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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 51:29)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Kate Woods, Melina Marchetta, Robyn Kershaw
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Photo gallery - 39 Images
  • Animated menus
  • 2 Music video - "Weir" by Killing Heidi, "Teenager of the Year" by Lo-Tel
  • Storyboards - 31 Storyboards and Working Script Excerpts
  • Filmographies

Looking For Alibrandi

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 102 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Looking for Alibrandi is one of the most honestly open films to come out of Australia in recent years, and wasn’t successful due to it being an ocker-style Australian comedy, but rather a realistic, emotive and strong-willed protagonist, an alternative Australian soundtrack, a sincere look at the multicultural society within Australia even - with a splash of comedy, a dash of drama, a pinch of tears plus a whole lot of heart. It is a film that sticks with you well after the end credits have rolled and you have left the movie theatre.

Every year for the past few years, a top-notch true-blue fair-dinkum Aussie flick has been made, lets just have a look over the past few years: The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (1994), Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Babe (1995), Cosi (1996), Welcome to Woop Woop (1997), Dags (1998), Two Hands (1999), The Dish (2000), Lantana (2001), Moulin Rouge (2001), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), The Rage in Placid Lake (2003) and One Perfect Day (2004). Hmm OK, every year except 1997 and 1998. It was worth a try anyway. It’s really hard to come up with these sorts of lists, so be nice about it. These films were all box office smashes, some mainstream, others limited release, but they all made it in some way or another. Except Welcome to Woop Woop and Dags, they made it to the bottom of the box office lists, and stayed there. I mean, what on earth were the film companies thinking?

But anyway, this review is about the “smart, fast, funny, personal and perceptive” Looking for Alibrandi (Rob Lowing, The Sun Herald), so with no further ado, let's get on with it! This film introduced Pia Miranda (Garage Days) to the glittery silver screen, and brought with her a talented cast featuring Greta Scacchi (Cosi), Anthony La Paglia (Lantana, The Bank), Kick Gurry (an un-credited extra in The Thin Red Line, Garage Days alongside Pia), Matthew Newton (yes, Bert’s son) and Kerry Walker (Marie in Moulin Rouge, The Dish, One Perfect Day). And look, all of them have been in one of the better Australian films of the past decade. And what’s even better is that this film does not have the Aussie trademarks of 'Stubbies' shorts, thongs, Austrowlian language or Bill Hunter.

The film is based upon one of the most-read and most-studied Australian novels, by Melina Marchetta. For a book-to-film conversion it is fairly neat, with both packages offering something slightly different, but there is one key component that makes it work. Melina Marchetta also wrote the screenplay. So, rather than having someone interpret a novel and re-write it as a screenplay with their ideas as opposed to the author’s, she re-wrote her own novel for the screen, still holding onto the issues raised in her original work. Sure, the entire novel is not here, and some argue that it is a step above the film version, however watch the film first, then read the novel for two reasons... a: the book (in some people’s eyes) can be better, so you therefore won’t be disappointed and b: it's easier to watch than to read. Hey, lazy but true! Plus you don’t get such a cool soundtrack with the book. The alternative Australian soundtrack is renowned for two hit singles - Weir, which helped launch Killing Heidi to the mainstream public and Teenager of the Year by Lo-Tel, as well as singles from Catatonia and Spiderbait. It is hard to watch a film like this and not comment on the cover of a U2 song. Either people love it or hate it, and if it’s the latter it’s due to their possessive religious tendencies towards U2 and the view that covering a U2 song is wrong. Well this is one hell of a cover, simply stunning and emotive, and is of the moving ballad With or Without You, sung here by Hamish Cowan, formerly of Cordrazine.

Josie Alibrandi (Pia Miranda) is about to have one hell of a year. She’s facing her final year of high school doing something that the New South Welshmen would understand – the H.S.C., as well as having her dream guy (Matthew Newton) that one step out of reach, not to mention the family issues at home with a single mother (Greta Scacchi) and a father (Anthony LaPaglia) whom she has never met, as well as a traditionally-set grandmother Katia (Elena Cotta) -plus the icing on the cake, she’s a “wog”. But this year all of these things will change right in front of her. Taking place over the space of a year, the film follows Josie though her school life, and the trials and tribulations of being a senior student at high school. Everyone can remember saying the things that she says regarding getting assignments in on time and punctuality, but like every high school student these things are thrown out the window shortly after the first week. She attends a well-renowned school on a scholarship, leaving room open for insults regarding “wogs on handouts” and doesn’t fit in with the stuck-up bitchy snobs whose “fathers treat them like princesses”. This year it is Josie’s turn to find her feet in the world, and she will learn those little lessons to do with life, death, love, family, race and, most importantly, herself.

  Video
Contract

The video is presented in the original theatrical aspect of 1.85:1, and is anamorphically enhanced. This transfer is now a primitive one, but still shows strong signs from Village Roadshow Home Entertainment. Being an Australian film, this disc was mastered especially for this region, and Roadshow did quite a you-beaut job at it.

Colours are superbly rendered, with brilliant blues, ravishing reds, outstanding oranges and gorgeous greens. Sadly, the ravishingly ravenous reds are a tad over-saturated, giving off a slight reddish-pink feel to the skin tones. But a simple colour adjustment will fix that one. Blacks are boldly solid and deep, with no sign of low-level noise. There are hardly any signs of compression-related artefacts, with the odd glimpse of aliasing being the worst of these. Film artefacts are generally very scarce, with only the very odd dust mark flicking past, and film grain is pretty much non-existent.

The detail in the transfer is second to none, and the sharp picture is constantly beautiful to look at, due partly to Toby Oliver’s exquisite compositions. Even the finest of details are so precise, and show no sign of faulting the transfer.

This is a dual layered disc, with a layer change in the middle of the movie... somewhere. The first few viewings it will just blitz right past it, and then with different hardware, the receiver resets at a layer change and bingo, it's found. This is how all layer changes should be, and sadly it is the exact opposite to many of them. Subtitles for the hearing impaired have been included, which are fairly accurate. These need to be turned on and off via the menus, as some DVD players have trouble selecting them from this disc, known for sure on the Philips 736K and Nowa DS-8318.

  Audio
Contract

Two audio tracks have been included on this disc, with only one of them appropriate for watching the film, and this is in the shape of an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The second track is a 2.0 surround-encoded audio commentary, but more on that later.

Dialogue is driven hard from the centre speaker, and is crisp, clear and audible throughout the entire feature. Portions of the film are in Italian, well single lines are anyway, and an English translation automatically appears on screen as part of the subtitles. The soundstage is solidly built, and uses all six channels to their discrete maximums. Each speaker has its own task to do independently of the others, and the product of this sounds incredible. Surrounds are busy providing ambience and extra effects, and the front left and right speakers do exactly the same. The subwoofer rears its growling head in the appropriate places, and supportively carries the rest of the soundtrack. All in all, this is one top-notch audio track, and is a great example of how good a dramatic 5.1 track can be.

  Extras
Contract

Where to begin? It’s becoming a standard procedure to just write “rental-only” or “theatrical trailer” for the extras, but this swag-load makes up for some of these other discs.

The 16:9-enhanced menus are slick and easy to navigate, and feature some of Alan John’s score in the background. From the main menu, you can get access to the extra features pages where all of the goodies are stored.

The audio commentary features the vocal talents of the director, Kate Woods, the writer, Melina Marchetta and the producer Robyn Kershaw. This is nearly the ultimate in audio commentaries, as it covers both technical and trivial issues, while keeping the chit-chat going for nearly the entire film. Short segments of nothingness do occur, but are generally kept to a minimum.

The cast and crew biographies and filmographies are your stock standard listings for the key cast and also the director and author. Nothing really to write home about, but interesting, informative and well-set-out nonetheless.

The 39-image photo gallery has cast and crew shots that are of a high photographic standard. The 31-page storyboards and working script excerpts feature notes, sketches and ideas for a handful of scenes from the film. An interesting and slightly different addition, and its just a pity there aren’t more of them.

Two music videos are on the disc, acting as adverts for the soundtrack. The clips are of Killing Heidi’s Weir and Lo-Tel’s Teenager of the Year. The quality of these video clips is superb, and it is great to see quality as well as quantity. But oh no, I spoke to soon... The deleted scene looks simply awful (from the Low-Res Film Editing System, like the deleted scenes on Scream 3), but is still worthwhile having. The optional commentary describes a little about the scene’s axing, and is worthwhile to watch, but not a must-see by any standards. Finally, the theatrical trailer for the film has been included, and is of a reasonable quality with heavy grain and harsh audio quality. A great trailer, but not the nicest transfer.

  Overall  
Contract

Looking For Alibrandi was one of the biggest box office releases for Australian cinemas (and filmmakers alike) in 1999, and is available on an awesome DVD full of fascinating features with a terrifically tantalising transfer. Definitely a must-have for fans of Australian cinema, and well worth the asking price to have in your collection.


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      And I quote...
    "...a splash of comedy, a dash of drama, a pinch of tears plus a whole lot of heart..."
    - 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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    "This Craic is as unfunny as a plumber’s butt crack, with a transfer that’s just as pretty too..."

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