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Plexifilm presents
Finisterre (2003)

"Talismans in hand, the city is there for the taking...there's no looking back."
- Michael Jayston, narrator

Review By: Jeff Wilson  
Published: September 21, 2005

Stars: Michael Jayston
Other Stars: Mark Perry, Julian Opie, Liam Watson, Andy Hackett, Anneliese Midgley, Shena Mackay, Vashti Bunyan, Isabel Waidner, Nick Sanderson, Lawrence, Vic Godard
Director: Paul Kelly, Kieran Evans

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for language
Run Time: 00h:58m:50s
Release Date: September 20, 2005
UPC: 082354002428
Genre: music


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

DVD Review

On the face of it, you would think that a film meant to celebrate a city (especially a city like London) would take a different approach than Finisterre. Instead of hyping its subject's high points, directors Paul Kelly and Kieran Evans focuses on small moments, generalities, and the mundane. By blending in the music of Saint Etienne and the comments of several Londoners who were of interest to the band, we get an individual, quirky portrait of the capital that might well resonate among anyone who has lived there or in any large city, with its attendant shifts and lurchings into the future, all while sometimes struggling to remember the past.

Saint Etienne, for the uninitiated, is a English group that has released several albums since their start in 1990, fusing the group's love for '60s pop with dance-oriented sounds. Many of the group's lyrics have used London and its environs as inspiration. After years of typical music videos, the band decided to do something different for 2002's Finisterre; they decided to make a document of London at that moment, feeling that with the city in such flux, it needed to be recorded. Plus, the city's ongoing inspirational qualities could be highlighted as well.

The film does this in two ways: first, by styling the narrative as a 24-hour travelogue through the city, and second, by featuring a series of voiceovers by band's friends and people they otherwise admire through the course of that trip. Hence, those interviewed include Liam Watson of Toejam Studios, artist Julian Opie, musicians like Vashti Bunyan, Lawrence, and Vic Godard, and writers like Shena Mackay. They speak of different topics, sometimes about the city, and sometimes about their careers. There is love for the city, ambivalence toward it, and occasional feelings of a city in decline. It is by no means a canvassing of a wide range of different people across classes and such, but it's an interesting mix all the same.

Each speaker is left off camera, the visuals only occasionally reflecting their comments in a literal sense. As on the album, a narrator (Michael Jayston) is also present, and those who disliked him on the record will surely be displeased to hear that he's truly ubiquitous here. This approach is going to rub some viewers the wrong way; Jayston's narration takes a deliberately arch, sometimes ironic tone and never departs from it, and the narration also makes references to music and movies that might be lost on some viewers, further alienating the non-fan. As a longtime fan of Saint Etienne (Lovers Unite member #1167—yes, I'm a saddo), I guess I'm among the ideal audience for the film, and I did enjoy both the approach taken and the material itself.

I was fascinated by London as a kid, and I've loved London ever since spending a semester there while in college. Going back is always a thrill, and Finisterre brought back some good memories, all while celebrating a unique London of its own. Don't expect any dry history lessons, or straightforward stories. Like the city itself, Finisterre goes in its own directions, and is all the better for it.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Finisterre is presented in its theatrical ratio of 1.78:1, and Plexifilm's DVD is anamorphically enhanced. The picture exhibits a fairly high level of grain at times, particularly during darker scenes. It can be somewhat offputting during the heavier grain moments, but otherwise, the colors look fairly true and the picture is clean. This looks like a PAL conversion, as there is occasional ghosting, but I didn't find it offputting. There are no subtitles provided.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 2.0 mix provides a very suitable platform for the main element of the soundtrack, which is obviously Saint Etienne's music. Sounding vivid and upfront, the music comes across very well, and the subwoofer gets an active workout as well.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Directors Paul Kelly and Kieran Evans, and Saint Etienne members Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs
Packaging: Scanavo Clear Keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Saint Etienne tour visual sequences
  2. Booklet with London photography and essays
Extras Review: First is a commentary by directors Evans and Kelly, and Saint Etienne members Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs. I was fairly disappointed in the commentary, which sees the quartet basically sit through the film and verbally meander, mentioning where a certain song begins on the soundtrack, or where a shot was filmed. There's very little discussion of any artistic choices made, or overall conception. Something of a missed opportunity here. The other extras of note are biographies of the interviewees, written by Bob Stanley, and sequences from the material shot for the film as it was used by Saint Etienne on tour, when it played during performances. One note about this material: there is an audio glitch during the track The More You Know, which was present on the UK pressing of the DVD as well.

Last but not least is a booklet collecting essays by some of the participants, filmmakers, and others about London and what it means to them. If you liked the film, odds are you'll enjoy the essays, which are more concrete in tone than the feature.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Maybe best suited for fans of Saint Etienne, Finisterre is a document to a London that has already changed in many ways. The music of Saint Etienne provides a bustling, empathetic foundation for the attractive visuals. The DVD suffers from occasionally ropey video quality, but is otherwise solid.

 


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