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Matt meets Lisa during a mobbed rock concert at London's Brixton Academy. By night's end, they are in bed together. Over the next few months, their growing sexual passion is balanced only by their love of music and the concerts they attend.
For more about 9 Songs and the 9 Songs Blu-ray release, see the 9 Songs Blu-ray Review
Starring: Kieran O'Brien, Margo Stilley
Director: Michael Winterbottom
» See full cast & crew
9 Songs Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 9, 2009
Raw and explicit, British director Michael Winterbottom's groundbreaking "9 Songs" (2004) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Optimum Home Entertainment. Unfortunately, the disc does not contain any supplemental features. Region-B "locked" and encoded in 1080i/50. The film is not recommended for viewers younger than 18 years of age.
A young man, Matt (Kieran O'Brien, 24 Hour Party People), meets a young woman, Lisa (Margo Stilley). They end up at his place. They make love. They go out to the beach. They visit the club where they first met. They make love again and talk about their fantasies, what turns them on. They wonder whether or not they are in love. Eventually, they realize that other than sex there is nothing else that they have in common. The man and the woman part ways.
What you've just read above is a short synopsis for Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs, the most sexually explicit film ever made by a mainstream British director. Praised for its bravery and dismissed for its lack of purposefulness, 9 Songs is easy to summarize. It is not, however, easy to explain.
There are a number of reasons why. The most obvious one has to do with the unsimulated sex that you would see in the film. What is its purpose? Is it to shock, or is it to remind the audience about the mechanics of sex. The latter seems unlikely. The sex in 9 Songs is explicit but not elaborate. The former is questionable (unless, of course, one has never seen explicit sex). None of the actors in 9 Songs have the needed star status.
By large, 9 Songs is also an improvised film. The main protagonists meet, converse and make love in a notably informal fashion. They even joke about it. Yet, the long shots from the frozen fields of Antarctica, where Matt reflects on life and its meaning, suggest that at least some thought was given to his monologues.
Furthermore, despite the fact that director Winterbottom's camera spends a great deal of time with the two protagonists, one never truly gets to know them. It sounds strange, but 9 Songs does a better job of chronicling the progression of the actual relationship between the two.
There are also nine concerts the main protagonists attend and nine songs they hear – performed by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Franz Ferdinand, Primal Scream, Dandy Warhols, Super Furry Animals, and Michael Nyman. None of the concerts and songs, however, are of key significance to the film. They merely connect its disjointed parts.
So, why make a film like 9 Songs and go on to show everything that could possibly happen between a man and a woman when they are physically attracted to each other? Well, probably for the same reason Bernardo Bertolucci made Last Tango in Paris. Or Catherine Breillat her Anatomie de l'enfer. Sex is part of the way human beings communicate their feelings. It can be exciting, pleasurable and inspiring. It can also be painful and disappointing. As 9 Songs shows, however, sex cannot be a substitute for love.
Shot in DV and transferred to 35mm, 9 Songs has a distinctively raw look. Colors, light and detail have been intentionally manipulated. The music performances seen throughout the film look notably organic as well. They were shot at the Brixton Academy and the Hackney Empire Theater in London. In 2004, 9 Songs won the Best Cinematography Award (Marcel Zyskind) at the San Sebastian International Film Festival.
Please be advised that the Blu-ray disc herein reviewed contains the uncut version of 9 Songs, which runs at approximately 67 minutes. The film is not recommended for viewers younger than 18 years of age.
9 Songs Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080i/50 transfer, Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
I would like to make it very clear that 1080i is native to the film, as this is how director Winterbottom shot 9 Songs. With other words, Optimum Home Entertainment have done exactly what they should have done for the film's Blu-ray premiere – released it in 1080i.
This being said, the Blu-ray transfer does show plenty of improvements over the SDVD transfer (I do have the UK release of this film and was able to compare it to the Blu-ray release). They may not be easily noticed by those of you who are using smaller than 50' screens to view the film, but clarity and detail are certainly better. The improvements should be easy to spot during close-ups. The color-scheme is wild and very inconsistent. Blues, greens, light reds, grays, blacks and whites are mostly soft.
It is difficult for me to tell whether or not some of the low digital noise is intentional. I believe it is, given that the film was supposedly projected on a white wall to create a negative that was later on used for the creation of the theatrical prints. This being said, the Blu-ray release looks far less blocky than the SDVD release. Seriously disturbing debris, scratches, dirt, or stains are not present. Motion-judder is also rarely noticeable. To sum it all up, given the manner in which this film was shot and all limitations were inherited, I feel very comfortable stating that this is probably the best 9 Songs could look. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" disc. As mentioned above, it is also 1080i/50. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free player in order to access its content. North American viewers, please note that in order to view this disc on most US and Canadian TV sets, you must have a Region-Free player. If you only have a native Region-B player, you will not be able to view the film as your player will output 1080i/50 which isn't supported by the overwhelming majority of North American TV sets).
9 Songs Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English LPCM 2.0. I opted for the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and later on did a few random comparisons with the English LPCM 2.0 Audio track for the purpose of this review.
Given the type of limitations the original film elements have introduced, the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track sounds a bit unusual. The bass is acceptable but far from being potent, the rear channels mostly inactive, and the high frequencies rather difficult to separate. The dialog is easy to follow, but clarity is not consistent. On the other hand, there are no disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or dropouts that I detected. There are no issues with the music either.
Dynamically, the English LPCM 2.0 track is quite similar to the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. This being said, I actually like it a lot more - it seems to be more in sync with director Winterbottom's overall vision of 9 Songs. For the record, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or dropouts with it either. Optional English subtitles have not been provided for the main feature.
9 Songs Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Most unfortunately, there are no supplemental features to be found on this Blu-ray disc.
9 Songs Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs is not for everyone. If explicit sex offends you, look elsewhere for your weekly dose of provocative cinema. If it does not and you happen to be of legal age, I recommend that you see it. 9 Songs looks as good on Blu-ray as it possibly could. Recommended.
9 Songs: Other Editions
9 Songs Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Optimum Unleashes Blu-ray Deluge - June 2, 2009
Optimum Home Entertainment has added nearly forty catalog titles to its Blu-ray schedule, for release between July and September 2009. Titles run the gamut of genres, from Hong Kong martial arts to European arthouse classics, and more Luc Besson than you can ...
9 Songs Blu-ray Screenshots
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