The Triumph of Love (2001)

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Released 1-Jul-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 107:11
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:14) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Clare Peploe
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Mira Sorvino
Ben Kingsley
Fiona Shaw
Jay Rodan
Ignazio Oliva
Rachael Stirling
Luis Molteni
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $35.95 Music Jason Osborn


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     The French have a word - "marivaudage" - which describes flirtatious bantering dialogue characteristic of that written by the 18th century playwright, Pierre Marivaux. It was he who wrote the original text in 1732 from which Clare Peploe adapted the script for Triumph of Love. French theatre has a long and strong tradition of farce, and this is as fluffy a piece of farce as you're likely to encounter.

     Our heroine (Mira Sorvino) is the Princess of a land that was usurped from its rightful monarch by her father. Her conscience is troubled by these wrongs, and when she chances upon the rightful heir, the beau, Agis (Jay Rodan) bathing in a stream, she is smitten by bosom-heaving love. She determines to win his love and affection, but alas, he has been brought under the cloistered protection of brother and sister scholars, Hermocrates (Sir Ben Kingsley) and Leontine (Fiona Shaw) who have not only preserved his safety, but also instilled in him an abiding hatred of the Princess' family and, by association, the Princess herself. What to do, oh, what to do? Our dauntless damsel decides on a radical course of action, and she and her faithful handmaiden, Corine (Rachael Stirling) bind their décolletages and transform themselves into 2 town gents, Phocion and Hermidas. They (literally) drop into the high walled sanctuary of Hermocrates and Leontine and rapidly enlist the mercenary assistance of two of the groundsmen. Phocion then sets about seducing poor Leontine who, well past any of her blushes of youth, succumbs to the fawning charms of her young suitor.

     Once the bookish Leontine is firmly under Phocion's spell, our androgynous protagonist progresses to the philosopher Hermocrates. His intellect is formidable, but it is bested by his even greater vanity, and Phocion reveals herself to "actually" being the fair Aspasie, a love-struck pilgrim of the great thinker. And in the midst of all these dramas and intrigues, she is also carefully endearing herself to the handsome (but somewhat dim) Agis.

     So the intrigues are set. The Princess/Phocion/Aspasie now has the love of three people. How will she extricate herself from the ardour of two unwanted lovers and retain the fealty of Agis, to whom she is, in reality, his sworn enemy?

     The settings for this period drama are lush, lavish and lovingly portrayed. The mansion and grounds are exquisite, the costumes are glorious and there is a lightness and airiness to the production that is utterly seductive.

     However, I found the production values to be disconcerting and clumsily handled. Peploe has made a series of decisions that I felt were inappropriate and jarring to the overall feeling of the piece. Her choice to use handheld cameras led to dipping and swerving vision that made an unwelcome intrusion into the story. The use of almost exclusively available light worked some of the time, but at others displayed shots that flared out and made the viewer far too conscious of the production, rather than the actual tale being told.

     In interviews, Peploe defends her liberal use of jump cuts and subliminal cutaways to a contemporary audience by saying, and I quote, "These subliminal moments in which you see a modern audience were partly to inform the audience that this is not just a story that takes place in the 18th century but a theatrical text written then. And I wanted to use these moments not just for that information, but to add a sort of nervousness and anxiety to the emotion of the characters in the story. Like a missing heartbeat, or just a disconcert. So the idea was that the film should be a kind of dance between theatre and film, that the jump cuts again add to this nervousness."

     Ms Peploe, forgive me, but I'm afraid it didn't do it for me. Certainly it added to the tension of the piece, but it contributed nothing to the story and only made the production values intrusive. The same goes for your decision to include electric guitar riffs from Pink Floyd's David Gilmore in the score. To me, it served no valuable purpose and only irritated and grated on the viewer's consciousness.

     The result of these particular decisions made the film look like a low budget wannabe, where they hadn't filmed enough coverage of various shots, and consequently had to resort to jump cuts to fill out the story. The regular occurrence of actors bumbling somewhat through their lines reinforced that impression, and these blaring production clangers tended to make one more conscious than usual of the technical aspects of the film, which meant that continuity errors became more marked and irritating.

     The consequence of these peculiar production decisions lead to a very mixed feeling by film's end. I was prepared to forgive much of the plot holes, given the script's original source, but the presentation ultimately is too frustrating to result in a satisfying viewing experience. The presentation is not helped by shamefully being presented in 1.33:1 format - made twice as unforgivable as it begins in letterbox format, then sneaks into full frame at 3:52. The acting is wonderful by Sorvino, Kingsley, Shaw and Stirling, but the other performers are considerably below their par, making it a patchy presentation overall.

     Mixing an 18th century comedy of manners with MTV style production values may be an interesting experiment, but having endured 107 minutes of it, I'd say that it doesn't really work.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The technical transfer appears to be quite good, but I suspect the original stock is patchy, and consequently, this presentation suffers visually.

     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, although it appears to be full screen and not pan and scan. I consider this to be a cardinal sin for a film that is as visually broad as this, and the presentation of the first few minutes in widescreen merely rubs our noses in the insulting ratio.

     The transfer is extremely clear and sharp and exhibits good detail and no low level noise. Contrast is normally very good and grain is generally acceptable. The use of steadicams and handycams in the original stock makes for some variable visual results which, to be fair, are faithfully represented in this disc.

     The colour palette is very accurately recreated. When it's good, it's very very good, with glorious, rich and warm colours and a vibrancy that nearly pops out off the screen. Due to the extensive use of available light sources, there are times when the palette either washes out completely, or becomes murky and subdued, but again, this is a sin committed in the filming and is not a fault of the transfer.

     There were few MPEG artefacts seen. Aliasing was rare with its most obvious evidence being at 56:36. Film to video artefacts were not a distraction.

     There are no subtitles available on this disc.

     This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed in Chapter 8, at 61:14. It is a brief pause and not overly distracting.

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

Audio

     There is one audio track on this DVD - English Dolby Digital 5.0.

     The dialogue was occasionally difficult to pick up, and this was not helped by the absence of subtitles. The audio track suffers severe popping and crackling throughout the opening credits, but fortunately, this settles before the film proper begins. Audio sync was okay.

     The musical score by Jason Osborn oscillated between utterly enchanting when he was using classically themed, sweeping fugues, and thoroughly irritating when Gilmore's electric guitar broke through. For this viewer, it just didn't work.

     The surround channels were kept pleasingly busy throughout the film, with good ambient sound that was clean and crisp. The subwoofer also did its stuff with thundering hooves and deep bassy notes appearing in all the right places.

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

Extras

     There are no extras on this disc.

Menu

     The menu design features a graphic presentation, is static and silent.

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:

     Sadly, there's no comparison - R1 in the correct aspect ratio is going to be the winner.

Summary

     Wild camera angles, peculiar jump cuts, strange semi-subliminal scenes of contemporary viewers watching the play, riffs of electric guitar spearing through an otherwise baroque soundtrack, wildly contrasty shots in available light - all of these fight with the source material with the result that a film that could have been a charming diversion ends up being a battleground of style. Shame really - as there are certain elements that are quite lovely. It just doesn't gel.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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