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Lost River (Blu-ray Review)

Lost-RiverRyan Gosling’s directorial debut film, “Lost River,” will debuted on Blu-ray and DVD this week. The film, which screened at the SXSW Film Festival, is also available via national digital release.  The film, from Sierra Affinity, Phantasma Films and Bold Films, stars Christina Hendricks (TV’s “Mad Men”), Saoirse Ronan (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Iain De Caestecker (TV’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Matt Smith (TV’s “Doctor Who”), Reda Kateb (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Barbara Steele (TV’s “Dark Shadows”), with Eva Mendes (“The Place Beyond the Pines”), and Ben Mendelsohn (“The Dark Knight Rises”).  In addition to directing the film, Ryan Gosling also wrote the screenplay. The producers are Marc Platt (“Into the Woods”), Gosling, Adam Siegel (“Drive”), Michael Litvak (“Nightcrawler”) and David Lancaster (“Nightcrawler”). Gary Michael Walters and Jeffrey Stott served as executive producers. Johnny Jewel (“Drive”) composed the film’s music. 

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Film 

Lost River is a dark fairy tale about love, family and the fight for survival in the face of danger. In the virtually abandoned city of Lost River, Billy, a single mother of two, is led into a macabre underworld in her quest to save her childhood home and hold her family together. Her teenage son Bones discovers a mystery about the origins of Lost River that triggers his curiosity and sets into motion an unexpected journey that will test his limits and the limits of those he loves.

Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut is one I’d been looking forward to checking out.  When an image from the scene above was released, its something that really grabbed my attention.  It was harkening back to the imagery of vintage Italian horror by way of someone like Dario Argento.  Then when I heard what a weird movie it was and that it was receiving some pretty critical and negative response with the usual kind of reviews and attitudes that seem to surface with avante-garde arthouse films, I REALLY wanted to see it.

After my first viewing, I find this film to be just sort of on the better side of “okay”.  Yes, its got that “pretentious” feel that was touted by many who saw the movie, but if you’re watching an arthouse film that’s usually a given.  I don’t know why it always gets pointed out.  Anyway, this is a film I don’t feel I (or most people not named Ryan Gosling) can grasp with just the initial venture.  Lost River is one to watch, put it back for a while, let it and yourself age, then pull it down again and see what happens.  Maybe it gets better, maybe its just not as good.  Either way, I think subsequent viewings will elicit a stronger thought on the film.

The cinematography on the film is quite grand here.  That, coupled with a nice score is what really carries the movie on the first view.  Gosling and his director of photography really know how to structure and light a gorgeous frame.  This movie is one that you could just take the dialogue off to watch and probably find a whole new enjoyable movie.  Hell, there’s no bonus features on here, but they really should have done an isolated score track.  That doesn’t sound like much, but I think would have been a phenomenal addition to his release.

I guess my analysis of the film would have to leave it as a little bit above average right now.  Although the film “looks” outstanding, its story is still something I’d want a little more time to digest or study a little more.  Gosling’s influence feel very David Lynch and Italian horror as well as some other things.  They’re a bit obvious but they still work.  Lost River isn’t a film I highly recommend, unless you’re into pretty looking/sounding arthouse stuff carrying the weight of your film, this is one you’ll want to pick up to go back and study maybe a couple times again in the future.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail: This is pretty close to a perfect picture.  The image is sharp, crisp and plenty detailed.  From finger smudges on plastic, to rough floor textures to he the distinction of blades of grass the image looks really fine.  Its a beautifully shot movie as I’d mentioned and this transfer is a wonder to awe and enjoy.

Depth:  Movement is clean and smooth.  Backgrounds look crisp and clear as they can allow.  Characters and objects look loose and free in any given environment.

Black Levels:  Blacks are nice and shadowy.  There is a lot of enhancement and character with the blacks in this image.  There is some very minimal crushing at a few points though.  Nothing really damning though.

Color Reproduction:  There is a beautiful palette of color on display in this film and its represented quite well in this transfer.  Greens look beautiful, as do lavenders and reds.  Gosling’s film has plenty of “pretty pictures” with the cinematography and every one of them looks stunning in this Blu-ray.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones look accurate and are consistent throughout within their environments.  Facial and skin detail is commendable at any distance.  Wrinkles, cuts, sutbble blemishes and freckles are all made plenty apparent with this transfer.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  This is a pretty effective track.  There is a lot of sensory and feelings in this film evoked by the use of sound and this 5.1 track conveys it quite well.  The score sounds tremendous through the mix.  Effects are well rounded and distinctly defined.  These factors and the score sound nice and loose and they blend and balance through the audio.

Low Frequency Extension:  Plenty of heavy and impactful use of the LFE here.  The score sounds vibrant.  There is loud machinery that cracks and rumbles, jolting you out of your seat.  Engines of cars and trucks hum with a feeling that you’re inside of the vehicle.  There are also some other great punchy moments like tools hitting hard concrete foundation as well.  The sound of such things described is really rich and genuine too.

Surround Sound Presentation:  The whole film is full of natural and weird ambiance, which the 5 channel setup absolutely nails.  There is activity in the rear speakers that completely validates their participation.  Movement and action is parlayed with precision through the front speakers.  Volume placement and pitch are also produced with accuracy.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clear and crisp.  Its loud and always plenty audible.  Pitch, placement and movement are all cataloged well in the mix.

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Extras 

Lost River contains no bonus material or special package supplements.

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Summary 

Lost River is a film that I’m just not ready to make full judgement on this time.  Its a film that asks you to return to it, to see it in different lights, to find new things and make new assessments.  This Blu-ray gives it a great presentation for said repeat viewings.  The big bummer is that there is jack squat when it comes to insight on this film on the disc.  While I don’t need this film spelled out for me or explained, it’d be nice to get a sense of the production, influences and some of the motivation behind it.  I’m okay with my own thoughts being my guide, but as someone being a fan of the film, you don’t get anything else.  If you like the film like I do, you’ll want to hang on to this one for further studies.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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