In 1924, a mysterious death occurred on a yacht owned by newspaper tycoon WilliamRandolph Hearst. This story imagines what might have happened amongst the variousHollywood luminaries who were aboard that ship. Along with Hearst and his young lover MarioDavies (Kirsten Dunst) are (among others) Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard), writer Elinor Glyn(Joanna Lumley) and up-and-coming gossip columnist Louella Parsons (Jennifer Tilly). Jealousyand deception are the order of the day a… the various characters bounce off each other, leading upto the murder. Light and bouncy, the film has a great cast, but the real standout is Kirsten Dunst’sperformance — this is mature work, and Dunst is showing every sign of an actor we’ll be hearingabout for many years to come. Also delightful is Joanna Lumley, whose icy sophisticate is lightyears from her Ab Fab incarnation.
The sound is 5.1, but only rarely exploits the capabilities of that format. Almost all the soundcomes from the front speakers, with only very occasional rear speaker activity. There is astartling moment right after the opening credits, which is pretty neat, and now and then somevery nicely placed background voices. Not much of an environment, though. The dialogue wasn’talways as clear as it could have been, either.
The picture is excellent, with a nice 16×9 anamorphic transfer. The colours are very good,as are the blacks and flesh tones. The image is very sharp, and the grain is close to being non-existent. The black-and-white scenes that frame the movie are nothing short of spectacular, andyou find yourself wishing the entire movie was shot this way.
A basic menu, but some pretty solid features. Peter Bogdanovich’s commentary is, as ever,very articulate and informative, and he deals with the film scene-by-scene, almost shot-by-shot.There are three featurettes (one of them a Sundance Channel “Anatomy of a Scene” episode),all of which are promotional to some degree, but are much better than most of their kind. The“Making-of” in particular is good, actually earning the label. The footage of the lousy weatherin Greece is especially fun. The third featurette is a collection of cast and crew interviews,organized thusly: “Getting Started,” “The Characters,” “Greece,” and “Time Spent Together.”There are also two vintage features: a Chaplin short from 1916 (“Behind the Screen”) and anewsreel (“Seein’ Stars”) from 1919. The picture quality on the latter is very poor, but that thereel exists at all is neat, so let’s not get picky. Finally, there’s the trailer.
Fans of silent era Hollywood, or those fascinated by the bigger-than-life personalities ofHearst and Chaplin, will find much to enjoy here. Not up to Bogdanovich’s best work, but morethan watchable.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- “Making of” Featurette
- “Behind the Screen” Chaplin Short
- “Seein’ Stars” 1919 Newsreel
- “Anatomy of a Scene”
- Theatrical Trailer