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New Line Home Cinema presents

The Five Senses (1999)

"Never fall in love with someone who lives more than a bus ride away, or who's under 30, or who you meet on holiday."- Robert (to Rona)

Stars: Mary Louise-Parker, Phillippe Volter, Daniel MacIvor, Nadia Litz
Other Stars: Molly Parker, Gabrielle Rose, Marco Leonardi, Pascale Bussieres
Director: Jeremy Podeswa

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality and language
Run Time: 1h:45m:36s
Release Date: 2001-01-23
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+A-C+ C


DVD Review

Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.

In the midst of a world dominated by technology, we often take for granted the basic elements that make us human. No person possesses identical levels of each sense as another, and this affects everyone's daily life. The Five Senses—the new film by writer/director Jeremy Podeswa (Eclipse)—examines the stories of five people whose lives are changed dramatically by one of the senses. Each character must face obstacles and attempt to discover happiness through (or in spite of) the sense involved.

Richard (Phillppe Volter) realizes he's losing his hearing, and nothing can be done to prevent him from going deaf. So he plans to collect the sounds he'll miss most in life. His greatest fear is becoming dependent on other people to perform simple daily tasks. Without his hearing, will his life still have meaning and importance? In his moments with Gail (Pascale Bussieres), Richard discovers a kindred spirit and gains some valuable insights into life. This is but one segment of a much larger story, and it exemplifies both the wonder and the frustration inherent in this film. Richard's struggles could serve as the subject for an entire movie, but Podeswa aims to connect his characters on a more complex palette.

Several of the tales hinge upon the disappearance of a very young girl in a nearby park. Rachel (Nadia Litz), a reclusive, troubled teenage girl, must deal with losing the child while she learns about her own visual curiosity. Meanwhile, Rachel's mother, Ruth (Gabrielle Rose), has trouble connecting with anyone, including her own daughter. Ruth works as a massage therapist, but she lacks the sense of "touch" in her emotional life. These connections mirror films such as Robert Altman's Short Cuts and Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, but they work on a different scale from these epic narratives. The relationships in this story are intimate and personal, and each character often remains separate from their counterparts.

The most prominent story in terms of screen time follows neurotic Rona (Mary Louise-Parker) in her romantic struggles. She creates cakes that look wonderful, but taste terrible, and this connects with her shallow thoughts about love. Roberto (Marco Leonardi), her lover from Italy, has arrived in America, but they are separated by the language barrier. Her convoluted "tastes" and paranoia about other women could ruin this promising relationship. Mary Louise-Parker gives an enjoyable performance, and Marco Leonardi has a nice energy, but this portion receives a little too much emphasis in the overall story. Podeswa obviously faced difficult decisions in the cutting room, so I can't be too critical of him. I just found other characters—especially Richard and Nadia—much more interesting.

An interesting story that originally appears trivial involves Robert (Daniel MacIvor), a distraught man who believes he knows the smell of love. Now he wants to meet up with his former lovers to search for this scent. It eventually becomes apparent that he's simply trying to fathom a reason for being alone. Even after he finds "love," it's not apparent whether he's really reached the end of his journey. MacIvor does an impressive job in slowly revealing the inner layers and sadness behind his character.

Each story in The Five Senses contains points of interest that keep the events from growing dull or tedious. The actors all perform well, especially Nadia Litz and Philippe Volter, who generate significant emotional depth in their roles. The pieces just fail to fit together in that perfect puzzle that creates magical cinema. Podeswa takes the easier route several times instead of really delving into the characters. However, the story remains original and intriguing, and presents an interesting circle of life.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

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 One Two
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen 1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyes no
Anamorphicyes no

Image Transfer Review: New Line is renowned for the pristine transfers on its DVD releases, and The Five Senses is no exception. It contains a high level of sharpness and clarity that enhances the images on the screen. The colors are fresh and warm, with nice black levels to complement them. I noticed virtually no defects on this print and only a slight level of grain that failed to distract from my enjoyment of the film. The images remain fairly realistic and lack much extravagance, but they still shine due to an excellent widescreen anamorphic transfer.

This disc also contains the option of choosing a pan & scan version of the film. While the picture is nice, it still suffers from the limits of its medium. Shots are cropped significantly and lack the depth of the widescreen transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Five Senses is driven mostly by dialogue, but it does contain a pleasant score and some impressive choir music, which makes this feeble 2.0-channel Dolby Surround mix frustrating and disheartening. While the dialogue is easy to understand, and the sounds are sharp, no power exists in this sound mix. It's based mostly in the center, and does not flow very well between the left and right speakers. While the sound quality is acceptable, the transfer lacks the depth necessary to carry the story.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+ 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. DVD ROM features including original site and links to New Line web site
Extras Review: This disc contains a nice selection of DVD ROM features, including access to the original web site and links to their web store. The movie's site includes production notes, detailed information on the filmmakers and staff, and interesting sections on each story and its relation to the particular sense. Unfortunately, only PC owners have the luxury of accessing this information, and everyone else is left with only a few minor extras on the disc.

The theatrical trailer features an impressive transfer, but it focuses too much on Mary Louise-Parker, the most prominent actress to American audiences. The preview skews the story toward more of a comic direction, and fails to do the film justice. This disc also includes filmographies for the major cast and director, but it contains no biographies. Considering most of the actors are fairly unknown in America, more information on them would benefit film lovers. The nice background information provided on the DVD ROM features should have been included for all DVD viewers.

Extras Grade: C

Final Comments

The Five Senses is an ambitious film that immerses us into the lives of its characters. Plenty of compelling material exists in this film, and its only drawback is the inability to ultimately bring everything together. However, it is worth a viewing for its original look at the relationship between humans and the senses.

Dan Heaton 2001-02-26