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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
Yes (2005)

"I know, I've strayed so far I don't belong in any church of yours. I've sung the song of science. Yes, I've sung it every day. But, I could argue, that is how I pray. For 20 years—God, can it be?—I've cut, dissected, carefully and with much respect, as I've tried to see, to penetrate your mystery. The point is, God, you never lie. But you have secrets and so do I."
- She (Joan Allen)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: February 16, 2006

Stars: Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian
Other Stars: Sam Neill, Shirley Henderson, Shelia Hancock, Samantha Bond, Stephanie Leonidas
Director: Sally Potter

MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Run Time: 01h:39m:45s
Release Date: November 08, 2005
UPC: 043396109063
Genre: drama


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

DVD Review

The idea of a modern-setting movie with a script entirely in iambic pentameter à la Shakespeare might sound a little weird, until you learn that the writer/director behind it is Sally Potter, who made a name for herself with Virginia Wolfe's Orlando, about a 16th-century nobleman who up and decides to live forever, and magically changes into a woman halfway through the film's centuries-spanning narrative. Yes, in which all of the dialogue is stylized and poetic and sometimes even rhymes, tells a more accessible story in a far more challenging way. It's an interesting experiment, and if you're able to zero in on Potter's wavelength and go with the flow, you'll probably enjoy the experience.

Potter reportedly started work on the screenplay on Sept. 12, 2001, and there's certainly a sense of unease looming throughout. Joan Allen is the lead, a character referred to only as She. She is ensconced in an unhappy sham of a long-loveless marriage to Anthony (Sam Neill). Both do their best to avoid one another, interacting through notes they leave around their chilly, picture-perfect London home. While at a formal dinner one night, She meets He (Simon Abkarian), a chef and Muslim immigrant from the Middle East. The two become involved in a passionate affair, but the unspoken divides between them—class, religion—threaten to tear them apart.

Potter is really reaching here, and loads her characters with controversial baggage. She, for example, works as a stem cell researcher. We meet her as she defends the ethics of her work to some sort of review board; later she has a debate with a friend (Samantha Bond) about when life begins. Though she grew up in America, She is also from Ireland, and apparently witnessed the horrors of religiously motivated terrorism there, perhaps a factor in her own atheism. He, a lapsed Muslim, feels his devotion begin to return when he starts to feel oppressed by the political climate—the fear he sees in the faces of people who pass him in the street, even people he knows and works with.

The capital-I Issues come packaged with stylistic devices. Not only the poetic dialogue, either: the story is told through the eyes of various maids and cleaning ladies who slink silently through the background of She's privileged life. One of them (Shirley Henderson) has a lot of monologues about the microscopic nature of dirt that are rife with symbolism and that I'm not entirely sure I understand.

Come to think of it, while Yes is easy enough to comprehend on a level of pure plot mechanics, I'm not sure I get a lot of it. Why, for example, is the dialogue written in poetic form? With a contemporary setting and language, it seems an odd choice. Why slather on so much symbolism? Why try to tackle so many controversial issues? This is one case where, I think, what exactly everything means isn't really an issue, because Potter has clearly put a lot of herself into making a deeply personal film. The stylized speech captures the heightened emotions she must have felt weighing these issues—wars over oil, suicide bombings, religious persecution—and the cleaning metaphors have their own odd lyricism.

It's also a very erotic story, despite the lack of nudity and standard love scenes. Joan Allen, sexier in middle age than any 18-year-old Playboy bunny, looks fabulous (as does the entire color-soaked film; credit cinematographer Alexei Rodionov), and gives one of her best performances in a role that allows her to show a full range of emotions. Contrast her icy demeanor during a meal-turned-screaming-match with her husband and her intensity while lunching with He (granted, a bit of under the table action on his part plays a role).

Potter does a lot in 100 minutes in Yes, but it never feels like the over-ambitious jumble of ideas it would in the hands of a less skilled artist. As unusual and didactic and overtly political (some would say anti-American) as it is, Yes casts a captivating spell.

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

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Yes is a gorgeously filmed movie, and it looks it on DVD. This is easily one of the best live-action transfers I've seen, with stunning colors and excellent detail, without a bit of edge enhancement and only a light shimmer of natural film grain.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Yes is a dialogue-based film, and a clean presentation of said is even more vital, considering the poetic, often overlapping speech, but this mix offers little to complain about. The wide front soundstage handles most of the mix, with the surrounds chipping in during a few scenes in dance clubs and to beef up the score.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French with remote access
11 Other Trailer(s) featuring 2046, Heights, November, The Edukators, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Saving Face, Saraband, Thumbsucker, The Memory of a Killer, 3-Iron, The Beautiful Country
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Behind the scenes photo gallery
Extras Review: The only real extra is a fascinating vérité documentary, Finding Scene 54 (29m:07s), which focuses on the work that went into shooting the climactic parking garage argument between Joan Allen and Simon Abkarian that is the film's ideological core. First, we watch as director Sally Potter, the cinematographer, and production designer argue over the location—should it be on the open air top floor of the garage, in natural light, or on a lower level? What of the constant intrusions of planes flying overhead?—and get a bit punch-drunk as the night stretches on. Weeks later, we're a fly on the wall during an extremely emotional final rehearsal with Potter, Allen, and Abkarian, made all the more tense (considering the film's subject matter and core argument) by the fact that it took place shortly after the US and England occupied Iraq. Finally, we're there during final filming as well, and we see the director at work, fighting for her artistic decisions. This is a very good examination of what it takes to film a low-budget movie, made better because it also lets us see just how personally Potter takes the material.

Other than that, there's a small gallery of production photos and a gallery of trailers, including spots for 2046, Heights, November, The Edukators, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Saving Face, Saraband, Thumbsucker, The Memory of a Killer, 3-Iron, and The Beautiful Country.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

Ambitious, poetic, fiercely political, and alive, Sally Potter's Yes is another challenging, rewarding film from one of the most interesting writer/directors working today. Sony's DVD has outstanding video and audio and one great extra feature, earning my "yes" vote easily.

 


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