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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Barcelona
Barcelona
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // April 2, 2002
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted March 27, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Whit Stillman is one of my favorite directors who, unfortunately, doesn't seem to work very often. While his films do well, considering they are independents, he only manages to do a film only every four years. "Barcelona" stars "Metropolitan"'s Taylor Nichols and Chris Eigeman as cousins Ted and Fred. Ted is a businessman satisfied with his place in life, living in a terrific apartment in the city of the title in the 1980's. Fred is a Navy officer who generally doesn't get along with his cousin, but the two manage to agree to stay together. It's not long before all manner of arguements that are at once both intellectual and immature, start up. Ted even informs Marta (Mira Sorvino) and Ted's friends that Ted happens to be a follower of the Marquis de Sade.

The film does not have a sizable plot, instead allowing these characters to talk, flirt and maybe, intelligently discuss the little things in life (Ted realizes that he may have been shaving the wrong way all his life). Still, there are more substancial issues at work; Ted sincerely discusses his thoughts on love while attempting to actually find it among a legion of girls from the local trade-show circuit.

The acting is generally very good. Eigeman is hilariously, wonderfully obnoxious. He's played this role to good acclaim in both the unfortunately short-lived sitcom "It's Like...You Know" (by "Seinfeld" producer Andy Ackerman) and, most recently, on "Malcolm In The Middle". He's at his best in Stillman's pictures, though. Nichols is entertaining, although he's a bit overshadowed by Eigeman since he's meant to be the more subdued one of the two. Unfortunately, the girls (including Sorvino, who looks stunning in this early role) don't get much of a chance to develop character, as Fred and Ted are the main focus.

This kind of film does not usually work this well. There's a point, in my opinion, in most of these talk-heavy films, where I start to question where this is all actually headed. Although "Barcelona" occasionally starts to drag late in its second hour, Stillman's script and the two lead performances carry most of the picture quite well. There are parts of the second half that don't quite have the energy of the first half, but Stillman's picture still manages to be a charming look at both the little things of life and some of the larger issues.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Barcelona" is presented by Warner Brothers/Castle Rock in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is okay, but merely that - a few noticable flaws keep it from making that next step from "okay". Sharpness and detail seem off; the picture looks crisp, but detail is wanting and the picture seems flat.

Other problems arise that cause more concern. The print used is not in optimal condition and there are noticable marks and specks on the print used that pop up more frequently than I'd like to see, even for an 8-year-old picture. Mild grain is also apparent, although inconsistently, as it shows up noticably at times and is absent in other scenes. Some slight pixelation and edge enhancement is also seen and occasionally is lightly distracting.

Yet, colors actually are pleasant, appearing nicely saturated and crisp, with no smearing or other flaws. Flesh tones look natural and accurate, as well. This is a decent transfer; with the vivid cinematography and beautiful locations, I would have hoped for a bit better effort.

SOUND: The 2.0 soundtrack does provide slight ambience, but it's mainly a dialogue-driven effort. Dialogue comes through with satisfactory clarity, although it seemed a bit low at times.

MENUS: Basic, non-animated menus that use film-themed images as backgrounds.

EXTRAS: The announcement for this DVD told that this was going to be a special edition release, complete with commentary and other features. The box mentions nothing of the included features, but they're actually there.

Commentary: This is a commentary from director Whit Stillman, actor Taylor Nichols and actor Chris Eigeman. This is one of the more entertaining commentaries that I've heard recently, as the three are very funny and very detailed in their comments about the making of the picture, providing both informative chat about the locations and the shooting schedule and also throwing in a lot of little jokes about the performances and situations. When Thomas Gibson, star of TV's "Dharma and Greg" pops up late in the film, one of the actors quips, "you kind of expect Dharma to pop up at any minute, don't you?"

Also: Three minutes of deleted scenes with minor commentary as well as a more dramatic alternate ending sequence. Both sets of footage are taken from the early cut of the picture and look pretty worn. The film's trailer and a short "making of" featurette are also included.

Final Thoughts: "Barcelona" is a witty, well-acted feature that offers strong dialogue and two interesting lead characters. The film's DVD edition offers somewhat lackluster video quality, but decent audio and a surprising amount of good supplements. A worthwhile rental for those who haven't seen it, but fans should be pleased that the film has gotten the mild Special Edition treatment.


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