HD DVD: For Fans Only
2.5 Stars out of 5
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Release Date: May 21st, 2007
Movie Release Year: 1995
Release Country: France
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Leaving Las Vegas (French Import)

Review Date October 4th, 2007 by
  • Editors Note

    This is a review of the French HD DVD release of 'Leaving Las Vegas.' This movie has not been announced for release on either high-def disc format in the United States, although the domestic home entertainment rights are owned by MGM Home Entertainment, which is currently a Blu-ray exclusive studio.

    Note that this disc is not region-coded and will play in any HD DVD player -- for more information on importing HD DVD discs, click here

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For Fans Only
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  • Editors Note

    This is a review of the French HD DVD release of 'Leaving Las Vegas.' This movie has not been announced for release on either high-def disc format in the United States, although the domestic home entertainment rights are owned by MGM Home Entertainment, which is currently a Blu-ray exclusive studio.

    Note that this disc is not region-coded and will play in any HD DVD player -- for more information on importing HD DVD discs, click here

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: HD DVD,HD-15 Single-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/VC-1
    Length:112
    Release Country:France
    Aspect Ratio(s):1.85:1
    English Descriptive Audio: English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 4.0 Surround (48kHz/16-bit),French DTS-HD High Resolution 4.0 Surround (1.5mbps)
    Subtitles/Captions: French Subtitles,Swedish Subtitles,Danish Subtitles,Finnish Subtitles,Norwegian Subtitles,Netherlands Subtitles
    Special Features: None
    Movie Studio: Studio Canal
    Release Date: May 21st, 2007

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

3.5 Stars out of 5

What is it about alcoholism -- or more accurately, charming alcoholics -- that Hollywood finds so endearing? From light-as-a-truffle affairs like 'Arthur,' to sentimental romantic weapies like 'When a Man Loves a Woman,' to outright camp like 'Valley of the Dolls,' Tinseltown always seems to find a way to turn a life lived at the bottom of a bottle look either like a mere comedic lark, or just another romantic plot device. The reality, of course, is far different -- for those who've been affected directly by alcoholism, there's little charm to the to disease, nor those afflicted with it.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons why Mike Figgis' 'Leaving Las Vegas' continues to endure, over ten years after it first hit theaters. Painting a stylized yet painfully realistic portrait of the ravages of alcoholism, the film offers genuine hope (without resorting to mawkish banality) that redemption is always possible.

Nicolas Cage stars as Ben Sanderson. A once-promising screenwriter, he's lost just about everything except his love for for booze, so he decides to take one last trip to Las Vegas to literally drink himself to death. While there, he meets Sera, a beautiful but beaten-down prostitute who also has little reason to hope. Though Sera is immediately drawn to Ben, theirs will start as a tentative friendship, and will become a relationship of emotional co-dependence. As the course of events turn more tragic, a genuine love will form, but will it be enough to rescue Ben from terminal alcoholism?

While much has been made of his harrowing depictions of both addition and prostitution in 'Leaving Las Vegas,' to his great credit, Mike Figgis doesn't wallow in the darkness. Instead, he's after something more profound: illuminating just what it is that would attract these two very different -- but equally damaged -- souls.

A large portion of the early praise for 'Leaving Las Vegas' was focused on its two lead performances, but personally I'm only a fan of one of them. Nicolas Cage has had perhaps the most erratic career of anyone on Hollywood's A-list, but when he hits the right notes, he can be unforgettable. His subtle, nuanced and lived-in performance as Ben is likely a career-best. He makes his character by turns sad, vulnerable, pathetic and heart-wrenching. I have no idea if Cage has had his own personal troubles with the bottle, but his work here is absolutely authentic. He eventually took home an Oscar for his efforts, and for once the award does not seem misplaced.

Shue, on the other hand, seems out of her element. Perhaps it's unfair to blame her for her beauty, but do self-destructive, strung-out Vegas prostitutes ever look like Elisabeth Shue? Unlike Cage, I never once believed her as Sera, and her stifled, forced monologues with a psychiatrist that Figgis uses to frame the movie seem like excerpts from an audition tape. Though Shue earned almost as much praise as Cage for her role in the film (including a Best Actress Oscar nomination), I remain baffled.

Other viewers make take issue with the film's somewhat predictable plotting. To be sure, there is little dramatic uncertainty nor surprise to the material -- only the crushing inevitability that addiction always brings tragic consequences. That makes for an experience that, however truthful and illuminating, may prove a bit too depressing for some.

Still, I personally found 'Leaving Las Vegas' to be a moving, worthwhile trip the second time around. That's largely due to Figgis' passion for the material, which shines through in his technique. He makes a keen use of stylistic contrast by juxtaposing jumpy pacing with his own largely self-composed stark, jazzy score, and the result is both highly effective and unsettling.

Granted, if it hasn't been for Cage, even Figgis' restraint and passion might not have have been enough to elevate 'Leaving Las Vegas' above a well-made, disease-of-the-week tragedy. But their combined talents pull it off with great aplomb. In 'Leaving Las Vegas,' at last we have a film that doesn't exploit alcohol addiction for romantic pathos, cheap laughs or grotesque camp. For that reason alone, it deserves to be celebrated.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    HD DVD,HD-15 Single-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/VC-1
    Length:112
    Release Country:France
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.85:1
    Audio Formats:
    English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 4.0 Surround (48kHz/16-bit),French DTS-HD High Resolution 4.0 Surround (1.5mbps)
    Subtitles/Captions:
    French Subtitles,Swedish Subtitles,Danish Subtitles,Finnish Subtitles,Norwegian Subtitles,Netherlands Subtitles
    Special Features:
    None
    Movie Studio: Studio Canal
    Release Date: May 21st, 2007

Video Review

3 Stars out of 5

Although 'Leaving Las Vegas' is certainly a film that deserves to be seen, its fairly low budget origins and straightforward visual style don't exactly scream "demo material," making this one an unusual choice for early high-def release. To be sure, there's absolutely nothing overtly wrong with the 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p/VC-1 encode Studio Canal has produced here, but it's just about the last title I'd whip out when I want to show off my home theater.

On the good side, although the low-lit photography of the film results in some fairly severe grain, the source is surprisingly free from any other notable distractions, including dirt or dropouts. Colors are also much more robust than I expected, especially primary hues (Figgis uses red quite effectively as a recurring motif) which are always stable and clean. Fleshtones are also fairly accurate, although due to the inconsistent nature of the photography overall saturation can fluctuate, with many shots and scenes quite bland.

On the not-so-good side, sharpness just isn't up to snuff, and depth is poor. On this point, there is little appreciable upgrade over the title's standard-def DVD release. Shadow delineation is also weak, with the film's heavy grain often obscuring any fine texture. Contrast is fine, but the image never achieves the kind of three-dimensional look I've come to expect from high-def these days. Blacks also waver at times, with the photography again resulting in many shots that looked washed out.

In the end, considering the material, 'Leaving Las Vegas' looks fine overall, but set your expectations accordingly -- unlike the best high-def transfers, this not an HD DVD that's going to make you say, "wow!"

Audio Review

3 Stars out of 5

Like the visuals, the nature of the subdued sound design on 'Leaving Las Vegas' just doesn't deliver much in the way of excitement. Although this disc includes both an English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio mix in 4.0 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) and a French DTS-HD High-Resolution dub (also 4.0 Surround), this may as well be a stereo track.

Sonically speaking, the highlight of the soundtrack is Mike Figgis' own jazzy score. Although I longed for better bleed to the rears, overall the music is rendered quite nicely, with a very warm, silky feel to all the brass. Dialogue is a bit flat by comparison -- for some reason it sounded a bit compressed, with clipped-off highs and low bass that has little punch. Although I didn't have to adjust the volume much during the film, I did have to raise the overall level rather high as the mix is so subdued. Surround use is also meager at best, with no truly discrete effects -- only very minor ambiance.

Again, 'Leaving Las Vegas' sounds fine for the material, but make no mistake -- this one is far from a aural tour de force.

Special Features

0 Stars out of 5

Another Studio Canal blue light special, there are zero supplemental features on this French HD DVD import of 'Leaving Las Vegas.' Well, that is unless you count video and audio test signals and a cheesy minute-long promo for other Studio Canal titles. (Hopefully you don't.)

Final Thoughts

'Leaving Las Vegas' is a tough, uncompromising, and depressing film. But it is inarguably well-made, and features an exceptional (and Oscar-winning) lead performance from Nicolas Cage which alone makes the film worth seeing.

This Studio Canal import HD DVD release is a bit of a head-scratcher. The film's banal visual design and dated soundtrack just doesn't translate well to high-def, nor are there any extras (which drags this disc's overall score down even more). Unless you're simply salivating to own 'Leaving Las Vegas' on HD DVD, you're probably better off spending your high-def dollar on a more worthy title.

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  • Editors Note

    Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    HD DVD,HD-15 Single-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/VC-1
    Length:112
    Release Country:France
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.85:1
    Audio Formats:
    English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 4.0 Surround (48kHz/16-bit),French DTS-HD High Resolution 4.0 Surround (1.5mbps)
    Subtitles/Captions:
    French Subtitles,Swedish Subtitles,Danish Subtitles,Finnish Subtitles,Norwegian Subtitles,Netherlands Subtitles
    Special Features:
    None
    Movie Studio: Studio Canal
    Release Date: May 21st, 2007