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I remember seeing NINE ($39) on Broadway during its original production run and being quite entranced with the show, and I still have fond memories of seeing Raul Julia, Liliane Montevecchi, not to mention, the one and only Anita Morris. Sitting down to watch the movie version of NINE, I was hoping to come away with the same kind of lasting positive impression I had taken away from the Broadway production. However, after viewing the movie, I found myself less than entranced. For some reason, the movie version of NINE does not gel together into a cohesive whole the same way that the Broadway production did. While elements work exceedingly well on their own, there is a definite disconnect between the dramatic storyline and the musical numbers, which sometimes seem like music videos dropped into the middle of something completely unrelated.

Real locations and a naturalistic approach to opening up the story usually works best for cinematic adaptations of stage plays. However, with NINE, the realism feels distracting, especially when said realism is repeatedly interrupted by far more artificial musical numbers. I think NINE might have worked better had it been soundstage bound, with a simulated artifice of the theater marrying the dramatic structure of the story to fantasy of the musical numbers. Still, there is a lot to appreciate in NINE; the dramatic performances are terrific, as are the musical numbers. One standout is Penélope Cruz’s Oscar Nominated performance, which provides her the opportunity to appear in a steamy musical number. Another standout is Fergie’s show stopping musical number Be Italian.

Adapted from Federico Fellini's semi-autobiographical film , NINE tells the story of Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), who has all the emotional maturity of a ten-year-old boy, yet ironically, is in the midst of a midlife crisis. Coming off several flops, Guido faces the prospect that his greatest films are behind him. To make matters worse, he is set to begin directing a new film in a matter of days, yet writers block leaves him bereft of ideas… as well as an actual script to begin the production. Hounded by the paparazzi, Guido seeks refuge in a spa away from the distractions of Rome, only to be distracted by the women in his life, not to mention those in his head.

At the spa Guido has to deal not only with his mistress, Carla Albanese (Penélope Cruz), but also with his wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard) who is being pushed to the breaking point by his philandering. Of course, during the course of the film Guido does get a bit of support from his longtime confidante and costume designer Lilli La Fleur (Judi Dench), not to mention taking solace from imagined conversations with the spirit of his deceased mother (Sophia Loren). Eventually, Guido’s writers block leads hip to pin all his hopes for being able to produce a viable screenplay on his muse, actress Claudia Jenssen (Nicole Kidman). Along the way, American fashion journalist Stephanie (Kate Hudson) provides yet another distraction, as does his youthful memory of a prostitute named Saraghina (Fergie) and Catholic Boarding School.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made NINE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Overall, I have to rate the 1080p presentation as very, very good, especially in the light of all the various stylistic trappings that director Rob Marshall applies to the film. NINE proves to be a virtual smorgasbord of cinematographic techniques, everything from naturalistic approach to highly stylized visual are employed, with stopovers in highly grainy, lightly grained, black and white, high contrast, highly saturation color and the near monochromatic. Image sharpness and detail are as variable as the technique employed, but all prove highly satisfactory at the high definition level. Color reproduction is all over the map, which is what is intended, but stability is excellent. Blacks and whites are usually accurate, except where they are purposely being manipulated for effect. The elements from which NINE has been transferred appear virtually pristine.

NINE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Sonically, NINE provides one with a terrific listening experience, with the musical numbers being the expected highlight. The lossless encoding greatly enhances the musicality of the songs and orchestrations, which can be bouncy and lively or wonderfully delicate and intimate. All of the outlying channels are well utilized for the musical presentation, although less so during the talky dramatic passages. Still, the sound design is effective whenever action steps up beyond a couple of talking heads. The bass channel is weighty enough for the material, without becoming excessive. No other language tracks have been included on the disc, but English subtitles are provided.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Rob Marshall. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Sophia Loren Remembers Cinecitta Studios (thirteen minutes), Screen Actors Guild Q&A (forty three minutes), The Incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis (five minutes), The Women Of Nine (eleven minutes), Director Rob Marshall (six minutes), Behind The Look Of Nine (eight minutes), The Dancers Of Nine (five minutes), The Choreography Of Be Italian (four minutes), Making Cinema Italiano (three minutes) and The Choreography Of Cinema Italiano (nine minutes). Some Music Videos lifted from the film and Bonus Trailers close out the standard supplements. NINE is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). Sony’s MovieIQ feature is available through BD-Live, which provides the viewer access to a continuously updated database of additional information about the film, its cast, crew and soundtrack, as well as other trivia.

As a film, NINE does not gel into a cohesive whole, but that does not mean that one cannot take enjoyment from its various disconnected parts. The Blu-ray presentation takes on any and all stylistic choices thrown at it by the filmmakers… and renders them all quite beautifully. NINE is definitely worth seeing for its various parts, and high definition is definitely the best way to enjoy each of them.



Nine [Blu-ray] (2009)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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