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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Italian, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 6 Theatrical trailer - Closer, Hitch, Are We There Yet?, The Forgotten, Little Black Book, Spanglish
  • Music video - 'The Blower's Daughter' Damien Rice
  • Dolby Digital trailer

Closer

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 99 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

The title of this film, as well as the award-winning play it was adapted from, naturally implies a ‘closeness’ (as one would presume). It’s no wonder that audience’s expectations world-wide were fairly dramatically crushed, as this is a far cry from In the Mood for Love, in terms of on-screen intimacy. Those who know Closer realise it’s a portrait of four people at their worst. It takes a brave and very realistic step inside contemporary relationships. Many have remarked this film, claiming writer Patrick Marber has “stolen their diary, and built a film from it” – a testament to the striking nature of his writing, and the raw audacity of this film. The key narrative isn’t especially complicated, or essentially very important, but it does take many twists and turns – some intentionally predictable, others that will leave you taken aback. Like many of Nichols’ other films, it’s one that will challenge you. ‘You will take out only what you have given in’ – to put it simply.

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Art these days... with its mind control powers!

Mike Nichols has a very simple directorial style, which perfectly suits the nature of material he works with. His method of moving the stage to the screen is near-flawless. The majority of Nichols’ best productions are those adapted from well-known plays, including his Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as well as the recent Angels in America. He works with one scene at a time, very rarely taking advantage of editing multiple scenes together in order to heighten the dramatic intensity of a moment. Nichols evokes such strong performances from his cast, and uses already very dramatic material, to create scenes of bursting intensity, that are very simply constructed. Many films adapted from the stage have trouble with maintaining the raw energy that is felt in a live performance, losing the carefully paced nature of the material. To Nichols’ credit, again, he manages to weave this stage-oriented material as if it was a high-octane thriller – never losing his audience’s focus or overstretching a scene beyond what is necessary.

It is interesting that throughout Closer, Patrick Marber jumps back-and-forward in time quite frequently. The film spans over four years, yet it is deceiving in letting its audience feel as if they’ve sat and watched all but a week of these characters interacting. Interestingly, Nichols doesn’t use the standard ‘three weeks later’ flash-card to hammer the fact into his audience – he wants us to be actively involved, work out where each character’s at, identify with or oppose ourselves to their every choice. The brilliance in what Marber has written peaks when the film finishes, when we feel as if we have an intimate picture of each one of his four characters after knowing them for such a short space of time. This film captures these people at their worst – when they are the most deviant and the least intimate, not at all how they would outwardly present themselves.

One of the major criticisms Closer has had to endure was the distaste many had to its somewhat pointed, theatrical dialogue. Many will argue that “people just don’t talk like they would in this film”, which is true, but not something to be discredited. Marber has written a very poetic and cohesive screenplay, erring away from the realistic dialogue one would find in something written by Richard Linklater, and expressing his character’s raw sentiment rather than dancing around it in realistic banter. Marber’s writing flows together beautifully, each character bouncing off one another perfectly, with remarkable cohesion. Interestingly, Marber has also taken something of a ‘no holds barred’ take to his work, often delving deep graphic descriptions of sexual encounters, or simply expressing raw emotion at its most potent. This will steer some more conservative viewers away from the film, but will draw others closer – something of a personal choice, that will either reward or disgust the viewer.

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"Oh, my. That pink hair does wonders for your complexion!"

Nichols has recently chosen material of this nature to direct, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America is very similar in style, and seems to have a natural gift to make this kind of pointed dialogue present itself naturally. Many films featuring period dialogue often come across as far too forced, and it is clear that their only antidote is a guest directorial appearance from Nichols himself! He realises the power of cinema to express, in comparison to that of a conversation. His films aren’t (usually) very visual, with all focus on the screenplay and performance. Goldblatt, Closer’s cinematographer lights and composes each shot exquisitely, but never intrusively. Baz Luhrmann and Nichols aren’t two to compare in terms of visual audacity.

It is something of an injustice that the Academy didn’t recognise Marber’s screenplay at the 2005 Oscars. It succeeds as a brilliant and original screenplay, and as a fantastic adaptation from the stage to screen.

The intimate portrait of each character we receive is to the credit of Nichols and Marber, but more-so to the credit of the brilliant cast. Nichols evokes such strong performances from his cast, probably to a greater degree of consistency than any other director, and this is no exception. Natalie Portman, widely recognised as a pretty face, but not much more, takes a serious stab at her critics in boasting an outstanding performance – far outweighing all others, a genuine career best. Julia Roberts and Jude Law (who seems to be the most prolific actor of late, starring in no less than six films in 2004), both perform exceptionally, steering away from their type-cast roles to take on something more challenging, which they both excel in. However, the star of the film is Clive Owen, who also has the fortune of playing the most fascinating character, and one who will become a favourite among audiences. He does not overshadow his co-stars, yet manages to step inside his character with remarkable ease – delivering each line of dialogue as if it were genuinely his own. Personally, I felt he was the most deserving candidate for the ‘best supporting actor’ at this year’s Academy Awards, as he played something he’s never done before – with remarkable brilliance.

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- "You okey?" - "Oh, jolly. Just bit my lip is all."

As many will have already gathered, I’m quite the Nichols fan. While I do enjoy the visual spectacles that the likes of Baz Luhrmann and Jean-Pierre Jeunet produce, I have come to love and respect Nichols’ work for its balanced simplicity and complexity (ah! doublethink!). He uses material dealing with complex issues, such as Marber’s study of sex and revenge, and then films it with minimalist beauty. This is a fantastic film, one of the best of 2004.

  Video
Contract

This transfer is very good, expected from such a recent release. It is however unfortunately marred by a few issues, predominately its significant grain. It is presented in its native aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

All colour levels are perfectly balanced, as are the blacks naturally presented, blending into the natural black of your monitor. The level of detail is acceptable, but not perfect. Some significant grain covers the entire transfer, which was not there theatrically, which does knock down the detail of each frame. This is essentially the major fault, as a few minor film artefacts (mainly white specs) are expected and go unnoticed throughout the film.

Oddly, some edge enhancement (white ‘halos’ around characters) stands out, which is strange for such a recent release – I haven’t come across it (noticeably) for some time in a recent film. It is not something hugely noticeable, but in one scene (behind a jacket I believe) it does stand out. I didn’t notice any significant aliasing.

  Audio
Contract

The English and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks are both very good. This is a dialogue-driven film, with very little in sound effects or striking music.

Surround speakers surprisingly used quite extensively, mainly for ambient sounds and the occasional sound effect (that makes discrete use of the rear channels). The subwoofer predominately lies dormant, to come to life in a scene with more active background music, and for a few other minor effects (such as an aeroplane taking off).

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Double the Natalie Portman; double the fun!

All dialogue is consistently easy to hear. Occasionally, a character will whisper or murmur, yet everything remains audible and clear. The majority of speech comes from the centre speaker, but there are times when characters or the camera moves so the left and right speakers are used.

  Extras
Contract

Extras are unfortunately very sparse. An audio commentary with any one of the cast or crew would have been fascinating, but perhaps we’ll have to wait until the inevitable ‘special edition’.

We do have the music-video to Damien Rice’s absolutely superb song that is featured in the film, ‘The Blower’s Daughter’. It is presented in Dolby 2.0 stereo, in widescreen but unfortunately not 16:9 enhanced. This is a great track, one that fits into the film excellently, and works equally well on its own.

There are also a bunch of theatrical trailers from Sony (for films – Closer, Hitch, Are We There Yet?, The Forgotten, Little Black Book and Spanglish), all 16:9 enhanced and in Dolby 5.1 surround. Surprisingly, they’re all great trailers, even those for films that are actually terrible!

That’s all!

  Overall  
Contract

This is quite a good DVD from Sony, featuring a great transfer. Apart from the minor grain and edge enhancement, it’s just about a perfect disc. Unfortunately, there are very few extras available, which will disappoint many. A making-of featurette, or an interesting audio-commentary would have been well received.

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Jude Law sparks a striking resemblance to none other than our favourite chef, Jamie Oliver!

Closer is another outstanding film from the hands of Mike Nichols. He is a personal favourite director of mine, and one I hope many will come to admire and enjoy! This film takes a brave look at relationships, delving into the effect and power sex has in a relationship. It’s not for everyone, but those who immerse themselves within it will be rewarded. As I mentioned earlier, it’s among The Motorcycle Diaries, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Downfall as one of the best of 2004.


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      And I quote...
    "Nichols has moved the stage to the screen flawlessly, in a film that takes a brave and realistic step inside contemporary relationships."
    - Nick Watts
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Onkyo DR-S2.0
    • TV:
          Samsung 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Onkyo HTP-2
    • Centre Speaker:
          Onkyo HTP-2
    • Surrounds:
          Onkyo HTP-2
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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