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September 10, 2013

Movie Review: Quest For Fire (1981, Blu-ray)

Review By: Rob Sibley

I remember watching Quest For Fire when I was just about six years old. I remember staying up late one night and popping in the VHS with my older brother. The film completely captivated my imagination. So twenty years after first seeing the flick on VHS I finally got the chance to revisit it courtesy of Second Sight Pictures on glorious Blu-ray. I tackled the film with great trepidation, you know films you see as a kid and love then you watch them again years later and they lose that magic. Luckily this wasn't the case with Quest For Fire.

I found myself engrossed in the world from frame one. Think about by all means QFF should be a cheese fest. Were dealing with sabor tooth tigers, cave men, ape men and all sorts of things that are recipes for cheese. But director Jean-Jacques Annaud pulls everything off by playing it completely serious. The film is drenched in a rich atmosphere thanks to cinematographer Claude Agostini who usually worked on French comedy's. The locations and costume designs are just spot on and help draw you in. 

 80,000 years ago a primitive tribe guards its most valued possession, fire. They know how to tend it, how to use it, bit its creation remains a mystery. During an attack by neighboring tribe their flame is lost and so begins an epic, obstacle-filled quest to find another source of the element so precious in their struggle for survival.

Philippe Sarde's score ranges from rousing to extremely subtle. He often worked with Roman Polanski, mainly on the two classics Tess & the masterpiece of psychological horror “The Tenant”. Performances are strong all across the board. The great Ron Perlman steals the show as Amoukar. Perlman has always been able to emote through the makeup and he's great at playing beasts. Everything from early work like the Buety & The Beast TV series to Hellboy. He also has great dramatic range evidenced in the Jean Pierre Jeunet classic “City of lost Children”. QFF was Perlman's first feature film and it still remains possibly his best work.

The film cannot be discussed without bringing up Rae Dawn Chong as Ika. It's a truly brave performance considering she spends pretty much the entire film naked. Her character is both fierce and very vulnerable at the same time. The relationship that begins between her character of Ika & Everett McGill's Naoh is truly heart warming.

The film is almost two different films in one. The first half is a straight up adventure/survival story. While the second half becomes much more restrained and methodical. It all comes together beautifully by the end. One aspect that surprised me was how violent the film actually is. It doesn't skimp on showing how brutal the world was back then. Within the first twenty minutes, people are raped, impaled, crushed with rocks and other sorts of mayhem. All of this must of went over my head when I first watched the film at six years old.

As I said QFF is one of the few films in my life that still contains that “spark of magic” and a sense of wonder and awe that is sorely lacking from films these days. It's an exciting and touching experience.

Second Sight brings Quest For Fire to Blu-ray for the first time. Take in mind the Blu-ray is Region B locked so you will need either an all region Blu-ray player or region free PS3 to watch it if you live outside of the UK. 

The picture quality is hit and miss for the most part. Some scenes look spotless and simply breathtaking with high detail levels and spot on skin tones. Other scenes though are drenched in film grain, now I love film grain but sometimes it's a tad distracting. See the screencap below for an example. But the transfer is still leaps and bounds better then any previous DVD release. The transfer is a bit of a disappointment since Second Sights release of "Possession" was stunning. But it's certainly much better then Second Sights Blu-ray release of Southern Comfort.
For audio get a 5.1 track and a 2.0 track. Both get the job done but the 5.1 track could be a bit more robust. It's not bad... but it's not the best track. 

Get ready to spend an entire night of sitting in front of the TV if you want to get through all the extras in one sitting. This is were the Blu-ray really shines. We get two terrific audio commentary's, first off is a track with director Jean-Jacques Annaud. It's a great listen as Annaud's memory is fantastic and he pretty much tells you everything you would want to know about the production.

The second track is a lot of fun, featuring great man Ron Perlman, Rae Dawn Chong and Michael Gruskoff. It's a very laid back and casual chat between the three, plenty of great BTS stories are told and Perlman is obviously very proud of the picture.

Next up is a brand new 35 minute interview with director Annaud. Some information from the commentary is repeated but it's still worth a watch. It's in French with English subtitles.

Next up is a vintage making of piece that clocks in at around 25 minutes. Some very cool behind the scenes footage can be seen. Last up is a 48! minute video gallary with commentary by Annaud.

Quest For Fire is a classic, nothing else needs to be said. This is a MUST BUY.

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