Produced By: Lynn Kessler
Narrator: Al Chalk
Written By: Lynn Kessler, Michael Dolan
An absolutely beautiful documentary of our nation’s greatest monument, the capitol itself, and the magnificent monuments you will find there.
This gorgeous tribute to Washington DC and its monuments runs only fifty six minutes, but every one of those minutes is a piece of art. Nearly any frame from this documentary could be blown up and hung on a wall. Not to say it’s all just eye candy, the documentary does a great job of telling the story of the many monuments of DC and how the city itself can be considered a monument, but all of that is simply overshadowed by the dramatic cinematography. Most of the video is shot in early fall just as the leaves are starting to turn so the color palette has plenty of browns and oranges to go along with the green. On top of that a lot of the video is shot in the golden hour giving the granite and marble of the monuments a warm glow.
The program starts with a short history of the city itself and how it was designed to have room for many monuments. Then some of the newer monuments are discussed, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the National World War II Memorial. Then the narrative goes back to the beginning of the tale and covers the Washington Monument and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The story of John F. Kennedy’s Grave and the Eternal Flame is told and then the evolution of the Lincoln Memorial from a memorial to the Great Emancipator to a symbol of civil rights is explained. We are told how Arlington National Cemetery came to be on the plantation of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the USMC War Memorial and the Korean War Memorial are used to wrap the story up.
When they are available the architects of the memorials themselves are interviewed and archival material of the memorials construction and events the memorials played part in is used to flesh out the story. One of the interesting things about all the memorials is how every one of them was controversial in some way, but I guess that’s to be expected when you are memorializing people and events that nearly everyone has strong opinions about. In every case though the finished product stands above any of the controversy and you wonder how anyone could have imagined doing things any differently.
The video is presented in wide screen format. The video is breathtaking. The video is shot in early fall with many shots at dawn, dusk and night to great dramatic effect. The resulting colors are striking, the blues, greens, reds and oranges really pop. DC has rarely looked this good. Granite and Marble has rarely looked this warm. As saturated as the colors are I never noticed any blooming reds or any kind of grain. The black levels are great the blacks are truly deep and black. I never noticed any aliasing or moiré on the new footage. There is a fair amount of archival footage and depending on the source and age it may have the typical scratches and other artifacts you expect with archival footage but even it is clean and very high quality. The interviews look just as good, shot with a warm flattering light that matches the tone of the rest of the video.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 with English subtitles. The score by Lenny Williams and Chris Biondo is fitting and touching. The mix is excellent with the narration and score never oversteping each other. The audio from the interviews is always clear. I never noticed any distortion or other audible artifacts.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The DVD comes in the standard Amaray case with understated almost institutional artwork. The copy is descriptive and accurate. The menus are simple and as beautiful as the rest of the video. The only extras are some previews of shows from the Smithsonian Channel.
There are only fifty six minutes of material here, but every bit of it is of the highest quality. If you have the slightest interest in this type of stuff I don’t think you will be disappointed. It’s really worth picking up just for the gorgeous footage of DC and the monuments.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 10/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10