DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main

John Hurt, Theresa Russell, Buck Henry, Elizabeth Hurley
Writing Credits:

Ten short pieces directed by ten different directors.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
English PCM Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $25.99
Release Date: 3/7/2017

• Photo Gallery
• Trailer and Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Aria [Blu-Ray]] (1987)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 2, 2017)

A very unusual film from 1987, Aria takes ten notable directors, allows them to choose pieces of opera and then create short films set to that music. It’s an interesting concept but only a sporadically compelling movie.

Film fans will find many familiar names among the ten directors featured here. We get a mix of legends like Robert Altman and Jean-Luc Godard as well as “where are they now?” talent like Julien Temple (Absolute Beginners) and Franc Roddam (Quadrophenia). We also find some “never-wases” like Bill Bryden and Charles Sturridge.

Each director gets a different opera snippet with which to work. They then go their own way and create short programs based on the music.

Directed by Bryden, shots of John Hurt as he prepares for “I Pagliacci” give the film a running theme, as these moments pop up between the other parts. This culminates in a full sequence at the flick’s end.

A mix of other familiar actors show up in these snippets as well, though many weren’t too well known at the time. We see then-unknowns like Bridget Fonda and Elizabeth Hurley as well as more established actors such as Hurt, Buck Henry, and Beverly D’Angelo.

The clips vary between those with fairly firm narrative thrusts and others that favor a more general visual motif. Altman’s take on “Les Boreades” shows a performance of the opera from the point of view of a freak-show audience, while Ken Russell’s “Nessun Dorma” provides a surreal examination of a car crash.

None of the clips try as hard to emphasize story as Temple’s “Rigoletto”. That one offers a substantial amount of dialogue – a feature virtually absent elsewhere – and feels more distant from the spirit of the project.

Temple became known for a camera technique that made it look like he followed minutes of action without cuts; he also used this in Beginners as well as the video for Janet Jackson’s “When I Think of You”. This seemed clever for about five minutes, but it quickly became tiresome, and though his “Rigoletto” probably offers Aria’s most accessible clip, I think it’s one of the less successful ones.

Bruce Beresford’s “Die Tote Stadt” merits some attention simply because it shows a nude Liz Hurley. Otherwise, it seems short and pointless.

Bridget Fonda also goes naked in “Liebestod”, and Roddam’s “Liebestod” provides a much more compelling piece. Actually, this simple but poignant tale of two suicidal lovers may well be the most effective clip found in Aria.

My second favorite would probably be Russell’s “Dorma”. I never much cared for the director’s trippy work, but something about this segment seems clever and engaging. The material fits his style and offers one of the more intriguing works on the disc.

Overall, Aria remains a mixed bag. The concept seems intriguing, and some of the sequences provide arresting and inventive musical interpretations.

However, too many of them fall flat for the film to succeed totally. Still, even in failure, Aria offers something different and reasonably watchable. Besides, if you don’t like the current piece, just wait a few minutes and you’ll get a new one - with 10 bits packed into its fairly brief running time, the pace never drags.

The Disc Grades: Picture C- / Audio B- / Bonus D

Aria appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Due to the wide mix of directors featured here, the quality of the different segments varied, but the picture generally seemed subpar.

Sharpness offered one of the many up and down elements. Most of the movie offered acceptable delineation but nothing better than that, as the movie lacked great clarity. Much of the time, the image tended to seem a little soft.

I saw no jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws turned into a consistent distraction, as various marks popped up throughout the film. While never overwhelming, small specks and nicks could be seen on a frequent basis.

With the wide mix of directors, Aria offered radically varying colors, and these tended to seem somewhat flat. Colors occasionally looked fairly peppy, but they appeared somewhat dull and bland much of the time.

Blacks followed suit, as those elements came across as a little faded and without great depth. Shadows seemed to passable, though the lack of darkness for the blacks made them look too bright. Aria came with a watchable image but not a good one.

I thought the PCM stereo soundtrack of Aria worked acceptably well. Obviously, the soundfield mainly dealt with the music, and the score showed good imaging across the speakers.

Effects also cropped up at times, and the track created a positive sense of ambience. Elements came across as neatly localized and they moved smoothly across the channels. Because music so heavily dominated the piece, the soundfield remained modest in scope, but it appeared fine for the material.

Audio quality seemed fairly solid. Dialogue and effects appeared infrequently and provided small parts of the track. Both of those elements seemed acceptably distinct and accurate, but they didn’t stand out in any particular way.

Music generally appeared reasonably good. Highs came across as bright and vivid, but low-end seemed a little flat. The music demonstrated decent bass, but I felt that domain should have been stronger. Nonetheless, the soundtrack to Aria remained adequate for this film.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2002? The DVD came with a 5.1 remix that went absent here. I didn’t mind this, as the 5.1 version added little beyond what we get from stereo anyway; the surrounds contributed fairly minor information, so I’m fine with the stereo track. The PCM audio showed a little more range and clarity compared to the old Dolby Digital version.

Visuals didn’t do much to improve on the DVD. We might’ve gotten a little better definition but the general lack of clarity meant any changes were minor. I believe the Blu-ray came with more print flaws than the largely clean DVD as well. I don’t view the Blu-ray as an obvious step up from the DVD.

Only minor extras fill out set Blu-ray. We get a Photo Gallery that includes 10 picture montages based on the movie’s directors. This means collections for “Nicolas Roeg” (2:22), “Charles Sturridge” (1:22), “Jean-Luc Godard” (1:47), “Julien Temple” (1:42), “Bruce Beresford” (1:42), “Robert Altman” (2:37), “Franc Roddam” (2:12), “Ken Russell” (1:42), “Derek Jarman” (1:27) and “Bill Bryden” (2:57). The photos vary in quality but add up to a nice array of images.

The disc opens with an ad for Tanna. We also get the film’s trailer.

If you want to see something unusual, take a look at Aria. The movie contains 10 short films based on works of opera. While not all of them succeed, the project as a whole seems inventive and refreshing. The Blu-ray offered acceptable audio along with problematic visuals and very few supplements. While the movie intrigues, the Blu-ray disappoints due to its iffy picture quality.

To rate this film visit the original review of ARIA

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main