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Shout Factory presents
Red Hot + Blue (1990)

"I thought they were good songs, kind of ripe for reinterpretation."
- David Byrne

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: April 26, 2006

Stars: David Byrne, Neneh Cherry, Jimmy Somerville, Jody Watley, Salif Keita, Erasure, Sinead O'Connor, The Jungle Brothers, The Neville Brothers, k.d. lang, Les Negresses Vertes, Aztec Camera, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Lisa Stansfield, Kirsty McColl, The Pogues, Tom Waits, U2, Annie Lennox
Other Stars: Richard Gere, John Malkovich, Bill Irwin, Jean Paul Gaultier
Director: David Byrne, Jean Baptiste Mondino, Steve McLean, Matthew Rolston, Zak Ove, Adelle Lutz, Sandy McLeod, John Maybury, Mark Pellington, Jonathan Demme, Percy Adlon, Roger Pomphrey, John Scarlett-Davies, Alex Cox, Philippe Gautier, Neil Jordan, Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders, Ed Lachman

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language, thematic material, brief child nudity)
Run Time: 01h:25m:03s
Release Date: April 25, 2006
UPC: 826663100341
Genre: alternative

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

High on the list of desert island discs that I'd select is an endlessly entertaining collection of Cole Porter songs, as re-imagined by the alternative artists of the late 1980s. Red Hot + Blue is one of my favorite CDs of all time, giving Porter's witty and frequently gorgeous tunes a harder edge at times, and a playful and dry humor at others. The combination is quite delightful, making this DVD of the music videos associated with most of the songs on that CD particularly welcome.

The assemblage is in the form of a television special that promotes AIDS education and support, which is appropriate since the Red Hot project was from the beginning an AIDS benefit (and all of the proceeds of the DVD still go to that worthy cause). The program does get a bit preachy, however, since it includes lectures from such personages as Richard Gere and a horridly uncomfortable John Malkovich persistently advising use of a condom. Several of the videos (most notably the rap versions of songs, such as Neneh Cherry's I've Got You Under My Skin) bring the message into the lyrics of the songs themselves. One of the presentations, The Jungle Brothers' rendition of I Get a Kick Out of You cleverly incorporates latex into many of its visuals, underlining the theme without being overtly obvious.

The AIDS theme is carried on in several other videos, such as the most political contribution, Erasure's Too Darn Hot, incorporating then-current protest movements such as ACT-UP (whatever happened to them anyway?) and the complicity of the mass media in the oppression of the lower classes as a reflection of hot weather. Although most of the videos dodge expressions of male homosexuality, From This Moment On embraces it wholeheartedly, making it certainly a highlight of honesty in the program. Perhaps the most moving is k.d. lang's So in Love, which takes a look at the everyday struggles of dealing with the disease in a loved one through the simple expedient of lang doing her laundry. Several notable directors are along for the ride: Jim Jarmusch gives It's All Right with Me by Tom Waits a strange kineticism despite using slow motion, heightening the already disturbing vibe of Waits' rendition. Neil Jordan presents Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues as a nightclub show for Miss Otis Regrets/Just One of Those Things. Wim Wenders makes U2 seem kaleidoscopic in their ethereal Night and Day.

On the whole, however, the videos are somewhat lacking in originality or in adding an extra dimension to the music. All too often they're rather literal or bland, though the presentation of Sinead O'Connor as an ersatz Veronica Lake on You Do Something to Me is undeniably inspired (though her trademark vocalizations betray her). That said, the music still holds up exceedingly well, with only a few slow moments: the dull and synthy Do I Love You by Aztec Camera being the worst offender. Most of the songs have an undeniable energy, with some great favorites being Salif Keita's tribalized version of Begin the Beguine and Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop irreverently taking on Well, Did You Evah?. The finale is the touching rendition of Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye by Annie Lennox, seen tearfully watching old home movies. It's quite wrenching, doubling the effect of the music to give a palpable and emotional sense of loss that drives the entire project. Even with the shortcomings of the videos, still a very worthwhile disc with messages that still need to be spread.

Artists and Songs Included:

David Byrne: Don't Fence Me In
Neneh Cherry: I've Got U Under My Skin
Jimmy Somerville: From This Moment On
Jody Watley: After You, Who?
Salif Keita: Begin the Beguine
Erasure: Too Darn Hot
Sinead O'Connor: You Do Something to Me
The Jungle Brothers: I Get a Kick Out of You
The Neville Brothers: In the Still of the Night
k.d. lang: So In Love
Le Negresses Vertes: I Love Paris
Aztec Camera: Do I Love You?
Debbie Harry & Iggy Pop: Well, Did You Evah?
Lisa Stansfield: Down in the Depths
Kirsty MacColl & The Pogues: Miss Otis Regrets/Just One of Those Things
Tom Waits: It's All Right with Me
U2: Night and Day
Annie Lennox: Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Because of the video source, there are inherent limitations to how good these little pictures can look. Color is a bit unstable, detail is lacking and black levels aren't the best. But given the source materials, they probably can't reasonably look much better.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 stereo sounds fine, with a little background hum in the spoken word segments. The music has reasonably good range and depth, though directionality is fairly limited. It's acceptable, but no substitute for the remastered bonus CD.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 18 cues and remote access
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus CD
  2. Live performance bonus track
Extras Review: For fans of the CD, there's a very nice extra included: a remastered version of the original CD, with several tracks not included in the television program. Red Hot founder John Carlin contributes some liner notes regarding the history of the project. Finally, there's a bonus track from 1995 with a live performance of Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye performed by Lennox with Herbie Hancock on piano. It's quite different in mood from the CD version.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

While the videos are a bit uneven in quality, the music is still marvelous and the cause is worthwhile. Recommended.


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