Image Entertainment presents
Marianne Faithfull: Dreaming My Dreams (1999)
"The way I choose to show my feelings is through my songs."- Marianne Faithfull
Stars: Marianne Faithfull
Other Stars: Keith Richards, David Dalton, John Dunbar
Director: Michael Collins
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some explicit language, adult discussion)
Run Time: 01h:29m:30s
Release Date: 2000-11-21
DVD ReviewMarianne Faithfull: Dreaming My Dreams is a documentary/concert production featuring Ms. Faithfull, who came to prominence as a British pop singer in 1964, launched a complementary acting career on stage and in film, suffered numerous addiction and relationship problems, regained some visibility as an interpreter of the Kurt Weill songbook in the 1980's, and released a new album of songs about her own life in 1999.
The ninety-minute program's first hour is comprised largely of interviews with Faithfull and her friends and colleagues, illustrated with clips and photos of the artist as a younger woman. This structure works quite well, spanning her career chronologically from the folk-pop of the early 1960's to the darker sound prevalent today, and seems somehow deeper than the traditional Behind the Music approach because Faithfull's life and nearly four-decade career has had so many extreme ups and downs. Faithfull herself is tremendously, almost painfully forthright and honest about her own mistakes over the years, with some interesting insight into gender inequality—a late-sixties drug bust involving the Rolling Stones and Faithfull (referred to in the press only as "Miss X") only enhanced the Stones' bad-boy image but nearly destroyed Faithfull's career. Interview clips with the Stones' Keith Richards, Faithfull biographer David Dalton, friends Sally Oldfield and Pamela Mayall, ex-husband John Dunbar, and others flesh out a picture of her life from other perspectives. Everyone seems to regard Marianne warmly without glossing over her more difficult times, and this makes for an instructive but non-exploitative take on the artist's life and career. As someone who knew Faithfull's work only from the mid-1980's on, I found this "oral biography" very valuable.
The program's final half-hour features six concert tracks recorded live in 1999, with Faithfull and her backup band performing Vagabond Ways, Broken English, Working Class Hero, The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, As Tears Go By, and Dreaming My Dreams. It's great to see Faithfull (in her mid-50's now and wearing a rather revealing low-cut top) really enjoying this performance, thoroughly clean and sober and mature enough to revel in the appreciative audience response. Her voice is huskier than it once was, thanks to a lifetime of cigarettes, but this is the voice her more recent fans know her by, and she delivers these emotional, energetic songs with vocal skill and genuine feeling. Faithfull's stage presence isn't terribly interesting visually—she tends to stand in one place, scanning the audience and tapping one foot gently to keep the beat—but her face is that of a survivor, glad to be onstage and alive.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Video quality doesn't appear to have been a priority here—the disc is mastered from a videotape master, drawn in turn from black-and-white and color film and video sources of widely varying quality. The footage suffers from varying degrees of shimmer, grain, darkness, smeariness, bad color rendition and red/blue color aliasing artifacts, and even the recently created interview and concert video material comes off a bit soft with weak color and middling detail. This disc isn't overly dependent on its visuals, so the quality is not a major detriment to the disc as a whole, and the digital transfer seems solid enough, but the source video is a bit weak even given the archival sources involved.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: Marianne Faithfull: Dreaming My Dreams features two soundtracks, a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix as well as a Dolby 2.0 track. The audio is generally flat during the interview and archival clips, with surprisingly heavy hiss in one recently-taped segment, but it comes to life musically, especially in the concert section that comprises the last third of the disc, though dynamic range remains somewhat limited throughout. The 5.1 concert mix has a "studio" feel, rather than a concert-hall ambience, and seems a bit narrow, dominated by the center speaker with ambience and occasional instrumental accents in the surrounds. Bass sometimes seems over-emphasized, and instruments are moved around in the mix (for solo emphasis) without regard to soundstage consistency or the accompanying video footage. The recording itself seems well-engineered, clean and crisp with guitar fret noise and other subtleties well-captured, but the 5.1 audio presentation seems alternately gimmicky and limited, never finding a happy medium. The 2.0 track is muddier and almost monophonic by comparison, though in some ways it's less distracting the 5.1 track. This isn't to say that either audio track is unlistenable by any means—Faithfull's distinctive voice is as rich and raspy as ever, and the music is supported by solid frequency range. The disc is just not up to the standards set by a number of other recent music and concert DVDs.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 6 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Marianne Faithfull: Dreaming My Dreams features no extras as such, just 16 chapters (6 of which do double duty as song stops) and nicely animated menus. The feature presentation is itself a documentary, so additional supplements aren't really called for, but there's nothing at all to see here beyond the main attraction.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsMarianne Faithfull: Dreaming My Dreams takes a close look at the life and hard times of one of Britain's most enduring performers. Image's DVD presents the material competently, with solid audio in the concert segments, though neither aspect approaches reference quality. Fans will want to own this one, and anyone familiar with Faithfull's voice but not her history will find this a worthwhile rental.
Dale Dobson 2000-12-03