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SENSE AND SENSIBILITY ($28) is something that so few modern films are- namely intelligent. But then again, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY is based upon a nineteenth century novel by Jane Austen. Actress Emma Thompson won an Academy Award for smart screenplay that brings Austen's genteel novel to life on the screen. Thompson also stars in the film as Elinor, eldest daughter to the second wife of the recently departed Mr. Dashwood. Unfortunately, the family estate can only be passed onto Mr. Dashwood’s son from his first marriage. This leaves Elinor, along with her mother and two sisters with little money and no home of their own. The situation appears hopeless, until some relatives offer the four Dashwood women use of a cottage on their country estate.

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY follows the lives of the Dashwood women, paying particular attention to romantic entanglements of the reserved Elinor and her headstrong sister Marianne (Kate Winslet). Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant portray two of Elinor and Marianne's suitors, who find that wooing the Dashwood sisters to be a rather complex proposition. There isn't a single weak performance in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, with the four primary roles being played to utter perfection. I was especially impressed with Alan Rickman's deeply moving portrayal of Colonel Brandon, performance that leaves his better-known turn in DIE HARD in the dust. While SENSE AND SENSIBILITY is referred to as a romantic comedy, it is difficult to categorize the film in such simplistic terms. True, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY is romantic and quite humorous, yet it is so much more. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY is also a stirring drama, as well as being a beautiful period film that meticulously recreates a way of life that is now almost two centuries out of date. The cast of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY features James Fleet, Tom Wilkinson, Harriet Walter, Gemma Jones, Emilie Francois, Elizabeth Spriggs, Robert Hardy, Ian Brimble, Isabelle Amyes, Greg Wise, Alexander John, Imelda Staunton, Imogen Stubbs and Hugh Laurie.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has done a terrific job with their DVD edition of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY is offered in its correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and the DVD features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. Columbia TriStar's transfer is simply superb, which is nothing less than what I have to expect from this company. The image is sharp and finely detailed, giving one a genuine appreciation for the film's beautiful cinematography, ornate sets and intricate costumes. Color reproduction is excellent, faithfully recreating a broad spectrum of highly saturated hues during daylight sequences, as well as the warm, glowing tones of the interiors. There are absolutely no traces of chroma noise or color bleeding anywhere during the presentation. Blacks are accurately rendered, plus the image creates an excellent level of shadow detail for the realistically under-lit interior sequences. The use of dual layer technology precludes any appreciable evidence of digital compression artifacts on this DVD.

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY features a Dolby Digital 5.0 channel soundtrack that is everything one would expect from a dialogue driven, period film. Most of the sound emanates from the forward soundstage, with the center channel handling the majority of sonic information. The left and right forward channels do provide some directionality for sound effects, as well as stereo imaging for the film’s musical score. The surround channels provide some ambient sound and musical fill. Dialogue is always clean, intelligible and natural sounding. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are Spanish and Portuguese language tracks. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai.

The interactive menus are attractive, but quite basic in their implementation. Through the menus one can access the standard scene selection and set up features. The DVD’s supplemental material is also accessible through the menu system. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY features two audio commentaries, one with Emma Thompson and producer Lindsay Doran, and the other with director Ang Lee and co-producer James Schamus. Fans of the film will find both talks rewarding. Also included is Emma Thompson’s Golden Globes acceptance speech, two deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer.

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY is a wonderful movie that belongs in the collection of anyone that loves great cinema. Columbia TriStar’s DVD edition of the film is absolutely the best way to own SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 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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