Romeo + Juliet: Special Edition (1996)
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Featurette-Director's Gallery (6)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-7
Music Video-Kissing You
Music Video-Young Hearts
Script To Screen Comparison
|Year Of Production||1996|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (53:27)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Baz Luhrmann|
Twentieth Century Fox
Vondie Curtis Hall
Marius De Vries
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes, extensive|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
a pair of star-crossed lovers
I hope you don't expect me to believe that you don't know the basic plot to Romeo and Juliet, because I ain't gonna believe it. I won't be talking about the plot.
I've seen a number of performances of Romeo and Juliet. The Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet (1968) was the definitive film version for a long time, and arguably remains the classic version. I have seen the play performed by a number of troupes, including a Nimrod Theatre performance in 1979 (I think) with Mel Gibson as Romeo and Angela Punch McGregor as Juliet — I doubted this film could measure up.
Baz Luhrmann started with a fervent desire, one that withstood even his fears and uncertainties in pitching it to Hollywood executives (he recounts this entertainingly in one of the extras). He wanted to present Shakespeare's language in a manner which would make it approachable to audiences of today. He intended to make no alterations in the language itself, but to surround it with such context as would make the intention clear. I believe he has, at least in major part, achieved this end.
There are a few touches I consider somewhat over-done. Perhaps the worst is the way in which we get a crash-zoom in on an automatic pistol so we can see that it is labelled "Sword 9mm", thus justifying the talk of "put up your swords". The emphasis on religious iconography feels a bit heavy-handed, even if it is accurate. But I started with a fairly negative attitude toward the film, making me perhaps over-sensitive to these. I needs must confess to increasing tolerance, drawn in greatest part by the seductive nature of Shakespeare's tongue, but aided by the performances of the leading actors.
Fact is, much as Leonardo di Caprio is disparaged (and he deserves at least some disparagement for what he says when interviewed for this DVD), he puts in quite a solid performance here. His effort is surpassed, however, by that of young Claire Danes (she was 16) — she does a superb job of Juliet, being perhaps the only one to make her lines sound completely natural. Pete Postlethwaite's Friar Laurence is remarkable, as is the crucifix tattoo on his back. John LeGuizamo's Tybalt is pretentious, but menacing and dangerous, a nicely-judged combination. Mercutio (Harold Perrineau) is entertaining, but his death scene is unconvincing.
They have made a few changes to the plot, mostly in leaving out a few scenes, but they are true to the original (leaving out scenes has a long and honourable tradition). They do repeat a few of the lines for emphasis, an emphasis I consider unnecessary (especially at Tybalt's death). They've moved a few words, most notably, "Thy drugs are quick". The ending is most changed, but they explain most of this in the commentary. I do feel obliged to point out one flaw in their re-arrangement of the plot — Captain Prince's closing speech mentions his loss of two kinsmen. In the play, this refers to Mercutio and Paris, but in this version Paris is not killed, and is not, besides, Prince's kinsman. Ah, well, that can be forgiven, perhaps, and is likely overlooked by all but the most pedantic.
I do like the way that the narrator at the start and end is represented by a current affairs TV host. Very effective. I could have done without the recap during Juliet's death scene, but this film was made for the US market...
So my verdict, having admitted a prior disposition against the film? I am impressed. This is a worthy performance, and one I commend to you.
This is the second of the Red Curtain trilogy. It is very different from the first, Strictly Ballroom, in everything except the rather melodramatic approach.
This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. That's the original theatrical aspect ratio. The entire frame is used.
The image is sharp and clear, and is quite attractive to look at. There's good shadow detail, and not the slightest trace of low-level noise.
Colour is strong and vivid, especially on some of the costumes. There are no colour-related artefacts.
There are no film artefacts of any significance, as one might hope in a film so young.
There is some aliasing, but it is reasonably mild. I was not troubled by it. There's no significant moire, and no noticeable MPEG artefacts, making this a rather clean transfer overall.
There are captions in English, but no other subtitles. They are accurate (omitting a few words here and there), well-timed, and quite easy to read.
The disc is single-sided and RSDL formatted. The layer change is at 53:27. It falls at a moment of silence, at a natural pause in a scene, so it is not disturbing — whether it is visible will depend on your player.
The soundtrack is provided in English, and that's all. The English soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1 and they have used it to good effect.
The dialogue is clear, but the language does not lend itself to ready comprehension — they've mixed the dialogue prominently enough to make it as clear as it can reasonably be. There are no audio sync problems; at the Capulet's party there's a moment which looks like slipping sync, but it is attributable to the drug haze affecting Romeo, and is probably deliberate.
Nellee Hooper gets sole credit for music, but the score is attributed to Craig Armstrong, Marius de Vries, and Nellee Hooper. Either way, they've done a superb job; the music is a critical part of the drama.
This soundtrack features some good directional sound (including the obligatory helicopter), plus plenty of ambient sound — immersive sound. And plenty of ominous rumbling from your subwoofer. You'll know why you have a full set of speakers when you play this disc.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are lots of extras, and they are very interesting. I just wish they had a greater variety of music behind them. If you watch all of the extras you, too, will grow quite tired of certain musical phrases.
The menus are quite fancy, and animated with music. Even though they are quite stylised and themed to the picture, they are still quite easy to operate.
This commentary is a constant stream of talk from Baz Luhrmann (director and co-writer), Catherine Martin (production designer), Craig Pearce (co-writer), and Don McAlpine (director of photography). They are clearly recorded together, because of the natural ebb and flow of conversation. They have a lot of information to convey, and they are glad to have the opportunity to do so — this is an interesting commentary.
This is a fascinating collection of short pieces, courtesy of Baz Luhrmann, covering various topics:
A few short comments on each of several scenes:
a hole in the wall (0:43)
one light (1:02)
the fishtank (1:22)
the elevator (2:14)
the church (0:55)
More short pieces, this time courtesy of Catherine Martin:
A script-to-screen comparison.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
There was an early release of this movie in Region 1 in 1999. It was not 16x9 enhanced, and as far as I can discover, had no extras (it was single-layered, too). Earlier this year there was a Special Edition released that sounds exactly the same as this one, including the 16x9 enhancement, all the extras, and an RSDL disc. Humorously, it lists for a lower price... If you choose to get the R1, make sure you get the Special Edition!
It sounds as though the R1 Special Edition and ours offer similar transfers, and the same extras, so you can feel free to choose whichever suits.
Romeo + Juliet is an impressive movie, on an excellent disc.
The video quality is very good.
The audio quality is very good.
The extras are extensive and interesting.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5|