Ultimo Bacio, L' (Last Kiss, The) (2001)

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Released 22-Sep-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:32)
Music Video-L'Ultimo bacio (3:24)
Gallery-Photo
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Poster-Italian Art Designs
Trailer-Italian for Beginners & I'm With Lucy
Trailer-The Man from Elysian Fields & My Mother's Smile
Deleted Scenes-Italian only extra (7:09)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Italian only extra (23:11)
Featurette-Italian only extra (10:29)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 113:04 (Case: 112)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Gabriele Muccino
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Stefano Accorsi
Giovanna Mezzogiorno
Stefania Sandrelli
Martina Stella
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Paolo Buonvino


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian 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 No

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

Plot Synopsis

    For those amongst us who are finding the general calibre of releases coming from Hollywood ranking somewhere just about on the level of, well, rank, there is relief at hand. The World Cinema Collection from Fox Home Entertainment is aiming to bring to the discerning viewer some of the wondrous output from parts of the world other than the United States. Okay, it may mean having to brush up on some foreign languages (or get rather better at glance-reading subtitles), but in the quest for quality entertainment this is but a very minor chore. Then again, I might be a bit biased since I have a very strong distaste for most of what Hollywood has issued in the last ten years...you might have occasionally picked up that bias in my reviews. I make no apology for that, as Hollywood has over the past decade been almost incapable of doing anything but ripping off everyone else - including their own, often neglected, band of innovators in the motion picture arts. For serious quality in film nowadays, you really do have to look away from Hollywood - which means of course that I heartily endorse this new collection - sight unseen.

    For my first foray into The World Cinema Collection, the journey takes us to Italy and the second feature film of Gabriele Muccino. Released in 2001, the film was number two for the year at the Italian box office. It is hardly the most original film ever made, but it is certainly done well and with a degree of style. It has just enough originality to rise above the crowd, even though at heart it does recall some of those films of the 1960's and 1970's that highlighted the talents of the likes of Sophia Loren.

    The story is centred around Carlo (Stefano Accorsi), a thirty year old advertising executive, and his gorgeous girlfriend Giulia (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). Unmarried they may be, but they announce to their parents that they are having a baby. Therein lies the start of this little romp. With his life starting to lay out before him in some uncontrollable manner, Carlo starts to ponder what it would be like to have one last fling at bachelorhood before succumbing to the inevitable - or indeed whether permanent bachelorhood might not have greater attractions. The opportunity arises at the wedding of one of his best mates, where he happens to meet Francesca (Martina Stella), a gorgeous eighteen year old student who falls in love with him.

    Were that to be the only component of this film however, it would be rather short and bleedingly obvious. However, at the same time as Carlo is meeting Francesca, Giulia's mother Anna (Stefania Sandrelli) is breaking up with her husband after thirty years of marriage, as he no longer loves her. Another of Carlo's mates, Adriano (Giorgio Pasotti) is having issues of his own in his marriage to Livia (Sabrina Impacciatore), where the arrival of a child has not been exactly helpful to the lost love. Along with a couple of other mates, he is pondering the acquisition of a campervan and heading off to the wilds of Asia Minor and Africa to find themselves.

    It might sound terribly clichéd, and to be fair it is at times, but what raises this is the rather fast pace of the whole film. Encounters with former lovers by the various combatants (which is probably the best way to describe the characters here) are handled with the sort of pace and noise level of a NASCAR race, and often with the same collision force of such, too. Yes, the vocal level here often hits screaming point and stays there for a little while, but it all has a really natural feel to it. The casting is terrific, other than the fact that some of these women are just too gorgeous to actually believe the guys would walk away from them! Actually, if I were to pick a weak link here it would be Stefano Accorsi, who really does not convince when it comes to his character's dalliance with the really gorgeous Francesca. Still, he does have commendable chemistry with Giovanna Mezzogiorno and they really convince as the couple at the crossroads. Really, Giovanna Mezzogiorno carries the film throughout.

    I found this a really quite interesting film, not so much because of the subject matter which is fairly mundane, but because of the quality of the performances, the quality of the direction and the very nice presentation of the film. It might not be the very best film we will see in The World Cinema Collection but a very competent way to start. With the very Italian expressiveness with their body language when speaking, it is also a film that surprisingly does not rely upon keeping an eye on the subtitles all the time. Worthwhile checking this one out for a welcome change of scenery.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    It is probably fair to say that the sort of budgets available for the making of films other than in Hollywood is considerably less than mainstream American film makers would be used to. It is equally fair to say that as a result, the film makers in other countries learn to do things better without the need for money. Whilst this might be seen to be an impediment, those film makers usually end up putting on the screen something that looks very much better than the budgets they have to play with. This film is very much in that vein. This really is an impressive looking film.

    This very nice looking transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is of course 16x9 enhanced.

    Whilst the initial few minutes of the film did sort of give the impression that the transfer was not going to be excellent, thankfully that soon passed and despite some flaws the end result is rather good. In general this is a very nice, sharp transfer. There were a few places early on where the transfer was a little soft at times, but this is confined to what is presumably the first reel of the film and thereafter there were no problems at all. Added to the sharpness is a gorgeous definition and the whole transfer just jumps out at you with the detail that results. There really is nothing murky or hidden here at all and this is a very impressive transfer in this regard. Shadow detail at times is a little poor, but the more I watched the film, the more convinced I am that this was the intent of the director. However, if your contrast level preferences tend towards the darker side of things, then you would certainly be well advised to lighten them a little for watching this film. There is no grain in the transfer at all and low level noise is non-existent.

    The colours here are superbly rendered and the whole transfer has a stunning vibrancy to it. The overall effect is really amongst the very best that I have seen recently. It is an extremely natural looking transfer. There is nothing in the way of oversaturation here and colour bleed is also absent from the transfer. Black levels were virtually spot on and at no time did I feel that any of the palette of colours needed some improvement in the depth of the tones.

    There is just the odd indication of loss of resolution in pan shots, most notably at 13:28 and 17:36, which may be indicative of some MPEG artefacting issues. However, given the nature of the problem, it is just as likely to be inherent in the source material. Unfortunately, the transfer is let down by film-to-video artefacts. The opening shot sees some moiré artefacting in the roof (at 0:38) as well as aliasing in the gutters. The aliasing crops up quite frequently in small ways - at 9:30 in the sculpture, in the glasses at 16:54, in the chair at 52:41 and at 53:46 in the shirt for example - and whilst none of the instances are really that bad, this is a little detracting from the overall transfer. There is some indication of minor cross colouration at 53:16 in the shirt and some posterization in the steamier moments at 73:38 and 82:22. As this is a recent transfer, there is little in the way of film artefacts to worry about.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD, although quite where the layer change is I could not tell.

    Naturally there are limited subtitle options on the DVD, with the only option being English subtitles (defaulting to on in the menu). One of the problems is that Italian is an expressive language and the subtitles at times are far too literal and stilted, and don't really convey the obvious nuances that the native language does. Accordingly, I get the impression that we poor non-Italian speakers don't really get the full gist of what is truly meant. Still, they are fairly easy to follow, even if they are a tad prone to aliasing and are not solid in colour (being yellow with obvious white ringing to them). Interestingly this is not a problem on my PC when using Power DVD with the subtitles being solid in colour and trimmed in black to boot...

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

Audio

    There are two soundtracks on the DVD, being an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and an Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Funnily enough, you will not know this from the menu as heading into Setup only reveals the ability to switch the English subtitles on or off. Thankfully the title defaults to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but there is the 2.0 option if you want (accessible through the Audio button on your remote). The other odd thing is that the soundtracks are flagged as English soundtracks, even though they are quite obviously Italian. One thing I do like about the release is that no English dub has been provided. I know plenty of people will disagree with me but I appreciate having the film only in its original language and having the English subtitles to get me through (since my Italian skills are fairly basic - although my pronunciation of the f-word in Italian is improving).

    The dialogue is really quite exquisitely handled in the overall soundtrack and you can hear every word - even the really soft whispering stuff. There is not even a minor indication of any audio sync problems in the soundtrack.

    The original score comes from Paolo Buonvino, and as the name indicates it is of pretty decent vintage (sorry, couldn't resist the pun). It is at times a gorgeously subtle score that slowly draws itself into the film and provides wonderful support. With the way that the sound itself is at times actually handled, the scoring really is very close to bringing tears of joy, it is such a delight.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack really is quite superb, most especially for the gorgeous way in which the surround encoding is used. Since this is a very dialogue driven film obviously, there is nothing here that really requires the full force of the six channels available. As such, not a demonstration soundtrack right? Wrong! If I want to demonstrate how good sound engineering can be, I will be looking to this DVD to provide it, and especially around the 36:00 mark. You are just sitting there listening to the dialogue, nothing much really happening in the soundtrack, and then you slowly become aware of the subtle string music slowly making itself known out of the rear surrounds, slowly building to the dominant sound in the soundtrack at that time. Truly, this is as close to tears as I have come from just pure sound in years. It is a gorgeous demonstration of how sound can be used, and how subtle it can be, yet totally supporting the film in every way. If only we got more quality sound engineering like this on DVD...

    Other than that, the soundtrack is really nice - wonderfully open, beautifully clear, with not an ounce of overuse of the low frequency channel at all. By far and away the best six channel soundtrack I have heard in ages.

    Whilst I only sampled the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, there really is nothing wrong with it based upon the sample I made. Sure, it does not have the gorgeous feeling of the six channel effort but then I would not expect it to. Thoroughly competent, although clearly the effort was made where it mattered - in the six channel soundtrack.

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

Extras

    A decent package of extras is provided on the DVD, interestingly presented in two parts - one the general section and the other an Italian-only section.

Menu

    Nicely functional without being plain and boring. All menus appear to be 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound (192 Kb/s Italian with English subtitles). Aside from the fact that there are plenty of film artefacts (mainly of the little white speck variety), nothing untoward here.

Music Video (3:24)

    Whilst I am sure that one of readers more conversant in Italian than I will correct me, I am guessing that the song is L'Ultimo bacio (the theme song) and the artist is Carmen Consoli - none of this information is detailed on the DVD itself. A very neatly done effort from a video point of view, even if the song is not entirely to my taste. The video is of very decent quality and is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 that is also not 16x9 enhanced, and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound (again 192 Kb/s Italian although this time without English subtitles).

Gallery - Photo

    Twenty unannotated photos presumably taken during filming. 16x9 enhanced.

Biographies - Cast and Crew

    Comprising Gabriele Muccino, Stefano Accorsi, Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Domenico Procacci (Producer), with the first three having two pages apiece and the last four pages. Mainly very short bios with presumably incomplete filmographies to boot. At least it gives details of some more films involving these people that I might care to check out.

Poster - Italian Art Designs

    Comprising three poster designs. 16x9 enhanced. Not exactly world shattering stuff, but interesting to see the approaches to the design side of things.

Trailer - Italian For Beginners (1:58)

    Collectively hiding under the banner of More From Palace Films, the trailers provide a nice change of pace to the rest of the package. This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 224 Kb/s sound. It is a little grainy at times but otherwise is quite acceptable quality. Italian with English subtitles and certainly a film that I intend to check out.

Trailer - I'm With Lucy (1:32)

    This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 224 Kb/s sound. Fine technically and for a change in English!

Trailer - The Man From Elysian Fields (2:25)

    This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 224 Kb/s sound. Adequate technically.

Trailer - My Mother's Smile (1:26)

    This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 224 Kb/s sound. It suffers somewhat from aliasing but is otherwise quite okay. Presumably Italian with English subtitles.

Scene Inedite (Deleted Scenes) (7:09)

    This and the next two items are found in the Italian Only Extras - Italian language with no subtitles - so I am guessing at what the Italian titles mean from the content therein. This comprises eight deleted scenes from the film, presented in a very raw looking 2.35:1 aspect ratio, that is not 16x9 enhanced and with on-set recorded 192 Kb/s Dolby Digital 2.0 sound that at times leaves a bit to be desired (at least it shows how much ADR work is done in films...). With the source material being rather raw, the aliasing issues in the transfer are to be expected I guess. Interesting even if the general gist of the dialogue will only truly be known to those who speak Italian.

Dietro Le Quinte (Featurette - Behind The Scenes) (23:11)

    A seemingly EPK-styled presentation that unusually is in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, that is not 16x9 enhanced and with 192 Kb/s Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. A pity that this is Italian only as it looks very interesting and I am quite sure I would be interested in what the contributors are saying. Somewhat grainy at times, and also blessed with some aliasing, this would be very interesting I would guess to those conversant with the language.

I Provini (Featurette - Auditions) (10:29)

    Apparently the auditions for Martina Stella (5:44) and Sabrina Impacciatore and Giorgio Pasotti (4:45) recorded on 7th July, 2000. We don't see these too often on DVD so to have these two is very interesting. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, this is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with limited 192 Kb/s Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Given the fact that this is footage presumably shot on a video camera, it is of quite good quality.

R4 vs R1

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

    Apparently released under the title One Last Kiss in the United States, I cannot track down any information regarding a Region 1 release at this time. There are release(s) in European Region 2 but since my Italian and Swedish are pretty ropey, I am not able to say with any certainty what those releases are like. However, given that the Region 4 release is dual coded Region 2/4, it would seem logical that the Region 4 release is similar to the Region 2 release.

Summary

    Whilst the subject matter is a little clichéd, the film itself is not and L'Ultimo bacio is a nice start to The World Cinema Collection for me. Presented on a generally excellent DVD, especially the audio transfer, there is every reason to get out and indulge in this effort. If Hollywood is starting to be a drag to you, then you really need to check this film out. Not the best Italian film I have ever seen but certainly an enjoyable one. Highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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Comments (Add)
agree with you Ian! - Anonymous
American Version - Anonymous
Remake - Anonymous
I don't agree with this one part...... - Anonymous