderson has created fantastic characterisations brought to life by skilled performers.

In particular, Tom Cruise is somewhat of a revelation. Playing the egotistic, misogynistic self-help guru Frank T.J Mackey, author of the quintessential pick-up system 'Seduce and Destroy', Cruise (in his Academy Award nominated performance) is surprisingly funny and believably moving. Magnolia should be viewed for his performance alone. Also worthy of mention is John C. Reilly's endearing portrayal of a lonely cop in search of love and the always fantastic William H. Macey provides his best performance since Fargo. Throw into the mix Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore and Jason Robards (in one of hist last performances) and you have a masterpiece in the making.

What binds the diverse stories into a collective, coherent whole are the many themes running the length of the movie. In one thematic thread, Anderson suggests (from the comedic outset), that life is not a series of logical linear events that have a reasonable outcome., but is ruled by coincidence and chance. Secondly, and probably more centrally, Anderson discusses the manner in which human-beings treat each other, in particular, the relationships between parents and their children.

  Video
Contract

There can be no doubt that with its outstanding production design and cinematography, Magnolia is a visual feast. It is a film that absolutely must be seen in its original, theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The lush anamorphic transfer provided by Village Roadshow retains the films' vivid colours and crisp detail. Shadow detail is good. There really is little to fault the transfer, which I would class as very near to reference quality except for one or two instances of slight pixelation in dark, out-of-focus backgrounds. One thing I didn’t appreciate is the clunky layer change occurring around the 97th minute.

  Audio
Contract

Like the transfer, there is little fault to find with the English Dolby Digital 5.1 sound track. Without giving anything away, the movie’s climax is a spectacular audio experience. Magnolia features a very prominent and moving score which is used to provide a constant tone across all concurrent threads of the story. It also aids Anderson in building the dramatic tension of all his stories simultaneously.

For most of the movie, the dialogue is clear and nicely integrated. However, songs by Aimee Mann appear at prominent positions within the movie and it is at these times that the music effectively drowns out the dialogue. This is obviously an artistic choice by Anderson, but for what purpose I cannot guess. Thankfully, in the middle of the film the characters overcome this problem themselves by deciding to join in and sing along to the music track.

  Extras
Contract

Village Roadshow have provided us with a collector’s edition that, whilst impressive, is not quite worthy of this moving film. The first disc of a two disc set contains the movie and the movie only – and with the feature at over 3 hours, I’m not surprised. A second disc is provided for the extras. Both discs feature simple yet effective menus that are 16x9 enhanced.

  • Colour Bars: First up, Village have quite considerately provided a set of colour bars. To configure your television. Useless you say? Well, wait for a minute and you’ll discover a string of hilarious bloopers hidden inside.

  • Seduce and Destroy Infomercial: The complete T.J Mackey ‘Seduce and Destroy’ television infomercial that opens the film. Is quite hilarious and can be enjoyed again and again. This is Tom Cruise in his element.

  • Seminar Footage: from the Frank T.J Mackey Seminar that only appeared briefly in the final edited version of the film. Again we get to experience the complete antics of Mr Mackey as he struts and cusses for his cheering male audience – very entertaining.

  • Trailer, Teasers and TV Spots: Standard fair. There are a lot of spots included here and, as usual, they are all basically the same. Interestingly, they support my premise that the quality of a movie is inversely proportional to the length of its tv spot.

  • Music Video: ‘Save Me’ by Aimee Mann. Interestingly, that the video seems to have been shot at the same time of the movie, utilising the ensemble cast in actual movie locations. A very effective movie tie in.

  • The Magnolia Production Diaries: Basically a bunch of behind the scenes snippets, ordered chronologically, and providing insight into the process of making a big budget Hollywood movie from pre-production through to award acceptance. Very interesting stuff – and there’s a good deal to see here. Some of the diary entries hint at what wasn’t included in the film. However, they fall short of answering the kinds of questions you crave answers to. With such an ensemble cast and interesting approach, this movie is crying out for a commentary from the director and or stars.

What this collector’s edition really lacks is a complete set of deleted scenes (and a commentary as noted above). TV spots are all well and good, but who really wants to see them? There are a few instances in the movie where obvious subplots have not been explored. We learn from the diaries that extra footage exists that was not included in the film – footage that explores these subplots. These deleted scenes are sorely missed!!!

  Overall  
Contract

Despite its length, I absolutely loved Magnolia. Each subplot is so well written, and the acting so moving, that you can forgive PT Anderson for being a little self-indulgent. I sat riveted for the 3 hours - unable to turn away from what is basically an exhilarating movie experience - an ensemble cast giving stand-out performances. Magnolia demands a lot from its audience; a single viewing is barely adequate to absorb the details. Yet it provides a satisfying movie experience — one that lingers long after the credits roll. Just see it.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=606
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      And I quote...
    "Magnolia is an exhilarating movie experience. Just see it."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Monster Component
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