There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that after Pedro Almodovar Spain's most notable film director is Carlos Saura. A man with a unique vision and impressive sense of composition Carlos Saura and his films never seize to surprise with originality, spirit, and unmatched beauty.
Salome, Carlos Saura's film adaptation of the notorious biblical tale about the young woman who dared request the head of Saint John the Baptist, was completed in 2002 only a year after the Spanish director stunned film audiences with his extravagant Bunuel y la mesa del rey Salomon a.k.a Bunuel and King Solomon's Table.
Heavily saturated with Spanish traditional tunes (flamenco) Salome is a film built upon music, theater, and ballet. Carlos Saura follows the preparation of a stage play about Salome (the femme fatale image is slightly altered when compared to the original story) while the camera is focused on the "director", actors, choreographers, and the rest of the cast involved with the production. Essentially this film can very well be described as being a prolonged "Behind The Scenes" semi-documentary which feeds off Iberian culture.
In addition to the emphasis on dance and music Salome also reaches out to typically Spanish themes (desire, forgiveness, compassion) that quickly provide the film with that exotic flavor so typical for Carlos Saura's early works. As a result what could have been a one-dimensional documentary about a stage play and those involved with it is quickly transformed into a rich and rewarding cinematic experience.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of Salome is the impressive collaboration between Spanish icon Aida Gomez (playing Salome), Roque Banos (Sexy Beast) and the enigmatic Tomatito who contributed with his music to Benito Zambrano's award-winning Solas (1999). To have these artists join their talents together in order to recreate the story of Salome truly is quite an amazing treat. Their dancing and music provide Salome with something special that can not be described in simple words.
I believe Salome is likely to appeal to two groups of viewers: There will be those who would look into this film and uncover the expressive style of a Spanish director whose fascination with Spanish folklore/music has inspired some of the most memorable and artistically-rich films ever made. Then, there will be those who have already seen Carlos Saura's Carmen (1983), Flamenco (1995), and Tango, no me dejes nunca (1998) that will rightfully expect to witness the Spanish director's latest installment of unique sights and sounds. Needless to say no matter what group you belong to Salome will leave a lasting impression that hopefully will provide you with enought inspiration to see some of Carlos Saura's earlier films.
In 2002 Salome won the Award for Best Artistic Contribution (Carlos Saura) at the Montreal International Film Festival. In 2003 the film won the Goya Award for Best Original Song (Roque Banos).
How Does the DVD Look?
I have a pretty good idea what Image/Home Vision have done with this transfer. The R1 release of Salome (just like the R1 release of the Hungarian gem Hukkle) has been sourced from the French MK2 PAL print and unfortunately (and surprisingly) has not been converted properly. As a result there is mild "ghosting" throughout the film which will be rather annoying for those of you with more sensitive home set-ups. This being said everything else is actually in extremely good condition: contrast is excellent, colors are lush and fleshy, and the print is free of any damage. There is some very minor macro-blocking (the most notable example is during the first half where the director stands behind the camera and then the camera moves to Aida Gomez-it is about 15 min. into the film) but on the whole I think that it will be rather difficult for many to spot it. So, to sum it all up this is not a bad transfer at all, quite the opposite in fact, it is solid, but the fact that it has been PAL-sourced and left unconverted is enough (I suppose) to drive the more demanding of you mad.
How Does the DVD Sound?
The audio presentation, unlike the video presentation, offers very little to frown over. Crystal clear, crisp, and very active sound mix is what this R1 DVD offers. I watched Salome twice since my screener arrived and all I have to say is that there isn't anything here that is worth discussing-a solid job. With optional 2.0, and 5.1 Spanish tracks and optional English subtitles.
There isn't much here in terms of extras. Aside from the original theatrical trailer the only other piece of supplemental material is the "Looking for Salome" featurette which attempts to shed some light on the biblical myth as well as the materialization of this flamenco-ballet (semi-documentary) work. Certainly worth a look but those of you expecting a detailed inside-look into Salome might be a bit disappointed.
A unique piece of cinema that further solidifies the reputation of Carlos Saura as one of Spain's most unique directors. The DVD is of very good but not excellent quality (though it could have been). Recommended.