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  Directed by
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  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
    Perfect Strangers (2003) (Rental)
    20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 95 mins . M15+ . PAL

      Feature
    Contract

    This one’s decidedly different and that’s why I loved it so much.

    Melanie is a small town girl bored beyond comprehension in her little New Zealand fishing town. Heading out with friends after work one evening and disappointed by the local offerings, she meets a handsome fella who seems very different from anyone else in town. Before long, she and he get on his boat and head for his place, but Melanie passes out before she arrives there.

    When she wakes up she is on a remote island with no other inhabitants but she and the mysterious stranger we only know as ‘The Man’. Even as their romance appears to blossom, Melanie realises she’s quite the captive here on this island, just as The Man starts speaking quite oddly about the two of them…

    To say anymore here is to ruin the storyline, but this is an amazing film from New Zealand that received but a lacklustre response from audiences in cinemas last year. I can understand this story being a little harder to digest than the average cinema fare, but to miss it is to miss a truly individual film. Writer/director/producer Gaylene Preston has pulled a magnificent performance from Rachael Blake as Melanie here and Sam Neill’s menace needs no recommendation.

    A while back I actually rented this, before I had this review copy, and the description on the rear of the case does slightly mislead ias to the sort of film this is. However, the text is still accurate. That sounds weird, I guess, but everything the case says is true, but does lead one to think they’re in for a different film than the one that is presented. And I’m very, very happy to say the final offering is far and away better than the film we thought we were in for.

    I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this film as an intense character study of an ordinary life under duress. In watching the film again for this review I was just as impressed and found it just as easy to watch again, even knowing the ending in advance. Highly recommended as a rental with plaintive hopes for some sweet extras to accompany a retail release.

      Video
      Audio
      Extras
    Contract

    The cinematography of this film is simply magnificent. Capturing the overcast, storm-battered beaches of New Zealand and truly adding depth to the emotional content of the film, the full screen cinema aspect of 2.35:1 with anamorphic enhancement breathes eerie life into this darker film. It’s almost poetic, the way this film has been shot and scripted, and indeed there are frequent references to relevant poetry. Shadow detail is about the only flaw here, if it can be called that. It seems to me the shadow detail is as murky or as telltale as the director wants it to be and this again just contributes to the claustrophobic feeling of the film (which is almost entirely set on this tiny island). There’s also a blue filter used occasionally to deepen moods and this works brilliantly too. An overall awesome transfer of a beautifully shot film.

    Audio comes to us sweet and clear in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and this is in a constant state of flux. Ocean and wind noise accompanied by frequent rain keeps the surrounds busy, while the subwoofer keeps up with the deep subtle menace of the soundtrack and thunder offshore. Musically speaking, this has been scored by Plan 9, a three-piece band composed of David Donaldson, Janet Roddick and Stephen Roche. This is a perfectly fitting score, both lyrical and poetic and lonely and storm weathered. Haunting and ghostly are other words that spring to mind and parts of the score resemble music from Morcheeba in an ocean-swaying, lilting, rolling manner. Truly an exquisite soundscape herein.

    There are sadly no extras here, but again, hopefully, a retail release will throw us a few. An audio commentary would certainly be welcome from the director and cinematographer Alun Bollinger. Cast, too, would be fantastic.

    Overall, this is a truly haunting film. It’s the sort of story you watch and feel hours and evens days later, curious as to whether that actually happened or not. It’s a kind of shock, I suppose, for wont of a better term. At any rate, do see Perfect Strangers. Even if you don’t get it all at once, it will stay with you long enough for the answers to come. However, even seeing it for the brilliant performances and exceptional images would be enough.


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  •   And I quote...
    "This one’s decidedly different and that’s why it's so damn good."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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