Blu-ray
Worth a Look
3.5 stars
Overall Grade
3.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
1 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Worth a Look

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Japanese Import)

Street Date:
April 20th, 2008
Reviewed by:
High-Def Digest staff
Review Date: 1
July 8th, 2008
Movie Release Year:
2004
Studio:
Gaga
Length:
108 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
Japan

Editor's Notes

This is a review of the Japanese Blu-ray import of 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,' a title distributed in the US by Universal. This movie has already been released on HD DVD, but the studio has yet to announce a domestic Blu-ray release.

For more information about importing BD discs, visit the BD imports thread in our forums area.

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

If you could willingly erase the memory of a painful relationship from your consciousness, would you? Director Michel Gondry and writer Charlie Kaufman ask this exact question with 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,' a trippy, time-bending examination of memory, love, and a lonely man's encounter with heartache. Injecting subtle sci-fi overtones into an all-too-familiar modern world, Gondry and Kaufman construct a dense and surprisingly poignant maze for their main characters and audience -- one that speaks directly to our personalities, experiences, and the whole of the human condition.

'Eternal Sunshine' introduces Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet), two volatile lovers who meet by chance, enter into a tumultuous relationship, and eventually drift apart. However, shortly after their separation, Joel discovers that Clementine has hired a local psychiatrist (Tom Wilkinson) to erase her memory of their time together. When anger, revenge, and loss pushes him to pursue the same procedure, a trio of technicians (Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, and Elijah Wood) arrive at Joel's apartment to remove the memories of Clementine from his mind. At this point, the story takes a sudden turn for the surreal as an unconscious Joel decides he doesn't want to forget his painful past after all. Fighting to wake up, he takes a journey through literal incarnations of his subconscious realities and dream worlds to hide memories of Clementine from the technicians.

Sound complicated? While the story is a bit daunting to follow the first time through, Kaufman's screenplay allows his audience to decipher exactly what's happening inside of Joel's mind without drowning in impenetrable subplots or character arcs. Gondry takes it one step further by actually demanding patience from his audience -- in fact, it's absolutely crucial to pay close attention to the timeline of Joel's memories (here's a hint: keep your eye on Clementine's hair color to piece together the history of their relationship). Those with a keen mind, a hungry intellect, and the desire to unravel practical and metaphysical mysteries are sure to fall in love with 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.'

Carrey pulls off the dramatic role of a lifetime, infusing his portrayal of Joel with naturalistic pathos and genuine humanity. Moments of humor with the comedian are sweet and authentic, but never drift over-the-top as one might expect. Winslet is also a revelation, crafting Clementine into a manic, self-centered force that leads a conflicted life. Adorable at one moment and bitter the next, the actress masterfully moves through four different character arcs in the course of a single film. Better still, the supporting cast is peppered with fantastic, dual-natured performances. An eccentric Wilkinson is over-confident and weak, Dunst is flighty and troubled, Ruffalo is naïve and hesitant, and Wood is dark and desperate.

While I'm hardly the first to praise Kaufman's screenplay, the thing that impresses me the most about its structure is that it continues to reveal nuances to me, even after having watched the film a dozen times before. Gondry, as well, is simply brilliant in his direction. He somehow manages to create dreamscapes that consistently ring true -- appearing as bursts of consciousness, faltering like memories, and skipping from beat to beat just as the mind scans a series of disjointed thoughts. To that end, his cinematography and practical effects are striking and magnificent. I can't imagine this film working if it had been helmed by any other director.

In the end, the surreal world of 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' may not be for everyone, but it will certainly delight anyone who enjoyed 'Being John Malkovich' or 'Adaptation' (both written by Kaufman). It won an Academy Award in 2005 for Best Original Screenplay and racked up several acting and directing honors from the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, and the BAFTAs. All in all, a great script, ingenious direction, and a group of pitch-perfect performances make this film a personal favorite, and a solid recommendation.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

When I reviewed Universal's domestic HD DVD more than a year ago, I was thoroughly impressed with its gorgeous transfer and lush visuals. This Japanese 1080p/AVC-encoded import grabbed hold of me as well, but pleased me even more. While the two transfers are nearly identical in motion, still shots made it clear that the HD presentation is slightly softer. Its grain is more subdued, fine details aren't as crisp, and the director's original intent is a bit muffled. It's unclear whether the HD version is marred by an application of DNR or the BD version simply had the benefit of an extra year in the format's production cycle. Either way, it's clear that this BD import ever-so-slightly trumps the domestic edition HD DVD with a more faithful transfer.

As it stands, this import showcases strong contrast, heavy blacks, and vibrant bursts of color that thrive in spite of Gondry's muted palette. Sharp textures, crisp fine object detail, and clean edges add a welcome level of depth to the image, giving equal attention to the foreground and background. Keep your eyes peeled during scenes in Wilkinson's office -- you can read the text on his various pamphlets, make out the titles of small books, and see the individual page corners sticking out of closed file folders. Bright snow scenes and darker dream sequences are amazing as well. I didn't encounter any issues with black crush and found that nighttime details are far more visible than they are on the standard DVD. ?Finally, Gondry's practical visual effects and filtering techniques don't hinder the impact of the transfer at all and actually look more convincing in high-def than they have before.

Only a handful of nitpicks remained. I encountered some very faint color banding, a trio of murky shots that suffered from poor lighting, and a few shots that were softer than the rest of the film. Even so, these minor issues only hold the transfer back from perfection. While the visual improvements in this Japanese import aren't quite noticeable enough to warrant an adjustment to my domestic HD DVD video score, purists will be pleased to know they have the most faithful high-def transfer available.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

This Blu-ray import again trumps Universal's domestic release by offering fans a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track in place of the HD DVD's already impressive Dolby Digital Plus mix. While I'm aware of the dangers of placebo-driven criticism, I'm fairly confident after a side by side comparison that the BD import delivers fuller low-end tones and more intricate ambience.

It would be easy to assume that 'Eternal Sunshine' is a quiet, dialogue heavy flick, but quite the opposite is true. While there are moments of silence, scenes in Joel's mind explode with sound. Collapsing buildings, air implosions, lingering voices from the technicians, and ambiance creates a nightmarish soundscape. The subwoofer hits overdrive at times and the earthy bass tones are well rounded and resonant. Likewise, dialogue is crisp and clear with treble tones that never waver or ring in the higher range. The track can be front heavy at times, but according to an interview with Gondry, scenes outside of Joel's mind were audibly subdued so that scenes inside his consciousness feel more alive to the audience than the real world.

Every channel gets a full workout and the soundfield has great movement, accuracy, and presence. The track makes it very easy to immerse in the world of the film and I found myself tricked into thinking some of the more subtle effects were taking place in my home theater. The sound design is expertly prioritized and every sound that should be heard is heard. There are a few moments in Joel's subconscious when things are obscured or inaudible but, again, these moments appear to be intentionally stylized in this manner by the director.

The only remaining issue I had with the mix concerns the volume of the soundtrack. While I enjoyed the musical selection and the score itself, I remember the music having a fuller presence when I saw the film in theaters. I noticed the same thing on the standard DVD and can only imagine this was altered after its theatrical run for some reason. It's not muffled or low, it just seemed to swell more the first time I saw the film -- so take that for what it's worth.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The only area that this Japanese import doesn't outclass the domestic HD DVD is in regards to its supplemental package. While the HD DVD boasted featurettes, deleted scenes, and other bizarre goodies, this Blu-ray import only includes an audio commentary, some text based bios and production notes (in Japanese of course), and a selection of the film's international theatrical trailers.

Thankfully, the lone supplement that remains is an excellent commentary featuring director Michel Gondry and writer Charlie Kaufman. Gondry has a heavy French accent, but after about five minutes I found him to be quite easy to follow and understand. Both Gondry and Kaufman pack the track with informative details about the roots of the story, the writing, the filming, the performances, and the differences between the original script and the final film. While both men compliment each other on a regular basis, they're also light on their feet, poking fun at each other's inadequacies. It's clear they have a mutual respect for each other and have developed a tight friendship. Gondry drifts into long descriptions of the technical tricks of the film at times, but only to describe how certain effects and camera shots worked with minimal CG enhancement. This is a great commentary track abuzz with all sorts of information that I never found to be dry or boring in any way.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Nothing.

Final Thoughts

'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' is a twisted look inside a man's subconscious that's sure to frighten, disturb, and enlighten an audience's perception of their own minds. Some wonderful performances, a great script, and interesting direction and effects work make this a must see flick for those open to a more surreal cinematic experience. This Japanese Blu-ray import trumps the domestic HD DVD with a more faithful video transfer and a lively Dolby TrueHD audio track. It doesn't include the majority of video featurettes that appeared on the HD DVD, but importers probably won't mind. Until Universal announces a domestic Blu-ray release, this is a fine alternative that will give fans a near-perfect rendition of the film.

Thanks to Nate Boss ("n8boss87" to anyone on the message boards) for supplying this disc for review!

Technical Specs

  • BD-25 Single-Layer Disc
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Subtitles/Captions

  • Japanese Subtitles

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary
  • Theatrical Trailers

Exclusive HD Content

  • None

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