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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
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DVD ReviewIn 1999, Sony Classics released the independent film Run Lola Run. It was a fast paced, trilling ride, almost a video game in film form. A large part of the film's success came from its constant, pounding techno score. In summer 2000, Sony Classics released another film that had a foundation in techno/electronic music: Groove, the first film from director Greg Harrison. Of course, Groove is a very different film from Run Lola Run in both tone and style, but both are inexorably linked in my mind because the music in both really brings them to life.
Groove tells the story of the different attendees at an all-night rave (basically an all-night dance party, but much more than that as well). There is the enthusiastic, selfless organizer, who just wants to show everyone a good time. There is the first-timer, nervous about going out. There is the raver couple, seemingly happy but in danger of losing everything they care about. There is another couple, just looking for a good way to celebrate their anniversary. In all these stories, the rave plays an important part. The party is more or less the star of the film, and the script focuses on just what this thing is. Obviously it is more than a party, because it has really brought these people together. The rave, Groove tells us, is a culture.
The rave scene also played a part in the 1999 film Go, also from Columbia Tri-Star. Here, however, it is a much larger part of the story. Harrison's script does a nice job of balancing the film, providing a nice intro of elements central to the rave scene without providing so much that people familiar with the culture will be bored. Harrison was personally involved in raves, and it really shows in the film. As someone who has been to a rave, I can tell you that the on-screen depiction is very accurate, from the atmosphere to the dancers and the music. Situations like drug use and abuse are dealt with realistically, without a concern for preaching to the audience. Groove presents a real world, where drug use does not mean a corny, overdone overdose scene.
Most of the actors in Groove are newcomers. That being said, you don't have to fear any flat, wince-inducing performances. Sure, not everyone is Meryl Streep, but at least they all played their characters and delivered their dialogue convincingly. The standouts are definitely Lola Gualdini and Hamish Linklater, as a couple coming together over the course of the night. I hope this film leads to their success in other motion pictures.
As I said, Groove is Harrison's first film, but you wouldn't know it by looking at it. The direction emerges organically from the rave in the film, with a progression from tracking shots, to handheld during the dance, to crane shots, to slow motion in the rave's final scene. You'd expect a film about a big party to be over-the-top MTV style editing, but what is here is actually very traditional, and very engaging. One particular shot I enjoyed was a crane shot that circled around a group of characters lying on the floor, shifting from one conversation to another as the camera moved.
Groove is not a film for everyone. If you hate electronic music, don't even bother watching, as the film emerges from the soundtrack. There is no score present, and Harrison uses 42 different musical tracks to convey all the emotion and plot progression that a traditional score usually would. Without this music, it would be a different film.
Indie films have really come into their own in the last few years. Some have been good; some have been overly pretentious and arty. And some, like Groove, have been a total blast to watch.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: The video transfer is generally very good. Colors are crisp, if a bit muted, and there is only a minor amount of film grain present. The picture is free of artifacts, but there is some occasional edge enhancement. A full frame transfer is also provided, and is of the similar quality.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: This is a very fun track. To get the little stuff out of the way: dialogue is always clear and understandable. Most of the action is restricted to the front soundstages. I noted no audible hiss on the track. Now, the important part... the music! Since music drives the film, its presentation on the disc is vital to the success of the film. Needless to say, it sounds great. The electronic beats fill the full surround soundstage and the subwoofer gets quite a workout. If the rave scenes don't get you dancing, you need to turn up the volume! Most probably first saw this at art houses without 5.1 capability. If you haven't seen it in 5.1—you haven't seen it.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 10 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Go, The Craft
7 Deleted Scenes
Isolated Music Score
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Greg Harrison, Producer Danielle Renfrew, and Director of Photography Matthew Irving
The commentary with Harrison and his Director of Photography and his Producer is excellent. They avoid a lot of the pitfalls of first-time commentators, talking constantly without just explaining what is happening on screen. The three play well off of each other and are obviously very enthusiastic about the film. Well worth a listen.
The deleted/extended scenes section is quite extensive. Running about seven or eight minutes, these are mostly extended scenes but there are a few totally new sequences. You can watch them with or without Harrison's commentary.
The isolated score does not run the length of the film. Due to disc capacity constraints, the director was forced to choose only ten songs to highlight. Still, this is a very nice feature as the soundtrack plays such an important part in the film. Watching this really makes you wish there was a full score feature.
In the area of "making-of" information, there are several interesting featurettes. The behind-the-scenes section runs about seven minutes and shows the locations being prepped and scenes being filmed. Harrison's commentary runs over the piece. The actor auditions are also provided with or without commentary, and they are very interesting (and a bit amusing at times). The camera test is very cool (just the character Harmony from the film dancing around). What a cutie!
Finishing off the disc are cast bios, a photo gallery, and a music video. This is a very strong set of extras. The director had direct input, and it was nice to see some more original stuff beyond the usual HBO fluff.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsTo risk slipping into the cliché, Groove is a breath of fresh air. The direction is good and the acting (mostly from newcomers) is very engaging. The music is amazing and will bring a lot of fans to the techno scene. If you are familiar with rave culture, or maybe just a bit curious, you will enjoy this film.
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