Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar has gone on to international acclaim this year after two events - the first being that his new film "The Others" is not only a terrifically spooky ghost story, but it's also doing fairly well at the box office. Secondly, Tom Cruise and director Cameron Crowe liked this 1997 picture enough that they've bought the rights to remake it, calling their version "Vanilla Sky".
The film revolves around César (Eduardo Noriega), a wealthy playboy who gets all the girls and lives the life. He's persued by Nuria (Najwa Nimri), but he's really more interested in the current girlfriend (Penelope Cruz) of his best friend, Pelayo (Fele Martinez). For a while, everything seems to be going okay; Cesar may have found true love, but things don't last for long. Nuria and Cesar are riding in a car that crashes horribly, leaving him horribly disfigured and accused of being at fault for her death.
...Or, is he? Or, did it really happen? Is he really disfigured? The film instantly starts off with hints about whether or not we are really in the universe that we're most familiar with or in a sort of dream world. This is especially evident early on during a wonderfully failmed sequence where Cesar finds himself walking the streets of Madrid with absolutely no signs of anyone else. Cesar finds out that there's an operation that can recover his previous good looks, but when he wakes up, he finds that the identities of those he thought he knew have changed.
Although I found most of "Open Your Eyes" interesting, consider me far more impressed with the director's latest work, "The Others", which was a far more haunting and engaging picture that really held my attention amazingly well - I'd also consider that picture, as of right now, one of 2001's best. "Open Your Eyes", on the other hand, does seem to pale somewhat in the midst of flashier thrillers like "Dark City", "Existenz", "The Game" and "The Matrix"; even Peter Weir's comedy/drama "The Truman Show". I'm looking forward to seeing if Crowe can streamline some of the picture's twists, which started to pile up a little too high for my taste during this picture.
I will say that I enjoyed many elements of "Open Your Eyes". The director is working with a terrific cast, especially Cruz, who has grown even more beautiful in years since as her features have filled out slightly. Noriega also does a respectable job keeping an otherwise unlikable character sympathetic. The film looks fantastic; a cool, crisp looking drama, the film's production design and cinematography are very enjoyable. The director even impressively leaps through several different genres (romance, sci-fi, noir, etc) smoothly.
And yet, there's something about the picture that kept me from being completely involved. Although "The Others" is around the same length, I felt the story was more entertaining, the performances more interesting. At nearly two hours, "Open Your Eyes" seems noticably slow at times and not only was I not always involved in the twists, I felt the end left a little too much unanswered. Alejandro Amenabar is obviously a director with great talent, but "Open Your Eyes" seems like it was only one of the steps upward that the director has taken towards even better efforts. "Open Your Eyes" is imperfect, but at least moderately interesting, well-filmed and worth a viewing; "The Others" is beautifully filmed, superbly acted and gripping. I'm certainly waiting for the next effort from the young director as well as how talented filmmaker Cameron Crowe ("Almost Famous") will go about telling this tale.
VIDEO: "Open Your Eyes" is presented by Artisan in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality for the 1997 film is generally very enjoyable. Sharpness and detail are solid, and the picture looks consistently well-defined, with no instances of softness. Bright, outdoor sequences look especially crisp and sharp.
There are some minor problems here and there, but they didn't cause a great deal of concern. Slight print flaws are occasionally visible - some speckles, a few marks and a scratch or two do appear, but don't take away from the viewing experience. I didn't notice any pixelation, but I did see a few minor instances of edge enhancement. Colors throughout the movie are generally subdued, but seemed accurate and without any problems such as smearing. Flesh tones also looked natural. Not without a few traces of problems, but overall, this is a nice job from Artisan.
SOUND: "Open Your Eyes" is presented in Spanish Dolby 2.0 (with optional English subtitles). The audio is generally a fine production, but not a particularly ambitious one. The film's score is often stellar; powerful and emotional. It gets fine presence here, as do occasional ambient sounds. Audio quality was fine, as well. Dialogue - although I can't speak Spanish myself - sounded natural and clear.
MENUS:: Slightly animated main menu with music in the background.
EXTRAS:: Cast and Crew bios, production notes.
Final Thoughts: "Open Your Eyes" has a lot to like, but it just never really caught my attention. Artisan's DVD presents fine audio/video quality, but is rather lacking in supplemental features. The DVD is worth a look, and for fans of "The Others" who are looking for more from the director, the DVD can be picked up at the relatively low price of $19.99 (or less). There's only one problem - it's rather hard to find. Artisan was strangely quiet about the DVD's release and it doesn't seem to be available in many places. Those who did have it seem to largely be already sold out and waiting for more.