Studio: Universal/Focus Features/American Zoetrope
Length: 1 hr 38 mins
Genre: Hollywood Life/Parenting/Angst
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
BD Resolution: 1080p
BD Video Codec: VC-1 (@ an average 30 mbps)
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.0 mbps)
French DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Film Rating: R (Sexual Content, Nudity, Language)
Release Date: April 19, 2011
Starring: Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning
An American Zoetrope Production
Written and Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Film Rating: 2 ½/5
Somewhere opens with a shot that effectively sums up one of the primary issues of the film (and its primary drawback): A revving engine is heard in blackout, and we fade in to one side of a lonely racetrack. The engine gets louder, and a shiny black Ferrari roars in from the left side of frame, passing through and exiting the right side. The revving continues and the car reappears from the right side as it completes the far end of the track loop. And then the car goes through again. And again. And again. There are many scenes of this type in Somewhere, where we will be given a clean, Kubrickian image, a simple action within the frame, and then the action will continue long past the point of sustaining anyone’s interest.
This is not to say that the film is entirely unworthy of attention – it actually comes with a pair of honest performances by Stephen Dorff as a loutish movie star and Elle Fanning as his precocious daughter. And Sofia Coppola’s direction suggests a deeper level of emotion lurking beyond what we see, just she did in the earlier (and superior) Lost in Translation. Coppola has at this point established herself as a tone poet of the first order – she creates more of a general emotion than a concrete story, with the various elements of film language (framing, sound, music, etc) all working in concert toward that emotion. In the case of Lost in Translation, the emotion was that of loneliness. In the present case, the emotion is that of a longing for real human connection. Dorff’s “Johnny Marco” has it all on the surface – money, fame, women, cars – and yet he is clearly bored by his life. It’s only when he spends a week with his daughter that he begins to remember that there is something more to life than self-indulgence.
It’s also notable that Somewhere is an American Zoetrope release. Now owned and controlled by Sofia and Roman Coppola, Zoetrope was always intended to be an independently minded production company when it was started by Francis Ford Coppola over 40 years ago. Many releases of various kinds later, the company has lately seen releases of the eclectic works of both father and daughter. It’s quite appropriate that these works, particularly Somewhere, reflect this philosophy. And I’m fine with an independent sensibility and even a slow, patient approach. My critical issue with this film can be summed up in the irony of its title. For much of this film, the viewer waits patiently, and then impatiently, for the movie to get somewhere.
Somewhere will be released on Blu-ray and standard definition DVD tomorrow. The Blu-ray edition holds a high definition picture and sound transfer, along with a single featurette in high definition. Further Blu-ray functionality is part of the package, including the My Scenes bookmarking function and pocket BLU.
VIDEO QUALITY 3 ½/5
Somewhere is presented in a 1080p VC-1 1.85:1 transfer that does a good job of translating the low-budget film shoot to HD media. This isn’t exactly the crispest of images you’ll ever see, but that’s a reflection of the conditions under which the movie was made. As it is, things aren’t nearly as grainy or harsh as on prior releases like The Kids Are All Right. Some sequences come across quite well, including an ice skating sequence with various levels of white on the screen, and a sumptuous Italian hotel suite. I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.
AUDIO QUALITY 4/5
Somewhere is presented in an excellent English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English, along with standard DTS 5.1 mixes in French and Spanish. While some of the dialogue is a bit muted, as per the style of the film, this is quite an active HD sound mix. The multiple scenes with the Ferrari feature a full-throated engine sound, which works both directionally and for surround effect. Even regular dialogue scenes that happen in public places have a satisfying amount of atmospheric sound, including sirens and the like. On two occasions, I actually paused the movie to determine whether the sirens I was hearing were coming from the movie or from outside my window. The aforementioned ice skating sequence features the music both in the front and surround speakers, with appropriate echo placed in the right places.
SPECIAL FEATURES 2/5
The Blu-Ray presentation of Somewhere comes with the usual BD-Live connectivity and My Scenes functionality, along with pocket BLU functionality. The only other special feature is a “Making of” featurette that covers the usual bases, albeit with a little more depth.
Making Somewhere – (17:03, 1080p) This featurette includes the usual on-set video and interviews, but manages to dig a little farther below the surface than you normally see with these pieces. There are good discussions with Roman Coppola, Harris Savides and Mac Brown about the production, including some difficulties with the Italy shoot. (There’s a great shot of what looks like complete pandemonium in the Italian production office…) Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning are both very complimentary about Sofia Coppola’s directorial approach. And there are a few interesting shots of Coppola at work on the set.
BD-Live - The more general BD-Live screen is accessible via the menu, which makes various online materials available, including tickers, trailers and special events.
My Scenes - The usual bookmarking feature is included here.
pocket BLU – The Blu-ray comes with pocket BLU functionality for those viewers who want to make use of the appropriate iPhone or smartphone applications.
The film and the special features are subtitled in English, French and Spanish. The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu.
IN THE END...
Somewhere is a film that may well tax the patience of even the most dedicated fan of Sofia Coppola’s movies. I respect her choices, and her ability to make these kind of tone poems, but I have to admit that at 90 minutes long, this film may in fact be more than 20 minutes too long. There simply isn’t enough story to sustain what we are seeing. At the same time, I acknowledge that the longing Coppola is trying to portray comes through in a big way.
April 18, 2011