Sunday, October 02, 2005


The lecture on DVD Culture opened my eyes to things you just don’t think about when you kick back and watch a movie. In particular these were the benefits of DVD’s: not having to watch annoying previews, being able to fast forward or skip chapters speedily, the special features about the movie you can watch later on, and as all things are these days, smaller in size than the VCR. When they first came out they were really expensive (as all new appliances are) but now you can buy one for as cheap as $80. You can play them on most computers these days, which means they are portable, and DVD’s can be easily pirated, so you can watch something that hasn’t even been released in New Zealand (this can be both a benefit for the viewer(s), but a definite loss for sales companies). The lecture talked for most of the time about primary and secondary text, and how the secondary text can sometimes change the primary text. It also talked about ‘us’ as DVD viewers, and how people become attached to a movie through film aesthetics and the novelty of its benefits.

I have noticed lately that DVD companies have been re-releasing old versions of movies, such as ‘Labyrinth’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘Flashdance’. I have only seen VHS versions of these films so far, but it kind of makes me think that if they do have special features, what would they actually contain? I’m sure back in the 1980’s directors wouldn’t have been thinking about their films being re-released and all the special content they could feature. A classic example of this comes from ‘Dirty Dancing’ (a flat favourite, basically because there are more girls than boys and Patrick Swayze in his young days was quite hot!). It was only $20, which was a bargain, and after we’d watched it, we were amazed to see that it did in fact have ‘special features’. For an 80’s movie it was pretty good, but you could tell the content was made to look like lots (they kind of repeated the same footage, there was no variation from through out the film). It had ‘behind the scenes’ scenes of the dancing, a couple of brief interviews with the cast, and music video’s from the soundtrack. ‘Drive Me Crazy’ (1999) however, had no special features, which was quite disappointing for a relatively recent film. Is this because it wasn’t as successful as Dirty Dancing was in its day? Probably, personally I think Drive Me Crazy was typical American high school shite.

People have become so attached to the secondary text. They feel ripped off when they buy a DVD and discover it doesn’t have special features because it personifies the film. People are fascinated by how the narrative and characters originate, what goes into making a film and how everything was done. I never really paid much attention to special features until I saw ‘Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights’ (kind of like a re-make but based in Cuba). The special features show you all the Latin ballroom dancing and a really good doco on the background of the film and actors (it made it a lot easier to watch because the Spanish guy was cute, and I liked it because I’m a girl and we like the whole dancing/falling in love thing). It definitely gave me a different viewing on the film, because I learnt the secrets to all the spectacular dance scenes (none of the actors had doubles or had danced Latin ballroom before). This film also had a wicked soundtrack full of interesting Cuban music featuring artists like Wyclef Jean and Black Eyed Peas.

It will be interesting to see what the old movies mentioned feature on their DVD’s, and its quite funny how not-so-popular films such as Drive Me Crazy (even though it was a huge hit back around 2000) just don’t get the attention.


At 10:58 PM, Blogger Andrew Cozens said...

i am amazed at the wealth of information and extra features on some of the older movies that are being released on dvd, take for example Gone With The Wind which had a 3 or 4 disc special edition release not too long ago, and there was a 2disc casablanca one, citizen kane is 2 disc too. Although i think with a few of them they are mainly interviews with film historians or eminent critics like Roger Ebert etc Can't really get an interview with Orson Welles looking back on Citizen Kane when he is dead can you:p


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