Bagdad Cafe (1988)

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Released 9-Oct-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Audio Commentary-Director Percy Adlon and Actor Marianne Sägebrecht
Gallery-Photo
Filmographies-Cast & Crew-Jack Palance, Percy Adlon and Marianne Sägebrecht
Trailer-Malcolm; Cinema Paradiso; Death Of A Salesman
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 103:59 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Percy Adlon
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring CCH Pounder
Marianne Sägebrecht
Jack Palance
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music Bob Telson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    You find yourself in the strangest places, and Jasmin is about to find herself in a very strange place indeed. Jasmin and her husband are on holidays from Germany and during a fight, she is suddenly and dramatically abandoned alone in the barren wastelands of desert Arizona. Walking aimlessly down an almost-deserted road, she comes upon the Bagdad Cafe, an isolated motel, cafe and petrol station hundreds of miles from anywhere. Having nowhere else to go, Jasmin books herself into the motel, much to the consternation of its proprietor Brenda, a stern woman with no time for levity, life or anyone's b******. In contrast to Brenda's hard ways and demeanour, Jasmin is a spark of new life, like someone who's discovered themself for the very first time. This freshness and vibrancy will come into direct conflict with Brenda and her view on life and no one will come out unchanged.

    Released in 1988 (and known as Out of Rosenheim in Germany), this film drew much attention and was also nominated for several awards including the Seattle International Film Festival where it won Best Film 1988. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song for "Calling You". All this attention aside, I find it hard to understand what all the fuss was about as I'd hardly call this any sort of masterpiece. It's not so much the performances that I find didn't inspire, rather I couldn't find much in the story and characters as written and portrayed on film. (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) C.C.H. Pound's Brenda is so unpleasant during the great majority of the film that by the end I really wasn't interested in her redemption and when it did come, I didn't find it convincing. Marianne Sägebrecht who plays Jasmin is very interesting to look at and I thought her performance was quite good. She has a sort of porcelain doll quality about her that really does stand out, but the film didn't delve into her motivation and background enough for the audience to get a sense as to why she is content to settle in with the collection of misfits we are presented with during the film. We know she has a huge spat with her husband which we see at the start, but we really know nothing of her by the end of the film. Perhaps the director intended for the audience to come to the character of Jasmin the same way as the characters at the Bagdad Cafe do, but I still didn't think it worked. Rounding out the main cast is Jack Palance as the aged hippy artist. His performance is okay, but as with the Jasmin character we have too little development for us to understand his motivation.

    Director Percy Adlon doesn't seem to know what to do with the characters here. It isn't enough to collect a range of quirky personalities, dump them into an unusual setting and hope that something interesting happens, because more often than not, not much really does happen. This reminds me of a film that I reviewed recently called Highway which, despite its high profile cast, failed to inspire with either too little character development or poor writing. This film did inspire a short-lived television series in 1990 which starred Whoopi Goldberg in the Brenda role and Jean Stapleton as Jasmin. It ran on the CBS network for one full season and part of a second before being cancelled.

    I did look forward to this film as one of those gems that one might leave off to the side until the right time comes along and you decide to dig it out and watch it. I hadn't read any reviews of the film and was in Europe during its U.S. release, so it really passed my by. Sad to say, it should have just kept on passin' because there isn't all that much to it and it ranges from boring to irritating. Not my cup of tea at all.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Coinciding with the rather ordinary film is an equally average transfer both in terms of video and audio.

    This film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    We have a fairly ordinary level of sharpness here due to several factors, these being grain, MPEG artefacts and some focus issues that are visible from time to time (sometimes all the time) during the program. A prime example of lack of sharpness is visible at 53:50 with a shot that just plain looks out-of-focus and seen in context didn't appear to be intended so by the director. Shadow detail also seemed lacking during some sections such as at 9:57 and 28:50. Low level noise didn't seem to be a problem.

    Colour use during the film varied from natural to non-existent to exaggerated to surreal, all depending on what the director was trying to impart during the film. The colour's commitment to this disc seems reasonable considering the many film and video artefacts that litter the screen.

    Of all the things that mar this film's image, the most prevalent is MPEG artefacts. These are quite pronounced and frequent; pure visible proof of a fairly ordinary compression job. Although this film is committed to disc on a single layer (the German disc is reportedly RSDL), this is no excuse for a terrible transfer as many films with more extras and greater length have been committed to disc much better than what we have here. Instances of this annoying artefact can be seen at 0:43 in the sky, 3:59, 25:21, 65:54 and 79:13. One of the most glaring examples is at 63:57 right after a scene change where the pixelization and macroblocking linger on one of the character's face for several seconds before dissipating. This is a terrible compression job that distracts from the film. Also visible is our old mate edge enhancement which can be seen at 43:00 and 52:59. Telecine wobble is visible at 62:28 and also there is a quite noticeable film frame jump at 56:53. Grain is quite visible throughout the film with 1:31 as a prime example. There is the odd nick and fleck visible during the feature, but these were not present to any distracting level.

    There are no subtitles available during this feature.

    This disc is formatted single layer and therefore a layer change is not an issue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio presented here is fairly ordinary with a very flat soundfield on offer.

    There are 2 audio tracks available on this disc, these being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 main track and an audio commentary track in German Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to the main track and sampled the audio commentary, though I was unable to understand anything as my German is quite poor.

    The dialogue quality is adequate and competent enough to serve the film without being an overachiever. Despite some of the thick accents present with many of the characters, the spoken word was always understandable.

    Audio sync is fairly ordinary with the dialogue drifting off from the characters' mouth movements from time to time such as at 91:55, 93:40 and 96:07. Much of the problems lies with some ordinary lip synching during the singing near the end of the film.

    Music for this film is by infrequent film scorer Bob Telson, whose score for this film is fairly unmemorable with the exception of the theme song Calling You, performed by Jevetta Steele, and something of a hit in the late 80s. It was also nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Song category but lost to Let The River Run by Carly Simon for the film Working Girl. The score meets all the cues required in the appropriate style without being overly memorable.

    Despite this film's main audio track being in English Dolby Digital 2.0, I was unable to coax any surround information from it. Listening to the audio in straight 2 channel didn't seem to present a very accurate soundstage with the dialogue seeming to be separated from the characters, while using the Pro Logic decoding collapsed the sound to the centre channel and did little to spread it across the fronts. Perhaps a DSP setting such as TV Theatre or even Mono Movie might extract some sort of interesting soundstage from the audio tracks of this film, but I didn't have much luck.

    There isn't much to tax (or even nudge) the subwoofer with very little LFE available.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are quite light here with less available that one might have imagined.

Menu

    After the usual copyright warnings and distributor's logos, we are taken to the disc's Main Menu which offers us the following:     The Main Menu is 16x9 enhanced with the song Calling You featured as background music.

    Selecting the Extras presents us with the following choices:

Theatrical Trailer - Bagdad Cafe  1:42

    This is the original theatrical trailer for the film which seems to capture all the quirkiness of the film and package it up as something that someone might find appealing. The image is quite ordinary as is the audio which sounds as if it was transferred from an old 78 rpm record. The image is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

Audio Commentary (in German)- Director Percy Adlon and film star Marianne Sägebrecht

    As much as I might dislike a film, I always find that I can get something out of a commentary. This is one that I'm sorry to say I got nothing out of because it's completely in German and without subtitles. So unless you speak German as well as English, you won't get anything out of this.

Photo Gallery - 5:22

    Rather than the usual frame by frame gallery we usually get, this is a self-running slide show with captions (in English, thankfully) and audio from the film's soundtrack in the background. I found that the images went a bit fast at times and I had to reach for the pause button to have enough time to read the captions. In lieu of the unusable commentary, this features as much information as you will find out about this film on this disc. This feature is 16x9 enhanced with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Filmographies - Jack Palance, Percy Adlon and Marianne Sägebrecht (2 pages each)

    These are abbreviated filmographies for 2 of the film's actors and its director.

Umbrella Propaganda

    This feature offers us 3 trailers for the films:

Malcolm - Theatrical Trailer  2:11

    Trailer for the classic 80s Australian film about a man obsessed with trams. It's presented in 1.85:1 and not 16x9 enhanced. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0.

Cinema Paradiso - Theatrical Trailer  1:29

    Trailer for the 1989 Academy Award winning Best Foreign Film. Presented in 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Death of a Salesman - Theatrical Trailer  1:00

    Trailer for the film featuring Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich. The image of this trailer is quite bad and seems to have been generated from what looks like a third generation VHS master complete with a large timecode bar at the bottom of the screen.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    At the time of writing, there are 4 different versions of this DVD available worldwide; a Region 1 version, a Region 2 U.K. version, a Region 2 German version and the disc we have here. We get some of the extras featured on the Region 2 German disc, but we also miss out on some things.

    The Region 4 disc misses out on:

    (Compared with the German disc):

    (Compared with the Region 2 U.K. disc):     (Compared with the Region 1 disc):     The Region 1, Region 2 U.K. and Region 2 German discs miss out on:     The Region 1 and Region 2 U.K. discs miss out on:     Given the possibility of RSDL formatting on the Region 2 German, which might mean reduced MPEG artefacts which are visible on the Region 4 disc, I am inclined to recommend the German disc although I'd like to see the image on said disc before committing myself. If you are a real fan of this film, our disc in Region 4 will offer better availability and affordability, but it comes at the cost of a good video and audio transfer.

Summary

    On the whole, I found this to be a disappointing, even irritating film. It isn't enough to use unusual camera angles to create interest if the story isn't there. This seems to be a jumble of collected characters dumped on a set and filmed in the hope that something interesting happens. I didn't and we have the film to prove it. If you're a fan of this film, then you'll be pleased to know that it looks as though we have the original full length version of the film here and not the edited-down version screened in the U.S.

    The video is quite ordinary with far too many MPEG artefacts visible along with quite a bit of grain.

    The audio is flat with not much information spread across the front soundstage and no surround activity at all.

    The extras are fairly slim with some trailers available and a commentary in German which rules out it being useful to most of the viewers of this film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Tuesday, January 21, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD RA-61, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Terry K
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Angela A
region4dvd.net - Daniel R
The DVD Bits - Damien M

Comments (Add)
it's all worth it in the end - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio) REPLY POSTED