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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Shirin" or "My Sweet Shirin")

 

directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Iran 2008

 

Abbas Kiarostami is widely regarded as one of the most important, ambitious and rewarding filmmakers at work today. With Shirin, he continues to explore the potential of cinema, stimulating and challenging the viewer's imagination to an extraordinary degree.

What Shirin shows us - and indeed all it shows us - is an audience of more than 100 women who are deeply absorbed in watching a film we never see. We observe instead how the drama plays out on the faces of the audience, seen in close up, mostly one at a time - a mesmerising series of portraits of women, young and old, their expressions variously wistful, quizzical, amused, enraptured and distraught.

Based on the powerful 12th Century Persian poem by Nazami, the film-within-the-film is a story of star-crossed lovers and female self-sacrifice that is as well known in modern-day Iran as Romeo and Juliet is in the West.

Excerpt of review from BFI located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: June 26th, 2009 (UK)

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DVD Comparison: 

BFI - Region 2 - PAL vs. Cinema Guild - Region 1 - NTSC

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL - LEFT vs. Cinema Guild - Region 1 - NTSC - RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

Distribution

BFI

Region 2 - PAL

Cinema Guild H

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:30:57 (4% PAL Speedup) 1:34:39
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.20 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.78:1 Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.42 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   

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

Bitrate

Bitrate

Audio Farsi (Dolby Digital PCM 2.0) Farsi (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• "Taste of Shirin"- Hamideh Razavi's documentary on the making of "Shirin" (26:54)
• Illustrated booklet containing essays and credits
• Dolby Digital PCM audio throughout

DVD Release Date: October 26th, 2009
Keep Case

Chapters 6

Release Information:
Studio: Cinema Guild

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• Taste of Shirin (2008, 27 minutes), a documentary by Hamideh Razavi on the making of the film
• Roads of Kiarostami (2005, 30 minutes), a short film by Abbas Kiarostami
• Rug (2006, 6 minutes), a short film by Abbas Kiarostami
• Essay by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum

DVD Release Date: August 24h, 2010

Keep Case
Chapters: 7

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Comments

ADDITION: Cinema Guild - August 2010: Visually there doesn't seem to be a significant enough difference to warrant choosing one over the other. The BFI has warmer skin tones and a higher bitrate. Both are picture-boxed although it is hard to distinguish as the films is framed with theater darkness. In short the BFI has PAL speedup - notable to those who are sensitive, audio would appear to lean to the BFI that has the technical advantage with the PCM track - although sound is not such a dominating part of the presentation of Kiarostami's film. Both offer optional English subtitles and both are on dual-layered DVDs.

Extras go to Cinema Guild with the same 1/2 hour Taste of Shirin making of documentary as found on the BFI but also two more pieces - Roads of Kiarostami (2005, 30 minutes), a short film by Abbas Kiarostami and Rug (2006, 6 minutes), another short film by the Iranian master. The Cinema Guild has a liner notes leaflet with an essay "Shirin as Mirror" by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.

If forced to choose I would lean to the Cinema Guild release with the additional supplements, but it is far more important to just see the film. It's hard to describe the range of emotional responses you feel throughout the presentation - the, mostly Persian, women's faces seem all at once, inquisitive, innocent, child like - even the older, wiser looking ladies. Sometimes we see expressions of pain and sadness but no desire or disgust - almost an unspoken commentary on Hollywood cinema. When you let it in - you can be so warmly rewarded. Jonathan's essay is golden to further appreciation but this is a film you need to come to grips with yourself - it would be too easy to ridicule. This is an attempt at pure and honest cinema - whether it achieves its goal is up to you.

Gary W. Tooze

****

ON THE BFI: Big thanks to the folks at the BFI for releasing Abbas Kiarostami’s “Shirin”, his most recent effort, on video. I have to admit that shamefully enough I hadn’t even heard of it before the BFI announced the title, and likely would have never seen the film otherwise. Thankfully, I now have and all that I can say is “WOW”! Not only is the film stupendous, but it looks and sounds almost as beautiful as any film can on standard DVD. No doubt this is due in no small part to the fact that the film was released only last year, but the masters used with this film couldn’t have been much better.

I’ll return to the audio & visuals later, but first let’s talk about the film itself. As anyone following Kiarostami’s career knows, the director enjoys experimenting and playing with his audience’s expectations. Here he takes this to new heights by giving us a film that is nothing but audience reaction. His experiment is all the more interesting due to the fact that the audience shown on screen really isn’t really watching anything at all. Instead, they’re professional actresses sitting in a fake theater constructed in Kiarostami’s living room. The actresses were instructed to imagine that they were watching a love story with comedic and tragic elements and to perform corresponding facial expressions. After the actresses were recorded, Kiarostami and his collaborators constructed a story about the legend of Shirin, an Armenian born Persian queen, and the shots were then used to match the arc of the story. During sad scenes the actresses are shown crying, during action they wince or cover their eyes, etc. The end result is utterly fascinating. Going in to the viewing I was a bit incredulous over how interesting a film dedicated to little other than faces could be, but with the tremendous acting and the entertaining story whose sound we hear and images we never see, the film was far from boring. It’s a wonderful experiment and well worth the viewing.

Now, let’s talk about the gorgeous image on the disc. The film itself is presented in the correct aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and looks tremendous in this anamorphic presentation. The film is typically dark as it is supposed to take place in a movie theater, and occasionally the image is so dark that we have some trouble with the details around the faces, but it is a highly realistic image that I suspect is exactly how Kiarostami wanted the film to look. However, this natural darkness never gets in the way of the star of the film: the hundred or so female faces. They’re always clearly defined and the occasional flicker of light reveals lush details and naturalistic colors.

The audio too sounds great here. The audio track is Dolby Digital PCM and seems to transcend any limitations of the format. The dialogue and sound effects are not only clear and unhampered by background noise, but they actually sound as if they take place in a movie theater. Kiarostami’s sound editors did an admirable job creating this effect and the BFI audio track preserves it so well that you almost feel as though you’re in the theater with the audience! The subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired only come in English, but are unobtrusive and never obstruct the faces.

As per usual the BFI has included a rich booklet (16 pages) with an essay by Geoff Andrew on the making of “Shirin” and its place in Kiarostami’s canon, and an essay on the legend itself. Also not to be missed are two lovely reproductions of Persian art detailing the legend of Shirin. The only extra on the disc is a nearly half-hour length documentary on the making of the film that consists entirely of raw footage of Kiarostami directing the actresses, constructing the story, and later editing the two together. This “making of…” featurette is well worth the time to watch and gives us a real sense of how one of the world’s most important living directors operates.

I consider this to be yet another essential release from one of the world’s top DVD producers! I recommend it for everyone without hesitation.

 - Brian Montgomery

 



DVD Menus

 

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Screen Captures

 

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Guild - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)


Subtitle Sample

 

 


(BFI - Region 2 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Guild - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(BFI - Region 2 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Guild - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(BFI - Region 2 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Guild - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(BFI - Region 2 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Guild - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(BFI - Region 2 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Guild - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


  (BFI - Region 2 - PAL - TOP vs. Cinema Guild - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


DVD Box Cover

Distribution

BFI

Region 2 - PAL

Cinema Guild H

Region 1 - NTSC

 




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Gary Tooze

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