Venus: Special Edition (2006)
Featurette-Making Of-Venus: A Real Work of Art (13.49)
Deleted Scenes-4 Scenes (4.30)
|Year Of Production||2006|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Roger Michell|
Corinne Bailey Rae
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
There was perhaps no more forlorn sight at the 2007 Academy Awards than the image of veteran British actor Peter O'Toole missing out on yet another Best Actor Award. His 8th unrequited Best Actor nomination, for last year's Venus is an Oscar record. He, like the other actors nominated that year, no doubt cursed the fact that they were competing against Forrest Whittaker for The Last King of Scotland, a role which defined the actor's career.
In 2003, O'Toole received an Honorary Academy Award for his entire body of work. He initially told the Academy he wouldn't attend because he was "still in the game". He turned up anyway and delivered one of the best speeches by an actor in recent memory.
Despite his belief that he had more roles in him, even O'Toole must have been surprised to be in such a quality film as Venus. In fact, it is with some genuine emotion that he speaks of his joy of receiving the part, in the short but excellent Making Of feature and in this thought he is ably supported by Leslie Phillips, the doyen of British comedy, who quite frankly felt that his days of playing major roles were over.
Venus is the 8th feature by South African born British director Roger Michell. He is a careful and effective director who brought the "real" Jane Austin alive in Persuasion, made the comedy Notting Hill into something special and saw off the enormous challenge of bringing Ian McEwan's Enduring Love to the big screen. Perhaps more relevantly, in 2003 he directed The Mother about a post-menopausal woman and her affair with a much younger man, Daniel Craig, who also happens to be sleeping with her daughter. The film was scripted by Hanif Kureshi, who also worked on Venus. The collaboration could not have been any better. Kureshi is master at direct, honest script writing and his characters never fail to be unpredictable yet true to life.
In Venus, O'Toole plays Maurice, an elderly actor who was "a little famous" in his day. He still manages to perform however he often plays the dying father. Maurice separated from his wife Valerie (Vanessa Redgrave) countless years ago but they remain strong friends. His other strong friend is Ian (Leslie Phillips), a fellow "retired" actor. Their friendship is strong and they share quiet moments of reminiscence in a local London café.
Ian engages his niece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) as a carer and housekeeper but is shocked to find that she is a surly and selfish young woman who has little time for his prissiness. When Maurice and Jessie meet, however, the effect is profound. Maurice is struck deeply by the girl and she by him. Maurice, realising he is at the end of his life, is attracted to her beauty in a way that is powerful and sexual despite prostate problems having robbed him of his masculinity.
For Jessie, Maurice is probably the first and possibly the last man to take a strong and genuine interest in her. As the relationship develops she allows him small pleasures such as touching her hand or smelling her hair. He nicknames her Venus after the Rokeby Venus by Velazquez which hangs in the London National Gallery. As both face the awful inevitability of Maurice's departure, they strive to find lasting meanings.
If this all sounds dark and depressing, it isn't. Venus is a funny movie and O'Toole and Phillips can shift gears into comedy without a blink. Further, the "ick" factor of a septugenarian drooling over a young girl is kept to a minimum and handled brilliantly by director and cast.
Despite the fact that it may be O'Toole's last great role and that he is playing a noted actor, he resists all temptation to overplay the role. His performance is a classic demonstration of cinema acting. Phillips too gives one of his best performances as the whining and fussy Ian. Vanessa Redgrave is in the film for only a few short scenes yet her byplay with O'Toole shows an acting skill that is indefinable.
Newcomer Jodie Whittaker does a fine job as the fish out of water, practically the only youngster in the film. I had some misgivings about her Northern accent at the start of the film but felt somewhat guilty when seeing her in the Making Of feature speaking in the exact voice of her character. Venus is too "little" of a film to be considered great but it is one of the best examinations of ageing and mortality as well as sexuality in recent memory. If for nothing else, fans of classic acting should relish the ability to see some fine actors at work.
Venus was shot on Super 16 blown up to 35mm for cinematic release. It is presented on DVD in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
I would imagine that the director chose to use 16mm for the intimacy the smaller camera permits when filming. The film feels like a chamber piece and looks extremely good in the interiors. It is choicely lit and the colour palate, whilst fairly subdued, is clearly rendered. The all important flesh tones are extremely accurate and we are privy to every wrinkle in O'Toole's aged face. His eyes are a revelation - at times bright and alive and at others, dark and dead like.
The exteriors do not fare quite so well. I noticed some colour banding in an early scene at the beach and the film grain, which is minimal indoors, is much more noticeable on wide and long shots.
Still, this is being picky. The film looks excellent on DVD. The print is clear and clean. There are no artefacts, either print based or compression based to be found and the contrast and shadows are just right.
Venus is presented on DVD in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 448Kb/s (an English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) is also available).
An intimate chamber piece like Venus doesn't really call for a surround soundtrack and in fact, the 2.0 track is perfectly adequate. The dialogue is clearly rendered and perfectly enunciated. Audio sync is fine.
The only moments of real spatial depths are in the various songs by British jazz singer Corrine Bayley Rae. Her songs give added emotional depth to the film and help bridge the eras.
I had some difficulty understand what experienced composer David Arnold was getting at in the soundtrack, particularly the use of discordancy in what is a fairly straight film.
|Surround Channel Use|
Venus is available in Region 1 with a similar set of extras. However, that set also contains an audio commentary by director Roger Michell and producer Kevin Loader. For this reason alone, the Region 1 version has to be preferred.
Having said that, I have visited a few Region 1 review sites and note that the commentary has been received in less than glowing terms.
Venus is one of the few films that deals with ageing and particularly sex and the elderly. The fact that it does so is interesting enough but the film combines a clever script and outstanding performances to elevate it from the good to very good.
The transfer is excellent considering the original 16mm source and the sound track is perfectly adequate for the movie.
The extras are brief but nonetheless interesting.
|DVD||Pioneer BDP-LX70 Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||Pioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer|