The Girl With The: BluRay Review

Fancy a closer look at Sony's upcoming BluRay release of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"? Well, here it is, in all its glory. Check out an unboxing and review by FilmFanPete, as well as an in-depth review of fellow fanatic Simon. Dopamine alert!

Here's Simon's review:

Well, that was a kick in the head!

Yesterday was GDT Blu-ray day for me ~ Fincher commentary in the afternoon, and the supplementary disc after midnight.

First a word on the packaging - there is no TSN foldover thing. The front of the slipcover is the poster with a very cool silvery metallic sheen, the rear is the previously posted list of contents and credits (with one important alteration - Region A instead of A/B/C) but it's printed on a detachable sheet that is stuck to the back of the slipcover. If you so wish you can pop this off and just have a none more black back. The gatefold digipack slides out and is as previously pictured; although my 2 blu-ray discs had different images to the HK forum poster.

Of the menu graphic design ~ on the Film disc, simple and beautiful. A series of the vintage Vanger family photographs that you see in the film, done as if you were watching a slide show of family snaps, with the mechanical click of the Kodak carousel playing beneath a haunting little 2 minute section of the score.

The audio commentary is another classic entry from Fincher, with another clear sense of just how much rigorous thought went in to every detail of the production, but most especially into the character relationships. He's especially sharp, and moving, on the character of Lisbeth. He reiterates that the hook for him was always the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael, and less the 'locked door murder mystery element' of the piece. He's sharp on the five act structure of the film, and how there was no way they could shoehorn Larsson's work into three. And fascinating on explaining certain key lines that he's aware have been problematic, such as 'May I kill him?'; he gives a winning argument as to why this wasn't a request for permission, but instead a moment of solidarity between Lisbeth and Mikael. Funny as hell too, with that desert bone dry sense of humour that he has ~ of the scene in the basement with Martin he says he comes off 'as a half-assed Dick Cavett'; during the subsequent chase and kill he says they never wanted Lisbeth to be 'Dirty Harry-et'. And Scotty the Cat get's repeated major kudos!. He seems to have been the only actor to have got the better of Fincher - "as long as you don't expect cats to do what you want, then they usually give you a very cat-like performance."

The Supplements menus replicate the Vanger Industries Archives and are a sterling effort. There's a very neat parallell between the modern 21st century digital blu-ray technology being rendered in such a distinctly mid-20th century fashion - all yellowing paper, faded leather, old wood, skewed typed lettering or hand scrawled text. It's a theme that the film very deftly and poignantly plays with, and David Prior has clearly got it spot on.

The 4 hours+ of Supplements are neatly split into 4 main sections - Characters, On Location, Post Production and Promotion, but the disc kicks off with a short intro 'Men Who Hate Women' detailing the whole Larsson phenomenon, and the relationship between the main creative contributors on this film and that whole phenomenon, when they were aware of it, what they thought of it, etc.

Then it's straight into the marrow of the piece. The Character section features 3 sub-sections - Salander, Blomkvist and Martin Vanger. The Salander section would be worth the price alone. It total about 40 minutes or so on the writing, casting, dressing and directing of Rooney Mara as Salander and there is nothing that isn't covered. Mara is interviewed (on June 9th 2011 - a year to the day since her first audition) at length and comes across as an extremely interesting and intelligent actor. And funny too. Trish Summerville(costume designer) is one of the stars of the disc, she comes over as really sharp and amusing and a key contributor on set. The coup here is the inclusion of the dv material from 9th of August 2010 of Fincher stalking Mara along Hollywood Blvd, and through the LA subway.

The Blomkvist and Martin sections suffer slightly in comparison, but I suppose that's cos there is less to go on. Fincher's very good on why he cast Craig and Craig is equally good on why he's always wanted to work with Fincher (they first had a meeting just after 'Fight Club') They share a very dry, cynical sense of humour and clearly got on, and Craig gives a succint summary of his approach on film acting.This part also features a stills gallery used in Blomkvist's investigation. It's jaw-dropping how much work went in to the photographic prop work for the film (Fincher also covers this in his commentary track) and the shots themselves are just beautifully rendered.

Stellan Skarsgard is a treasure - he's got a resolutely eccentric take on things and is fascinating on how he found it quite easy to play a psychopath, and on how the differing styles of Lars Von Trier and Fincher get you to the same place in the end. This section also features shorts on how they did the bag over the head shot and other aspects of the Martin psycho storyline. This sub-section ends with a stills gallery of production design sketches with some notes from Don Burt the designer, giving you just a sense of the work involved.

Then it's back to the Main menu and the On Location sections - which is split between Sweden and Hollywood. The Swedish section begins with a piece on the various locations in Stockholm and northwards (featuring some beautiful classical music) You do definitely get a sense that there were tensions, certainly initially, between the American way of working and the way the Swedish crews were used to working. ('The problem with Socialist countries is you can't incentivise anyone - you can't bribe them and you can't threaten them,' Fincher joked?) This long piece is followed by a shorter look at the Tunnelbana shoot (the Swedish subway) which is fascinating, not least for the fact that that this one short scene took three days to choreograph and shoot. Then there is a look at a scene shot on the steps of Henrik's mansion (it was re-shot later in the cottage) when Salander offers to 'get' Wennerstrom for Blomkvist. This doc really serves to illustrate how rain affected play ~ "Double Rainbow!!" There's a super piece on the final scene of the film, from writing to shooting/editing. With this featurette you really get a sense of how, by that stage in the shoot, Rooney had really commandeered the character and was telling Fincher precisely how certain moves shoud be done. That's followed by a bit on the actual last day of the shoot which is very cute.

From there it switches to Hollywood and the Paramount Studios Lot. There's a lengthy excerpt of Goran Visnjic's audition with Fincher, (shot in Blomkvist's cottage!) where they deconstruct his intro of Lisbeth to Froder at the start of the film. This reminded me of the forensic breakdowns of each line that you saw in the 'Social Network' documentary, and is a perfect illustration of Fincher's approach to even the most straightforward of scenes. Next up is a look at the 'Technodolly' shot of Lisbeth in her apartment 'thinking evil shit'. It's a full study of how that particular camera movement was achieved, technically and emotionally. It's followed by the scene later on when she's readying herself for the revenge scene and she's unpacking her 'equipment'; this gives you a sense of the attention to detail of the props dept and how they had to be ready for any eventuality.

Then it's on to the section entitled 'Rape/Revenge' which is obviously a pretty tough watch. In actual fact I found this to be a tougher watch than the actual scenes in the film. It was clearly rough on everyone involved, but the most startling inclusion here is the interview with the actor playing Bjurman, who clearly was really traumatised by both scenes, and says things like I don't know if I'll ever get over that scene and I don't think I would have taken the role if I'd known what I'd end up going through, etc. He gives huge respect to Rooney Mara for the way she handled it (she didn't meet him at all on-set) but it sounds like he handled it far less well. One of the strongest featurettes on the disc.

The On Location section is rounded out by a look at the build-up to the sex scene in the cottage and at the shoot in Martin's basement. Also included is a faintly amusing and in-depth look at the neck brace that is used to hang Blomkvist; thus consists of a dozen guys on a backlot standing around debating how and why Martin would or wouldn't use a certain method of neck restraint.

"Moving On" ~ the Post Production section opens with a piece titled 'In the Cutting Room' which consists of 15 minutes of footage of Fincher, Angus Wall and KirK Baxter in the edit suite on August 13 2011 viewing the first assembly cut of the movie. There is a horizontal split screen of the film and Fincher viewing it and yelling out 'notes' with the editors scribbling them down. You also get to see the results of these changes. Personally I could have stood about 30 minutes more of this kind of thing - it was a fascinating inside look at the process. Instead we get 6 minutes on Automated Dialogue Replacement with Rooney and Stellan re-recording their production tracks on a couple of scenes, including the grunts Rooney had to do as she kicks in the dildo.

Then we come on to the title sequence featurette which consists of three versions of the sequence, including the final fully rendered video without the credits, which can be viewed full or splitscreen and with or without Tim Miller's audio commentary track. Even now it still sends chills up the spine, and, for me, it may now have surpassed 'Se7en' as Fincher's best title sequence. However, the definitive study of this sequence was on the Art of the Title website a month or so ago (a must read.) The section concludes with an 8 minute monatge of the various CGI shots through the film, most of which you will never have dreamed were CGI. Again, underlining the awesome levels of effort that went in to this work.

The final section is Promotion where you will find 7 tv spots, only 2 of which I had seen before. The other 5 (all 30s long) were all new to me, despite seeing all 15 tv spots that have been out there on the internet since December. How many of these things do they make?!

Trailers next, beginning with the infamous red-band teaser from last June. In 1080p at last, and, interestingly, noticeably different in terms of the final color garding of the other trailers and the film itself. Bearing in mind this was released whilst the film was still in the midst of shooting it's quite a different visual look, far darker and wintery. The 3m 45s theatrical trailer (here listed as Trailer 3) is most noticeable for including the 'cunnilingus' line which was altered from the actual trailer that was released back in September. Made me smile anyway. The other 2 trailers ('4' and '5') are the ankle tattoo one and the standard international trailer.

More promotion in the form of the 'Hard Copy'-spoof viral video that David Prior created with Reznor. It's testament to the quality of the package here, and the producer, that even a viral video gets an audio commentary from Prior that is not just fun and technically savvy, but is also very interesting on the whole notion of memory as media, and the psychology and emotion inherent in static, tape warp and color bleeds! The section concludes with Prior's elegant film of the creation of the metal one-sheet (one went for $330 just last week on eBay!) Or does it conclude? There is an 'easter egg' in this section which even I, dufus that I am, could find, but I won't spoil it cos it's always nice to find these things on your own. It's nothing jaw-dropping, but I loved it.

So that is that. An excellent and truly awesome production that is more than worthy of the film it supports.

It seems ludicrous to offer any quibbles after such a nutritious and deeply enjoyable digital experience, but if I was forced to I'd ask why Reznor and Ross were not even interviewed or their work examined in any of the sections. I would also have liked a study of the cinematography; other than a few passing episodes in the 'On Location' section there is nothing specific or detailed devoted to the Red camerawork or the color grading of the film. No space either for Ren Klyce and Michael Semanick and their sublime sound design work, which is a shame. I would have also very much liked a complete gallery of the Jean-Baptiste Mondino promo photography; he was clearly an important part of Fincher's vision for the promotion of the film and involved from the earliest stages of the shoot to the last. We get to see alot of his sterling work throughout the supplements but a complete archive would have been very nice.

But, obsessive nut-job quibbles aside, this is a no-brainer buy. If you loved the David Fincher's 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' you will fall down and weep at the feet of this Blu-ray. Enjoy!

15 comments:

  1. Very cool review Simon! Damn it, why do I always have to wait for this awesome stuff like 2 months longer than anyone :P Thank God I have the patience of John Doe ;)

    PS. In my opinion the title sequence from Se7en is still #1. But Dragon Tattoo is close at #2 ;)

    Thanks for the great read and link.

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  2. Thank you mikez. Your patience will be rewarded; it's completely worth the wait.

    Here is the response to my review that I received from David Prior on the Home Theater Forum, with an explanation about my 'quibbles' ~

    "Wow, thank you for those very kind words. It's really an honor that you put so much time and thought into it, and enjoyed the disc as much as you did.

    As for your quibbles, allow me to say I share them: it was frankly devastating that I wasn't able to include any material on the score and the sound design, which I normally obsess over. Sound is equally important as picture if you asked me, and I'm a life-long film score fanatic, so it was not oversight that kept those subjects off the disc, but rather factors outside my control. In brief, the film had a very rushed post-production schedule trying to hit that December release date and it precluded any serious participation from those artists most heavily involved in post, i.e.: sound design, score and color correction. I know Ren Klyce was working round the clock for weeks on end to hit the delivery, and I pestered Trent and Atticus numerous times to no avail. I have no doubt they wanted to participate, but with my disc delivery date coming so close on the heels of the film's delivery date, it just wasn't possible. It's frustrating, but sometimes that's the way it goes. I miss the old days when you had a good six month window, but those days are gone, alas.

    I just wanted you to know I share your disappointment, but I'm glad the rest of it struck the right chord with you.

    Thanks again, and cheers,

    David"

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  3. Interesting. Thanks for posting that here.

    I'm sure it will be worth it :) I can't wait to listen to the commentary track.

    I see you have early access to new releases... so when you grab a copy of new "Chinatown" Blu-ray... let us know how cool is that commentary track with Towne and Fincher ;)

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    1. I will do. Though you know that track came out before, on a DVD special edition in 2009? I can't actually remember whether I bought it at the time; I've definitely never heard the commentary - I would have remembered that! I may have got it and left it in the 'play soon' pile.
      I shall definitely get the blu-ray though. 'Chinatown' in 1080p is the stuff of my dreams.

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    2. Oh man, I actually didn't know that! Doesn't matter now, I also plan to buy the Blu-ray edition :)

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  4. Great review! Wow how long did you spend on this? Thanks.

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    1. Thanks jeff. Couple of hours I think; to tell the truth I didn't notice the time once I got typing. I was enjoying re-living it so much!

      While I'm here this is a non-GDT article that I came across today. It's a piece by Mike D'Angelo of AVClub that could best be described as a rave review/analysis of Fincher's 'The Game'. Enjoy.

      http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-game%2C70740/

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    2. Good article.

      The Game showed that Fincher is not some "one hit wonder" director, at least to me :) I enjoyed it very much, it was a completely different experience from Se7en. I loved the scene when Nicholas finds all the pictures and drugs and stuff... oh man :) And all the chase scenes with him and Christine, and the elevator stuff - so funny :) I think I'm going to watch it tonight again :)

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    3. Damn, don't get me started! I haven't seen the Game in a while either....

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    4. He he... Well I played The Game last night ;)

      First. I always forget how well choreographed is this movie... some camera moves/shots are insane :) It's such a pleasure to watch. And the movie doesn't feel 15 years old at all! When it gets the HD treatment that it deserves, it will look amazing!!! Second. Michael Douglas owns this movie, he deserves more praise. One of his best roles, no doubt.

      I love this movie more with each viewing :)

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  5. Thanks for the in-depth review Simon. I think I am more excited about this than I was for the movie.

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  6. 2 small trailers from the bluray disc on Casting Blomkvist and Casting Salander below.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajfzQjmwz-w&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XBP6Teyv7WY

    and here is review of the bluray from high def digest.

    http://bluray.highdefdigest.com/6451/girl_tattoo_2011.html

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  7. For those acquiring the GDT blu-ray imminently you will find 3 'easter egg' hidden featurettes amongst the 4 hours+ of supplements. Here is how ~

    In the 'Promotion' archive menu screen go down as far as you can and then press left and a red 'Vanger Industries Archives' stamp should appear. Press enter and the 'Mondo Mondino' featurette will play, showing a promo photo shoot with Rooney Mara and Jean-Baptiste Mondino from September 2011.

    In the 'Character' archive, in the 'Martin Vanger' section, go to the 'Torture' sub-section, press the right arrow key and a white 'VIA' stamp will appear. Press enter and the 'Gunplay' featurette will play, showing Fincher and Mara playing with guns.

    In the 'On Location' archive, in the 'Hollywood' section, go to the 'Rape/Revenge' sub-section, press right and another white stamp will appear. Press enter and you will see a short stills gallery of 3 images - a Stockholm Youth Services court document confirming Bjurman's legal dominion over Salander, the STD questionairre he recites in the movie, and the hand-written cheque to pay for her computer.

    I watched my favourite supplements again over the weekend. This disc just gets better each time. David Prior really gets some great material out of his interviews with all involved. They really seem to trust him and open up in a way that you just didn't get from the round of promo stuff in December. Particularly true of Rooney Mara.

    And a new favourite Fincher quote ~ "People are perverts...that's pretty much been the basis of my career anyway."

    For those of a technical persuasion the best section is definitely 'In the Cutting Room'. Angus Wall gives a superlative analysis of Fincher's very particular technique. He assesses that one of the reasons Fincher loves the Red camera is it's massively increased frame size, thereby allowing Fincher to crop out the central 2.40 image and have complete stabilization, or tilt faster, etc. Wall says that 99% of movies have at least some frame drift or slight movement, even on supposedly static shots. Fincher hates that and only wants the frame to be completely stable. The Red allows him complete control. Wall says this is the most stable movie he's ever seen, and it really does affect the viewing experience, even if you don't know why. He's right.

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  8. Amazing, thanks for sharing this with us.

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  9. thanks! counting the days now...

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