9 Songs DVD Review
Picture9 Songs is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer that looks reasonable if unexceptional. Detail is fairly good, but there are some scenes where softness and even grain is noticeable (the gig performances are notably shoddy, but that is kind of to be expected with the poor lighting and so forth). There is negligible edge enhancement and no significant signs of digital artifacting. The colour palette is limited largely by the British weather and dull, bland London locations (other than the dark but colourful gigs) which must have been chosen to try and ground the movie in reality. Blacks are reasonably solid and the transfer shows no signs of any print defects, despite its amateurish appearance.
SoundWe get the choice of a superior Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a standard Dolby Digital 2.0 effort. Of course the former is far more preferable, with the dialogue perfectly clear and coherent but nothing really in the way of effects. This lack is more than made up for by the audio tracks, however, with myriad bands performing in glorious six speaker surround sound for your listening pleasure. It is almost like actually being at a gig itself (well, except you've got a sofa and a little less company) and sounds fantastic, even pulling a little bass out of its hat. The Dolby Digital 2.0 effort is only really distinguishable because of that latter presentation of the music tracks, which just sound better in 5.1 with the crowd cheering around you.
ExtrasFirst up there are the 9 Songs Audio Tracks, with performances by The Von Bondies, Elbow, Primal Scream, The Dandy Warhols, Super Furry Animals, Franz Ferdinand, Michael Nyman and two tracks by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Able to be played continuously it is basically a music-only version of the movie (although there is still some sex in there), running for twenty-one minutes. Most of the bands sound excellent (and once again you have the Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 option, but since it is clear that they have just - and quite poorly - cut these segments from the main movie, it serves very little purpose other than as a gimmick.
There are also Interviews with Michael Winterbottom, Kieran O'Brien and Margo Stilley. Winterbottom spends just over six minutes (including preparation time) talking about what the movie is about, how it is told from the man's perspective and what Antarctic footage they wanted to include amidst the sex and music. He discusses the core focus of the relationship and eventually starts to get into meat of the enterprise - the sex - and how he chose the cast carefully and tried to make them feel comfortable about actually having sex on film (although he says that this was easier than 'imitating' sex).
Kieran O'Brien spends nearly eight minutes chatting about the production, how he got involved, what he thought of actually having sex on film and how he came to terms with it (is it really that hard a decision - hmm, be paid to have sex with a pretty girl for three months). He's slightly hyperactive - his gesticulations are those of a speed freak - but it is nonetheless quite interesting to get his side to the story and hear his comments about the director. Margot Stilley gives us fourteen minutes of her time, discussing how many girls she had to compete with to get the part, the consequences of doing a movie like this, the media reaction and the response her family and friends had. She dithers a lot, either because she is stoned or just stupid and numbers are not her forté but it is still nice to hear from her. I could not believe that she had the gall to say that she did not think she would be in the papers because of it - what did she expect with something this controversial?
There is also a fifteen minute Introduction by Tom Dewe Mathews, author of 'Censored'. He talks about anticipating the release of this movie, assuming that it would be cut for the ejaculation sequence and the history of film cuts and bans over the last few years. Interestingly, he discusses how film censorship is largely class-based (citing foreign films as notorious for being allowed to be shown uncut in the UK because they are subtitled and 'for a limited, intellectual audience'. It's an insightful theory, which would certainly go to explain why so many explicit French films get through untouched. He then goes on to explain why the BBFC passed 9 Songs uncut - because they did not feel that it was 'pornography' and because they did not feel there to be any problem with imitative behaviour. He discusses the correlation between 9 Songs and a standard porn movie, making valid arguments in both directions and this is easily the most interesting and important extra on the disc.
Finally we get a Theatrical Trailer for the main feature, along with Trailers for the excellent La Haine, the haunting Dead Man's Shoes and Tarnation.
Verdict9 Songs will most likely go down in history for being one of the most explicit movies in British cinema history but that does not in itself make it a good film. Despite wanting to enjoy it, I found myself both bored and sceptical that there was any plausibility let alone purpose to the enterprise, other than merely to push the boundaries of cinematic sexual taboos to the next (and probably final) level and become famous from it. The video and audio presentation are perfectly fine and in fact the gig tracks sound particularly good in six-speaker surround sound and there are some thought-provoking extras included on the disc. I suspect many will simply have to see it because of all the controversy but beyond the real sex and nudity, there is little else of value. No chemistry, no love, no romance and no sexiness.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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