Nine Lives (2005)

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Released 16-Oct-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 111:49
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Rodrigo García
Magnolia Pictures
Entertainment One
Starring Robin Wright Penn
Jason Isaacs
Miguel Sandoval
Holly Hunter
Sissy Spacek
Kathy Baker
Dakota Fanning
Glenn Close
Ian McShane
Aidan Quinn
Amy Brenneman
Joe Mantegna
William Fichtner
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Ed Shearmur

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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 None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis


      Rodrigo Garcia received considerable critical acclaim for his 2000 film Ten Things You Can Tell by Looking at Her. In Nine Lives the writer/director once again examines the lives of women, but not with the same success.

      Garcia here presents to us nine separate vignettes, some of which have common characters. The director has employed a huge cast, which performs with varying degrees of success. Best are Robin Wright Penn , Jason Isaacs and William Fichtner, excellent as a hearing-impaired groom, and worst is the normally superb Sissy Spacek paired with an almost unrecognizable Aidan Quinn. Other actresses featured include Lisa Gay Hamilton, Amanda Seyfried, Holly Hunter, Molly Parker, Dakota Fanning, Glenn Close, Amy Brenneman, Mary Kay Place and Kathy Baker, with male support coming from Miguel Sandoval, Stephen Dillane, Ian McShane and Joe Mantegna. Just having so many notable performers on the screen ensures that each sequence is, at the very least, interesting enough to hold our attention. However, the director has decided to present each of these segments, each named for its central female character, in one continuous steadicam take, the maximum length being fourteen minutes. This was the technique employed by Alfred Hitchcock for his Rope in 1948. Hitchcock was forced to contrive moments of screen blackness to cover the editing points, a problem not having to be confronted by Garcia with his totally separate segments. However, like Hitchcock, he is defeated by the contrivance of this limiting technique. In the supermarket setting of the Robin Wright Penn and Jason Isaacs "story", there is effective dramatic use of the technique as Penn desperately rushes around the aisles looking for her ex-lover Isaacs. However, in other sequences the camera is aimlessly following characters down hallways purely to get from one room to another. This was cinematically deadening and almost had me screaming for an editor. In this case I would have been yelling for one Andrea Folprecht, surely one of the most underworked crew members in film history.

    This is one of those well intentioned, commendably serious efforts that has to be admired, but offers very little enjoyment. The women are, without exception, totally miserable wretches, who ultimately become depressing and alienating to watch. No sympathy is aroused for these lost characters. The photography by Xavier Perez Grobet is admirable, but I started to entertain myself by assessing the problems he had to overcome to accommodate the "action" in these single takes. The music, by Ed Shearmur, does contribute interest with its sympathetic and sensitive underscoring of the emotions. This composer also contributed the only admirable ingredient to the appalling Bride Wars.

    Nine Lives has been a popular film title, with director Dean Howell's 2004 drama, and two years earlier Paris Hilton's "effort". I could only recommend this 2005 Nine Lives to students of screen acting, for here you get lots of acting for your money, all overflowing with fervour and sincerity. A few of the performances are excellent, most are OK, and a couple are dire.


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Transfer Quality


    The director has opted for a grainy, impromptu documentary look for his film, and has succeeded in this area. The film looks extremely natural and the hand-held camerawork is admirable.
    The transfer is presented in a 16x9 enhanced transfer at the ratio of 1.78:1, the IMDB giving the original ratio as 1.85:1.
    The film has a grainy, gritty look and, intentionally, does not have the clarity of the best transfers, but is quite acceptable. Detail is generally good given the apparent use of available light in many circumstances, but shadow detail is poor, with some low level noise.
     The colour is subdued, part of the general low-key technical approach of the film.
     Aliasing is rare, and there are slight instances of edge enhancement on this single layered disc.
     There are no film artefacts.
     There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is one audio stream on this disc, Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded at 192 Kbps.
    The film is a dialogue driven exercise and the soundtrack delivers every syllable clearly and cleanly - despite the use of live recording.
    There is very little direction across the fronts and surround encoding is minimal.
    There were no clicks or glitches of any kind.

    The sympathetic score from Ed Shearmur (Epic Movie) is quite dynamically produced, and does succeed in elevating the often depressing goings on depicted on the screen. Unfortunately we do not have the six channel soundtrack available in the US, which undoubtedly would have contributed more to the presence of the score.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu

    A simple screen, without animation or audio and using a still from the film, offers only :

                                   Play Feature
                                   Chapters : Three screens, each with three thumbnailed chapters identified by the name of the central character.
                                                     Again, no animation or audio.       

R4 vs R1

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

    As stated above this Region 4 release has no extras. The Region 1 release has :

          Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio
          Q & A with five members of cast and crew. Filmed on stage at the Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, this runs for just over one hour.
          Four Featurettes : The Women of Nine Lives (6:50)
                                      Sonia : Blocking a Scene (7:31)
                                      Working with One Continuous Take (8:44)
                                      Maggie : A Day at the Cemetery (4:36)
         Eleven Trailers 
         Subtitles in English, Spanish and French


    This is a serious, well intentioned film that has almost no entertainment value. "Serious" does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with boring. Possibly the most fervent feminists might relate to these characters, but I prefer to have my misery presented with some degree of art. The predicament of Blanche Dubois will always be depressing, but the art behind and in front of the camera of A Streetcar Named Desire elevate the tragic Blanche beyond the circumstances that surround her. Unfortunately, for the most part,  Rodrigo Garcia's film lumberingly wallows in the misery of these women.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Friday, July 17, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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