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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Strictly Ballroom (Blu-ray)
Strictly Ballroom (Blu-ray)
Miramax // PG // April 30, 2013 // Region A
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted May 6, 2013 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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Highly Recommended
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Strictly Ballroom Blu-ray Review

Click on an image to view the Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution

There are times in life where people try and accomplish their dreams and visions and others are prone to simply dismiss these efforts as undoable, unthinkable, or as unattainable. But then the supporters and dreamers of the world are still there to remind others that there is always a hope lasting within our hearts to achieve our dreams and to excel in the way we can: by following a dream, a hope, and a mission in life and in making the best of our lives by never giving up on dreams. This is the story of Strictly Ballroom, which deftly combines the story of two young dreamers named Fran (Tara Morice) and Scott (Paul Mercurio).

The story centers upon these two dancers and their journey of rehearsing, practicing, and then growing into even better dancers and partners as they train to enter a dancing championship a number of other dancers feel they won't succeed in. Why? Because these two characters dare considering themselves as dancers: to be different from the rest and to dance with their own dancing moves and free-spirited energy: that is the heart and soul of their journey as dancers. Following a triumphant defeat on the dance-floor competition, Scott meets Fran, who has an interest in his free-spirit and style and who winds up encouraging him to pursue his dancing dreams with her for the upcoming competition. The rest of the film is primarily focused on getting to know Scott and Fran as they become friends, practice dancing, and as eventually things proceed in new directions for both of them in their partnered unison together.

Strictly Ballroom was the debut feature film from visionary artist and filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, who went on to win the adoration of an even larger number of cinema lovers with his sweeping cinematic dances of craft, with a post-modern spin on adapting Romeo + Juliet, reinventing the Moulin Rouge, and creating Australia (the epic film, not to be confused with the founding of an adored and beloved country).

Luhrmann is the rarest of filmmakers around: genuine, heartfelt, visionary, and a learner of the old-Hollywood style with the ambition, clarity, and skills in filmmaking rarely seen today. He burst into filmmaking with Strictly Ballroom, and ever since his astonishing debut effort there absolutely has been a shift in filmmaking: a shift solely creditable to Luhrmann. Sadly, there's little to suggest that other modern filmmakers have really learned from his visions and for the most part he seems to stand alone as a uniquely romantic and spirited filmmaker. Cinema has never been quite the same since audiences were introduced to Baz.

 The film manages to be successful on a number of levels. For starters, it has one of the best screenplays of a new filmmaker around, and it's an early indication of Luhrmann's craft in writing. He wrote the script with co-writer Craig Pearce and the results are satisfying: this screenplay is magnificent. That is the best way in which to describe it. The characters are compelling from beginning to end and the journey taken is a pure delight. The actors are impressive and the direction complements their efforts beautifully. The emotion feels so magnificently beautiful and the film feels as though it wears its heart on its sleeve. This exuberant film is sure to delight fans of Baz Luhrmann, new and old, and it's a classic: something already destined to be remembered as the beautiful starting point to a great filmmakers career.

The Blu-ray:


Video:

Strictly Ballroom is presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. That's the best in consideration of the picture quality available on this home media release.

Strictly Ballroom disappoints with its arrival on Blu-ray. Part of this is a result of the type of film-stock used. People have to keep some expectations in check because this was actually a rather low-budget production. The material simply isn't in as good shape as one would hope. However, this doesn't change the fact that this is an average at best presentation of the film.

It often seems similar to a DVD up-covert and it rarely feels as if it is a transfer in genuine high definition. The colors don't "pop" and the definition is weak: everything seems rather drab in color, too soft, and undefined. The black levels are especially weak: they appear gray; rather, washed out. The entire presentation is only a moderate improvement over past editions and interesting purchasers should consider this element accordingly.

Audio:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio fares slightly better than the video presentation, but it's still something of a far cry from the excellence of other Luhrmann films on the Blu-ray format. Everything seems flat and dull in the soundstage for most scenes, but some moments fare significantly better and offer moderate levels of surround usage for the music moments. I generally wasn't impressed with the audio but it was at least an acceptable presentation considering the age and budget of the film.


Additional Screenshots:

Click on an image to view the Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution






Extras:

There are several supplements on this release, including:

Audio Commentary featuring Director Baz Luhrmann, Production Designer Catherine Martin, and choreographer John O' Connell.

Strictly Ballroom: From Stage to Screen (23 min.) documents the progress of Luhrmann as he is adapting the film from its stage beginnings.

A Deleted Scene.

A Design Gallery (featuring five brief featurette; also featuring narration by Luhrmann).

"Samba to Slow Fox Dance" (30 min.) is a featurette about many actual ballroom dancers.

Final Thoughts:

Strictly Ballroom is a beautiful and heartfelt film. It's a quiet wonder and something of a gem, still waiting to be discovered by many audiences familiar with other efforts from the brilliant filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. This Blu-ray release presents the film with average at best PQ/AQ, and hardly anything new has been included in the supplemental department. However, longtime fans will want to purchase this release and add it to their collections at the right price and newcomers will thoroughly enjoy the film and shouldn't be dismayed by the average presentation.

Based on the immense quality of Strictly Ballroom as a film, this releases come with a big, enthusiastic recommendation. Few films are as heartfelt or charming as this great creation full of spirit and warmth.  

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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