Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I Love the World, I'm So Happy!

Heard that one before? It was initially delivered in a climate of teary, jubilant thanks, just as I'm delivering it now. Truly, this blog is not specifically intended as an open-ended paean to Tim R., but as soon as one of y'all sends me a Region 2 DVD of The Piano—available Stateside only in this meager and frequently bargain-binned version—I'll start gushing over you too, m'kay?

Suffice it to say that, while I've been kicking around the idea of a region-free DVD player for many years, and feeling grumpy and wallflowery about all those unreleased foreign titles that we don't get to see in Region 1, I didn't actually splurge and make the commitment... until encountering the phrase "Commentary from Director Jane Campion and Producer Jan Chapman." At that point, it was about 45 seconds before I 1-Clicked over on and bought this reasonably priced little beauty, which also shows easy, uncomplicated love to those DVD-R's which my normal Toshiba unit so haughtily rebuffs. Anyway, the Piano DVD arrived yesterday in the mail (Tim, you are A DOLL), the player tonight, and...

Reader, I really wouldn't be so asinine as to post about splurge purchases if it weren't such a huge thing for me to see how this movie is finally, at long last, presented. I haven't even listened to the commentary track yet, but the separate on-disc interview with Jane Campion, dating from 2003, involves a full hour of her talking, with no intrusive questions, just reflecting on her film and how and why she made it and what it says to her. I cannot quite describe how this feels to me, given the movie's pivotal role in my life, except to say that I feel a little like Hortense in Secrets & Lies, finally meeting my mom face-to-face (except that Jane, praise heaven, doesn't turn out to be a half-sunken and atrabilious mess).

Showing us her workbook sketches of Ada and Flora from a full decade before shooting started, describing how you summon confidence when working around people much more experienced than you are, laughing about how "this film has probably fucked up heaps of women!" because it describes a mythic reality about possible empathies achieved through surprising channels, showing off her Palme d'Or from Cannes with the relish of proudest possible show-and-tell, and describing how much more it means to her than her Oscar... Jane is an angel. Reader, Nick'sFlickPicks wept. Producer Jan Chapman is also an absolute love in her own 15-minute interview, among other things elucidating what an independent film producer working across continents actually does. (Fact: CiBy 2000, the now-defunct French corporation that financed The Piano, as well as other personal pets like Taste of Cherry, Georgia, The Straight Story, Lost Highway, and yes, Secrets & Lies, was an industrial construction company, owned by un homme who happened to love the arts. I love that homme! Find me that homme!)

Is it wrong that I am leaping all the way to a sweeping conclusion, based only on anecdotal evidence, that obviously the rest of the world truly loves movies and only the U.S. subliminally and neurotically hates them, based on the fact that The Piano (still the greatest movie ever, clearly) is showcased so lovingly and evoked in such telling detail on R2/PAL, whereas the R1/NTSC Artisan disc basically shills it out as though it were Universal Soldier or Earth Girls Are Easy?

Whatever. I am going to go watch my favorite movie again and just hug myself. Later, I'll file an order for one of the few other movies in the world that makes me feel this giddy. Thanks, all, for your stamina through this gush.

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Blogger Ali said...

Oh Nick, your giddiness is infectious! I felt the exact same way when I placed in my player (with shaking hands, I must add) the R2 version of the The Apu Trilogy (which has been given a rather pathetic treatment in R1 by Columbia TriStar). It cost me $100 Canadian, but it was worth every single penny.

I am thinking of buying this same version of The Piano as well. I saw it in a pan-and-scan, murky transfer that just made me ponder throughout what I was missing. The fact that Campion does a commentary just sweetens the deal.

9:48 PM, March 15, 2006  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

infectious would be the word. I'm unemployed and this post is making me add "buy this particular player" to my to-do list this week.

1:15 AM, March 16, 2006  
Blogger Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Guys, you do realise that it's slightly illegal but a lot more practical to just do a google search for 'DVD region unlock codes' than it is to buy a brand-new multi-region player?

And Nick, for a second there, you made me believe I too adore Jane Campion. Except then I remembered I despise her (almost entirely because of In The Cut and Portrait of a Lady). Except I do adore The Piano. It's the only movie of hers that hasn't made me at least a little angry (apart from her Palme d'or winning short "Peel", which I actually also despised upon first viewing, but came to really appreciate upon a second one).

7:27 AM, March 16, 2006  
Blogger tim r said...

Watch out Goran, dissing Jane on this site, which of course I would never do, is a bit like parading a gay Santa Claus through the Vatican. You are likely to be arrested, and possibly spanked.

Obviously I like the idea of a blog that is entirely an open-ended paean to me, and I hope someone gets on with it, frankly. They've had 28 years, already.

7:37 AM, March 16, 2006  
Blogger Cal said...

I remember when I got my Multi Region player. I was like a kid in a toy shop. Have fun with...(have you named it yet?).

Thanks to everybodys Campion recommendations. My British netflix equivalent is sending me 'An Angel at my Table'. So I may be a Campion junkie by tomorrow night!

7:46 AM, March 17, 2006  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

@Goran: This fascinates me: what is it about Portrait that people who dislike it dislike, exactly? Speaking for yourself, anyway. I know it's a rather cold film, but that strikes me as central to its narrative and psychological aim, and there seems so much to admire (the music, the photography, the performances...)

Genuinely curious.

9:55 AM, March 17, 2006  
Anonymous goran said...

In order to describe exactly what it was about Portrait of a Lady that bothered me, I would have to watch Portrait of a Lady one more time and that's exactly what I wouldn't want to do.

But from memory, one of the major things was the way Campion tried to make showily uber-feminist what was already a perfectly, and far more effectively feminist story. That credit sequence where contemporary teenage girls spoke about their first kiss was so completely misguided and inappropriate in terms of 1) general conception (bad bad idea), and 2) execution, it was badly written, badly delivered, and inappropriate as a context since she never followed up on it stylistically or thematically. The rest of the picture was mostly rather grave and stately, and just generally uninspired.

The picture had the standard problem of a Hollywood adaptation of a great novel (and few novels are greater than Henry James'): it stuck relatively faithfully to the story, yet somehow completely missed out on the book's spirit (as well as on a lot of James' psychological insight). The sets and the costumes were teriffically detailed but for me they never felt to be anything other than especially constructed for a Hollywood picture, just rich actors playing rich dress-ups. The detail was technically correct but it wasn't at all evocative of the era. It had no flaws, it didn't even feel like any oxygen had ever passed through these rooms (not even the stale kind you tend to associate with costume dramas).

I'm telling you all this from memory and the fact that I felt like this about the picture makes me think the photography must have been pretty unimaginative too (since this is my standard reaction to unimaginatively photographed costume dramas).

I still didn't completely hate the picture. It's a fantastic story and it would take a lot more than a Jane Campion to ruin it. My problem was that Jane Campion tried her hardest to ruin it. So whereas I didn't completely hate the picture, I completely hated Jane Campion's direction of it.

As for the acting, I thought the lead role - like so many other roles - was far beyond Nicole Kidman's range. I could tolerate her in it, but only because I'd just read the book and I could fill in the character details from memory where her woodenness left any gaps. However, I was very much impressed by the rest of the cast. (I realise Barbara Hershey got the Oscar nomination, and she was excellent, but I thought Malkovich, who needs a lot mroe decent roles than he ever gets, was even more impressive.)

10:43 PM, March 17, 2006  
Anonymous sam peckinpah said...

The Piano? Isn't that some sort of militant feminist pic? Give me the Wild Bunch any day.

1:55 PM, March 18, 2006  
Blogger Kamikaze Camel said...

Well, you Americans may all be only just realising the beauty of multi-region players, a lot of foreigners have known the benefits for years. As goran said, there are tonnes of codes on the internet to make it simpler.

To be a film lover and to live in Australia as I do, you essentially NEED a multi-region player as we get duped more times than you can imagine. The fact that we don't have movies like "Sophie's Choice", "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" on DVD speaks volumes. About a third of my DVD library is American.

10:29 PM, April 05, 2006  

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