James Gandolfini is a brilliant actor. He is one of those rare talents that sneak in the back door to show business, hiding in the shadows until the public realizes just what a powerful artist he has always been. I, like many Americans, first began to notice Gandolfini through his work in the immensely successful HBO television series The Soprano’s. In the French/American hybrid film New World, Gandolfini is at top form yet again, playing an American soldier stationed in France in the 1950’s with more …ime than responsibility.
As with most films you have never heard of, there is a reason why this one may have passed you by. Gandolfini only has a supporting role in this film, which is unfortunate, since he is by far the greatest actor herein. Excepting his performance, this is a film that starts off slow, coasts through the second act, and then finishes with a rousing series of events that made me use the word, “whaaaat?” on several occasions. While the plot seems to be going somewhere at first glance, be forewarned… it isn’t. The film’s bad editing is a perfect compliment to its equally bad script, making for a confusing and pointless film that considers making some daring statements throughout, but in the end makes no statements at all.
Audio is presented in 2.0 Digital Stereo. Not Dolby Stereo, but just regular stereo. Sonically, the track is below average, but not horrible. There is a surprisingly full lower frequency spectrum, and dialog is mostly clear. The real problem with the audio, however, is the asinine decision to dub the French speaking parts, instead of going with subtitles. I hate dubbing, as it is always artificial, and it insults the intelligence of the viewer. It is exceptionally bad in this film, however, since some characters speak French, and some speak English, and some speak both. The dubbing makes it hard to follow who is speaking what language, and since the language barrier is removed for the viewer, it is hard to identify with the communication struggles of the characters. This horrible decision proves detrimental to the continuity of the film.
This is full screen at its worst. Much of the dialog and the action in this film actually takes place off screen, due to the narrow view of the New World that this antiquated format provides. The back of the box states that the original aspect ratio is presented, and if this is the case, than the cinematographer has a lot to learn about shot composition. Either way you look at it, the picture is horrible.
From a more technical standpoint, this film also suffers from some bad coloration. All colors in the film are bland, from flesh tones all the way down to the bright red of a shiny new Cadillac convertible. There are no true blacks or whites in the entire film, save the occasional vivid white blemish on the negative. This is a bad video presentation from start to finish.
Mercifully, there are no special features on this disc.
A better presentation on DVD would probably help this film considerably. A widescreen transfer, presented in the original English and French, complete with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and English subtitles would make me look at this film in a whole new way. Also, the addition of production notes would be of great benefit, to give some sort of background on the origins of the film, and what the director’s original intentions may have been. As it stands, however, the disc is as aimless as the film, making this a DVD that’s not worth renting… even for Gandolfini fans.