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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Isabel Coixet
Cast:
Penélope Cruz, Ben Kingsley, Dennis Hopper, Peter Sarsgaard, Sonja Bennett, Patricia Clarkson, Deborah Harry
Writing Credits:
Nicholas Meyer, Philip Roth (novel)

Synopsis:
Respected cultural critic and author David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) is a middle-aged college professor who, for years, has lived in a state of "emancipated manhood." His romantic conquests are many; his lasting commitments, few. But when a stunning young student named Consuela Castillo (Penelope Cruz) enters his life, her otherworldly beauty captivates him to the point of obsession. Soon, their erotic relationship evolves into an undying and passionate love in this gripping drama that explores the power of love to blind, reveal and transform.

Box Office:
Budget
$13 million.
Opening Weekend
$104.168 thousand on 6 screens.
Domestic Gross
$3.577 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $27.96
Release Date: 3/17/2009

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Nicholas Meyer
• “The Poetry of Elegy” Featurette
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Elegy (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 12, 2009)

What a difference a day makes! My review copy of 2008’s Elegy arrived the morning after the Oscars. The case refers to “Academy Award Nominee Penelope Cruz”. If only they’d waited a little longer, they could’ve cited “Academy Award Winner Penelope Cruz”, as the actress took home a trophy for Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Elegy follows a character played by another Oscar winner, Ben Kingsley. He portrays David Kepesh, an English college professor who attempts to fend off the mental effects of aging via conquests with his students. Into his class enters Consuela Castillo (Cruz), a Cuban émigré who immediately enchants Kepesh.

They launch an affair that strikes deeper than Kepesh anticipated. After a lifetime of relationship avoidance, he falls for Consuela and becomes romantically obsessed with her. In particular, he assumes she will soon tire of him and move on to a more age-appropriate beau. The film follows their relationship and its impact on Kepesh.

Some movies posit Objects of Obsession who seem unworthy of that attention. Cruz undeniably does not fall into that category. Not only is she gorgeous, but she also gives off a smoldering charisma that makes her not just a logical target, but a darned inevitable one. Perhaps somewhere there exists a heterosexual man who could resist Cruz, but that concept seems unimaginable to me.

And she can act, too! Cruz’s Consuela offers a nearly opposite personality when compared to her Maria Elena in Barcelona, but Cruz handles them both in a natural, convincing manner. Of the two, Consuela clearly provides a less dynamic role, but that doesn’t make her less interesting and well-rendered. Indeed, Cruz has a bigger challenge with Consuela, as she lacks the fireworks that make Maria Elena so compelling. With Consuela, Cruz must play a more realistic role, she does well.

Elegy remains Kingsley’s flick to win or lose, however, and he pulls off a nice piece of work. Kingsley’s career has featured an odd mix of art and commerce. He’ll do classy projects like Mrs. Harris one day and then show up in nonsense such as BloodRayne the next. I know many actors go through a “one for art, one for the wallet” rotation, but Kingsley takes this to an extreme.

At least Elegy finds him on the right side of the ledger – perhaps to compensate for his small role in the lousy Love Guru. He makes Kepesh a complicated role, and one he packs with realistic nuances. He turns small scenes into dynamic ones and imbues Kepesh with a sense of honesty that makes him consistently compelling.

One shouldn’t expect much in the way of plot here, but that doesn’t become an issue. Elegy offers a good character study, one that especially succeeds in terms of exposition. Rather than bash us over the head with clunky details, bits and pieces emerge gradually and naturally. The movie immerses us in the roles and lets us comprehend them gradually.

Elegy becomes a bit melodramatic during its third act, but that doesn’t turn into a fatal flaw. With fine performances and complex characters, the movie maintains a good hold over us despite the occasional misstep.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

Elegy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film featured a good but unexceptional transfer.

Sharpness usually appeared acceptably accurate and detailed. At times, however, I found the image to come across as a little fuzzy and soft, with lesser definition seen in some of the wide shots. Nonetheless, most of the movie appeared clear and appropriately focused. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no concerns, but I noticed some light edge enhancement at times. In terms of print flaws, I saw a couple of small marks but that was it.

In terms of colors, the flick went with a moderately subdued set of tones. Hues stayed on the natural side, and the tones looked fine. A few shots displayed more vivid colors, but most remained pretty low-key. Blacks were dark and firm, while shadows appeared clear and well-developed. The image didn’t excel, but it was acceptable to good..

As for the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it offered a functional effort and that was all. Of course, I didn’t expect a dazzling soundfield from this sort of character drama, and I got exactly what I anticipated. In terms of effects, general ambience ruled the day. Surround usage stayed limited; the back speakers gently fleshed out various settings but rarely did more than that.

In those forward channels, the music provided nice stereo separation and opened up the mix reasonably well. There wasn’t a whole lot of activity or movement, but the effects conveyed a passable sense of space and place. The track functioned appropriately for the story.

Audio quality appeared fine. Dialogue was consistently warm and natural, and speech displayed no concerns related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects were a minor component of the mix, and they seemed appropriately subdued and accurate; there wasn’t much to hear, but the various elements were clean and distinct. The music came across as acceptably distinctive. This became a decent reproduction of the material.

When we shift to extras, we begin with an audio commentary from screenwriter Nicholas Meyer. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion of the original novella and its adaptation, script and story issues, themes, story, characters, cast and performances, the change of the title from The Dying Animal, and a few other production topics.

Meyer provides a spotty track. At his best, he offers some good insights into his script and issues connected to the story. Meyer even relates some differences of opinion between himself and the director.

Unfortunately, Meyer starts with general thoughts about adaptations and it takes him a while to become more concrete. He also falls silent too often and occasionally just narrates the movie. We might’ve been better served by an interview featurette with Meyer than a full commentary; while he gives us good material, there’s not nearly enough to fill the film’s 112 minutes.

A featurette called The Poetry of Elegy fills five minutes, eight seconds, and includes notes from director Isabel Coixet, and actors Ben Kingsley, Penelope Cruz, and Dennis Hopper. We find a few notes about cast, characters, the director and the film. Though we find a smattering of decent insights, this remains a promotional program with little substance.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Blu-Ray Disc, Fragments and Rachel Getting Married. In addition, these appear in the Previews area along with promos for Dark Streets, Vinyan, What Doesn’t Kill You, I’ve Loved You So Long, Waltz with Bashir, Nothing But the Truth, The Lodger, The Fall, Cadillac Records, Synecdoche, New York, Not Easily Broken, Volver and Breaking Bad. No trailer for Elegy shows up here.

A subtle character piece, Elegy succeeds due to the nuances of its script and the three-dimensional performances of its actors. Though the movie doesn’t feature much of a story, it draws viewers in with these elements and manages to often become special. The DVD provides reasonably good picture and audio along with mediocre extras. Though this never becomes a stellar release, the movie remains involving enough to earn my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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