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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Nine [Blu-ray]

 

(Rob Marshall, 2009)

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Weinstein/Marc Platt

Blu-ray: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: FREE!

Runtime: 1:58:32.105

Disc Size: 43,559,703,545 bytes

Feature Size: 27,544,264,704 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.93 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard U.S Blu-ray Case

Release date: May 4th, 2010

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080P / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3114 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3114 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

• Commentary with Director Rob Marshall and Producer John DeLuca

• The Incomparable Daniel Day Lewis (5:05)

• The Women of Nine (10:40)

• Director Rob Marshall (6:20)

• Behind the Look of Nine (8:15)

• The Dancers of Nine (4:35)

• The Choreography of Be Italian (4:15)

• Making of Cinema Italiano (2:50)

• The Choreography of Cinema Italiano (8:35)

• Cinema Italiano Music Video (3:40)

• Take It All Music Video (3:35)

• Unusual Way Music Video (3:35)

• Sophia Loren Remembers Cinecittą Studios (12:45)

• Screen Actor’s Guild Q&A Session (43:05)

 

 

The Film: 3
It isn't very often that a first-time feature film director scores a Best Picture Oscar, but this was Rob Marshall's fate and, possibly, his undoing. Chicago was a hard act to follow, and in each of his two successive features, Memoirs of a Geisha and now Nine, he seems to be falling into a kind of mannered abyss.

Like Chicago, Nine owes its existence to a Broadway musical, and both in turn owe theirs to earlier non-musical movies: Ginger Rogers' 1942 Roxie Hart and Fellini's quasi-autobiographical study of writer's block and sexual occupation in 8 1/2. The first is a delicious screwball comedy, the second: a masterpiece of sight and insight, vision and dream, performance and character. It took 20 years for 8 1/2 to gain another half-point and, in the process lose its soul to vapid music and lyrics, despite which the musical ran for over 700 performances on Broadway and earned a Tony. It even scored a successful remake in 2003 with Antonio Banderas as Guido.

 

 

The makers of the movie musical thought it best to toss out much of the score (no loss there) and replace it with new music (no gain either). Taking a cue from himself, Marshall employed his trademark cutting every dance to bits to give the impression of kinetic fervor. To cap it off, Weinstein hired seven major actresses – dare we care them "superstars"! – Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Fergie and Marion Cotillard – in the roles of the women Guido sees as muses of one sort or other. They each get a number to do – Cotillard gets two – and a good deal of the proceedings seems to be photographed in the dark recesses of Guido's imagination. It's a clever idea, really, since the film ends with Guido's direction "Action!" thus making all that comes before simply his attempts, however narcissistic, to come to terms with his creative block.

In retrospect Guido's opening statement at his press interview when he says "A film is a dream . . . mysteriously, sometimes, in the editing room, a miracle happens. . . if you're very lucky, the dream flickers back to life again" seems like wishful thinking on Marshall's part, perhaps even a bone thrown to poor suckers like me. For even as his film ends with Guido's call to "Action!" Guido's movie is only the one we just saw, a movie that seems to have been edited to death, not the other way 'round.


 

Image: 8/8   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

It is entirely possible that the transfer fairly accurately represents the film's intentions, which, as it stands, is not much fun to look at. It's how I imagine Marshall thought Oliver Stone (no offence) might have approached a musical – though I trust Mr. Stone would have had the good sense not to have forced his dramatic style on something as elusive as a Broadway musical. Marshall cuts between all sorts of film media: black & white, color, grainy, not grainy, monochrome, highly filtered, dark, light – mostly dark in surprisingly low contrast with lots of deep shadow. Blacks are deep when called for. The overall impression is a little soft, even while brilliant flashes of color grab our attention. Noise and other transfer concerns are not in evidence.

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 6/6
For a Tony-award winning musical, Nine, at least in this incarnation, has to have one of the least inspired set of songs and dances to come my way since I don't know when. Perhaps it's just the way Marshall chops everything up into a series of music videos, which also plays havoc with any sense of aural continuity: what might work in a three minute music video, with its rapidly changing locations and points of view, is a mine field of potential disasters for a feature film. I was exhausted midway through the first number. It is instructive to compare the two music videos in the Bonus Features with Cotillard and Hudson against how these numbers appear in the movie and how the movie is organized. I feel the matter speaks for itself.

 

 

Operations: 5
This is another one of the menus that display the extra features a couple at a time. There's a Play All for the three music videos, but none for the production segments.

 

Extras: 5
There's a good deal of self-congratulatory backslapping here, alternating with OMG! - I'm working with all these incredible stars. Well, I'd feel that way too, but it doesn't make for particularly satisfying or instructive bonus features. The production segments are brief and choppy, like the movie. Sophia's remembrances of her early days in the movies is sweet, and the SAG interview has the perspective of a cast panel without Marshall, but much of it was covered in the "Women of Nine" segment. The large majority of the extra features are in HD, but the music videos do not have uncompressed audio.

 

 

Bottom line: 5
I guess I can't hide how much I disliked this movie. Yes, Nine has its moments of dazzle, eroticism and sincerity, as well as some observant observations about the creative process, but I found the sum of its parts just a bunch of parts. Penelope and Marion have the best moments, but Daniel is at times painful to watch. One unintentional smile: The movie was filmed at Cinecittą, known for its careless looping of their supporting actors. In the new movie, Italian accents are all over the map, just the sort of thing Cinecittą would have enjoyed "correcting." I leave you to it.

Leonard Norwitz
May 7th, 2010

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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