S1m0ne (Simone) (2002)

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Released 1-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Menu Animation & Audio
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-Cyber Stardom
Featurette-Simulating S1M0NE
Deleted Scenes-19
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 112:40
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:59) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Andrew Niccol
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Al Pacino
Catherine Keener
Pruitt Taylor Vince
Jay Mohr
Rachel Roberts
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Carter Burwell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English dts 6.1 ES Discrete (768Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, extra scene after credits

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

Plot Synopsis

    From writer, producer and director Andrew Niccol (who was responsible for the screenplay of The Truman Show, not to mention having written/directed Gattaca) comes another film that blurs the line between the media and reality.

    The premise of S1m0ne is superb: what if it is possible to create a "digital" actor that cannot be distinguished (on film at least) from a real person? Would we need real actors anymore? Watch out Jar Jar Binks!

    Victor Taransky (Al Pacino) is a "has been" film director whose career is just about over. His latest film - "Sunrise Sunset" - is in jeopardy when the leading lady Nicola Anders (Winona Ryder) walks out on him. Shortly, thereafter, studio head Elaine Christian (Catherine Keener) - who also happens to be his ex-wife - fires him.

    He is determined to finish the film using his own meagre funds by casting an unknown because he is tired of demanding, temperamental prima donnas hijacking the attention away from his films. Along comes his saviour, although he does not realise it at first.

    The scruffy but brilliant computer nerd Hank Alemo (uncredited) has come up with the ultimate simulation software - software that can digitally "emulate" a human being with uncanny realism. Unfortunately, he dies of a brain tumour, but not before mailing his idol Victor a copy of the software.

    Using the software, Victor creates the "perfect actress" "Simone" (Rachel Roberts) and finishes his film by digitally substituting "Simone" for Nicola.

    To his surprise, his low budget art film becomes an overnight success. "Simone" becomes an overnight celebrity as everyone wants to know more about this seemingly "perfect" woman - luminously beautiful, alluring, poised and seemingly graced with acting skills that are an amalgamation of the world's best actresses (courtesy of Victor's years of experience as a director and "borrowing" a few attributes from famous actresses past and present).

    Initially, Victor wants to expose "Simone" as a creation, to prove the point that it's the performance that really matters, not the person behind the performance. But he is drawn into the deception and soon he is using "Simone" in another film. He goes to great lengths to create the "illusion" that "Simone" is a real person - including manufacturing video "interviews", faking hotel stays using a body double, and even getting "Simone" to appear in a concert using hologram technology. The deception is sustained by Victor claiming that "Simone" is a Garbo-like recluse who only communicates through Victor or via an electronic medium.

    Needless to say, the world becomes infatuated and obsessed with "Simone." The whole charade eventually tires Victor out, but how do you get rid of a person who doesn't exist?

    The premise was really good, but I found the second half of the film unrealistic and ultimately disappointing. Incidentally, the theatrical release of the film did not even credit the actress playing "Simone" (Rachel Roberts) as the film publicists wanted to suggest that "Simone" was in fact a digital creation. I thought this was a bit mean - but fortunately the DVD release now properly credits Rachel.

    You have to admire the publicists for their zeal - the film credits include a reference to "Hank Aleno Software" and there are even fake "official" web sites for "Amalgamated Film Studios" (the studio where Victor worked) as well as the "films" that "Simone" starred in:

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The widescreen 16x9 enhanced transfer presents the film in its intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film source is a 35mm film print created using a combination of anamorphic lenses and computer generated animation.

    I expect a lot from New Line films, and the transfer for this is probably a bit disappointing. However, it is still a cut above average.

    Detail levels are good, although the film has a tendency to shimmer, resulting in "micro-combing" and some aliasing on my display. The end title credits are rather blurry from shimmering and I'm wondering whether this is an upconverted NTSC transfer.

    Colours are pretty much spot on, even though they appear unrealistic in many scenes - but I suspect that's intentional. For example, the yellowish tone for the external shots outside the "studio" backlot seem to be a result of digital grading, and the scenes featuring "Simone" have an unnatural "glow" with exaggerates colours.

    Edge enhancement is noticeable in quite a few shots but generally is not a major issue. I did not notice any objectionable instances of grain. Compression artefacts seem limited to the occasional Gibb's effect.

    There is an English subtitle track which I turned on briefly. Dialogue accuracy was about average, although I noticed a few abbreviated sentences. The lyrics for the song sung over the end titles are also transcribed.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL-formatted). The layer change occurs in Chapter 12 at 72:59. It is very well placed and occurs during a natural pause on Nicola's face.

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

Audio

    There are three audio tracks on this disc: English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s), English dts 6.1 ES Discrete (768Kb/s), and English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

    The Region 1 disc warns that the audio has been optimized for DVD and no re-equalization is necessary. Unfortunately, there is no such warning on the Region 4 release. In any case, the audio sounds ever-so-slightly bright without Cinema re-equalization, and slightly dull in THX mode so you can decide for yourself which mode you prefer - either sounds "acceptable" to me although on balance I prefer the non-THX presentation.

    I am happy to report that both the ES and EX tracks are reference quality transfers and if you are lucky enough to own a 6.1 capable setup you will be very pleased with both tracks.

    I have done some comparisons between the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and dts 6.1 ES Discrete tracks. The EX track has been encoded with dialog normalization set to +4dB, so it will sound louder than the other two tracks.

    Both tracks are pretty faultless, but I felt the dts ES track sounded smoother and less harsh than the EX track. Dialogue especially had a slight tendency to sound more sibilant and chesty on the EX track.

    On the other hand, I felt the LFE track was far richer and "integrated" into the overall sound on the EX track. The subwoofer on the ES track was hardly noticeable except on two occasions where the low frequencies kind of "jumped" at me: the shot of the communications satellite in space around 63:13-63:15, and the ending of the film around 104:17-104:25.

    The major difference between the tracks is in the rear surround soundstage. The surround back channel was far more prominently used in the EX track - I could hear sounds coming from directly behind me most of the time. In the excerpts from "Sunrise Sunset" and "Eternity Forever" the surround back channel was very actively engaged.

    On the ES track the rear soundstage was far wider and enveloping. The surround channels kind of disappeared into the soundstage and I hardly noticed the surround back channel at all. On the whole, I think I would judge the EX usage of the surround back channels as more "impressive" but the ES soundstage was more subtle and realistic.

    A variety of music is used in the soundtrack - ranging from light instrumental to atmospherically orchestral/choral (for the excerpts from the Taransky films) to pop (Simone's concert and the end titles). The original music score is credited to Samuel Barber and Carter Burwell.

    Dialogue was superb. I noticed subtle things like the timbre of the characters changing depending on the locale of the scene, and different reverberation effects used in different scenes (voices sounded fuller with more "echo" in a large hall, for instance). There were no audio synchronization issues.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 track sounded quite pleasant, particularly when I engaged Dolby Pro Logic II processing, but of course paled in comparison to the EX and ES tracks.

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

Extras

    The extras on this disc are not as extensive as I would have hoped, consisting of two featurettes, deleted scenes and two trailers. I would have liked to have seen a commentary track or two. At least both featurettes are 16x9 enhanced and include English subtitles.

Menu

    The menus are 16x9 enhanced and include extensive animation, background audio, introduction and transition effects. The scene selection menus are animated.

Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain

    This is only played if you select a Dolby Digital audio track, and not if you select the dts track, which is what you would expect.

Featurette-Cyber Stardom (7:42)

    This is pretty much a "making of" promotional featurette, presented in 1.78:1 (16x9 enhanced) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s). Film excepts are presented in 2.35:1, although curiously some excerpts are in 1.78:1. Some of the interview shots look a bit cropped so I suspect they were originally shot in full frame.

    Interviews include

    A lot of the interviews are focused on how they created "Simone", which seems redundant given the next featurette.

Featurette-Simulating S1M0NE (6:51)

    This is featurette that focuses more on how they filmed "Simone" and gave her a computer generated artificial "look", presented in 1.78:1 (16x9 enhanced) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s). Film excepts are presented in 2.35:1, although curiously some excerpts are in 1.78:1. Some of the interview shots look a bit cropped so I suspect they were originally shot in full frame.

    Interviews include:

    This featurette includes more behind the scenes footage than the previous one.

Deleted Scenes-19

    The following additional scenes are included:

    All deleted scenes are presented in 2.35:1 (16x9 enhanced) and Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s).

Teaser Trailer (1:12)

    This is presented in 2.35:1 (16x9 enhanced) and Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s).

Theatrical Trailer (2:05)

    This is presented in 2.35:1 (16x9 enhanced) and Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s).

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    Both versions have nearly identical extras, so I would rate them both equally. I suspect the Region 1 release may have a slightly better transfer.

Summary

    S1m0ne is based on the very interesting premise of a man "creating" a computer-generated actress that is so convincing that she becomes a celebrity that threatens to overshadow him.

    The video transfer is above average although plagued by shimmering and slight edge enhancement.

    The audio transfer is reference quality.

    Extras are reasonable but not as comprehensive as I would have liked.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RP82, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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