Full Frontal (2002)

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Released 18-Nov-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Audio Commentary-Steven Soderbergh (Director) & Coleman Hough (Screenwriter)
Deleted Scenes-16 +/- commentary
Interviews-Character-6
Featurette-Director's Spy Cam
Featurette-The Rules
Featurette-Conversation with Steven Soderbergh
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 96:44
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (88:02) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Steven Soderbergh
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring David Duchovny
Nicky Katt
Catherine Keener
Mary McCormack
David Hyde Pierce
Julia Roberts
Blair Underwood
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Jacques Davidovici


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
German Titling
German Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, scene featuring Brad Pitt after credits

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

Plot Synopsis

    What can you say about director Steven Soderbergh, a man who shot to fame with his film Sex, Lies and Videotape, then followed it through with a film like Kafka? A man who's produced a dramatic thriller like Traffic, fast paced action fluff like the remake of Ocean's Eleven, and then tries to out-do Andrei Tarkovsky by producing a remake of Solaris that arguably is even more intellectual and stylised than the original?

    Full Frontal definitely features Steven in one of his "arty" and "intellectual" moods. Although the film features some really big name stars, plus additional cameo roles of a few more bright names, it tries very hard to be inaccessible to the average audience, and to all intents and purposes is designed to look and feel like a student film project.

    The plot itself is highly recursive. We are supposedly seeing a documentary film about various people directly and indirectly related to a producer/director called "Gus Delario " (it turns out later that Gus is played by one of the big name stars but I won't reveal who). The documentary is also about the making of a film called Rendezvous, and we do see scenes from the film itself. The film itself is about an actor called Nicholas (Blair Underwood) being interviewed by Catherine (Julia Roberts) whilst making a film co-starring Brad Pitt. Later on, we find the film they are shooting is also about the making of a film. And so on. Finally at the end of the film we realise (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) we are actually watching the documentary itself being shot.

    In the meantime, we encounter the following characters, all in the space of one day (Friday, if you had to know):

    I could go on and on, but you get the picture. All the characters are vaguely and loosely connected with each other, but we're seeing a set of vignettes rather than a cohesive plot. At some point you know all the characters will end up more or less meeting each other, but you're not sure when, or how, or what will happen. I could be nasty and say that by that time I couldn't care less but the truth is I like meandering films like this. It may not be that meaningful or "deep," but it's a nice way to while away an afternoon.

    There are various subtle, and not so subtle, cameo roles, such as Terence Stamp in the plane and wandering down the hotel lobby, David Fincher (playing a film director, what else?), plus Brad Pitt playing both "Brad Pitt" and "Himself" (go figure!)

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    We get a widescreen 16x9 enhanced transfer in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, based on an intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

    The transfer alternates between reference quality, and shockingly horrible, but it's all intentional. The entire film is actually captured and edited using digital video, and then transferred to 35 mm film for theatrical release. Presumably, what we are viewing is the down-converted high definition digital master.

    The "documentary" part of the film is deliberately doctored to look like the output from a cheap digital video camera. This was apparently done (according to the commentary track) by transferring it onto film, and the grain was artificially increased. We are presented with an extremely soft look, with occasional pixelization and aliasing, and lots of grain. Some shots are deliberately out of focus, plus the "automatic exposure gain control" varies as the camera pans create scenes that are alternately over and under exposed. Colours deliberately look "wrong" with many of the outdoor scenes looking very yellowish due to "incorrect white balance calibration." In other words, Steven seems determined to show us how NOT to shoot a film using a digital camera!

    Scenes from the "film within the film" however, are shot using real 35mm and the transfer quality for these are excellent or close to "reference quality."

    There are several subtitle tracks available, including English, English for the Hearing Impaired, German, and German Titling, and German Audio Commentary. Of the parts that I sampled, the English and English for Hearing Impaired tracks appear identical. Dialogue transcription was about average, and there were some instances of dialogue attribution.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs at the end of Chapter 27 around 88:02 in a fade to black so should be unnoticeable to most viewers.

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

Audio

    There are three audio tracks: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    The soundtrack for most of the film is deliberately monophonic and front centre focused, although director Steve Soderbergh says in the commentary track that he took pains to ensure the dialogue was clear and understandable.

    There is no background music except during the Rendezvous "film within a film" scenes, which include some lush romantic music by Jacques Davidovici.

    There is no use of the surround channels except during Rendezvous scenes in which ambience from the background music is mixed into the surround channels. I did not notice the subwoofer being used at all.

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

Extras

    There are a reasonable number of extras on this disc, and they are quite useful in providing additional background and helping in making people understand the film a little bit better.

Menu

    The menus are 16x9 enhanced and static.

Theatrical Trailer (1:30)

    This is presented in full frame (open matte) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

Audio Commentary-Steven Soderbergh (Director) & Coleman Hough (Screenwriter)

    This is an interesting commentary track, and it certainly made me appreciate the film more after hearing them point out various aspects of the plot, highlighting which bits were scripted and which bits were improvised. They also talk about casting, how some of the scenes were filmed, creative decisions, what was changed at the last minute, and other anecdotes.

    Steven speaks more than Coleman, and does so nearly continuously throughout the film, even during the closing credits. Incidentally, both Steven and Coleman had cameo roles in the film, although Steven's appearance was by "protest" rather than design.

Deleted Scenes-16 +/- commentary

    The following scenes are presented, with or without screenwriter's commentary:

    All scenes are presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed (no 16x9 enhancement) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    Most of these additional scenes are so-so, although I found one or two intriguing (such as the bulimia scene, and the extended scene at the porno shop). The last scene seems more like an extension of the spycam rather than a true deleted scene.

    I didn't find Coleman's commentary to be all that illuminating, and preferred to watch these scenes with the original soundtrack.

Interviews-In Character-6

    These are extended versions of interviews with the cast "in character":

    All the above interviews are presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    These interviews are fascinating to watch, as they feature the real life cast improvising to "off the wall" questions in character, and results in quite interesting dialogue, some of which ended up in the film. I particularly enjoyed Julia Roberts (as "Francesca") getting confused when she was asked "After your Academy Award, do other people treat you differently?". (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) David Hyde Pierce (as "Carl") is interviewed both before and after he loses his job, and Catherine Keener ("Lee") is suitably defensive and kooky.

    Some of the questions asked include:

Featurette-Director's Spy Cam (3:10)

    This is a "hidden" low resolution camera capturing the cast in between takes, presented in black and white, full frame, and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

Featurette-The Rules (7:28)

    Director Steven Soderbergh and various members of the cast talk about the "rules" of making the film, which are:

  1. All sets are practical locations.
  2. You will drive yourself to the set. If you are unable to drive yourself, a driver will pick you up, but you will probably become the subject of ridicule. Either way, you must arrive alone.
  3. There will be no craft service, so you should arrive on set "having had". Meals will vary in quality.
  4. You will pick, provide, and maintain your own wardrobe.
  5. You will create and maintain your own hair and make-up.
  6. There will be no trailers. The company will attempt to provide holding areas near a given location, but don't count on it. If you need to be alone a lot, you're pretty much screwed.
  7. Improvisation will be encouraged.
  8. You will be interviewed about your character. This material may end up in the film.
  9. You will be interviewed about the other characters. This material may end up in the finished film.
  10. You will have fun whether you want to or not. If any of these guidelines are problematic for you, stop reading now and send this screenplay back where it came from.

    This featurette is presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). The dialogue in some of the interviews (particularly of David Hyde Pierce) seems out of sync.

Featurette-Conversation with Steven Soderbergh (7:11)

    This is an extended interview with director Steven Soderbergh where he talks about his reasons for making the film, how he "sold" the concept, and the structure of the film. The dialogue in this featurette - presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) - is also out of sync. An interesting fact I discovered was that both David Duchovny and David Hyde Pierce auditioned for Sex, Lies and Videotape.

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:

    I would rate both versions as equal apart from language features.

Summary

    Full Frontal is a deliberately low budget film, performed by some big name actors, about various characters who are loosely connected.

    The video quality is intentionally awful and not due to a bad transfer.

    The audio quality is okay but fairly monophonic.

    There are quite a lot of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDCustom HTPC (Asus A7N266-VM, Athlon XP 2400+, 512MB, LiteOn LTD-165S, WinXP, WinDVD5 Platinum), using RGB output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum/AVIA. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Martin F (read my bio)

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