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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » A Merry War
A Merry War
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Review by Chuck Arrington | posted September 19, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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A MERRY WAR

Synopsis:

George Orwell's novel-"Keep the Aspidistra Flying" is brought to life under an Americanized title of "A Merry War" Merry War, tells the story of a fledging poet with designs on greatness through his poetry. Currently, the chief ad writer for a successful ad company in downtown London, he longs to spread his wings and fly free among the other "artists" who are unafraid to test their mettle against the loss of a paycheck. After he quits his well paying job, he begins rather continues writing poems laced with double entendre and innuendo, metaphor and base agony. Poetry doesn't really pay the bills as he had suspected and, slowly but surely he is leaving the comfortable world of the middle class for the seedy underbelly of despair, confusion and self-delusion. Unaware of the terrible cost he is exacting upon himself, Gordon Comstock begins to self-destruct. His jealousy runs rampant and he begins hating the very things he has sought to achieve. Not too mention he has stopped writing. "A Merry War" is a story about self-realization and more importantly being aware of the daisies around you instead of looking at the flowers in another's yard.

Audio:

Supplied on the disc is a Director's commentary that's more an exposition on Orwell and the hidden literary jokes throughout the picture than it is on the film making process and the film as it is. Quite amusing at times, the Director's Commentary is done by both the Director Robert Bierman and Screenwriter Alan Plater. Additionally, Composer Mike Batt who does a very good job when he has something to say provides an audio commentary. For the most part his portion of commentary is long on silence and short on information.

Video:

The widescreen presentation is for the most part very well done. There was however some bleeding of colors in a scene involving a room full of bishops. The reds seemed to leak into just about every other color in the scene. Additionally, there were a couple instances of graininess in the darker segments of the film. They do not however, detract from the overall watchability of the film. Other than these noted errors, the transfer is fine.

Extras:

In addition to the commentary tracks, a separate audio track is included for an isolated score presentation. A history lesson of sorts on George Orwell is provided as well as the standard cast & crew bios. The trailers for the film are also provided. One for the American distribution of the film under the title "A Merry War", and one for the UK distribution of the film entitled "Keep the Aspidistra Flying", the actual title of the book upon which the film is based. The US trailer is in roughly the same shape as the film on the disc, which is quite good. The UK trailer however is in very bad shape and is cut in much the same way as the US trailer. The primary differences are the title changes and the emphasis on more British language and themes for the UK trailer. I must say that it was a very good idea to change the title for the US release of the film as I am only now aware of what an Aspidistra is. I'm sure had I seen the ads in print solely and not a trailer, I would have never seen the film. Technically, no one really did see the film in America so, I wouldn't have been alone.

Overall:

I like to think that I am something of a fan of British cinema both dramatic and comedic. Upon first glance this would appear to be a great comic farce of sorts that had all the right elements to make the kind of offering I have come to expect from the UK. If anything, this film is more frustrating than anything else. It takes far too long to reach its conclusion and by the end of the feature, you'll be hard pressed to care one way or the other about the outcome. In listening to the Director's Commentary, you get the feeling that the film is something of an Orwellian inside joke. That's well and good for those who are die-hard George Orwell fans but to those of us on the outside, it's an experiment in futility with very few rewards. It was voted one of the best films of it's year (1997) Must be an Orwell thing.-rent it

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