I am velvety-smoothReview is BELOWI am veltely smooth, too
DVD: Charlotte Gray (2001)
Review Rating:   Good  
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1 (NTSC)

July 9, 2002



Genre: War / Romance  
Based on the book by Sebastian Faulks. Charlotte Gray's WWII training as an undercover courier for England has her parachuting into France to aid the Resistance, with her own personal agenda of locating her lover, an RAF pilot downed over France.  



Directed by:

Gillian Armstrong
Screenplay by: Jeremy Brock
Music by: Stephen Warbeck
Produced by:
Douglas Rae,  Sarah Curtis

Cate Blanchett,  Billy Crudup,  Michael Gambon,  Rupert Penry Jones,  Anton Lesser,  James Fleet,  Ron Cook,  Jack Shepherd,  Nicholas Farrell,  Helen McCrory,  Abigail Cruttenden,  Charlie Condou

Film Length: 121 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.85 :1
Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages:   English (Dolby 5.1) / English, French & Spanish
Special Features :  

Audio Commentary by Director Gillian Armstrong / Featurettes: "Charlotte Gray: A Village Revisits History" (3:53) + "Living Through Wartime" (3:47) / 4 Cast & Crew Bios / Theatrical trailer for "Charlotte Gray" (1.85:1 Anamorphic)

Comments :

Sebastian Faulk's best-seller is reworked for romance-and-adventure audiences in Gillian ("Mrs. Soffel") Armstrong's visually stunning film. Shot on location in England and France, "Charlotte Gray" is rich with period detail, using a clever mix of authentic locations and extraordinary production design, particularly verdant French locations, near Roquefort.

Warner Bros' transfer preserves Armstrong's deep blue colour schemes, and the various night scenes - parachute landings, train demolition, and wide dusk scenes - have a natural balance of blacks, navy blue, and shimmering white back lights. The tame Dolby 5.1 mix often relies on Stephen Warbeck's somewhat repetitive orchestral score, yet dialogue and occasional sound sweeps are discreet, and natural.

Director Armstrong chose to maintain an undercurrent of realism; melodrama notwithstanding, it's a pleasant surprise to enjoy a period drama without attention-deficit editing and a visual style reminiscent of commercial advertising. In the DVD's otherwise standard commentary track, Armstrong breezes through casting and standard production fare, and the real area of interest is location minutia. Armstrong doesn't disappoint in recalling the production's near-seamless assembly of sets, CGI, and locations, though working methods with actors, the development of Jeremy Brock's script, and the challenges of adapting a popular work are all given short-shrift.

The remaining extras are fairly standard: an anamorphic trailer; limited filmographies for the cast and director; and two overtly promotional featurettes, saturated with sweeping score edits. Much of the material covered in the featurettes is repeated in far greater detail in Armstrong's commentary, and though co-producer Sarah Curtis, novelist Faulks, and screenwriter Brock are shown, they're appearances, along with star Blanchett and director Armstrong, are very brief.

Given the historical significance of England's female war couriers, an added supplement regarding the program and some period facts would have balanced the film's artistic liberties. However, Armstrong does mention Marcel Ophul's searing 1971 documentary, "The Sorrow And The Pity," which makes an excellent adjunct to the film, given that much of "Charlotte Gray" takes place in a small French town overtaken by the Nazis, and fervent Vichy loyalists.


© 2002 Mark R. Hasan

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