SINGING BEHIND SCREENS dvd review

Italy PAL DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1

Italian DTS 5.1, DD 5.1

Subtitles: English, Italian

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 8.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 9.5

EXTRAS: 8

 

Cantando dietro i Paraventi aka Singing Behind Screens is a very special, dreamlike film about Chinese pirates. I know how people like to say that Pirates of the Caribbean are the best pirate movies, but there have been others over the years which are just as entertaining, such as Roman Polanski’s Pirates, The Goonies, Muppet Treasure Island, Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Planet, and The Black Pirate. Singing Behind Screens can now be added to any respectable pirate movie list. This film, directed by Ermanno Olmi (famous for Il Posto and The Tree of Wooden Clogs) is basically about a beautiful Chinese woman who becomes one of the most terrifying pirates after her pirate husband gets killed. But that’s just on the surface. Imagine a pirate movie co-directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, Yimou Zhang, and Julie Taymor – this is Singing Behind Screens. Over the years I have seen a bunch of movies that try to combine theater into cinema, usually unsuccessfully, but in this film, the theatrical elements blend perfectly. From the opening scene, you know you are watching a unique film. I have never seen anything quite like this film, which could almost be considered an art-house film, but it’s more than that – Singing Behind Screens is like a work of art come to life. Movie directors, such as Terrence Malick, that are good at mixing poetry and visuals into one entertaining, unpretentious way are rare. Ermanno Olmi has created an entertaining pirate movie with a very dreamlike pace, good acting led by Bud Spencer and Jun Ichikawa, unique music, and some intense pirate ship scenes. For anyone that thinks that the coolest ship is the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean, wait till you see the main military ship pimped up with cannonry in this film.

The 2-disc Italian PAL DVD is quite a package. The anamorphic widescreen video quality is really nice –  sharpness and detail are good, with all day and night scenes very well-defined and crisp, with fine details often apparent. The picture otherwise appeared smooth, with no instances of pixelation and a print that appeared in first-rate shape, with no dirt or debris. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones appeared accurate. Although this isn’t a big-budget action movie, you will be impressed with this very active Italian DTS 5.1 mix. Even during dialogue scenes, there is always some type of music creating a great experience for the audience. Surrounds are almost constantly alive with the sounds of water, nature, cannon fire, pirates screaming, and other sound effects. Whether calm or intense, there always seemed to be some background details present in the film’s sound mix. I’ve been spoiled with blu-ray sound for a while, but the DTS 5.1 track on this DVD is as impressive as any DTS-HD 7.1 track of a blu-ray. The movie and extras are all English-friendly – everything English subtitled! The extras are plentiful – with a trailer, interviews, and making ofs. The English subtitles for the film are excellent as well with maybe one spelling mistake. This is a complete package for a very unique film.

Fans of pirates should certainly check out this cool film. While the movie is very poetic, don’t expect to be too moved. The film may be lacking emotion, but it makes up for it by the creative direction and overall dreamlike experience of watching this film.

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