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Fox Lorber presents
The Directors: Barry Levinson (2000)

"In the end - it is the energy and the passion to see something on the screen that becomes the first order of business."
- Barry Levinson

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: August 29, 2000

Stars: Barry Levinson
Other Stars: Robin Williams, Paul Reiser, Dustin Hoffman, Anne Heche
Director: Robert J. Emery

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language)
Run Time: 00h:58m:27s
Release Date: August 01, 2000
UPC: 720917309323
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+CC+ D

DVD Review

The Directors—Barry Levinson is another entry in the extensive documentary series produced by the American Film Institute and Media Entertainment, distributed by Winstar on DVD. This volume focuses on the prolific, versatile Levinson, consisting of film clips and interviews with the director and his stars including Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Anne Heche, Paul Reiser and others. Featured films from his long and varied career include Diner; Good Morning, Vietnam; Rain Man; Bugsy; Disclosure; Wag the Dog; and Liberty Heights.

Barry Levinson has made so many different kinds of films that it's difficult to extrapolate from his work to his personality. This one-hour documentary reveals him as a down-to-earth director with a genuine interest in people and their stories, not particularly concerned with genres or commercial considerations, though his career has included a number of sizable hits. He comes across as an intelligent, soft-spoken person who simply loves making movies. There's nothing flamboyant or opinionated in his demeanor, and he avoids analyzing his methods, though he seems comfortable enough talking about his work. The actors interviewed here clearly respect him and have enjoyed working with him; Robin Williams even manages a few serious remarks when he's not riffing wildly on Barry and his films. Robert J. Emery's production is structured chronologically, covering Levinson's career from his early days writing for Mel Brooks to 1999's Liberty Heights in a clear, straightforward manner.

Of course, the DVD audience has become a tad spoiled by feature-length commentaries and behind-the-scenes documentaries. This disc covers eight of Levinson's films in sixty minutes, and fans will want to know much more than can be provided here. Critical discussion of Levinson's work is also notably absent, giving the material a bit of a "featurette" flavor throughout. But The Directors series is meant to provide introductory overviews of major contemporary filmmakers, and it does a fine job in this case. I had forgotten that some of the featured films were directed by Levinson, and I know I'll be seeking out more of his work in the future.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The Directors—Barry Levinson originated on video, and is presented on DVD in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio, though some (not all) movie clips are presented in letterboxed OAR format. The digital transfer seems solid, but the video source introduces some NTSC artifacts including red/blue aliased colors and scan-line ripples. The film clips are generally on the soft side, and colors in the interview segments aren't very natural. But this is a content-oriented disc, not a visual tour-de-force, and this thoroughly average transfer doesn't interfere with the production. I just wish all the film clips were in their proper aspect ratios.

Image Transfer Grade: C

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Winstar provides this release with a standard Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio track. Surrounds are generally limited to stock music, with interview audio centered and most of the film clips monophonic or front-oriented. The audio is cleanly mastered, generally clear and comprehensible, but nothing special.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Weblink to Winstar/Fox Lorber Video web site
  2. DVD Production Credits
Extras Review: Winstar's The Directors—Barry Levinson DVD features the standard minimal set of Fox Lorber supplements, with static menus and 8 picture menu chapter stops, perfectly adequate in this case. Of course, the entire disc is a supplement of sorts, so the absence of true "extras" here isn't a serious drawback:

DVD Production Credits:

A simple text screen crediting the individuals responsible for the DVD release.

Filmography and Awards:

Simple illustrated text screens presenting a comprehensive Barry Levinson filmography (including upcoming 2000 and 2001 projects) and a list of awards earned by his films.

Weblink:

DVD-ROM drives access an .HTML file to reach the Winstar Video/Fox Lorber websites, while standard DVD players present a text screen with the www.winstarvideo.com address.



Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

The Directors—Barry Levinson is a solid if brief overview of Levinson's work, competently transferred to DVD by Winstar. Levinson fans will probably want to rent before buying, since there may be little "new" information in this one-hour documentary; it's still a recommended rental for anyone with an interest in film and filmmaking.

 


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