Snow Falling On Cedars

Snow Falling On Cedars (1999)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Youki Kudoh, James Cromwell, Max Von Sydow
Extras: Documentary, Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer, Production Notes, Talent Files

’Snow Falling on Cedars’ is a film, which is based on a prize-winning novel by David Guterson. It has a very serious, and detailed plot, which gets somehow lost in the lush camerawork by director Scott Hicks.
The film takes place in the Pacific Northwest in the years following World War II. After a local fisherman is found dead, the main suspect is the last person who saw him alive, Kazuo (Rick Yune). Newspaper owner Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke) covers the story, only to learn that Kazuo is married to Hatsue (Youki Kudoh), who was Ishmael’s childhood love.

There’s nothing a beautiful movie deserves more than a nice DVD transfer, and ’Snow Falling on Cedars’ receives one indeed. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and is letterboxed at 2.35:1. The deep and dark colors and handled well on the DVD, with the dark shadows contrasting very nicely with the white snow. The picture is very clear, showing little signs of grain or defects in the source material. Another highlight of the DVD is the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix. At the outset of the film, we are introduced to the groaning noise of a boat at sea. Later, during the courtroom scenes, this noise is replayed (presumably, it’s the snow settling on the room of the courthouse), and the discreet Dolby mix makes this added audio bonus noticeable, but not overwhelming. The dialogue in the film is very clear and audible at all times.

As per usual, Universal has packed the DVD for ’Snow Falling on Cedars’ with many extras. There’s an audio commentary by director Scott Hicks, whose interesting accent and thoughtful insights make the commentary very interesting. Universal’s ’Spotlight on Location’ shows some behind the scenes footage, and has interviews with the film’s principals, including author Guterson. There is a section devoted to the real life ’Manzanar’, a concentration camp in California where Japanese Americans were sent during WWII. You can also find several deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer, production notes and talent files on this disc. ’Snow Falling on Cedars’ is a beautiful movie and a great DVD, but a good story gets buried under all of the cinematography.