Posted July 02 2005 - 11:34 AM
|RunTime:||112 minutes |
|Aspect Ratio:||16x9 encoded 2.35:1 (OAR) |
|Audio:||5.1 DD English, French |
|SpecialFeatures:||Feature Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Making-of documentary, Interviews with lead cast members, Extended Song numbers, more...|
|ReleaseDate:||July 5, 2005|
I love Jane Austin and have enjoyed several modern film-adaptations of her work over the years...including the 6-hour BBC Pride & Prejudice, Emma (both MIRAMAX and BBC versions), Bridget Jone's Diary, and Clueless. As with Bridget Jone's Diary and Clueless, Bride & Prejudice succeeds marvelously in translating Austin's classic tale into a campy, witty, and enjoyable contemporary comedy-romance. Director Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham) decided to take on a 3-part challenge with her latest effort: 1) re-stage Austin’s Pride and Prejudice in modern-day India, 2) execute the whole affair in true Bollywood-musical form, and 3) produce a result that would be accessible to non-Indian, English-speaking audiences. Sound difficult? I had my doubts when I first was offered a free ticket to see a pre-screening prior to its theatrical debut. About 10 minutes after the lights had dimmed, I found myself quite contented that Chadha had succeeded on all counts.
Austin’s story of class-based prejudice, romance, and a mother’s insatiable desire to see her daughters marry into good fortune translates uncannily well into the context of contemporary Indian society and the culture-clash with American aristocracy. To achieve this, the film exploits a variety of stereotypes…both flattering and non…but you’d be doing yourself a disservice to write-off the film’s value because of stereotyping issue. If you look clearly, you’ll see the Chadha portrays good and bad on all sides, but what’s more germane…she’s reinterpreting Austin’s own themes of class-based prejudice in a valid and wildly entertaining contemporary context. Any discomfort you may feel is likely because such stereotyping and class-based prejudice touches on real themes that our politically-correct American culture has deemed too taboo for discussion. I encourage you to allow the film to merely express itself and see where it takes you.
It’s a musical…
While the rest of the world enjoys a steady diet of American films on a regular basis, American audiences rarely seem to return the favor and often boast of their “Art-house” achievements when they do. It turns out that beyond our shores exists a genre of movie-making where the “musical” is alive and well (thriving, actually). While I think that many Americans may be able to enjoy Bride & Prejudice without having to take a study course in the history of Indian film, I do think that viewers would be better able to appreciate the musical interludes if they are aware that these fantasy-laden, over-the-top song-and-dance numbers are the hallmark of the Bollywood genre. If you’ve never seen a Bollywood film and are wondering if you’d enjoy Bride & Prejudice, first ask yourself if you enjoy classic American musicals like West Side Story or The Music Man. If you’d like a taste of another Bollywood film that’s easily palatable for a first-time viewer I’d heartily recommend Lagaan.
Bride & Prejudice is immensely entertaining. There are quite a few comedic moments that deserve to be shared by a large assembly of viewers (don’t watch this film by yourself and don’t watch it with a party-pooper who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh either). The snake-dance scene had people falling out of their chairs in the theater and Chadha has demonstrated good skill at balancing the play of emotion back and forth from comedy to romantic-drama, the success of which is in part due to the excellent casting and acting of the performers. However, as entertaining as it may be, the film isn’t perfect, and even a musical-loving, sensitive boy like me had one or two quibbles. For instance, to my ears the “No Life Without Wife” number was less-than-impressive: it sounded like someone without a musical ear for American music trying to write a song that sounds
“American” (Just one or two many go-no-where “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”’s in there for me). However, the more traditionally-Indian-styled numbers (even those with English Lyrics) played through marvelously. My only other real criticism is ending which felt a bit too abrupt for me…like expecting one last final chapter of a good book you’ve been reading to resolve all the loose ends only to discover a single paragraph remaining on the next page that tries to tidy everything up in 500 words or less. To be clear I enjoyed
the ending…I only wish it would have lingered a little longer.
Let’s get someone else’s perspective. Yassir Islam (South-Asian, Bollywood viewer) writes in his response to a negative film-review in the NY times:
| When you marry Bollywood to Austen, how can you possibly expect something true to the book? Instead you throw together a multi-cultural melange of characters, add a few swipes at Indian traditionalism and post-colonial inmperialism, and try to get from one song to the next, as you jet about from Amritsar to LA, in search of the happy ending. |
The English Bollywood numbers work poorly, and fail to live up to the real thing, but points to Chadha for trying. The strokes of genius were 'The Snake Dance' and full blown Gospel Choir showing up out of nowhere in true Bollywood style. And if all the action and color isn't enough to put you in a good mood, than the simply stunningly gorgeous Ms. Rai and yummy Mr Gilles will surely keep you distracted.
While Chadha may exploit her share of Punjabi/Indian stereotypes that may be lost on some Western audiences, and while this isn't exactly a film layered with meaning, she, like filmaker Mira Nair, has challenged the slanted eurocentric 'Temple of Doom' or 'City of Joy' portrayals of India favoured by Hollywood for so long. Its time for a twist, served up dry with a splash of rosewater, and no apologies to the purists.
I thoroughly enjoyed Gurinder Chadha’s Bride & Prejudice. I hope you do as well.
When I saw this film projected theatrically, and that MIRAMAX logo splashed across the screen, I took special care to remember the look of the film’s presentation so when this DVD finally arrived I’d have a point of reference for comparison. I wanted to make sure that all the key elements of sharpness, color, and general contrast were impressions that I’d be able to recall, and I’m pleased to say that the DVD of Bride & Prejudice very faithfully replicates the look and feel of the 35mm print that I saw projected in the theater.
This does not mean that you should toss your Super-Bit Spiderman 2 DVD demo disc just yet; While this DVD is very faithful to the film-source of Bride & Prejudice, the film source
of Bride & Prejudice leaves some things to be desired.
Just like the theatrical print, the image of this DVD is definitely on the “soft” side. The entire presentation seems to have been deliberately filtered to create a slight “gauze” of soft-focus, and film print didn’t look any sharper or more detailed to my eyes that what I’m seeing projected from the DVD on my 106” screen. Perhaps this was intended by the director for artistic reasons. Or perhaps it was a pragmatic result of the type of film stock or lenses the production crew could afford. Whatever the case, the projected theatrical film looked just as “soft focus” as the DVD image, so this is indeed not
another Kill-Bill-1 where someone in the DVD mastering chain has digitally removed a layer of image detail the director intended you to see.
Also just like the theatrical print, I see no distracting edge-halos or edge-ringing from my 1.6 screen-width viewing distance. Bravo. In fact, both Bride & Prejudice and another MIRAMAX DVD I’m about to review—Dear Frankie—both have a much more natural and film-like character to them than live-action Buena-Vista DVD “look” I’ve grown used to. Both DVDs lack the “digital” look of an image that’s been artificially processed for video-viewers…the result is soft-focused in accordance with the film-print’s appearance, but also preserving of the grace and natural ease of a genuinely “film like” character. I won’t get too excited just yet…but this may be a sign of better things-to-come from Buena Vista. Fingers crossed!
Everything else about the image of this DVD seems to be consistent with the theatrical presentation…the exception being that a few items look even better
in my home-theater system. For instance, colors are much bolder and more vivid on my 106 inch screen than they appeared theatrically (this is not uncommon with DVD presentations as the smaller-screen-size tends to increase perceived color saturation). This movie is all about color, and the dazzling hues of red, orange, turquoise, crimson, green, and magenta in the various costumes are a real treat—very Moulin-Rouge-esque (Baz Luhrmann was imitating a strong Bollywood look and feel in case you notice the similarity). There is also a very deliberate warm-cast to the image that the DVD faithfully preserves.
Contrast and black level also seem a bit bolder and more solid on my screen. I remember in the theater noting that the image seemed a bit washed out and lacking in contrast. And while the DVD of Bride & Prejudice still doesn’t push the envelop of the format’s limits, it is an improvement over the projected image…and any fault you may find is reflective of the source elements so bear this in mind.
On a large screen, some viewers may find the overall image softness bothersome. While this is understandable, let me again assure you that the impression of softness is consistent with its theatrical presentation. So while it may not be prudent to give this DVD the “demo disc” rating of 5/5, I do want to score it highly to reflect its high-fidelity to the source material. Good job MIRAMAX/Buena Vista.
Picture Quality: 4 / 5
In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):
|SCORE ||Description |
|1-2 ||An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid. |
|2-3 ||Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain. |
|3-4 ||Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos. |
|4-5 ||A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back or the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans EE). |
I’ll state right here that I’m disappointed by the lack of a DTS option…this is one title I was really
hoping would get the DTS treatment…
That being said…
The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is very well delivered. Dialogue is clear though sounds unconvincingly ADR’d most of the time (my personal pet-peeve that most other folks don’t seem to mind in general). If anyone has any problems coping with the accents don’t be shy about turning on those subtitles (I do it quite often myself). The general presentation is mostly front-heavy as one would expect without much surround activity. However, the unassuming sonic character of the “action” in the film only serves to highlight the brilliance of the musical numbers when they appear…and the film seems to explode into three-dimensions into and around the room. This is precisely the effect a good Bollywood musical should engage…when the music kicks in it ought to transform the “real” into better, richer land of fantasy come-to-life. That’s what happens here.
Music is dynamic. Frequency response is wide. The musical numbers also have a nice sense of air and acoustic-space in them and never appear overly bright or harsh. Vocals are clear and never distort or irritate. The recording quality of the musical interludes is remarkable and compels the listener at an emotional level in large-part to the richness and fullness of the sound. Sadly, when I auditioned this DVD it was late in the evening and I wasn’t able to take full advantage of the volume control for fear of waking my apartment-dwelling neighbors (soon to be remedied when I move into my new home mid-July). I plan to explore this soundtrack in more detail when I’m able to really let-it-rip and I’ll update with the results of that adventure here. However, suffice to say that the 5.1 mix on this DVD is a very good justification for upgrading your surround system if you’ve been subsisting along listening through your TV speakers. I don’t care how much you paid for that television…even a $599 HT-in-a-box would improve your auditory experience quantitatively. Let the wife buy that new whatever-it-is she’s been asking for use the points to upgrade your HT. Bride & Prejudice could easily be a film to demonstrate the “before and after” results and gain her willing acceptance of those new speakers in the living room…
Sound Quality: 4.5 / 5
Have I died and gone to heaven? All the special features on Bride & Prejudice…if I’m not mistaken…are 16x9 WS. Last time I enjoyed this kind of treat on my projection-screen was watching the SE content for my Lord Of The Rings Trilogy.
[*] Feature Commentary: Director/co-writer Grinder Chadha and writer Paul Mayeda Berges team up for a commentary that any fan of the director, writer, or film should hear. Don’t be fooled by Chadha's “dull” speaking style…what she lacks for in pizzazz she makes up for in content. If you take the time you’ll discover all sorts of interesting tidbits that are worth your while. I find commentaries like this work well as “background” listening like putting on NPR while cooking lunch…you’ll find that you “tune in” the moment something interesting wafts your way and you can get other chores done while you take the 112 minute trip. One fact worth mentioning here…the early musical number in the market where the three girls sing about the upcoming wedding was originally conceived to be the opening scene for the film but was later moved back into the film to make the movie’s beginning less jarring for audiences unfamiliar with the Bollywood musical style. This “opening” musical scene is presented in-tact in a separate special feature so you can see how the film would have felt had it been left as originally intended.
[*] Deleted Scenes: You get six…and get this…all are 16x9 2.35:1 OAR! Not the usual 4x3 lbxed video-source deleted-scene-material…and the 16x9 picture quality is on-par with the feature film Perhaps a cunning technophile could assemble his or her own “extended” cut…though the audio presentation of the deleted scenes is only 2.0 DD.
Many of these deleted scenes had real promise and added a bit of depth to the film…I was surprised that some of them didn’t manage to find their way back in for the DVD but at least they are presented here and in optimal image quality. You can do the “Play all” or go one-by-one.
[*]Ashanti’s Song: A brief feature about the details surrounding the Ashanti number at the beach-scene in the film. Interviews with Ashanti, the director, and others. Oh yeah…16x9…
[*]Cast Interviews: Conversations with the stunningly beautiful Indian Actress/Star Aishwarya Rai and the dashingly handsome Martin Henderson (playing the two leads in the film). Their comments will be of interest to fans, but largely consist of the “it was an amazing experience” froth generally associated with these kinds of spots.
[*] Extended Songs: A total of four of the musical number in unedited form…including one very lovely number that was not including in the final feature film. The first song is “The Marriage” song which is the one I mentioned in my review of the commentary…originally planned to open the film (still located in the film but later on and edited). The next “Take me to love” is the full “acoustic” version with the guitar-intro which is hauntingly beautiful in its full extended form. The CD soundtrack is so-about-to-be-ordered.
All musical numbers are presented in full 2.35:1 16x9 OAR (just gives me tingles) however the audio is a somewhat lackluster 2.0 DD presentation which, while “acceptable”, doesn’t compare admirably to the first-rate 5.1 sound-quality in the feature film. This is, however, a small criticism of an otherwise marvelous bonus feature. Be sure to check it out.
[*][b]Making-of Documentary: A very nice ‘normal’ documentary as you’ve come to expect on all these Disney/Miramax DVDs. Fans and non-fans will find this feature interesting. 16x9…ahhhh…
[*][b]The Crew’s Song/Dance Number: Very cute. The crew get-it-on and do Bollywood. I got a real kick out of this. You should check it out. And it’s 16x9.
MIRAMAX has delivered a very satisfying single-disc DVD presentation of Gurinder Chadha’s latest film. The image presentation, while visibly soft on large-screen/wide-angle presentations, is faithful to the projected theatrical presentation and is not a fault of improper mastering. Colors are brilliant, and the 5.1 audio presentation’s only drawback is in not providing a DTS option; musical numbers are bold, open, with plenty of dimension and will make good use of any 5.1-equipped system.
Want to impress your girlfriend with your multi-cultural film taste and score a fun romantic-comedy all in one fell swoop? Want the perfect camp-film to bring on rolls of laughter for that next movie night with the gang? Are you an American musical-lover who’s grown curious about this “foreign musical” Bollywood Genre? Do you love Bollywood? Do you love Jane Austin? If you’ve answered “Yes” to any of these questions you know what you have to do…