MOTHER AND SON (1997) is a small story of patience, love, and growing old from Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov. With minimal dialog, Sokurov shows us scenes of a dying woman being cared for by her grown son. He carries her outside for "walks" and tenderly reassures her as she slips into and out of sleep, approaching the inevitable.
The "plot" of MOTHER AND SON is incidental to the imagery. This film is really a form of "visual poetry" -- presenting beautiful sounds and images of nature, interwoven with the story of the bond between a man and his aged mother.
This is not a film for everyone. Most will find it boring and self-conscious. Some will find it enthralling and a work of genius. Some will fall in the middle (like me) and find it interesting, but ultimately frustrating and tedious. It's certainly a challenging film -- challenging what we have come to expect when we sit down to a movie. The experience here is closer to walking through an art museum than watching a typical film. Although it didn't appeal to me or stir my emotions, I'm sure that there are some who will love this unique approach.
MOTHER AND SON is presented in a slightly letterboxed edition (with a ratio of approximately 1.5:1). The framing seemed fine throughout the film. Given the recent age of the film, the transfer definitely should have been better than what we see on this DVD. Typical of most Fox Lorber/Winstar transfers, this film exhibits some source damage (specks and scratches) and also has digital compression artifacts.
Any further review of the picture quality is difficult, because in the unique way the movie was filmed. Several scenes are intentionally distorted; others are filmed with filters and lenses to intentionally appear hazy and indistinct. The film is very colorful, but the colors appear muted and bland on the DVD (which, for all I know, may be an accurate representation of the director's intentions).
Overall, the transfer is watchable. It's not nearly as bad as some Fox Lorber/Winstar titles, but it's not wonderful either. Some of the deficiencies can definitely be attributed to the "dream-like" atmosphere of the film, but I fear that some are also the result of a mediocre transfer.
The film is presented in Russian, 2.0 stereo (with optional English subtitles). There is no use of the surrounds at all during the movie. The sound is spread pretty well across the front speakers, creating a wide soundstage. However, there is what I consider to be an unacceptable amount of hiss in the soundtrack, especially during the dialog sequences. In a film that relies so much on the soundtrack, I found this to be very distracting. Otherwise, the sound is clear and acceptable.
It's unfortunate that Alexander Sokurov wasn't able to (or chose not to) record this film in Dolby Digital 5.1 or at least provide some ambient surround sounds -- I think it would definitely have been an improvement.
Except for some brief biographical screens, there are no extras on this title.
I'm sure there are people out there that will enjoy MOTHER AND SON, but I am not one of them. It's a simple and unique film, which turns out to be both a strength and a weakness. I have nothing against slow-moving, methodical movies, but there just wasn't enough material here to keep me interested. Still, if you are a fan of art cinema or if this type of approach sounds interesting to you, you should definitely consider watching MOTHER AND SON. But, I would suggest that people rent before buying this title -- its appeal is certainly limited to a select few.