XenForo Template White Nights Special Edition Release Date: August 29, 2006 Studio: Sony Pictures Year: 1985 Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 2h16m Video: 1.85:1 anamorphic (special features a mix of 1.78:1 anamorphic and 1.33:1 standard) Audio: English DD5.1, Portuguese (special features DD2.0) Subtitles: English, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish TV-Generated Closed Captions: English Menus: Non-animated Packaging/Materials: Single-disc keepcase MSRP: $19.94 The Feature: 2.5/5 Director Taylor Hackford describes his 1985 film "White Nights" as a "political dance thriller." And for better or worse it lives up to his smirk-inducing description. Nikolai Rodchenko (Mikhail Baryshnikov) is the toast of the town, a star ballet dancer who defected from the Soviet Union eight years ago. On a transcontinental flight his jet develops electrical problems and has to land at the nearest airstrip. Unfortunately the airstrip is on a Soviet military base in Siberia. It's not long before Rodchenko is identified and put under house arrest, ruled a criminal by the government for his defection. The Soviets - represented by Colonel Chaiko (Jerzy Skolimowski) - want him to rejoin the national ballet company and bring in American expatriate Raymond Greenwood (Gregory Hines) and former lover Galina Ivanova (Helen Mirren) to apply pressure. At first Greenwood and Rodchenko are like oil and water, but they are really more alike than they seem, both disillusioned with their native countries and both great dancers. As Chaiko bears down harder on Greenwood - at one point separating him from his lovely wife (Isabella Rossellini) - he begins to see that maybe the United States isn't so bad after all. At least there he was free and not a political pawn. Along the way he and Rodchenko become friends and allies and together they work out a plan for all three of them to escape their Soviet captors. For dance enthusiasts "White Nights" has plenty to offer, the highlight being the opening ballet, "La Jeune Homme et La Mort," performed by Baryshnikov and ballerina Florence Faure. Subsequent numbers take on a distinctly 80s feel, mostly due to the soundtrack, and may seem a bit silly and dated to some. One of the goals of the filmmakers was to have the dance sequences move the story forward rather than be departures from it. While they certainly evolve, fusing ballet and tap as the friendship between Rodchenko and Greenwood develops, they still feel like detours from the other scenes; the attempt at merging a dance with a dramatic, political film doesn't quite work in the way the filmmakers wanted. Ultimately "White Nights" belongs more in the company of "Flashdance" and "Footloose" than anything more serious in nature. But aside from the awkward incorporation of dance in the plot, the film does raise some compelling - though perhaps easily answered - political and social questions. And the performances are mostly well-executed, in particular Mirren and Baryshnikov's. Hines is suprisingly the weaker dramatic performer, lacking some of the subtlety of his co-stars, but no one can fault his dancing and singing ability. Overall "White Nights" is certainly worth seeing if only to see Baryshnikov and Hines doing what they do best. The rest of the film viewers will find entertaining but ultimately forgettable. Video Quality: 4/5 Black levels are quite good and colors have a muted quality typical of film stock used at the time. Edge enhancement ranges from mild to moderate, but is never distracting. Dust and dirts specks can be seen in the title sequence, but the picture remains clear for the rest of the film. Audio Quality: 3/5 The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track has minimal surround activity, with the center and front channels dominating. The only scene where one would expect LFE (the plane crash on the military airstrip) has no signs of it. At times dialogue is difficult to understand, but I attribute this to the sometimes thick Russian accents more than problems with the audio. Generally dialogue is clear and intelligible, if sounding a bit strained at times when characters are screaming. Special Features: 3/5 Commentary with Director Taylor Hackford: Hackford talks practically non-stop through the film, providing plenty of background information and stories from production. Some of the highlights include how he planned out the plane crash scene, working with eccentric cinematographer David Watkin and the challenges gathering actual footage of Leningrad during the Cold War. "Pas de Deux: Making White Nights" documentary (21m04s): Straightforward documentary covers all the usual topics - pre-production, casting and production challenges. Features recent interviews with Hackford, Mirren and Rossellini. Previews "White Nights" orginal theatrical trailer "Rent" "West Side Story" SE DVD 80s Hits on DVD Cirque Du Soleil on DVD "The Company" "Center Stage" "Dance with Me" "Tap" "Marilyn Hotckiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School" Recap and Final Thoughts The Feature: 2.5/5 Video Quality: 4/5 Audio Quality: 3/5 Special Features: 3/5 Overall Score (not an average): 3/5 A political film infused with dance is as awkward as it sounds, but it gets a decent presentation for those who want to add it to their DVD collections. Equipment: Toshiba 42" CRT RPTV fed a 1080i signal from an Oppo DV-971 DVD player. Audio evaluation is based on an Onkyo TX-SR575x 5.1 AVR running JBL S26 mains and surrounds, JBL S-Center, and BFD-equalized SVS 20-39 PCi subwoofer.