9 Songs (2004)

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Released 5-Aug-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romance Main Menu Audio
Menu Animation & Audio
Music Highlights-Song List
Trailer-Irreversible, The Hours & Times, Persona Non Grata
Trailer-I Stand Alone, Criminal Lovers, Lost Things, Bus 174
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 67:16 (Case: 69)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Michael Winterbottom
Studio
Distributor
Accent Film Entertainment Starring Kieran O'Brien
Margot Stilley
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Bob Hardy
Alex Kapranos
Nick McCarthy


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    The narrative of 9 Songs is incredibly simple, yet somewhat effective in conveying the very basic premise of the film. 9 Songs uses the live performances of various rock bands together with fragments of a couple's frequent intimacy to relive a brief but passionate relationship.

    Michael Winterbottom's largely experimental film 9 Songs was always destined to divide audiences over the delicate line between art and pornography. The simple fact that the film contains scenes of actual sex will cause many to label it as pornographic, regardless of the context and the carefully intimate nature in which these scenes are portrayed. Although these scenes are suitably erotic, they avoid vulgarity by the honest and sincere depiction of the couple's relationship in the film.

    In Australia, 9 Songs was originally given an X18+ rating, which effectively banned it in all states except the ACT and the Northern Territory. The film's distributor, Accent Film Entertainment, was successful in its appeal to the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification and the rating was downgraded to R18+. The five member review panel approved the R rating in a majority vote of three to two. The ruling basically stated that the actual sex scenes were justified by the context, narrative, tone and artistic merit. However, this R18+ rating does not apply in South Australia, so at the time of this review 9 Songs is banned in that state.

    Matt (Kieran O'Brien) is a British Geologist, studying ice core samples in Antarctica when the film opens. He reflects on a past intense relationship with an American student, Lisa (Margo Stilley). At first his memories of music and sex might appear very superficial, but there is certainly an underlying element of genuine lament in his memoir.

    The couple met at The Brixton Academy, which is a majestic establishment for live rock music in South London. This popular venue has staged performances from leading bands over many years. It is from this venue that we see nine songs from various live performances that Matt and Lisa attended during the course of their relationship. The film then proceeds in an alternating cycle of live performance at the academy and sex at Matt's apartment.

    Their relationship goes through phases of fascination and exploration, before elements of boredom and complacency begin to dull the passion. Lisa decides to return to America, bringing an end to their intense and perhaps understated relationship.

    I'm sure many will view 9 Songs  purely for reasons of curiosity. It's probably fair to say the film would have been very low key with film critics and film goers had the high level sex scenes not been a major factor in the thin narrative of the film. As an experimental work, the film does have merit, but will probably be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Considering 9 Songs was shot using digital video, the video transfer is very good.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer displays a high level of sharpness and clarity generally, but was hampered by occasional grain in some low light scenes. Blacks were clean and clear of low level noise. Shadow detail was particularly good during scenes in which the crew had control over the lighting, for example the interior apartment scenes. The concert scenes, while still acceptable, did not exhibit quite the same level of detail.

    Colours varied from plain and drab interiors to some strong and vivid colour in the concert footage. All appeared very natural and were well rendered on the disc.

    There were no MPEG artefacts in this transfer. Apart from the occasional presence of grain, the transfer was clear of artefacts. Film-to-video artefacts and film artefacts were both well controlled and did not present as a problematic issue.

     There are no subtitles on this DVD.

     This is a single sided, dual layer disc. I believe the layer change occurs at 45:29 during a fade to black between scenes. It was very well placed and difficult to detect.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is excellent.

    There are two audio tracks available on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s).

    The amount of dialogue in the film is quite minimal. However, it is clear and easily comprehensible throughout. I sensed a couple of minor issues with audio sync during some concert scenes, but this is easily overlooked. However, in general dialogue between the two protagonists, audio sync was spot on.

    There appears to have been some original music written for 9 Songs. This music is credited to Melissa Parmenter, but seems to be rather ambiguous. Mostly, the music comes from the concert footage of the artists featured in the film. Some beautifully subtle piano music from Michael Nyman is used in a couple of intimate scenes. This music actually comes from a previous Winterbottom film entitled Wonderland.

     The surrounds were mainly used to enhance the concert scenes. The song Fallen Angel by Elbow is the standout of the mix in terms of surround usage. The vocals are nicely spread over the front and rear speakers with interesting results.

     The subwoofer is also constantly active during the concert scenes.

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

Extras

    None of the extras on this DVD offer any insight into the film. An audio commentary or behind-the-scenes featurette would have been a very welcome addition.

Menu

    All menus are themed around the film, feature subtle animation and are 16x9 enhanced. Each menu also features looped music and dialogue samples from the film.

Song List

    This option allows you to play individual songs by selecting them specifically, or use the play all option. Either way, it is a handy extra in singling out each of the live performances from the film, except for Michael Nyman.

Accent Trailers   

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    In the absence of an R1 version of 9 Songs, I will compare this local all region version with an R2 from the UK, released in June 2005.

    The R2 version features a few extras not included on the local release. These include an introduction by Tom Dewe Matthews, author of Censored, and interviews with Kieran O'Brien, Margo Stilley and Michael Winterbottom. These interviews have a combined running time of approximately twenty seven minutes. Both DVD versions feature the music only option, theatrical trailer and Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 audio tracks.

    The R2 version would appear to be the clear winner in this comparison.

Summary

      Michael Winterbottom's experimental work of rock music and sex will certainly challenge a conservative audience. While 9 Songs may prove to be too confronting for many viewers, I believe the film is far from pornographic. While the film has its share of critics for a variety of reasons, there is no denying this is courageous filmmaking from a director of growing reputation.

    The video and audio transfers are surprisingly very good.

    The overall presentation of 9 Songs would have been greatly enhanced with some insightful extras. Unfortunately, though, this edition can't even match the aforementioned R2 version in terms of extras.

There are Official Distributor Comments available for this review.
read read

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Not actually banned in SA... - James R REPLY POSTED
9 Songs DVD Review - George P
9 Songs in SA - Colin REPLY POSTED
regarding George P's Distributor's Comment from Accent - Bran (my bio, or something very like it) REPLY POSTED
Re: regarding George P's Distributor's Comment from Accent - Greg
Reply to queries - Brian & Greg - George P REPLY POSTED
Releases and Censorship - Daria Nicolodi's Fringe REPLY POSTED