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Bizarre award-winner “Poor Things” gets an exclusive 4K digital release


4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR SCREENSHOTS

Emma Stone received the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Bella Baxter. Willem Dafoe plays Dr. Godwin Baxter, who reads a bedtime story to Bella.


(Click an image to scroll the larger versions) 




“POOR THINGS”

 

4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy; 2023; R for strong and pervasive sexual content, graphic nudity, disturbing material, gore, profanity; Digital copy via Amazon Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Fandango (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), YouTube (4K)

 

Best extra: “Possessing Beauty: The Making of ‘Poor Things’”

 









THINK of “Poor Things” as a Bizarro World version of “Barbie.” In both films, audiences are introduced to a childlike beauty who is manipulated by others, predominantly men. Both films conclude with a distinctly feminist message, with each heroine gradually discovering her strength, power, and ability to make her own choices. Both films have been lauded for striking production design and costumes, with the major difference being that “Poor Things” is totally unique and original, while “Barbie” expands on one of the most popular children’s toys (and its accessories) in the world.

 

Directed by the always-surprising Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite,” “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.”), “Poor Things” stars Emma Stone, who received a Best Actress Oscar for her performance; Willem Dafoe; Mark Ruffalo; Ramy Youssef; Margaret Qualley; Hanna Schygulla; Jerrod Carmichael; and Christopher Abbott. Nominated for 11 Oscars, the film won four, including Production Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Costume Design.

 

The story, based on the 1992 novel by Alasdair Gray, is a reimagining of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” It’s set somewhere in a kooky Victorian past, in which Dr. Godwin Baxter (Dafoe) reanimates a pregnant suicide victim he names Bella (Stone), by transplanting her unborn baby’s brain into her skull. Bella soon evolves from impulsive toddler to impulsive adult, and is accompanied on a surreal odyssey of discovery primarily sexual by attorney Duncan Wedderburn (Ruffalo), hired by Baxter.

 

Meanwhile, Baxter’s assistant Max McCandles (Youssef), to whom Bella is betrothed, pines for her back at the lab. Some third act surprises turn up to threaten Bella’s blossoming autonomy but, not surprisingly, she triumphantly prevails. “Poor Things” is visually anything but poor, bouncing from luscious black and white to glorious color, with some of the most inventive and delightful costumes and sets you’ll ever see.



(1&2) Black and white cinematography gives scenes in Baxters house and operating theater a classic old horror movie vibe. (3) Medical students observe Dr. Baxters methods in the operating theater. (4) Baxter hires one of the students, Max McCandless (Ramy Youssef), to be his assistant. (5) Baxter subdues Bella during an outing with Max.




 

VIDEO/AUDIO

20th Century Searchlight and Disney, its parent company, decided to only release the 4K Ultra HD version digitally. Captured on traditional 35mm film stock and mastered in TRUE 4K this was a missed opportunity to give physical disc lovers the highest quality.

 

The 4K digital and Blu-ray (1.66:1 aspect ratio) look fabulous, from its velvety black and white scenes to the gloriously colorful Technicolor-like sets and costumes. Fine detail is consistently present, bolstered by the lovely grain that comes with being shot on film by cinematographer Robbie Ryan (“The Favourite,” “Slow West”). The added resolution between the 4K and 1080p is most obvious from the endless number of super wide-angle shots. The HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading also produces a more brilliant palette of colors, and expanded contrast levels for a complete cinematic experience.  

 

The 4K digital provides the expansive eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack, while the Blu-ray gets the six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio. Both are excellent, with sound effects well-balanced, and first-timer composer Jerskin Fendrix’s strange, quirky score adding to the overall fantastical qualities of the film. Dialogue is always clear and intelligible. Optional English (and other language) subtitles are available.



(1) The pregnant woman who would become Bella, is about to leap to her death. (2&3) Bella in the process of being reanimated by Baxter. (4) Bella is admonished during dining. (5) Baxter also menagerie several Frankensteined animals including a pig/chicken (“davidEggham”). (6&7) Enters Attorney Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo). 





 

EXTRAS

All of the bonus features are included with the digital copy and on the Blu-ray. There are a couple of deleted scenes, and the making-of documentary, which contains interviews with Lanthimos, cast, and crew members. About her role as Bella, Stone says it was “probably the hardest part I ever played.” She concedes that Lanthimos “likes to put his actors in very extreme circumstances,” and adds that “the story was immediately inspiring to me as a woman that (Bella has) the kind of mind that isn’t conditioned by being a small girl, so that she can operate in a completely non-conditioned way.” Ruffalo further notes, “All the conditioning that women are subjected to do not apply to her, so you get unique situations as she’s exploring her sexuality and society, with no understanding of its norms and rules.”

 

Lanthimos read Gray’s novel in 2010 and “immediately got very excited.” When he contacted Gray about obtaining the rights for a movie, Gray told him he had seen “Dogtooth,” and was therefore pleased to have Lanthimos make his book into a film. Co-producer Ed Guiney (Stone, Lanthimos, and Andrew Lowe also co-produced) credits Lanthimos for “always searching for the humanity in extremes … (and) he’s one of the few directors who can pivot from outrageous violence to high comedy.”

 

Lanthimos recalls that Dafoe never wanted to leave the movie set. “He’ll sleep there until it’s time for him to work.” The actor, who had to undergo 3-4 hours of makeup every day, discusses experiencing the extraordinary sets: “The house is a factor; it shapes how you act.” Hair and makeup artist Nadia Stacey says Dafoe’s scarred patchwork-like face was inspired by portraits by the Irish expressionist painter Francis Bacon. She wanted Dafoe to look “strange, but you also see Willem.”

 

The director hired production designers Shona Heath and James Price, because they were “two people with very different minds,” to co-invent the world of “Poor Things.” Heath says one of her inspirations was the museum of John Soane’s eccentric collections in London. Composer Fendix says his compositions were affected by the film’s sets and costumes. He chose “instruments that involved air and mechanics” as well as harps and glockenspiels, to reflect “how childish all the characters are.”

 

Lanthimos felt this was the right time to make “Poor Things.” “The world was ready to accept this story,” he says. Judging by the number of awards heaped upon it, he was absolutely right. Now let’s see if Mattel comes out with a “Bella Barbie”!

 

— Peggy Earle




Bellas Travels:

Lisbon, The Ship, Alexandria & Paris




 




3 Comments


Ken Roche
Ken Roche
Apr 25

So, it looks good by courtesy of design, but if its story content is anything like Lanthimous's earlier movies, it will most likely have a depravity driven heart - and that's hardly a recommendation. This moviemaker is obsessed with perversion, and no matter how well acted and set up, it's difficult to call it any sort of entertainment. Maybe for the 'arty' or masochistic audiences only.

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Eli Dettlaff
Eli Dettlaff
May 27
Replying to

Shut up. Jesus. I'd hate to hear what you have to say of Kubrick.

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