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Brainstorm is a fascinating but frustrating film, simply because it dabbles in greatness but fails to develop the fullest implications of its provocative ideas. It's a visually dazzling film with outstanding special effects; directed by veteran eff
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The movie was shot and edited in 70mm, and had a Dolby Stereo soundtrack that went from Center Channel for all 'real-life,' sequences...and L/R channels (extremely separated) on the TRIAD/Brainstorm sequences. While the audio jumped back and forth, the VISUAL element went from modest widescreen to 70mm SUPER Panavision, during the TRIAD/Brainstorm sequences.
On the "Remastered Version" the video is Letterboxed. This is one of the best treatments for the home viewer. The AUDIO soundtrack was RUINED by going from Dolby 2.0 to 5.1. The center channel remains ON during the side-to-side separation sequences, diminishing, and even overwhelming, the effect. SLOPPY! (Some tech sitting in a cubicle probably just threw the audio into a regular upgrade program and went for coffee...)This AUDIO, KILLS the overall effect, ruining the DVD release.
On the LASERVIDEO released in the 1980's, in the first STEREO format for Home Video, the audio matrixing was embedded in the original stereo code, and survives intact, to be decoded by your sound Dolby unit. But the visuals are SQUASHED...That is the FULL SCREEN treatment (released before Letterboxing caught on.) was at least compensated for a little bit by inserting anamorphic video during the Brainstorm Device sequences. While it DOES disturb the visuals, the anamorphic distorted video does present a surreal effect, by not jumping down to horizontal Letterbox! BUT, AT LEAST SOMETHING DIFFERENT happens to the Sight and Sound during the TRIAD/Brainstorm sequences...
The movie is somewhat uncomfortable to watch. With, a smoker in a lab, the estranged relationship between two of the main characters, the conflict between using the TRIAD/Brainstorm Device for good or evil, the mundane conversations that reveal foreshadowing insights....but, it IS thought-provoking when presented in the original visual and audio format.
REMASTER slight disappointment, ...MAYBE they'll get it 100% right on Blu-Ray (IF criterion picks up the ball.)
Now for the DVD review. It lacks any extras, which is fine I suppose given there's not a great deal of interest in the title other than a niche. The feature presentation however on standard DVD is pretty good. There's color restoration as well as removal of print damage inherent on previous releases, 5.1 surround sound, and it correctly shifts between 1.85:1 pillarboxed and 2.35:1 letterbox. I guess given the recent success of 'The Dark Knight' on bluray with it's own aspect ratio shifting, showing 'Brainstorm' as it originally appeared theatrically wouldn't be that problematic for home theater philes.
In the end, still a cult title that's somewhere between Kubrick and the sentimental humor of Spielberg. A worthwhile two hours with some really nice visual effects sequences. I'm glad it's on DVD.
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