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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musical > Backstage > Teens > British > Rock > Absolute Beginners (1986/Umbrella Entertainment/PAL Region Zero DVD Import)

Absolute Beginners (1986/Umbrella Entertainment/PAL Region Zero DVD Import)


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Film: C+



PLEASE NOTE: This DVD set can only be operated on machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region Zero/0/Free PAL format software and can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the website address provided at the end of the review.



Julien Temple is a survivor in the music business, but as a director of films and Music Videos.  I have not been a fan of many of his works, but he is at least ambitious and when he does something that does work, it works well.  His Music Video-oriented narrative feature film debut Absolute Beginners is a highly stylized look at the London teen and music scene in the late 1950s, shot on obvious sets that may remind some of Music Videos, old Hollywood Musicals, British Musicals and even Francis Coppola’s One From The Heart (1982, reviewed elsewhere on this site).


Colin (Eddie O’Connell) wants to make it in music and thinks by going to Soho, where there is a music culture on the rise, he might make it and finds himself falling for Suzette (Patsy Kensit of Lethal Weapon 2) only to have a wealthy rich man (David Bowie) cut in.  That is about as thick as the storyline gets, as the film leans too much on its visuals and that is why it was not so good to begin with and now looks more than ever like an extended Music Video that does not work.


Of course, Temple got a good supporting cast of dancers and music acts (still-hot Sade, Ray Davies, Fine Young Cannibals) showing up, while the rest of the cast includes great actors like James Fox (The Servant), Steven Berkoff (Octopussy, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon), Robbie Coltrane (Britannia Hospital, Mona Lisa, GoldenEye, From Hell), Sylvia Syms (The Queen) and Ronald Frazier (Too Late The Hero) are welcome support, but the Richard Burridge screenplay (derived from several sources) coasts too much on style.  As a result, some good visuals and good ideas are lost and will remind some of Streets Of Fire (also reviewed on this site) in its approach.


Still, it is one of those films you need to see for yourself and for some, it will be a nostalgia trip to the 1980s, as much as the 1950s.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was shot in a brief-lived variation of Super 35 and Techniscope called Super Techniscope and does produce an interesting image, but this is the highlight of the disc with fine color, good detail and definitely a candidate for a Blu-ray release, especially if Umbrella could have extras.  Director of Photography Oliver Stapleton (The Grifters, The Cider House Rules) delivers a very good looking film with solid color.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is a disappointment for a film that originally was issued in 4.1 Dolby magnetic 70mm multi-channel sound blow-up film prints and even a 5.1 Dolby or DTS option would have been welcome.  However, we get this adequate mix that you can hear the score by Gil Evans (The Whistle) and tell people are lip syncing.  There are no extras.



As noted above, you can order this PAL DVD import exclusively from Umbrella at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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