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I think that BIRD ($25) marks the point in Clint Eastwood’s career in which he made the move from "actor/director" to genuine filmmaker. With BIRD, Eastwood combines his love of jazz music and his chosen craft to tell the story of legendary musician Charlie "Bird" Parker. Eastwood's film biography depicts Parker's life and career as an emotional Rollercoaster ride that went from the highs of his musical genius to the depths of his self-destructive tendencies. Forest Whitaker gives a superb performance as Parker that makes watching his slide from greatness into uncontrollable addiction truly heart wrenching. Eastwood handles the dark, complex material very well and utilizes Parker's own music as a way to relieve tension throughout the film’s near three hour running time. The solid cast of BIRD also includes Diane Venora, Michael Zelniker, Samuel E. Wright, Keith David, Michael McGuire, James Handy, Morgan Nagler, Arlen Dean Snyder and Sam Robards.

Warner Home Video has made BIRD available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Right up front, let me say that BIRD is a dark movie. The transfer is very good a reproducing the film's darkness, without trying to change the filmmaker's intentions. For the most part, the image is sharp and provides very good detail, although because of the film's dark noir-ish quality, film grain is noticeable during much of the presentation. Colors are rather restrained looking, which enhances the overall atmosphere of the film. Flesh tones are accurate and there are no problems with chromatic distortion of bleeding during the presentation. Blacks are very accurate and the level of shadow detail is pretty good, when one considers how dark this movie is. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed by solid dual layer authoring.

The soundtrack has been nicely re-mixed for this presentation into Dolby Digital 5.1. Since Eastwood utilized actual recordings of Parker, the music should sound badly dated, but does not. In fact, it sounds very good and provides a very full musical presence. The 5.1 channel soundstage enhances the music so that it envelops the viewer, which is rather effective in drawing the listener into Parker’s genius. Other than its musical passages, BIRD is a dialogue driven dramatic film; therefore, sound effect activity isn't overwhelming. Sure, there is some activity in both the forward and the rear soundstages, but it tends to be subdued when compared to new movie mixed directly into Dolby Digital. Dialogue reproduction is clean and always intelligible. A French Dolby Surround soundtrack is also present on the DVD, as are English, Spanish, French and Portuguese subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras. There is an isolated musical track that allows one to listen to the film's musical score by Lennie Niehaus, as well as Charlie Parker's music as it is played in the film. Since none of Parker's performances are complete in the movie, one might prefer to listen to one of Jazz Great’s CDs, rather than this isolated track. A theatrical trailer, a cast listing and some notes on Parker fill out the extras.

BIRD is a very good Eastwood offering that will appeal too his fans, as well as those of musician Charlie Parker. Warner has done a very good job with the DVD, so take the time to check it out.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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