"Babies"

September 2010

201009_babiesAn Appealing Look at the First Years of Four Infants 

Universal 62112181
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2emptystar
Picture Quality
****emptystar
Sound Quality
****emptystar
Extras
*emptystaremptystaremptystaremptystar

For this entertaining and somewhat striking documentary, director Thomas Balmès followed and filmed the lives of four babies from their birth to their first steps. The quartet of infants was selected from four widely varying cultures: Ponijao was born in Namibia, Bayar in Mongolia, Mari in Tokyo, and Hattie in San Francisco.

Cynics will dismiss this film as too cute, but that’s what cynics do. Not being one, I found it to be a movie montage that delighted my eyes and ears while pointing out a universality that transcends cultural differences. Balmès must have filmed for a very long time to capture the defining images that made his final cut. The four children are shown playing, eating, crying, gurgling, and laughing while interacting with parents, pets, and the rest of their newfound environment. Animals, especially cats and goats, figure heavily in the scenario.

Though Bayar and Ponijao must cope with cultures that have low sanitation (Bayar, in particular, always seems to have insects crawling over his body) while Mari and Hattie enjoy the latest technologies that Japan and the US can offer, they all share an innate inquisitiveness; an unwavering desire to taste, touch, see, and learn; and sense of delight in their triumphs as they learn first to crawl and then to walk.

The movie was shot in HD, but its picture quality varies with the different locations. It’s never short of excellent, but often, as in establishing shots of Tokyo and San Francisco, it’s of astonishing, five-star quality. There is no dialogue as such in this movie, so the DTS soundtrack is devoted to Bruno Coulais’ evocative music and various sound effects. The Blu-ray’s sound is full and focused, using mostly the front channels but opening up effectively to the rears on more than one occasion. The extras aren’t much -- just a very short featurette of the director visiting the four children three years on to show them the movie and an even shorter featurette honoring the winners of “Your Babies Sweepstakes.”

Babies is a remarkable achievement. Without using dialogue, Balmès has created a cohesive and charming opus, a rhapsodic “symphony” to babies that will make everyone chuckle, smile, and remember. All but the cynics, and too bad for them.

Be sure to watch for: Chapter 9 opens with a scene in Tokyo of a woman with an umbrella walking toward the camera on a bustling city street. Notice how both background and foreground are sharp and clear. The scene has a compelling three-dimensional feeling, without glasses!

. . . Rad Bennett
radb@soundstagenetwork.com

More SoundStage! Videos

  • PMC Fact.8 Signature Loudspeaker Review! (Take 2, Ep:11)
  • Which is Better? Elac Navis ARB-51 vs. Focal Shape 65 (Take 2, Ep:10)
  • Amphion for the Home, the Studio, and Billie Eilish - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • The NEW Hegel H95 Integrated Amplifier Review ! (Take 2, Ep:9)
  • Estelon: Loudspeaker Excellence and Originality from Estonia - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • Zero-Distortion Amplification: Halcro Out of Hiatus - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • Best Active Speaker? Elac Navis ARB-51 Speaker Review (Take 2, Ep:8)
  • Vivid Audio's Inventive and Spectacular S12 Loudspeaker - SoundStage! InSight (August 2020)
  • Qobuz Hi-Res Traction and Younger Listeners, with David Solomon - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier Review (Take 2, Ep:7)
  • Schiit Audio Bifrost 2 DAC Review (Take 2, Ep:6)
  • Vinshine Audio: Kinki Studio, Magico, and More in Singapore - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • Focal Shape 65 Active Speaker is a Winner for Both Audiophiles and Studios (Take 2, Ep:5)
  • Audio Research's 50th Anniversary Products, Celebration, and Future - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • Get Closer to Your Music with the HEDD Type 07 Active Speaker -- Literally. (Take 2, Ep:4) #AMTfi
  • Back to the
  • Details on the Bowers & Wilkins 700-Series Signature Speakers - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • Totem Acoustic Skylight Speaker Review! Affordable Speakers with a Big Sound (Take 2, Ep:2)
  • Activities at Hi-Fi Super-Retailer Goodwin's High End - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • The Long-Term Investment in a Bryston Amplifier - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • PMC and the Flagship Fenestria Loudspeaker - 2019 SoundStage! Product of the Year Winner (June 2020)
  • Hegel H120 Integrated Amplifier Review. Living With It for the Past 3 Months! (Take 2, Ep:1)