DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Nine Lives (2006)

Nine provocative interweaving character studies

Published on March 15, 2006

Nine Lives (2006)
Nine Lives (2006)

Starring: Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Elpidia Carrillo, Glenn Close, Stephen Dillane, Dakota Fanning, William Fichtner, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Holly Hunter, Jason Isaacs, Joe Mantegna, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Mary Kay Place, Sydney Tamilia Poitier, Aidan Quinn, Miguel Sandoval, Amanda Seyfried, Sissy Spacek, Robin Wright Penn
Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Studio: Magnolia/Sony Pictures
Video: 1.78:1 Enhanced for 16:9 Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: Q & A at the Lee Strasberg Theater with cast & crew, Four Featurettes: The Women of Nine Lives, Sonia: Blocking a Scene, Working with One Continuous Take, Maggie: A Day at the Cemetery
Length: approx. 112 minutes
Rating: ****

Often a DVD’s special features enhance the enjoyment of a film immeasurably, but almost invariably it strikes me as a mistake to watch extras before experiencing the film in a first viewing. In this case all of the extras of “Nine Lives” – a most absorbing and intriguing presentation of nine brief character studies written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, the son of Gabriel Garcia Marquez – can be viewed before watching the film without taking anything away from the film experience. Though not necessary to enjoy the rich and inventive work of “Nine Lives” – the film stands alone just fine -the extras give a detailed exploration of how the film was put together without giving any of the plot points away. Garcia discusses his long held interest in  exploring the inner lives of women.

Twenty of the actors are listed above because each is of equal importance in this ensemble work. Sometimes they briefly appear in a chapter not their own in a tangential way. Nine slices of life, each centering on one woman’s experience at a pivotal and vulnerable time in her life, are presented in real time of approximately ten minutes each. There is not even a hint given as to what might follow, but in this short time, we care deeply what choices each woman will make at different stages of life and in varied circumstances in regard to problematic connections with children, old lovers, spouses and parents.

Sandra (Elpidia Carrillo) is a rage-filled Latino woman in an L.A. County jail. Diana’s (Robin Wright Penn) chance encounter with an old lover is excruciating. Holly (Lisa Gay Harden) confronts her sexually abusive stepfather which concludes with a harrowing question mark. Camille’s (Kathy Baker) rage and fear as she is about to undergo a mastectomy operation is palpable. Other stories are carried by Sissy Spacek, Glenn Close, Amy Brenneman, Samantha Seyfried, and Holly Hunter. Nothing is resolved. These films felt so much like real life, it was as though the actors were often improvising.

What we learn in the extra “Working with One Continuous Take” is that, due to time and budget limitations, each story was shot without any editing. One day was allowed for rehearsal for each of the nine segments and one day for shooting – for a total of eighteen days of film production. Several of the actors discuss how they felt about this process. Mostly they found it very satisfying, though somewhat exhausting and intensely challenging – a total absence of “cut, let’s start again.” Garcia used the best of approximately ten takes for each segment.

In the extras, in addition to the director and many of the actors, we hear from the photography director and a steadicam operator regarding views of their technical challenges. In the Q & A sessions, questions are posed about the casting process, the selection of roles, the making of the film, etc. This last was filmed at the Lee Strasberg Theater, and was not as compelling as the other special features.

- Donna Dorsett

 




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