HOME   News   Reviews   Adv Search   Features   My DVD   About   Apps   Stats     Search:
  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 81.13)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Director, Producer, Writer
  • 14 Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette - 40 min
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Music-only track

Lantana

Palace Films/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 116 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

This is a revised and updated version of a review of the rental-only edition of this disc originally published in April 2002.

It's funny, in a way, that the Australian films that seem to get all the big-media attention are the ones that kick serious financial butt in "The States", usually by taking those things that outsiders regard as being quintessentially Australian and amplifying them to a larger-than-life level, then mixing it up with a solid dose of Hollywood-style kitsch because, well, you're supposed to make movies that way. Oh, make no mistake, it's not just Australian cinema that suffers this ignominy; after all, most non-film-buff types think of British cinema as The Full Monty and Four Weddings and a Funeral times a thousand. But those wacky Australians - why, they seem incapable of making a film that isn't brash, confronting and downright quirky! They're so good at it! Muriel's Wedding! Priscilla Queen of the Desert! Moulin Rouge! (hell, that last one even has an exclamation mark in its title!!!) But serious Australian films? Naah, they don't make those any more, do they? Didn't all that go out of fashion with the world when Peter Weir went international?

Well, actually no. Australian cinema has for a great many years been producing accomplished films that haven't attracted the kind of patriotic attention that seems mandatory for both the defiantly-strange big-budget efforts and those others that seem to so desperately want international sales they come out the other end looking and feeling like they were American product. For every glitz or hype-packed extravaganza there's a couple of dozen fascinating stories captured on film and plaintively looking for a distributor; many eventually go straight to video and never reach the audience they so richly deserve (though the ever-growing popularity of DVD is starting to change all that).

Then there are the ones that get attention simply through word of mouth. Lantana is one such film. Its may have looked deceptively unambitious and claustrophobic in its pre-release trailer, but as soon as the finished film started getting shown people started talking about it. By the time last November's Australian Film Institute Awards rolled around, Lantana was the hot favourite to be seriously lauded. And it was; it won the seven biggest non-technical awards you can get, including Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress. If you're thinking that makes Lantana sound like it's something of an actors' showcase, you'd be right (it was, after all, adapted from a stage play). But this is no dry, wordy exercise in intellectualism - exquisitely crafted and cleverly constructed, it's one of the most entrancing human dramas in recent memory.

While ostensibly a kind of low-key murder mystery and an exhumation of the dark underbelly of everyday life (it opens, in a shot eerily reminiscent of the opening of David Lynch's Blue Velvet, with a corpse lying in Lantana bushes and examines with almost dispassionate detail the events that led up to that moment) Lantana is first and foremost about something way more interesting than any of that. It's about the breakdown of relationships (in this case, four marriages) to the point where they become habit and obligation. Long-time cop Leon (Anthony LaPaglia), for example, has become unable to feel much at all despite having what appears on the surface to be the perfect marriage to Sonja (Kerry Armstrong, whose performance is remarkable). Unable to feel anything, that is, except anger, which he takes out on the rest of the world as much as he does on himself. He's having an affair with Jane (Rachael Blake) who is separated from her husband Pete (Glenn Robbins, completely believable in a non-comic role) and who lives next door to Nik and Paula, a solidly married couple whose loyalty is about to be tested by events involving the disintegrating marriage of psychiatrist Valerie Somers (Barbara Hershey) and her cynically intellectual husband John Knox (Geoffrey Rush).

A tangled web? Absolutely, but Andrew Bovell's screenplay never lets the story get bogged down in either excess melodrama or needless detail; it's an exceptional piece of writing that unravels its stories and character detail with a natural ease that's purely riveting. But the best script in the world can't save a poorly made film; fortunately, this one benefits hugely from the intuitive skill of director Ray Lawrence (who won the Best Director AFI way back in 1985 for his terrific filming of Peter Carey's Bliss, and hasn't directed a feature since; hopefully it won't be as long a wait for the next one). Cinematographer Mandy Walker turns straightforward dramatic scenes into poetry with her inspired widescreen photography - this is a film that must be seen in its true aspect ratio to be properly appreciated. And the music score - by Paul Kelly along with a bunch of regular collaborators including guitarist Shane O'Mara - is spot-on, an earthily atmospheric companion to the events unfolding on screen.

Ultimately there's little point in trying to describe what this film is like - it's far better to see for yourself. Suffice to say that Lantana is so effortlessly good you come away wondering why they don't always make films like this. One thing's certain - Australian cinema is not only alive and well and delivering more fascinating movies than ever, but people are actually paying attention to a greater depth and breadth of them. And though Baz may get all the press, it's the Lantanas of this world that make that happen.

  Video
Contract

Like it was in its rental edition, Lantana has been beautifully transferred to digital video at its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is of course 16:9 enhanced; not surprisingly, itís exactly the same transfer as used on the rental disc, which in this case is a Good Thing indeed. Right from the outset, the image is clear and sharp (but not over-sharp) and loaded with detail. Colour resolution is strong but completely natural, and the more difficult scenes in the film - scenes shot with deliberately overexposed backgrounds, for example - come up perfectly on DVD. Shadow detail is excellent save for a couple of shots where the closest thing to black is a kind of murky brown; with the rest of the transfer so spot-on terms of colour and contrast balance this was obviously intentional.

There's so little to complain about with this transfer that it seems almost churlish to point out the minor glitch that is visible early on, at the 4.19 mark - the same glitch that was present on the rental disc. As Leon's car pulls in to the kerb, the image seems to "skip"; a close frame by frame look reveals that a single frame is repeated twice here for no immediately apparent reason. Itís probably a problem with the digital master tape, and the fact that itís still there despite the DVDís producers having been well aware of it on the rental disc means itís probably on the first-generation master as well. No big deal - like we said last time, most people won't even notice it.

There are no compression problems evident at all throughout the film's two hour running time; roughly the same amount of space has been used for the movie as the rental disc.

Though we expected them to be included on the retail version of the disc, there are actually no subtitles provided, which is surprising (and undoubtedly annoying to hearing-impaired people that wanted to see the movie).

Once again provided on a dual-layered DVD, the film is interrupted a little later in proceedings for the layer change than it was on the rental edition; once again itís a very fast layer switch, if not in quite as neat a place in the film as it was last time.

  Audio
Contract

The two audio tracks provided for the movie give you the choice between the original Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of the movie's audio as heard in cinemas, or the Dolby Surround version prepared for non-digital cinemas and, of course, VHS and television. Thereís also a commentary track this time around (see the extras section for details on that).

The 5.1 mix is noticeably cleaner and better defined - even in downmix - than the Surround version. This is a heavily dialogue-centred movie, and much of the time it's only the centre channel that is pressed into service in any meaningful way; Paul Kelly's music score, though, is mixed in full 5.1 and sounds terrific. Much use of the surround stage is also made for the various ambient noises of suburbia and nature that are an almost constant - if usually extremely subliminal - feature of the soundtrack; the frenzied chirping of cicadas and other creatures is used at an extremely high volume for effect on occasion (such as during the opening scene of the film) and occasionally get so loud you are in danger of trying to swat the invisible insects away and wiping out a beer, a bowl of chips and your right surround speaker instead.

The LFE channel is used well and extremely sparingly, the audio team resisting the urge to succumb to the usual SES problem (Subsonic Everything Syndrome!)

The Dolby Surround track, by the way, is correctly flagged as surround for those of you with receivers that pay attention to such things.

  Extras
Contract

Now available for sale after a modest rental-only period, Lantana is given the special-edition treatment for this version, and while the rumours of multiple commentary tracks havenít proven to be true (though you do get three people on a single commentary track!) there is some good content here.

The Palace Films ďcoming soonĒ trailers that were on the rental disc have been removed here, replaced by a 30-second logo trailer for DVD authoring company Oasis, who produced this one. It plays on startup, which is unusual for an authoring company trailer (theyíre usually hidden away after the end of the movie; the only other company weíve seen announce themselves at the start of the disc is Melbourneís IML) but is fully skippable. However, for sheer over-the-top flamboyance, itís well worth waiting through, especially if you have 5.1 surround sound and want to make sure all your speakers are working. Fans of the much-missed Australian band The Mavisís might find Oasisís logo ďmascotĒ slightly familiar-looking, by the way!

The beautifully-designed main menu from the rental disc is adapted for this version of the disc and still looks terrific; itís fully animated with audio. Menu design throughout is stylish and thematically solid.

The Nature Of Lantana: An expanded version of the offering of the same name on the US release of the DVD, this is a 40-minute documentary thatís been put together from a stack of cast and crew interviews and the occasional bit of behind-the-scenes footage, and it provides some superb insight into both how the film was approached by the various creative people involved, as well as some insightful musings about the characters and the script itself. Thereís a lot of audio here recorded on in-camera microphones and not a lot of visual pretentiousness, so if youíre used to the Hollywood style of talking-head featurettes you may be in for a shock. As an insight into the film, for those who are interested, this is invaluable, as is the...

Audio Commentary: If youíve been reading reviews of the US disc youíll notice that they seem to be universally puzzled about a commentary track that they expected to get but didnít. Patient post-rental region 4 fans of the film, then, will be well pleased to know that itís right here! And unusually, this commentary track is mastered in Dolby Digital 5.1, with the filmís soundtrack playing slightly subdued in the background while the three commentary participants are spread out across the three front channels - director Ray Lawrence in the left, producer Jan Chapman in the centre and writer Andrew Bovell on the right. The three voices are almost completely discrete, which can sound uncomfortable in headphones; each individual speakerís voice has been noise-gated and as a result, room ambience appears and disappears occasionally. Unlike overseas-mastered Fox discs, though, the commentary is mastered at a proper, full-quality bitrate. Thereís loads of fascinating discussion and information here, and though the three go a little quiet at times, thereís lots here for fans of the film to discover.

Trailers: The Australian theatrical trailer and the ďInternational Sales TrailerĒ; we prefer the latter, which seems to convey the mood of the film a lot more elegantly than the local trailer does. Both are presented letterboxed in a 4:3 frame; the Australian trailer, though, is at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio while the international one sticks with 2.35:1.

Biographies: The trend with biographies on DVDs recently seems to have been towards putting as little info as possible into what should be one of the most straightforward extras on the disc. No such problem here, with 14 multi-screen bios for the principal cast and crew members, all of it well written and almost entirely hype-free.

Photo Gallery/Posters: 22 still-frame promo shots - most of which appear to just be grabs from the actual film - for those who arenít bored silly by photo galleries. Also here are three theatrical posters along with the dreadful Twin Peaks inspired US video/DVD cover, though youíll have to navigate through the 22 photos to get to them.

Websites, Screenplay, Original Soundtrack: Donít get excited - theyíre just static screens advertising a pair of web sites, the screenplay book and the soundtrack album. How nice it would have been to have the screenplay and the entire soundtrack accessible on the disc (though we guess Andrew Bovell and Paul Kelly would rather you went and bought them separately!) and the Lantana web site captured on DVD-ROM, instead of mere teaser screens...

Song: You may not be getting the Paul Kelly soundtrack as an extra, but hereís a consolation prize in the form of the Celia Cruz song Te Busco, which also features as the music for the discís main menu.

  Overall  
Contract

One of the finest films of last year regardless of country of origin, Lantana is an unpretentious, mature and insightful piece of storytelling, acting and filmmaking that's a breath of fresh air and a reminder, as if any was needed, that the best movies are always the ones that don't need to get hyped like diet soft drink, but instead get to stand on their own merits.

Like its rental predecessor, this DVD presents the film beautifully and near-flawlessly; this time we can say "rush out and buy it," and you should at the first opportunity. Itís worth the asking price for the movie alone; to get some worthwhile insight into the film from its creators as a bonus just makes the experience that much more rewarding.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1744
  • Send to a friend.

    Cast your vote here: You must enable cookies to vote.
  •   
      And I quote...
    "Worth the asking price for the movie alone"
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • TV:
          Panasonic - The One
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB870
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Panasonic
    • Surrounds:
          Jamo
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
      Recent Reviews:
    by Anthony Horan

    Immortal Beloved
    "For two hours, this film will transport you..."

    Pet Shop Boys - Pop Art
    "A must-buy for Pet Shop Boys fans, Pop Art is also highly recommended for those who remember how good pop music could be in the Ď80s."

    Alias - The Complete First Season
    "One of the most addictive and entertaining US television series' in many years... Buena Vista's DVD set gets almost everything right."

    R.E.M.: In View - The Best of 1988-2003
    "Every home should have one."

    Queen Margot
    "A spectacular, enthralling masterpiece..."

      Related Links

     

    Search for Title/Actor/Director:
    Google Web dvd.net.au
       Copyright © DVDnet. All rights reserved. Site Design by RED 5   
    rss