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Strand Releasing presents
Praise (1998)

"You just have to keep your expectations under control. Expectations are the problem with everything."
- Gordon Buchanan (Peter Fenton)

Review By: Robert Edwards   
Published: July 13, 2003

Stars: Peter Fenton, Sacha Horler
Other Stars: Marta Dusseldorp
Director: John Curran

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (drug use, pervasive sexuality, and a lot of naughty words)
Run Time: 01h:30m:44s
Release Date: July 08, 2003
UPC: 712267200320
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-A-B D

DVD Review

Meet Gordon (Peter Fenton), 25, heavy drinker, asthmatic and a smoker, who has just quit his job at a bottle shop because they expected him to work four days in a row. And meet Cynthia (Sacha Horler), same age, also a heavy drinker, ex-heroin addict and near-nymphomaniac, whose body and face are ravaged by eczema. They've known each other for some time, but one day Cynthia invites Gordon over for a visit, and they discover a mutual attraction, somewhere around the eighth or tenth beer.

Director John Curran paints a vivid portrait of these two Australian lowlifes. Gordon is aimless, happiest at home on his parents' ranch, where the land stretches out flat and empty no matter which direction you go. He isn't looking for anything, but when Cynthia falls into his lap, he's happy for the diversion, the adventure, and the challenge. And Cynthia is just happy to have someone who will ignore her repulsive skin and boink her regularly.

Cynthia eventually moves into Gordon's spectacularly seedy apartment building, the kind your mother would never set foot in. It's filled with Fellini-esque grotesqueries who steal from each other, fight, scream, cry, play cards, and have sex, and because the walls are paper-thin, everyone know everyone else's business. The creative audio mix of the film often uses the ambient sounds as a backdrop for conversations, even mixing the tunes from a record player in the next room with the soundtrack music.

Curran also has a lot of visual tricks up his bag. The film is punctuated with Lynchian inserts of closeups of the cigarettes that Gordon rolls. Extreme closeups of the pupil of an eye just after heroin has hit the bloodstream recall similar devices in Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream (filmed later). Excellent use is made of distorted focus, off-kilter angles and rapid cutting to express the characters' occasionally altered states of mind.

In the end, Praise is all about the body—the body in its capacity as a source of pleasure, whether from sexual expression and experimentation or as a conduit for the use of drugs, as well as the body as a source of disease, decay and repulsion. There is no world of the intellect here—even the games of Scrabble that the couple incessantly play are usually won by Cynthia, because, according to Gordon, it's only a question of luck. This is an extremely visceral film, and much of its effectiveness is due to the director's willingness to unflinchingly examine just about everything good and bad we can do to our physical beings.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Contrary to claims on the packaging, this is a nonanamorphic transfer; however, it is mostly very good. Color balance is excellent, and fleshtones are always realistic (a little too realistic, in the case of Cynthia's eczema). Scenes set in the apartment house often have a slightly sickly greenish/brownish cast, but that is obviously part of the color scheme for the film, and not a fault of the transfer. There is quite a bit of detail evident, although in some darker scenes this tends to be lost. And I'm happy to report that there is absolutely no edge enhancement.

All in all, this is one of the better nonanamorphic transfers I've seen.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This is a reasonable DD2.0 track. The sound and dialog are always clear, and the frequent soundtrack music sounds full and is quite enjoyable, but there is no activity in the surrounds.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring His Secret Life, The Cockettes, Harem, Head On
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The poorly-transferred, full-screen trailer for the movie is not especially interesting, although the four trailers for other Strand releases provide an intriguing look at some of the other titles in their catalog.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

In Praise, director John Curran paints an unflinchingly honest portrait of the relationship between two Australian lowlifes, who are both extremely likable in their own confused ways. Although the transfer is not anamorphic as claimed on the packaging, it is colorful, detailed, and in no way detracts from enjoying the movie.

 


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