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Blu-ray Reviews: George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Originally published in Australian HI-FI, 2011
Last updated 21 August 2012

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George Harrison: Living in the Material World
2011 - Roadshow Entertainment
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Yoko Ono

Movie: Picture: Sound: Extras:

You'd have to expect this one to be great. Here you have the masterly movie director Martin Scorsese creating a film about the music great George Harrison, so what could could go wrong?

In one sense, nothing has gone wrong. There is lots of archival footage of George and friends, and modern interview footage of the friends alone, and by the time the 207 minutes have passed, you feel like you have a real sense of Harrison, perhaps almost as much as though he were your friend.

But the next day I began to wonder. Was there anything special or interesting about his childhood? What was that legal trouble with 'My Sweet Lord'?

Now you can read all about that in Wikipedia, and in detailed biographies, but it would have been nice to have rounded out this movie into a little more of a biopic. If you already know the facts about George, then you'll love this movie. But if you're uncertain of the dry biographical details, this movie won't help a great deal.

When you check the specs box below, don't worry about the lowish average video bitrate: the picture quality is fine. The average is low because a lot of the visual content consists of very slow zooms into and pans across still photos, and some of its is simply sitting on a still photo without movement. This kind of stuff is made for easy compressibility. The actual moment to moment video bitrate falls as low as 3Mbps, but peaks at over 40Mbps. I'd say that most of the conventional moving footage averages around 22 to 25Mbps. Anyway, it looks perfectly fine, and we're not talking about startling cinematography here.

Sound-wise, most of the movie is talk. There are no songs presented from end to end, nor is there much need to engage the audience with a full surround sound immersion. So the sound is occasionally interesting, but mostly utilitarian.

If you buy the version available from JB HiFi, you get two extra music features, totalling three minutes, and four additional interviews amounting to fifteen minutes. In case you're wondering, the additional material does not detract from picture and sound quality on the original. The same video and audio bitrates are employed. Indeed, the main programs have the same file names. It's just that the JB version uses a bit of the disc that is unused on the standard release (44.89GB vs 43.20GB).

Running time: 207 minutes
Picture: 1.78:1, 1080p24, MPEG4 AVC @ 15.96Mbps
Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 24/48 3/2.1 @ 3456kbps (core: DTS 24/48 3/2.1 @ 1509kbps); English: LPCM 24/48 3/2.1 @ 6912kbps; English Audio Descriptive: Dolby Digital 2/0.0 @ 224kbps
Subtitles: English
Extras: 2 DVDs with movie in two parts; 2 Music Extras (1080p24 - 8 mins); 3 Interviews (1080p24 - 10 mins)
Restrictions: Rated (Australian rating); Locked to Region B

The following video bitrate graph were generated by BDInfo 0.5.7. This is for the movie:

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