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Optimum presents
Venus de Milo (2002)

"Dan, live the moment. We're with the band. We're not alone now."
- Mila (Diana Lewis)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: July 23, 2002

Stars: Simon Boisvert, Diana Lewis, Sylvain Latendresse, Mélanie Elliott, Sébastien Boivin
Director: Diana Lewis

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:21m:15s
Release Date: June 11, 2002
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+C+C C-

DVD Review

If you've ever been to a rock concert, you know that four of the most potent words in the language are: "I'm with the band." Venus de Milo demonstrates that those words translate well into any language—here it's French, as we watch the rapid rise to and even quicker descent from glory of a Montreal rock band.

Dan, Michel and Marc have been playing together for ten years now, as the Stone Rockers, and they can't gin up a bit of interest—nobody wants to listen to instrumental rock, and they're routinely dismissed as "another bunch of Aerosmith wannabes." Marc's girlfriend Sophie has been hounding him and hounding him—she wants to play with the boys, but Dan wants no part of her. They agree, though, that it's time to find a lead singer, and that Sophie can play keyboards.

The band places a classified ad for a singer, and the best of the lot is Mila (played by Diana Lewis, also the film's director), who seems to get the gig in large measure because Dan wants to put the moves on her. A series of improbable coincidences gets the band a record deal, and sure enough, rechristened Venus de Milo by their producer, they're on their way to success.

As they inevitably do, things go bad—internecine fighting, petty jealousies, and lots and lots of beer contribute to the quick flameout of Venus de Milo. Theirs was a brief moment in the sun, and if you blinked (or were hung over from too many Molsons), you might have missed it.

It's a tribute to Lewis's skill and tenacity that the film looks as good as it does, given that the shoot was a scant ten days and that the budget ($35,000) wouldn't pay for a day's worth of catering on a Hollywood production. Still, it's hard to know just how earnest an enterprise this is—at times, and at its best, it's reminiscent of movies like The Commitments or That Thing You Do!, but at others, it treads perilously close to Spinal Tapterritory, especially when Dan defends his endless solos. (Everyone but him agrees that musically, the solos are truly appalling, show stoppers in the worst sense.) There are scenes in which we're asked to revel along with the band, and that's fine, to an extent; but something like cheering on somebody draining a beer, which is kind of stupid at 19, seems more than a little pathetic at 35.

And perhaps it was the limit of the production, but there's no feel of the outside world, for it seems that everything happens too easily, and we don't get a sense what success means to them all. Also, maybe it comes with the territory, but there seems to be a whole lot of arrested development here. Shortly after she joins the band, Mila starts dating Dan, but she's very hush hush about it, and when she's asked about him, she blushes like a sixth grader whose crush has been made public. More generally, there are a few too many scenes of characters on cellular phones—admittedly they're omnipresent, but they don't make for great cinema.

Still, it's a pretty impressive effort on a modest scale, and it's particularly efficient at establishing a good many central characters and letting the dynamics play out between them. Production notes on the disc indicate that Lewis is pursuing a musical career; this film should serve her well as a calling card, however, and perhaps with more resources at her disposal a sophomore outing will be more notable still.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The palette is surprisingly true, though the black levels seem rather erratic. Sometimes there's an almost video-like shine to some of the footage.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: Balance is respectable, though there's a certain amount of hiss and buzz interfering with the dialogue tracks.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Subtitles/Captions in English
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The accompanying documentary, Behind the Scenes of Venus de Milo (15m:46s), is, with the exception of the director's introduction, in French and without subtitles, so other than giving non-Francophones a very general feel of what it was like on set, there's not a whole lot of illumination. And annoyingly, the feature is without chapter stops.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Rock on, Montreal. Dedicated indie film fans will want to check out this movie, a pretty well told story, all the more impressive given the limited means available to the production. Chapter stops would have helped a lot, though.


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