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“Reality” exposé gets a solid 4K update: “The Truman Show: 25th Anniversary Edition”

Updated: Jul 26, 2023


4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS

Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, raised from infancy to adulthood in front of 5,000 television cameras. Ed Harris plays Christof, the God-like character, who’s the creator/producer of “The Truman Show,” which is airing its 30th season following Truman 24/7.


(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)



“THE TRUMAN SHOW: 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION”

4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy; 1998; PG for thematic elements and mild profanity; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (iTunes) 4K, Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: “How’s it Going to End? Making of” featurette






WHO’S the top Aussie import in Hollywood?

Russell Crowe, Not quite.

Nicole Kidman. Try again.

Director Baz Luhrmann. Getting warmer.

Without equivocation, its director Peter Weir. Who? Remember “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World? How about “Dead Poet Society” with Robin Williams? Or, Best Picture nominated “Witness” with Harrison Ford?

Ringing any bells?

Twenty-five years ago, Weir’s prophetic glimpse of reality TV was “The Truman Show.” Andrew Niccol’s (“Gattaca”) original script was heavily sci-fi, with Truman living in New York City. The director clearly wanted something different, forcing 16 revisions before getting the script right.

Actor Jim Carrey (Truman Burbank) and Weir considered the project a joint venture – with Carrey clearly wanting to break out of his over-the-top comedy rut. After nearly two months of production in Seaside, Fla., in a planned shoreline community – Weir still had issues. He still didn’t have Christof – his God-like character. Ed Harris signed on only days before filming and nailed the role perfectly as the TV producer controlling Truman’s world. “There’s nothing fake about Truman himself. No scripts, no cue cards. It isn’t always Shakespeare, but it’s genuine. It’s a life,” Christof says.


(1) Truman starts the day by talking to the mirror before heading to work. (2&3) Every morning Truman greets his neighbors. “Oh! And in case I don’t see ya! Good afternoon, good evening, and good night!” (4&5) Before he pulls out of the driveway a studio light falls from the sky and lands in the middle of the street. Truman isn’t sure what to think of the mysterious light as he stares toward the sky.






We pick up Truman’s life on Day 10,909 – as 5,000 hidden cameras capture his every move. Everyone from his friends, neighbors, and his jovial wife are actors. Truman is yet to discover that his world since birth is television’s biggest show and he’s the star. He exits the front door heading to work and on cue, he sees his neighbors. He yells across the street, just like the day before and the day before that, “Oh! And in case I don’t see ya! Good afternoon, good evening, and good night!”

Then out of nowhere, a studio light falls from the sky. Truman runs toward the broken light in the middle of the street. He picks it up and finds a piece of duct tape on it labeled: Sirius 9. To denounce the accident, a radio newsflash broadcasts that an aircraft began shedding parts as it flew over Truman’s hometown of Seahaven. From this day forward Truman will question everything he sees and hears while yearning for the islands of Fiji, where Lauren his only true love moved with her family.

Every episode of “The Truman Show” features this grandiose TV introduction:




“1.7 billion were there for his [Truman] birth. 220 countries tuned in for his first step. The world stood still for that stolen kiss. And as he grew, so did the technology. An entire human life recorded on an intricate network of hidden cameras, and broadcast live and unedited, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to an audience around the globe.


Coming to you now from Seahaven Island, enclosed in the largest studio ever constructed, and along with the Great Wall of China one of two man-made structures visible from space, now in its 30th great year… It’s the Truman Show!”



(1) The master-planned community of Seaside, Fla. subs for Seahaven Island for “The Truman Show. (2) Twin brothers Ron and Don Taylor bump into Truman every day at the same spot. (3) A co-worker tells Truman layoffs are possible at the insurance company and that he should work harder. (4&5) Truman’s wife Meryl, played by Laura Linney, plugs a product advertisement for “The Chef's Pal,” while talking with Truman. (6) Truman uses a golf ball to show his best friend Marlon (Noah Emmerich) how far the islands of Fji are from Seahaven. (7) A narrow stream of rain orchestrated by Christof lands on Truman.





The admirable supporting cast includes Laura Linney as Truman’s wife Meryl, Noah Emmerich as best friend Marlon, Natascha McElhone as Truman’s first love Lauren / Sylvia, and Holland Taylor as his mother. For years, critics and moviegoers have given “Truman” praise, receiving over 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Back in the day, it also received three Academy Award nominations including Weir’s third nod for Best Director, and for Best Screenplay with Niccol’s clever and humorist script, and Harris’ Best Supporting Actor performance. Many were surprised that Carrey didn't receive an Oscar nod as the likable ordinary guy. Still, it finished as the 10th biggest worldwide box office hit of 1998, landing between “Lethal Weapon 4” and “Enemy of the State.”

EXTRAS

All of the bonus features are carried over from the 2005 Special Edition DVD. The 50-minute two-part “How’s it Going to End” includes interviews with Weir and his key cast members, who provide plenty of insider stories. Emmerich knew from the beginning “The Truman Show” was something special and considers it one of the best of the ‘90s. “Every decade there’s a couple of films that sort of hold up and capture the time they are made and sort of have a timeless quality about them,” he says.

Weir delves into his reworking of the script with Niccol’s, wanting Truman’s world to be on the lighter side, with “enlivening, therapeutic, and a sort of charming, relaxing quality to it.” At the same time, everyone had admiration for Carrey, as the producers and a director waited two years for his schedule to open up to play Truman. Weir first saw Carrey’s acting in the wacky comedy “Ace Ventura,” and “knew then he was a star.” But for the Canadian actor/comedian, Carrey was nervous about working with the stoic director – thinking he would pull a Moses on him, “with granite, written-in-stone ideas.” In reality, the two collaborated with ease, “[We would] scratch this out together,” Carrey says.

Weir also reveals how he wrote a 10-page backstory for the character Christof, who had been an Oscar-winning documentarian, who originally planned to only follow Truman from birth to year one. Yet when the show proved so successful, he received the financing to build Seahaven, with the hope to follow Truman till his death. While Emmerich created his own backstory on Marlon, who’d been on the show his whole life, growing up with Truman and becoming best friends. “That was authentic, I think, a real relationship.” At the same time, there was the very pushy stage mother, “willing to sell her son into this unreality and sacrifice his childhood.”



4K Ultra HD (2023) vs. Blu-ray (2008)

The new 4K master has been remastered in the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio, while the 2008 Blu-ray was mastered in 1.66:1. The 4K disc provides a wider horizon frame and a slightly cropped image on the top and bottom of the frame. The Ultra HD disc also provides a much sharper image, and clarity, while the 1080p disc was plagued with digital noise reduction, edge enhancement, and garish colors.






Linney describes her challenge of first playing actress Hannah Gill first, and then playing Meryl Burbank. Basically, she’s an actress playing an actress, who’s playing a character in a reality TV show. “It was just great fun, coming up with endless amounts of backstories,” she said.

VIDEO

The new 4K restoration from Paramount is a night and day difference compared to the enclosed Blu-ray, which is a restamping of the 15-year-old disc. This go-around, the original camera negative was scanned in 4K and presented in its theatrical 1.85:1 aspect, while the Blu-ray is in 1.66:1 aspect. The top and bottom of the frame are slightly cropped compared to previous discs, while the horizontal frame is wider, as intended by Weir and cinematographer Peter Biziou (“Time Bandits,” “Mississippi Burning”). The level of clarity is remarkable, superbly sharp with close-ups and distant views of Seahaven Island. For the first time, we see the true, natural film grain that varies throughout. At times the grain is very fine and at other moments it’s much courser. On the Blu-ray, it’s nearly nonexistent with a major dose of digital noise reduction with its old 2K master.

The HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading also gives the film its naturally expanded color palette with a balanced level of contrast from controlled highlights to mid-tones and shadows. The Blu-ray is garish with its colors – especially reds and highlights so overblown, nearly everything in the brightest areas is. It would have been much better if the video bitrate was encoded at a higher level, as the picture varies from a very low 15 Megabits per second to a desirable 80-plus Mbps, and averages in the upper 50 Mbps.


(1&2) Truman’s father (Brian Delate) reappears dressed as a homeless man and Truman goes to his mother (Holland Taylor) trying to find an explanation for the encounter. Years earlier on the show, his father died in a boating accident as Truman watched his drowning. (3&4) Truman discovers the beautiful Lauren (Natascha McElhone) his only true love. The character wasn’t written to be his love and she was forced from the show, and Truman was told she and her family moved to the islands of Fiji.




AUDIO

A new eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack has been created, giving a more immersive soundstage to this multifaced score – a combination of original music from German composer Burkhard Dallwitz, four previous electronic works from Philip Glass, and a couple of originals, plus one of Chopin’s finest, the Second Movement of his first Piano Concerto (Romance-Larghetto). The dialogue-driven story is still front and center with the right balance of effects and its absorbing score. Dallwitz and Glass won the Golden Globe for Best Original Score. Glass has a cameo as the in-studio piano player while Truman sleeps.

Today, the six-time Oscar-nominated Peter Weir has retired from filmmaking. His last film to hit the silver screen was in 2010, with the World War II prison drama, based on the true story “The Way Back.” It also starred Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, and Colin Farrell, who escape from a Siberian labor camp to make a 4,000-mile trek to freedom.

A quarter-century later, “The Truman Show” remains profound with its message of truth, hope, and privacy within the world of communication. Clearly, it’s one of Weir’s best and well worth your time and investment for your growing 4K library.

SIDENOTE: Two of Weir’s earlier films “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (1975) is already on 4K, while “The Last Wave” (1977), gets its 4K release in Australia later this summer.

Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer


(1) A picture-perfect sunset as Truman talks with Marlon about leaving Seahaven Island. (2) Truman boards a bus to get out of town. (3&4) The control room directors (Adam Tomei & Paul Giamatti) watch while Truman sleeps and composer Philip Glass at the keyboard provides the soothing background music. (5-7) Christof and the TV audience watch as Truman tries to escape from his studio world. (8&9) Truman’s scrapbook image of Lauren is his driving force and he finds the edge of his world.



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