JAZZMEN blu-ray review

Russia Region-free blu-ray

1080p 1.37:1 Full Screen

Russian DTS-HD 5.1, DD 5.1

Subtitles: English

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 8

AUDIO QUALITY: 8

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 8.5

EXTRAS: 0

 

Russia sure knows how to make even an upbeat and energetic film seem depressing – Russia’s JAZZMEN is about a jazz band of four men that struggle to find gigs in Russia during the 1920s. All they want to do is play jazz for the people, but they get resistance everywhere they go. If they are performing for the rich, they are supporting the bourgeois and get put in jail. If they are performing for the poor, they have to censor themselves. Music experts don’t like them. Regular citizens think their music is not traditional. They can’t even find a singer for their band – they try out a female Cuban singer (who’s just a Russian actress in black face). They even want to try out a hot Russian female singer who thinks their band is a joke. And no matter where they go, everyone thinks that they are supporting capitalist America. This movie is basically about a bunch of hard-luck musicians fighting an ignorant society. The depressing aspect of the film is that the only way that this band can gain recognition and have jazz become respectful in Russia is if a top-ranked military officer endorses them. And sadly, that’s how Russia really works even today. It’s a military-obsessed state where it’s the type of place to prefer an endorsement of a general, policeman, or politician rather than someone in the entertainment business.

JAZZMEN is full of catchy tunes so the film does satisfy for the musical lovers. It’s a bit funny that all the actors aren’t really playing their instruments though. They are trying real hard to be in synch with the jazz music (I’m guessing that the director, Karen Shakhnazarov, just dug up some snazzy jazz records and told his actors to pretend to play those songs). The acting is decent. You’ll get a kick out of the leader of the band, the piano player, who looks like a cross between Matt Damon and Mark Hamill. The guitarist has an amazing mustache. The saxophone player is overwhelmingly jolly. And the drummer reminded me of the blond goofball from Trainspotting.

The Russian Region-free blu-ray is not only a solid home video for English speakers but it’s your only choice because the Russian DVD never had English subtitles. If you want to see this movie with English subtitles, voila! The 1080p 1.37:1 is quite solid. The video is crisp, clear, and clean. It’s neither three-dimensional nor is it soft. It’s just an all-around satisfying video experience. I have a feeling that this blu-ray probably looks better than the way it was projected in Russian theaters back in 1984. The DTS-HD 5.1 is very good. Even though the movie was originally recorded in mono, the audio felt very natural and not artificial – dialogue was clear, speaker separation was present in a good way, no hissing was anywhere, and the music in this movie reminded me that I was in fact watching a blu-ray – music enveloped the room in a very satisfying listening experience. The English subtitles were just good too – there were a few grammar mistakes, but overall the translators created respectable English subtitles, especially since this blu-ray sure isn’t marketed outside Russia. There are no extras on this blu-ray.

This bromantic Russian musical is an entertaining watch, but it’s nothing great nor nothing bad – basically a pretty fair flick actually. I have seen many Russian “classics” of the 1970s and 1980s and I just want to remind everyone that Russian classics are usually only classics to Russians, besides Tarkovsky. It’s tough growing up in Russia though, so let them enjoy their fair classics!

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