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Image Entertainment presents
Helmut Newton: Frames from the Edge (1989)

"He has the eye of a voyeur."
- Catherine Deneuve

Review By: debi lee mandel   
Published: April 24, 2002

Stars: Helmut Newton
Other Stars: June Newton, Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling, Sigourney Weaver, Robert Evans, Karl Lagerfeld, Faye Dunaway, Candace Bergen, Tina Brown, Adrian Maben, commentary
Director: Adrian Maben

Manufacturer: Ritek
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, language)
Run Time: 01h:39m:41s
Release Date: March 19, 2002
UPC: 014381927023
Genre: art

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C C-C-C+ D-

DVD Review

Notorious fashion photographer Helmut Newton is himself exposed in this 1987 film documenting the man at work. Famous for his voyeuristic eye, he has photographed so many nudes that Salon recently quoted him as saying, "Although I have no idea of the number, I think I photographed too many naked women." At one point in the film, Newton is searching for a model for his next shoot, and interviews two women he has worked with in the last couple of years but does not recognize until he sees his own photos in their portfolios.

Erotic and menacing, seductive and impersonal, clothed and barefoot or naked in high heels, in his world of women there is an unmistakable sense of Newton in every frame. Filmmaker Adrian Maben follows him over time to a variety of locations from Los Angeles to Berlin to Monaco, as well as conducting interviews with the photographer (perfectly fluent in three languages), his wife June, and some of his more famous subjects: Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling (his first nude model), Sigourney Weaver, and Candace Bergen. Only the rare bit of biographical information slips in haphazardly, with perhaps his childhood experience as a Jew in 1938 Berlin, when he was forced to leave the country never to see his parents again, the most telling. There is a lifelong theme in his work, a kind of Bob Fosse fascination with deviant sexuality, captured in distant and calculated images.

As tall, beautiful, large-breasted women are Newton's specialty, the opportunistic director appears to realize his own fantasies by focusing his camera's attention all too much on the wealth of flesh his project affords him. While there are a several sequences of the photographer at work, Maben seems to take more vicarious pleasure than necessary. Once again, the director (Magritte: Monsieur René Magritte) loses sight of his subject and casts his own shadow over the film. While Newton openly admits to objectifying his models, Maben follows en suite, to negative affect.

I supposed I expect something more intimate in my documentaries, and surely prefer the filmmaker to be invisible. There are just too many artsy conceits here that detract from the information imparted, or worse, in lieu of it, for me to recommend this as interesting to artists or photographers yearning for inspiration. Voyeurs, however, should line up now.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: There is abundant film grain in the full-frame source and most fine detail is lost. There is a gauzy softness over all that causes a kind of muddiness in the color and the image is generally dark, without the benefit of true blacks. It appears no restoration was attempted, and dust, dirt, nicks and flecks appear throughout. Most of the black & white photos presented have a bluish cast, so that both photographer and his work are represented poorly here.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio suffers somewhat less than the image, with all speakers easily understood. The music chosen in most cases seems inappropriate and is generally quite flat, even for a mono track. While I enjoyed the inclusion of The Smiths' Some Girls are Bigger Than Others, it elicited an unpropitious laugh from me in its use.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No supplements are offered, and the menus are uninterestingly conceived.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

"There are two dirty words in photography; one is art, and the other is good taste." Helmut Newton

Filmmaker Maben seems to believe the same is true for documentaries. If you want more on this famous photographer and his work, your money is better spent on one of his many coffee-table books.


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