directed by Guy Maddin
Canada 2003


The Saddest Music in the World finds Canadian director Guy Maddin reaching into familiar stylistic territory. As with his previous efforts Saddest Music looks like a film from the 20's, but isn't silent or all Black & White. Shot on Super8 and 16mm, the film has a surreal and beautiful look to it that is similar to Maddin's Twilight of the Ice Nymphs. The film does tend to have a style over substance after-taste, but as with his other films, this is part of it's charm. The film takes place in Winnipeg, Manitoba and features a double amputee that has beer steins for legs. How could this not be great? out of     




Theatrical Release: September 7 2003 (Toronto Film Festival) - Canada

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DVD Review / Comparison:

TVA Films / Quebecor Media (Canadian Only Release) - Region 1 - NTSC

DVD Box Covers



TVA Films / Quebecor Media

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 100 min

1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.23 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Trailer is shown in:


1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.



TVA Films / Quebecor Media (Canadian Only Release)


Audio DD 5.1 Surround, DD 2.0 Stereo


Subtitles Optional French
Features Release Information:
Studio: TVA Films / Quebecor Media

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Director's Commentary by Director Guy Maddin and actor Mark McKinney
• Making of Featurette -
"Teardrops in the Snow - The Making of Saddest Music in the World"
• 9 Rapid Fire Theatrical Teasers
• Theatrical Trailer
• Three Short Films by Guy Maddin - Sissy Boy Slap Party - Sombra Dolorosa - A Trip the the Orphanage
• Scene Index

DVD Release Date: Sept. 21, 2004
Keep Case without Chapter Insert

Chapters 16




Let me just say that this TVA DVD is a mess.

I'll start with the packaging which is a little misleading and just plain incorrect. It states that the film is in Colour when it is mostly Black & White with Colour parts. Being a Maddin fan I knew this was the case, but TVA is clearly trying to mislead the uninformed consumer with this and placed only colour images on the rear of the cover.

Next, '1.78:1 Widescreen Aspect Ratio" as stated on the cover is completely wrong. What we have here is a zoomed and cropped Full Screen transfer that renders the film un-watchable. Every video component on this DVD (including the shorts, trailers etc.) suffers from bad PAL to NTSC ghosting. This only adds to the terrible picture quality. (And when I say terrible I am keeping in mind Maddin's intentional low res filming style). What I find amazing is that they didn't even go back to the original negative to achieve a Full Frame transfer. They just re-cropped the already matted Widescreen transfer. This leaves the image with all the above problems plus it looks blurry and hazy.

The DVD includes a 5.1 mix which doesn't sound too bad, but given the complete disregard for artistic integrity, is this really the original audio for a film shot on Super 8 and 16mm?
Luckily a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is included as well. To my ears the Stereo track sounds more clear and full. Only the 5.1 mix is listed on the packaging.

The included extras are very good, but only add to the frustration over the feature being messed up because all the extras are actually in 1:85:1 letterbox! but forget about them being Anamorphic.

This really is a missed opportunity, it could have been a definitive release.
out of
For this review I am using the Trailer on the same disc to illustrate how bad the image quality is and the level of cropping.

Mark Balson

I have contacted TVA with the following:
Hi there,
This email might be best directed to your Home Video/DVD department.

The recent TVA DVD release of Guy Maddin's film "The Saddest Music in the World" specifies that the film is presented in 1.78:1 Widescreen on the package, when it is actually presented in 1.33:1 Full Screen. This is a serious problem and not only because of the typo on the cover. This films Original Aspect Ratio is 1.85:1 Widescreen and anything but that ratio means the film is severely cropped. It is interesting to note that film clips within the included extras on this same disc show the film in its correct Widescreen ratio. The Full Screen transfer also suffers from very noticeable PAL to NTSC ghosting. For a Canadian film this is very odd because it would mean that the DVD was converted from a European PAL transfer to our North American NTSC standard. Given these two major oversights the film on this DVD is almost unwatchable for anyone who has seen the film theatrically or is a fan of Guy Maddin's work. This is a shame because it would seem that these are the exact people that would be purchasing your DVD.

Many of the included extras on this disc are very well done and the inclusion of the original Stereo audio as an option is most welcome.
With the exception of the image quality on the main feature this DVDs is very close to being a definitive release of an amazing film.

Please let me know when and if there is going to be a recall or exchange of this DVD.
Thank you for your time.
And their response:
Dear Mark,

First, thank you for this very well articulate email. I sincerelly hope my english will mesure to yours.

Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience experienced with our product. We are currently looking into the problem mentionned but we haven't yet reach a decision. I hope to contact you with more informations soon.

Again, all our apologies for delays and frustrations occasion by this mis-information.
If you want to contact TVA the email address that I sent my message to was:

My reply came from:

You might want to try both. Make sure that they understand that the primary issue is with the transfer not the typo on the cover.
In their response to me they seem to indicate that the typo was their concern. Of course keep it low key and constructive.
MGM is releasing their own DVD on Nov.16. It looks promising with the following specs:
Anamorphic 16x9, Widescreen, 1.85:1
B&W, Color, 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital
Special Features:
> Short Films
> "Teardrops in the Snow: The Making of The Saddest Music in the World" Featurette
> "The Saddest Characters in the World: The Cast of The Saddest Music in the World" Featurette
> Teasers
> Original Theatrical Trailer

Expect a full comparison when the MGM arrives.

 - Mark Balson



DVD Menus




Main title comparison. Main feature - TOP vs. Trailer - BOTTOM (not an exact match)

(TVA Films / Quebecor Media (Canadian Only Release) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Trailer - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)



Screen Captures

(TVA Films / Quebecor Media (Canadian Only Release) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Trailer - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)



(TVA Films / Quebecor Media (Canadian Only Release) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Trailer - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)



(TVA Films / Quebecor Media (Canadian Only Release) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Trailer - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)



(TVA Films / Quebecor Media (Canadian Only Release) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Trailer - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)



(TVA Films / Quebecor Media (Canadian Only Release) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Trailer - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)



An example of the ghosting on the TVA release


An obvious example of the correct Widescreen ratio of 1.85:1 (right)



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