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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Relationships > Dysfuctional Family > Classical Music > String Instruments > Satire > D > Chicken With Plums (2011/Sony DVD)/A Late Quartet (2012/Fox Blu-ray)/Wunderkinder (2011/Umbrella Region 4 PAL Import DVD)

Chicken With Plums (2011/Sony DVD)/A Late Quartet (2012/Fox Blu-ray)/Wunderkinder (2011/Umbrella Region 4 PAL Import DVD)


Picture: C+/B-/C+†††† Sound: C+/B/C+†††† Extras: B-/C-/C-†††† Films: C+/C/C+



PLEASE NOTE: The Wunderkinder DVD is a Region 4 import PAL DVD, will only play on machines capable of such encoded discs and can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the website address provided at the end of the review.



The idea of the arts in cinema has always spoke to high culture and allegedly denotes a pathway to better living, though that path can get distorted and three new releases, different as they can be, are all tied together by this theme and specifically string instruments.



Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parnnaud (Persepolis) are back with a thoughtful, creative comedy in Chicken With Plums (2011) taking place in Iran, but is more of an international film than you might think.Nasser-Ali (Mathieu Amalric of Quantum Of Solace) is a musician trapped in an unhappy marriage and in need of a new violin.When his smart(er?) brother tells him the remarkable chance to buy a Stradivarius violin at a distant shop, he takes a bus ride there, even if he has to bring his hyperactive young son.Looks like the violin is the real article, but once he plays it, he intends to kill himself in less than a week!


Why?The film uses a elliptical narrative to show us the real love of his life, how his mother (Isabella Rossellini) pushes him into the marriage he lands up in (his wife is really nice, it is just they should not be together and it has ruined both of them) and along with some sometimes funny sides, this off-the-wall comedy drama has its moments and shows the Satrapi/Parnnaud team to be one of the few directing teams outside of The Coen Brothers who should be working together.


However, though this is a fine work, it is too over the top too often and the makers may have been too ambitious.Still, there are some great scenes and big laughs that make it worth a look and I look forward to the next Satrapi/Parnnaud release, surreal or not, because at least they take risks.


Extras include a feature length Satrapi/Parnnaud vying between two languages and a fun Satrapi/Parnnaud Tribeca Q&A appearance for the film.



Yaron Zilbermanís A Late Quartet (2012) is an outright drama with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken and Mark Ivanir as a longtime string quartet on the verge of breaking up.The first two players are married, Walken is having health issues and the remaining partner is teaching the coupleís daughter how to playÖ and more than just instruments.


I liked the set up, the locales and acting, but it is just that we have seen too much of this before, though the cast is top rate and the film is musically sound all around.The result of the viewing is that a great scene is followed by one or two that are too familiar and that is the pace of the entire 106 minutes.I just wish this had been shortened or expanded with scenes that tired to say and do more.Otherwise, fans of Classical Music and the actors here at least will want to see this one.A Making Of featurette called Discord & Harmony: Creating A Late Quartet is the only extra.



Marcus O. Rosenmullerís Wunderkinder (2011) is a yet another tale of music and The Holocaust, but with a twist.The title means child prodigy and of the three we have here, two are Jewish, but all of them are in the Soviet Union as war is about to break out from Hitler violating his non-aggression treaty (one of his biggest mistakes) with Stalin.A well done drama, the change of locale is a plus and gives us an idea of the similarities and some differences in how this comes to being and works out.


The film is told in flashback, which is too safe an approach for me, but there is also overlap with so many other films on the subject (Polanskiís The Pianist is a recent obvious example) and the script does not get into how Russia is and the USSR was the most anti-Jewish/Anti-German country around, though some would debate to what extents.Still, the acting is great, music fine and points of the story honest.


I was not familiar with any of the actors, but they are very good, the film always seems like the period it portrays and that makes Wunderkinder worth going out of your way for.A theatrical trailer is the only extra.


The 1080p 1.78 X 1 AVC @ 22 MBPS digital High Definition image transfer on Late Quartet is the best of the three releases here in playback quality, though it has some softness and motion blur here and there.The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Plums and 1.85 X 1 PAL image on Wunderkinder can be soft and have some softness issues, but are pretty good considering the format and would both likely look better on Blu-ray.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Late is by far the best of the three films here sonically with well-recorded music and a surprisingly consistent soundfield, while the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on the DVDs of not have the soundfields I would have liked them to have and also have sound that is towards the front speakers a bit more than expected, but they both have fine surround moments and wondered how much better they could sound in lossless audio presentations.Needless to say all three productions are professional all around.



As noted above, you can order the import DVD version of Wunderkinder exclusively from Umbrella at:





-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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