Personal Velocity (2002)

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Released 10-May-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Rebecca Miller (Director)
Featurette-In Conversation With Rebecca, Parker, Fairuza And Kyra
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-On The Set
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 82:49
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Rebecca Miller
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Kyra Sedgwick
Parker Posey
Fairuza Balk
David Warshofsky
Leo Fitzpatrick
Tim Guinee
Patti D'Arbanville
Ben Shenkman
Joel de la Fuente
Marceline Hugot
Brian Tarantina
Seth Gilliam
Josh Phillip Weinstein
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Michael Rohatyn


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Portuguese
Greek
Hungarian
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Personal Velocity is the second film (the singular noun is problematic in this instance) to have been directed by Rebecca Miller, daughter of the acclaimed playwright Arthur Miller. Whether talent in the creative arts is genetically transferable from parent to child is a question for another time. It seems, however, that whatever the genesis of her storytelling gifts, Ms Miller has put them to great work in this, a trilogy of portraits (or more appropriately, short digital films) of three different women who, in spite of the uniqueness of their personalities and the situations into which they are thrown, are united by a struggle to regain control of their lives. Some film critics have long lamented the dearth of quality short films in an industry seemingly obsessed with bloated, slackly edited features, whose makers constantly mistake lengthy running times as proof of the film's depth of insight and emotion. I must confess that until earlier this year, when I attended the Melbourne screening of the Tropfest Short Film Festival competition entrants, my knowledge of the more compact film medium was limited. Like short stories in comparison to novels, there is an urgency and spareness to the storytelling in short films, evidenced so clearly in Personal Velocity, that offers viewers unique rewards.

    The widespread aversion to short films may in part explain the medium used in the shooting of Personal Velocity - digital video as opposed to film cameras. However, it should be noted that the director and actors frequently detail the specific advantages of digital video over film, some artistic, such as the ease with which the camera can be moved and left 'running' to enable the actors greater freedom in performance, as well as the expected economic advantages (shooting on digital video is significantly cheaper than shooting on film). Ms Miller refers in one of the accompanying documentaries that she had been approached about writing and directing short films, and considered these three stories to be ideal material.

    For all the interest piqued by the structure and look of the film, it is the performances that ultimately decide its merit. Experimental filmmaking techniques have the potential, if used merely to draw attention to themselves, to detract from the impetus of the narrative. There are no such concerns here, however. Ms Miller has crafted three concise stories, brazen, confronting and touching all at once, each centred around a protagonist more fully realised than in films inordinately longer, portrayed with tremendous conviction by three actresses; Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey and Fairuza Balk. This is a wonderful piece of work that deserves a wider audience that it seems destined to receive.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I have already mentioned that the film was shot, for primarily budgetary reasons, on mini DV cameras. Listening to Rebecca Miller's audio commentary confirmed my suspicions that some of the apparent defects in the transfer were in fact stylistic choices, or merely a reflection of the look of digital video. An assessment of the transfer must necessarily take such factors into account. This in fact is a wonderfully true transfer that delivers, in my opinion, the film to us almost exactly as the director would have intended. It is presented at its intended aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture is generally clear and sharp, with good levels of detail throughout. Shadow detail is not spectacular but neither is it distractingly bad.

    Colours are expectedly muted and a little grimy, for lack of a better word. However, the director and cinematographer have worked hard to create an interesting palette of colours for each of the individual films and I never found myself thinking that cleaner or brighter colours would have improved the film. Skin tones were not entirely natural but looked consistent.

    Film artefacts are non-existent. There is some aliasing but this is relatively minimal. If one were to complain about anything it would be the amount of grain, however this comes with the territory of digital video. Those wanting grain free films should go back to your glossy looking major productions, as I believe this gritty, documentary look is intended by the director, and a defining attribute of the medium.

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

Audio

    The 5.1 Dolby Digital English track is unadventurous and seems to be overkill. Dare I do the unthinkable and say that a stereo track for a dialogue-laden film of this kind would have been more than sufficient, considering how often films needing an immersive surround track are shortchanged?

    Thankfully dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and there are few blemishes in the audio transfer. Audio sync is excellent.

    Music is occasionally directed to the rear speakers but for most of the time they, and the lonely subwoofer, are silent. Michael Rohatyn's score is a little off-centre, and its eclectic blend of styles suits the occasional quirkiness of the films.

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

Extras

    We are given a package of extras that complements the film well.

Audio commentary with writer/director Rebecca Miller

    This is an eminently listenable commentary marred by some long gaps of silence. Ms Miller delves into the creative gestation of the film, production obstacles, reasons for choice of shots and other pertinent information. She speaks clearly and has a tone of voice that is easy on the ears. Whilst not one of the best commentaries I've heard it is still worth investigating.

In Conversation: Rebecca, Parker, Fairuza and Kyra

    This thirty minute conversation reminded me of the similarly titled featurette on the Insomnia release between star Al Pacino and director Chris Nolan. Informally the director and two of her actors (Kyra Sedgwick's contribution was recorded separately and played back during the featurette) discuss the origins of the film, what they enjoyed about the project and each other's performances (a little self congratulatory, but the sincerity in their praise placated me enough). I must confess I find real enjoyment in watching these type of features, so long as a lengthy enough amount of time is dedicated to them.

On the Set

    This untitled fourteen minute montage of footage taken during production is interesting for a once off glimpse but its lack of structure is detrimental to any ideas it may have wished to convey. This particular extra seemed a little haphazardly put together, unlike the previous feature.

Trailer

    A good two minute trailer that captures the audience's interest without divulging every plot point and emotionally charged moment as so many often do.

    The two features are presented at 1.33:1 aspect ratios, whilst the trailer is thankfully presented in the film's correct aspect ratio, with 16x9 enhancement.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 release has a 1.33:1 presentation of the film and a couple of DVD trailers, neither of which convinces me that the Region 1 disc is preferable to our local release, with its inherently better transfer.

Summary

    Personal Velocity is a low key but emotionally satisfying drama that thankfully lacks pretension and is powered by three extraordinary performances by three underrated indie actresses.

    The video transfer is hard to assess but considering the low resolution mini DV source I am inclined to view it very favourably.

    The audio transfer does its job more than adequately.

    There is a nice collection of extras, the most notable being the 'In Conversation' featurette.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Scott Murray (Dont read my bio - it's terrible.)
Saturday, July 10, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S100, using Component output
DisplaySony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DVR-S100 (built in)
SpeakersYamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer

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