(aka "Cortesie per gli ospiti" )


directed by Paul Schrader
USA/UK/Italy 1990

The relationship of divorced Mary (Natasha Richardson) and her boyfriend Colin (Rupert Everett) has gone stale. Even away from her children in Venice, the two wander oblivious to the sights and pick at each other (some wonderful exchanges courtesy of Harold Pinter; the novel just gives us the gist of their situation at the opening) over meals at outside cafes. One evening, they get up too late to have dinner and get lost in the labyrinthine alleys of the city looking for a cafe and run into dapper, white-suited Robert (Christopher Walken) - who, unbeknownst to them has been following and photographing them - who leads them to a bar. Over breadsticks and wine, he amuses and terrifies them with an anecdote from his childhood (the subject of a recurring monologue narrated by Walken throughout the film). Too drunk to find their hotel, they sleep in an alley and run into Robert again the next day. He insistently invites them to his grand mirrored and mural-glutted palazzo of an apartment where they meet Robert's meek, seemingly terrified wife Caroline (a marvelous performance from Helen Mirren). After a tense dinner with the older couple, Mary and Colin find their sex lives reinvigorated even as they continue to grow emotionally distant. Their ultimate decision of whether to stay together or not when they return to England is irrelevant as Robert and Caroline have something more ominous in store for them.

Harold Pinter took Ian McEwan's (ATONEMENT, ENDURING LOVE, THE INNOCENT) masterful novella and smoothed out little details that wouldn't necessarily transfer to the screen convincingly, gave it a concrete location (Venice, the back of my copy of the book suggests it could easily have been Amsterdam), and added his own layered dialogue; thus freeing director Schrader (CAT PEOPLE, AMERICAN GIGOLO) to concentrate on the spectacular visuals (gold-toned photography by Dante Spinotti, costumes by Giorgio Armani, and Gianni Quaranta's amazingly detailed reproduction of a Venetian palazzo). After his work for David Lynch, Angelo Badalementi provides an atypical orchestral score accented with Turkish motifs. The film's sting-in-the-tail ending is unpredictable and leaves the viewer with unanswered questions to mull over long after.

Eric Cotenas


Theatrical Release: 29 March 1991

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DVD Review: MGM - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

NOTE: there is a ridiculously poor NTSC DVD (out-of-print) from Madacy - we suggest avoiding HERE



Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:40:21 (4% PAL speedup)

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.72 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono); German (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono); French (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono)
Subtitles English (HoH), German (HoH), French, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Portuguese, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: MGM

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical Trailer

DVD Release Date: March 1st, 2004

Chapters 16



MGM's DVD of this forgotten early nineties Paul Schrader film is a beautiful if slightly soft (perhaps intentionally so) 16:9 presentation which is sharper than I remember the previous NTSC tape release being. The image is not flawless. There are speckles throughout but Spinotti's cinematography is well-rendered. The only extra is a theatrical trailer (hopefully Schrader and Pinter will have some input if an official US DVD ever comes out though I believe MGM only owns the European rights). Like MGM's disc of Ken Russell's GOTHIC which I reviewed some time ago, this disc has English, French, and German menu languages and audio tracks as well as subtitles in several other languages suggesting that DVD release of the film in those countries are the same presentation. Although the cover states that the English, French, and German audio tracks are mono, the often-erroneous imdb.com lists the film a stereo release (which makes sense since it was made in 1990 even if a lot of Italian non co-productions were still being mixed in mono at the time). All three language tracks are 2.0 224 kb/s which is a tad extravagant for 2.0 mono (I'm not sure if the directional sounds I'm hearing on my headphones are from the original mix or my software player). The Australian DVD has the same audio and subtitles options.

There is a fullscreen American DVD (probably out of print) that may be unauthorized and likely sourced from Paramount's OOP VHS release. The film was released theatrically by the now defunct Skouras Pictures in the US. I can't confirm it but I seem to remember that the US version of the film credits Natasha Richardson before Rupert Everett (MGM's DVD version credits Everett before Richardson).

NOTE: Program unable to graph bitrate.

 - Eric Cotenas


DVD Menus


Screen Captures

Subtitle Sample























DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

NOTE: there is a ridiculously poor NTSC DVD (out-of-print) from Madacy - we suggest avoiding HERE



Region 2 - PAL


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