Aria (1987)

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Released 12-May-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 92:19
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (69:35) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Altman
Bruce Beresford
Bill Bryden
Jean-Luc Godard
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Theresa Russell
Stephanie Lane
Roy Hyatt
Sevilla Delofski
Ruth Halliday
Arthur Cox
Dennis Holmes
Paul Brightwell
Frank Baker
Chris Hunter
Nicola Swain
Jackson Kyle
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     Welcome to my 800th review for MichaelDVD!

     Psssstt! Do you want to buy some nude pictures of Bridget Fonda and Elizabeth Hurley? Or how about a very strange, very arty and quite interesting film from the mid 1980s which includes the aforementioned nudity (plus more gratuitous nudity) and is the combined work of ten famous directors brought together by producer Don Boyd. They were given the task of choosing any aria from the RCA Victor catalogue of opera recordings and making a short film in response to and inspired by the aria (but not a filmed performance of it). He gave each director complete artistic freedom to interpret as they saw fit, resulting in what is an interesting and artistic work that is also very uneven in tone and quality. Some sections are weird and interesting, some sections are beautiful and haunting, others are bizarre and nearly laughable. The directors who took part in this project include a wide variety of interesting directors such as Charles Sturridge, Jean-Luc Godard, Bruce Beresford, Robert Altman, Ken Russell, Derek Jarman and Nicolas Roeg. Others who were planned to be involved but were unable to participate (sometimes due to their death), included Orson Welles and Federico Fellini.

     The highlights for me were Nicolas Roeg's interpretation of Verdi's Un Ballo In Maschera, which is based on the true story of King Zog of Albania who was the only sitting European monarch to pull out his own gun to fend off would be assassins (to ensure the correct level of weirdness the King is played by Theresa Russell in drag); the heartbreaking Libestod (Wagner) by director Franc Roddam featuring a young Bridget Fonda and the marvellous longing for past times depicted in Derek Jarman's take on Depuis Le Jour (Charpentier). Other segments such as truly bizarre combination of knives, naked women and bodybuilders by Jean-Luc Godard and Robert Altman’s section showing lunatics attending the opera did not work for me at all.

     The arias included are all great arias and the performances used tend to be classics by such as Enrico Caruso, Jussi Boerling and Leontyne Price. The music is wonderful and there is very little dialogue except in one or two of the sections. The last section of the film, I Pagliacci starring John Hurt, has precursor sections between each segment building up to the finale, which attempts to recreate Caruso's final stage performance when he was dying.

     If you have an interest in arthouse cinema and/or opera this film is certainly worth seeing.

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Transfer Quality


     The video quality is nothing special. The feature is presented in a 1.74:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced, close to the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

     The picture was quite soft, especially so in the first segment with quite noticeable grain and smokiness in some backgrounds. There was also some mild macro blocking. Shadow detail was pretty average.

     The colour was somewhat dull but acceptable. There was some colour bleeding here and there. There were regular black and white film artefacts.

     There are burned in subtitles for foreign language dialogue (about 2 lines) and a couple of captions.

     The layer change occurs at 69:35 but is not noticeable.

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


     The audio quality is good without being spectacular.

     This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s.

     There was very little dialogue but what was present was easy to discern. There were obvious sync issues as actors tried to mouth some of the arias.

     The music is some of the most famous arias sung by great opera singers, however due to the age of some of the recordings the fidelity is nothing to get excited about. Having taken those limitations into account though, the music sounds quite good.

     The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     One significant and high quality extra.


     The menu is simple allowing access to the extras and scene selection options. Some of the marvellous music is included.

Composing Aria (45:07)

     This 2009 documentary is excellent adding significantly to the viewer’s understanding of what was being attempted and their appreciation of the artistic earnestness involved. The producer, Don Boyd does most of the talking, however many of the directors are also interviewed giving their thoughts on the project and their contributions. Don talks about how he got the idea and the process he went through to get it made. Fascinating.

Theatrical Trailer (3:09)

     Highlights reel of the film.

R4 vs R1

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

    Two versions of this film have been released in Region 1, a 2002 version with the right aspect ratio (now out of print) and a 2008 version which is pan & scan. Neither include the excellent documentary. Stick to Region 4.


     A weird, arty and interesting compilation of short films by famous directors based on opera arias.

     The video quality is nothing special. The audio quality is good.

     One quality extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS708H upscaling to 1080p, using HDMI output
DisplayLG Scarlet 42LG61YD 106cm Full HD LCD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. 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.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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