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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Paddle to the Sea (1966)

"Who knows how far you may gone? Who knows how far you've come?"
- Narrator

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: May 08, 2008

Director: Bill Mason

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:28m:17s
Release Date: April 29, 2008
UPC: 715515029025
Genre: family


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-BB- D+

DVD Review

A lonely wood carving makes the perilous journey from a small Canadian lake to the great, wide ocean in filmmaker Bill Mason's Academy Award-nominated production of the celebrated children's book by Holling C. Holling. This short feature, a staple of lazy elementary school afternoons, is deceptively simple, a cute narrative about a wandering toy that touches on nature's unyielding beauty and man's relationship with, and responsibility to, the world around him.

"I am Paddle to the Sea—Please Put Me Back in the Water." A young boy carves those words onto the bottom of a small, hand-carved wooden canoe carrying a tiny native chief, and releases it into an icy lake in Canada, dreaming that it will one day make its way to the sea. The journey is captured with remarkable, subtle ingenuity by Mason, a nature filmmaker for whom this was a two-year passion project. It's not a sentimental film—there is a narrator rather than dialogue, and the toy never "speaks," or is anthropormorphized in any real way. The focus is its journey through a shifting natural and man-made landscape, swept along by forces beyond its control.

There are moments of whimsy, as a bird perches atop the chief's head, and danger, as a fish hunts a frog that is using the boat to hide from its predator. There are quiet moments of contemplation, as the toy is frozen for the winter in an icy lake or floats gently down a still river. Eventually, it leaves nature and enters waters dominated by man, slipping unnoticed past giant cargo haulers only to become briefly mired in toxic waste from a plant dumping pollutants into Lake Superior.

Mason presents these images without really commenting on them. The beautiful and the ugly moments of the journey are given equal weight and consideration, and he's not afraid to let the silences play out, most memorably in a scene in which the toy floats along as fireworks explode in the sky above it. The film has a gentle, meandering, storybook quality that encourages children to draw their own conclusions about what they are seeing, and it offers no easier answers to adults, except maybe a familiarity—that sometimes life sweeps you up in its irreversible flow, and you are powerless and can only float along with it. That's a lot to read into a simple little movie, but even if you don't buy it, Paddle to the Sea is too unusual to dismiss outright.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: The fullframe transfer, presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, looks fairly strong, considering the source material. Filmed with 16 mm cameras, the pictures is naturally grainy, but detail and clarity remain strong. Colors aren't exactly vibrant and making out detail in darker scenes is a bit tough, but the transfer serves the material rather well overall, considering many people probably saw this projected from classroom filmstrip projectors in their youth. Early on, there are a few scratches down the center of the frame, but the rest of the print appears relatively clean.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The undemanding audio sounds fine on this slightly muffled mono mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No real extras to speak of, but the presentation is nice for such an obscure release. The short feature receives a generous 10 chapter stops (plus one for color bars) and English subtitles. A booklet includes a brief essay providing some perspective on the production and the film's ultimate message.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

A patient, lyrical ode to the forces of nature, Bill Mason's Paddle to the Sea is a delightful children's story brought to life. Despite its age and methodical pace, there's no reason today's young children can't enjoy it just as much on DVD as those who watched it decades ago, clattering through the reels of a classroom projector.

 


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