La Luna (Directors Suite) (1979)

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Released 20-Oct-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Dr Adrian Martin
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 146:30 (Case: 142)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Bernardo Bertolucci
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Jill Clayburgh
Matthew Barry
Veronica Lazar
Renato Salvatori
Fred Gwynne
Alida Valli
Elisabetta Campeti
Franco Citti
Roberto Benigni
Carlo Verdone
Peter Eyre
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Ennio Morricone


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/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 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

  Bernando Bertolucci is never a man to shy aware from controversy. Last Tango in Paris, with its confronting sexual content, was one of the few expressions of film art which saw its director serving time in prison. All this despite the fact that critics gushed over the film, including the influential Pauline Kael, who declared it to be a pinnacle of cinema.

Few critics have found the same majesty in La Luna that was identified in Last Tango or Bertolucci's other successes, including 1900 and the Oscar chomping The Last Emperor. Its subject matter, an intense and ultimately incestuous relationship between a mother and son, proved to strong for most and the film remains, some 30 years after its release, a troubling work amongst his oeuvre.

Caterina, played by 70's icon Jill Clayburgh, is an enormously successful American opera singer. She lives in all the comfort success can buy with her husband (Fred Gwynne) and her son Joe (newcomer Matthew Barry) in New York. Joe is disconsolate that yet again he is to be left at home with the nanny whilst his parents travel to Italy. Caterina is to return to her spiritual homeland with a series of operatic performances.

When tragedy strikes, Caterina and Joe make the trip together. Caterina is an instant success. Her singing is as a strong as ever and the Italians love her. Joe too has made many friends. Unfortunately his friends are open and easy in the use of drugs and Joe becomes hooked on heroin. At a birthday party for Joe Caterina sees her teenage son hiding in an alcove with an Italian girl. Flushed with pride at her son's growing maturity she creeps closer only to see that he and the girl are shooting up.

Caterina tries to reason with her son, and shows she will try anything for him including visiting his dealer in an attempt to "pay him off". The effect on Caterina is profound. She loses her singing voice and claims that she does not want to sing again. In a last ditch attempt to make him quit she uses her sexuality as a tool.

La Luna on DVD is rated R for high impact themes. The reference to "themes" should give clear notice to the viewer that although the concepts at work are challenging and distasteful the actual sexual content and nudity is minimal. Nevertheless, the "ick factor" will be enough to dissuade many.

Bertolucci fell under great criticism for La Luna for his refusal to explain his characters actions. Although the intensity of Caterina's love for her baby boy is shown clearly in the first scene of the film, which operates as a flash back and a plot clue, there is never any real explanation for why Caterina turns to sexuality rather than professional help to cure her son's addiction. Perhaps the best way to view the film is as an opera in itself. The gestures are large and dramatic - the passions between the characters are sometimes violent as well as loving. Like so many of the opera plots which appear in the film the characters motivations do not make a whole lot of sense.

Viewers who come to La Luna expecting a neat psychological drama will be disappointed as will those who crave a conventional plot structure.

La Luna is loose in its plotting but tight in teh camera work. Bertolucci and regular cinematographer Vitorio Storaro consistently follow their characters through winding Italian streets and grand opera stages. The film is beautifully shot and has a lyrical quality.

As with many Italian directors of the 70's the film drew on an international cast. Clayburgh was at her apex at this time with a series of roles which both demonstrated her powerful acting skills but also saw her typecast as troubling and troubled women. She is unquestionably in her dramatic element and newcomer Matthew Barry makes a good fist of the troubled teen. The supporting cast is made up largely of well known Italian actors. Roberto Benigni, then unknown to international audiences, has a curious slapstick scene.

Lovers of Bertolucci will want to add La Luna to their collection. Others may simply find the subjective matter and melodrama to be too much to take.

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Transfer Quality

Video

  La Luna was shot on 35mm film and projected at a 1.85: 1 cinematic aspect ratio. This DVD preserves that ratio. It is 16 x 9 enhanced.

La Luna is 30 years old. The print is remarkably clean with no significant artefacts to be seen. The colours are accurate to 1970's cinema which means that browns and pastels dominate. The colours are a little faded but otherwise more than acceptable.

There is a level of grain throughout which is at an aesthetic level and not intrusive. The wonderful camera work of Vitorio Storaro is amply demonstrated by this transfer. In Italy even the back streets look wonderful and Storaro makes the most of his compositions. The transfer is reasonably crisp and the black levels and shadows more the acceptable.

There are no technical problems with the transfer. The film has subtitles for the brief segments that are in Italian.

Video Ratings Summary
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Audio

    La Luna comes with its original English mono soundtrack running at 224KB/s.

The mono track is perfectly adequate for the film. The dialogue can be heard clearly and there are no technical problems with the sound. The actors appear to be in audio synceven when they are clearly not singing opera!

There are two sources of music for the film. One is the soundtrack of regular Bertolucci collaborator Ennio Moricone. A couple of other pieces of music are used to effect to characterise the time and also give expression to the theme of Americans abroad.

Otherwise, this is a Verdi feast. Music from Il Trovatore, Rigoletto, La Traviata and Un Ballo In Maschera are used to great dramatic effect. Those who know their opera will be able to pick out the famous performers and orchestras actually singing and performing the works.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
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Surround Channel Use
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Extras

Audio Commentary- Dr Adrian Martin

The only extra included with the DVD is an audio commentary track by Dr Adrian Martin, Senior Researcher Fellow, Film and Television Studies, Monash University and Co-Editor of Rouge Magazine. Dr Martin makes a superb apologist for the film. As usual he is well versed in the career of his subject and the nuances of the film. Those who want to get a better understanding of the movie are urged to delve into this commentary track.

A pity that this film doesn't get any more extras but fans will probably be happy just to get the movie.

R4 vs R1

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

    La Luna is not easy to find on DVD outside Region 4. The Region 1 version is out of print and a Russian import is the only substitute.

Summary

    La Luna will not suit all tastes but fans of Bertolucci who have been craving the release of this poetic gem in the rough can now have their fill.

A pretty good transfer and adequate sound make this eminently watchable and the commentary track is of the usual high standard one expexts from Dr Adrian Martin.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer 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 DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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