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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, French, Italian, English - Hearing Impaired, Italian - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 5 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - by director Charles Shyer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette - "Designing Affair"
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Gag reel

The Affair of the Necklace

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 113 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

An all-star cast featuring Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank (Insomnia, The Gift, Boys Don’t Cry), Australia’s Simon Baker (The Guardian, Red Planet), Jonathan Pryce (Jumpin’ Jack Flash), Adrien Brody (The Thin Red Line, The Pianist), Joely Richardson (daughter of Tony Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave) and Christopher Walken (Batman Returns, Sleepy Hollow) take to the screen for this dramatic and intriguing tour of 18th century France with the deceptive tale of one Jeanne de la Morte-Valois (Swank).

During the political-unrest in France (prior to the Revolution), Jeanne’s father is murdered by the government right in front of her very eyes. Unable to cope, her mother soon passes away due to heart issues, and leaves Jeanne an orphan. After the intense depiction of her father’s murder, we see Jeanne as an adult, trying to gain recognition from Queen Marie Antoinette (Richardson) in an attempt to get back the stolen property of her father. A gigolo, Retaux de Vilette (Baker), sees this stranger in the crowd and attempts to help her (of course, the way all gigolos do), but in the end befriends her. With his help, she tries a new approach to the royal court - all she wants is her name and property back, and social acceptance of her name. And here comes the necklace, a 2800-carat diamond piece crafted for the previous King’s mistress, whose handcrafters are desperate to sell as this mistress was banished from France. The Queen knows this, however, and displays no interest in purchasing the lavish trinket. But Jeanne and Retaux come up with a conniving conspiracy casting an enormous web over France’s most public figures – the Queen herself and the Cardinal (Pryce) – involving the fraudulent purchase and theft of the jewellery. But as the web falls apart, so do these influential public figures of France, as well as the conspirators themselves.

This affair of the necklace led Queen Marie Antoinette to the guillotine, caused much unrest within the French people and is said to be one of the factors leading up to the French Revolution.

This stunning piece of art-house cinema is beautifully shot on lush and exotic locations, yet only has an appeal for a smaller audience. Those who are able to appreciate high-quality artistry in cinema will be more than satisfied by the imagery as well as the intriguing complexities of the story. Starting slowly, the affair takes off (still slowly, but hey) and drags the audience with it as this web of deception grows even bigger before collapsing with a neat and appropriate conclusion.

  Video
Contract

The anamorphically-enhanced Cinemascope transfer looks superb with its 2.35:1 framing and exquisite detail. Now, this disc is from Warner, so why can’t all of their discs be this good? Anyway, off the soapbox now and back to it... This is one of the neatest transfers to come from Warner in a long time (partly due to wasted time on NTSC discs), and features a stunningly sharp image as well as a richly detailed environment, let down by the odd scene of soft-focus.

Colour and lighting effects are used significantly to distinguish between moods, characters and settings, and look simply stunning. The vividness of the colours is vivaciously wild, with some simply stunning reds, and not a hint of over-saturation, if anything a tad under-saturated. Shadow detail is remarkably realistic, with solid definitions and intricate detail. Even the complexly-lit sequences deliver stunning results, but are sadly let down by posterisation effects.

The brief and unobtrusive layer change of this dual layered disc occurs briefly at 62:58, and is a case of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it. This is definitely one of the most beautifully-shot films to come out in 2002, and is on a DVD sure to please lovers of pure beauty. The five sets of subtitles are all clear and easy to read, with the English being nearly word-for-word perfect.

  Audio
Contract

The three Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, and one Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio Commentary too, are of a high standard, with film languages in English, French or Italian, and the commentary available in English only.

Being a dialogue-driven drama, the quality of the speech is of the utmost importance, and it is clear throughout the film. However, the total sound of the audio tracks is a tad synthetic, with a very subdued air. The soundstage is fairly front-heavy, with the surrounds chirping in infrequently to support the score and effects. The subwoofer track is quite subdued throughout and supportively adds to the score, composed by David Newman. The music is of a more alternative variety, as opposed to traditional 18th Century music, and is beautifully written.

  Extras
Contract

And to accompany the stunning transfer comes a load of extras, just for the icing on the cake...

The theatrical trailer runs for 1:22, and tells a very disjointed version of the story with minimal success. Aren’t trailers supposed to entice people to check out a film?

Charles Shyer’s audio commentary offers an in-depth look into the intricate details of making this film, and is one of the more intriguing technical commentaries around.

The Behind the Scenes documentary runs for 15:04 and is your stock-standard, run-of-the-mill type documentary featuring interviews and production footage on location. The Designing Affair Featurette runs for 15:10 and is an in-depth, if brief, look at designing the costumes for the film and how the 'look' of the film was achieved.

Five additional scenes have been included with an optional commentary. The five scenes are Alternate Opening, Young Jeanne Meets New Parents, Cardinal Rohan in the Bordello, Cardinal Rohan arrested at Versailles and Jeanne and Retaux Say Goodbye. These scenes have been shot with the same stunning beauty displayed in the film, and are a terrific addition to the film.

The 4:16 gag reel is a look at some of the stuff-ups, mishaps and jokes that occurred during production. Sure, you’d expect these sort of features on a Farrelly Brothers film, but not a period drama... oh well.

Finally, there's a one-page list of the cast and crew which just lists the cast and appropriate character names, as well as key crewmen. Not even biographies or filmographies are included.

  Overall  
Contract

Overall, The Affair of the Necklace is a stunningly beautiful film with some terrific traditional filmmaking techniques. The video transfer is a superb PAL transfer, with an appropriate soundtrack to accompany it. The bundle of extra features is most unexpected, yet at the same time most welcome. For lovers of fine art and the odd bit of period drama, grab this one for a great night’s entertainment.


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      And I quote...
    "A witty and heartfelt story of intrigue, desire and deception, all disguised under the appearance of a period drama."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Philips DVD 736K
    • TV:
          TEAC EU68-ST
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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