Opera - Limited Edition
A lot of people seem to think (rather pessimistically) that 'Opera' is Argento's last masterpiece. However, I feel that it's his first of a number of films that fail to meet expectations that have come from his truly great works. While it does often feature the impressive camera work and visual flair that Argento has become well known for, 'Opera' has a far less engaging story, and characters who we simply don't care for very much. The whodunnit element is incredibly predictable and some scenes are so ambiguous as to be irritating (the mutilation of the wardrobe mistress for instance). The 'controversial' ending seems so tacked on, despite the fact that without it, the remaining ending would leave you just as unsatisfied. Speaking of endings, the last few seconds of 'Opera' take the most bizarre turn, that had me scratching my head for hours after, wondering what the hell Argento was on. And why Argento insisted on having all the the kill scenes backed by some godawful heavy metal crap is beyond me.
But it's not all bad. As mentioned, 'Opera' is a beautiful film to look at, and there are a couple of brilliantly staged murders - one an absolute mindblower. Plus there are some great performances by Argento's feathered friends - a crow repeatedly devouring and spitting up an eyeball is worth the admission price alone.
'Opera' is a classic case of style over substance, but with Argento, style does gather quite a few more points that usual.
The image on this disc is very good, with only some minor film damage showing. There were no compression problems to be seen. The NTSC transfer does seem at time to be a little lacking in detail and 3:2 pulldown artifacts do seem to show up here and there, but all in all, this looks very nice. And let's face it, you probably won't see better any time soon.
Now for the audio. I listened to the DTS track (through a 5.1 setup), and simply can't imagine this sounding better. For an eighties Italian picture, the dialog sounds surprisingly clear (if not a littly cheesy), and the music is also very nicely presented. The surrounds are used occassionally, but are never overwhelming. This is never going to sound like 'The Fifth Element' but as far as doing the best with what they were given, Anchor Bay have done a lovely job.
The main extra (apart from the CD soundtrack, which I'll get to later) is a new 36 minute retrospective documentary featuring interviews with the likes of Argento himself, cinematographer Ronnie Taylor, Daria Nocolodi & Urbano Barberini (among others). This is a very nice little presentation, especially given some of the interviewee's (Nicolodi & Argento in particular) honest appraisal of the the film. You also get a music video for Claudio Simonetti's band Daemonia, performing a version of the movie's main theme. Now if you buy this limited edition, you get (as well as a number stamped on the back - 30,000 copies were made) a CD containing the film's soundtrack. This is quite a nice little disc, but seems to be missing some of the more atmospheric cues from the film to make room (despite being under 50 minutes in length) for two of the terrible heavy metal tracks. I suppose they were more obtainable than Brian Eno and Simon Boswell & Terry Taylor's music. Of Simonetti's work, a number of pieces are repeated in different versions. The great omission, however, is a track listing. I like to know what I'm listening to.
'Opera' is by no means a great film, but it does manage to scrape by on looks alone. Anchor Bay's presentation succeeds in enhancing these looks, but this is still only a film that I could recommend to Argento completists like myself. If you do decide to take the plunge, be sure to get the limited edition as the CD soundtrack is well worth the extra few bucks that it will cost.