Yes (2004)

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Released 21-Jun-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of-Finding Scene 54, The End
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 95:40 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sally Potter
Studio
Distributor
Madman
Madman Entertainment
Starring Joan Allen
Simon Abkarian
Sam Neill
Shirley Henderson
Sheila Hancock
Samantha Bond
Stephanie Leonidas
Gary Lewis
Wil Johnson
Raymond Waring
Barbara Oxley
Kev Orkian
George Yiasoumi
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Philip Glass
Sally Potter
Tom Waits


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/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 Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The films of modern British director Sally Potter have the tendency to divide audiences. Some find her off-centre, elegant yet oblique movies exquisite, while others think she is too clever for her own good.

    Personally, I fall into both categories. Orlando ( her first major feature) was a modern masterpiece - a blast of intelligence, sensuality and thought, driven home by the transcendant performance of Tilda Swinton. Her next film, 1997's The Tango Lesson, was a disappoint as the director tried to extract wells of meaning from a movie featuring herself and her own love affair with the tango. The Man Who Cried was a strange and almost unfathomable piece that stirred more confusion than dislike or admiration.

    With Yes Potter again reaches for the undefinable. In this case the story was written as an immediate response to 9/11 and deals with a love affair between a western woman and a middle eastern man. This mundane premise is overturned with a startling experiment - the entire film is written in verse! Some of the verse is rhyming, some not, but all is in iambic pentameter, the rhythm of Shakespeare. This alone may cause some people to rapidly return the DVD to the shelf, but for those who remain there are some considerable rewards.

    Yes stars Joan Allen as She and French actor Simon Abkarian as He. The deliberate vagueness of their titles is intended: Potter wants this affair to be about East versus West as much as the sexes. She has a loveless but open marriage with Sam Neill and a high powered job studying cells. She sees life at its smallest and admires its innate simplicity. A chance meeting with He at a function - he is a chef - leads to an affair. The affair is plagued by his resentment of her as a symbol of the West and her difficulty understanding and respecting his Muslim beliefs.

    As with Potter's other films the plot is not the point - she is more interested in putting a human face on the gap between the lovers that may or may not be healable. Speaking directly to the camera, Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter's Moaning Myrtle) sounds the theme of the piece, that our sins, mistakes and hatred are always there - they can't simply be cleaned away. The Yes of the title seems to be an exhortation to carry on regardless in the knowledge of our flaws.

    The big question is whether the central conceit of verse dialogue actually works. The answer is a tentative yes. In the hands of skilled actors like the leads the verse is fresh and intuitive to the point where it becomes indispensible rather than a gimmick. One of the attractions of verse is that it allows Potter to state in more obvious terms thoughts that would be impossible to sell in ordinary dialogue. Take as an example:

You want to rule,
You want to spoil,
You want our land,
You want our oil.

It is probably unfair to single out one of the most doggeral-like passage in the film. The fact is that interspersed with the odd clunker is some really beautiful verse. Alongside this stylized dialogue is Potter's visual trademarks. The film has a strong visual style often including long scenes with Potter's camera as a voyueristic eye. Of course, the verse dialogue demands that the film be somewhat static and the verse works best when used for arguments or talk of love. Staging and colours are often striking and the film never fails to register admiration for its style. The look of the film is as full of poetry as the dialogue itself.

    In short, this is not a film for everyone. Those who don't fall for the verse will trip over themselves reaching for the remote. It is a meditation on love and cultural misunderstanding that draws on strong performances from Allen and Abkarian to drive a story that is both dense and yet sparse. Critics have agreed to violently disagree, some writing the film off as a gimmick and others seeing it as a crucial post-9/11 movie. Fans of the movie, or those just curious, should check out the review by Jonathan Rosenbaum in The Chicago Reader and the puckish verse review by Anthony Lane in The New Yorker for some interesting thoughts.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Yes was filmed on Super 16 at a 1.85:1 original aspect ratio. It was blown up to 35mm for theatrical release and comes to DVD in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     On the official website for Yes Sally Potter states that it was largely budgetary constraints that led her to use 16 mm film rather than a strong artistic decision. The funding for this film was difficult to obtain and eventually a large part came from the British Government. Ater shooting the film was digitally colour graded. As a result grain is about the only real defect in this transfer.

    The transfer is artefact free and there is no aliasing. Whether due to post-production or not (Potter states that the film is basically the same as it came out of the camera) the colours are suitably vibrant where required and yet fittingly stark at times such as the dinner scene at 51.32, with its cold blues and whites, and grey tones at 57.26 in the car park scene which is the centrepiece of the film.

    Potter is nothing if not a supreme visual stylist and the film includes a range of visual techniques, including shooting at 6 frames per second then speeding it up to give some moments a dream like quality.

    The film is subtitled in English, presumably for those who can't keep up with the verse but want to follow the story. The subtitles are word perfect and any serious fan of the movie will probably watch it at least once in this fashion.

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

Audio

    The sound for Yes is English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), although an English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) is also on the DVD.

    The audio transfer is perfectly acceptable with the dialogue being delivered clearly, although it is still a struggle to keep up at times. Audio sync is not an issue.

    The incidental music is by Sally Potter, although the featured theme is Paru Island by Phillip Glass which perfectly suits the minimalist spare visual style.

    The surrounds really get very little use and are not missed in this dialogue (poetry?) heavy film.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    Some interesting incidental music cast against the simple image of He with his head in the lap of She.

Featurette-Finding Scene 54 (29.08)

    This is a lengthy feature examining the preparation of the key scene in the film, a car park meltdown where the gulf between He and She becomes a raw political debate. The feature is fly on the wall style as Potter and the cast and crew work on rehearsals and finding the perfect location for the film. Those in the film industry will probably see this as too close to home but for others the feature shows the blood, sweat and tears that go into making less than 10 minutes of film come alive. Instead of a technological challenge you would see in a blockbuster this is an artistic problem that drives everyone to the edge.

Featurette- The End (22.15)

     This feature shows the filming, or not filming, of the final scenes in the movie. On a beach in the Dominican Republic would seem the ideal place to wrap a scene but rain, sand and failing dolly tracks force changes. Only a snippet of the shots taken appear in the final film. That might suggest that this feature is a waste of time but it again shows the cruelty of time and money afflicted on low budget cinema. Potter, faced with the last hours of filming, has to rearrange her ending under enormous pressure.

Theatrical Trailer

     This is not actually the theatrical trailer but rather a series of four trailers for art-house films.

R4 vs R1

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

    Yes appears to have an identical sound and vision transfer for Region 1 and 2 but the Featurette The End does not appear to be on the DVD . This is a worthy feature. Instead there is a photo gallery. Buy the Region 4.

Summary

    Yes is a bold experiment in film-making that will divide audiences. If you can slip into the concept of characters speaking in verse then the film, then Yes, like other Potter movies, has the potential to cast a spell on the viewer.

    The transfer of the film is excellent despite the fact that it was filmed on Super 16.

    The sound is also good with clear dialogue and some nice incidental music as well as a hypnotising piece from Phillip Glass.

    The extras are excellent, if somewhat draining, as we are taken into the reality of making a low-budget movie with time, money and the elements as cruel masters.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP300, using Component output
DisplayNEC PlasmaSync 42" MP4 1024 x 768. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJBL Simply Cinema SCS178 5.1

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