Novo
R0 - Australia - DV1
Review written by and copyright: Rob Hunt (30th August 2005).
The Film

Novo tells the story of a man named Graham who suffers from short-term memory loss. His character is presented as a rather emotionless yet sympathetic character, for whom the audience is undoubtedly expected to empathise with.
Graham (Eduardo Noriega) lives his life "day to day" - and has a tendency to forget things. Thankfully he has a notebook he keeps attached to his person so he can write down things so he doesn't forget them. The opening scene shows him to be both forgetful and a fool, and takes a few seconds to understand. Once you've got your head around that, he is then pretty much consensually raped by his boss Sabine (Nathalie Richard) - who tricks him into thinking she has adequately covered the security camera, whilst his best friend Fred (Eric Caravaca) ignores the situation (whilst showing that the security camera still records everything). Along comes the beautiful Irčne (Anna Mouglalis - an actress who at times looks like a French Liv Tyler). Through chance she happens upon Graham and they hit it off like a couple of badgers. After some discussion and laughs she proceeds to invite him to her home for a meal in the evening.

For the majority of it's opening first half, this film offers both intrigue and interest (not to mention some mild nudity) - and shows that is has great potential to be a very interesting movie, albeit one that has more than a shade of similarity to Christopher Nolan's "Memento". Unfortunately, whilst this concept is explored well in the first hour or so of the film, the last 30mins go from making little to no sense to a lot of random scenes. At about the 60-min mark of the film, it begins to take itself a bit too seriously, and decides that adding an incredible twist (in both meanings of the word incredible) is just what the film needs. It isn't. In less than a minute I went from paying a lot of attention on the film to asking myself what the fuck was happening on screen. I may be in a minority here, but I honestly don't have a clue what the last half hour of the film was on about - thank goodness it has a happy ending. At least it got one thing right - if you unnecessarily confuse your audience to a high degree then at least have the common decency to give it a happy ending. That way they can think whatever they like, and probably still enjoy the film.

The first bit of the last half hour covers a lot of detail, most of which has no relevance to the beginning of the film, and almost none to the end either. It jumps from one thematic storyline to a totally implausible series of events (sparked off by a subplot which appears to have sprouted legs and scuttled across the floor into nowhere), leading us to the second bit of the last half hour. If you're not as confused as I am by now, i'd like to know why not - but if you still think you've got it straight then the beginning of this section will help clear your memory. Graham meets with two of the whores of Babylon who take him out to the desert (?) with a random guy who plays a stringed instrument at random intervals. One of the girls 'goes first' with Graham and he decides to explore their crotch, followed by the decision to take a tooth he found in the middle of nowhere and insert it (presumably using his tongue) into her. He then falls asleep, and when he wakes up he is abandoned. Most devastatingly for him, he no longer has the tooth he found - which upsets him a bit. Some of the last part is also shown in sharp, short cuts including flashbacks to most of the story that went before, as well as that guy on the stringed instrument. It's all rather weird, and appears that everyone gave up at a certain point of the film in favour of experimental filmmaking. At least it can be commended on achieving that successfully enough. To conclude, the ending is quite a happy one, which partially makes up for all the confusion that came directly before it.

Finally, to wrap things up, from a technical point of view this film is very good - especially since some of the photography (if not all) is done by a hand-held camera. The cinematography is something to be fairly impressed with, and the music isn't particularly bad either. In the end though, you'll be watching for the storyline, or not as the case may be.

Video

DV1 have presented this film in its original 1.85:1 ratio, sadly not anamorphically enhanced. The print is clean for the most part, with little amounts of dirt and grain evident - and a few cigarette burns present from time to time. There appears to be no other error that stood out for me, so a fairly good transfer. Sadly the subtitles are burnt in, and therefore unable to be turned off or removed. This was the most disappointing aspect to this print.

Audio

French 2.0 Surround is the only audio track present, but it's the original one which is good. Not a great deal of surround use as far as I could ascertain, but dialogue is generally clear and the track is pretty good. Music is used well from time to time and comes across nicely. Altogether nothing really special though.

Extras

A couple of features, most of which are most certainly unique. I will explore them all separately below.

First up (from the Main Menu) is the Trailer (1:31). This uses sensuality and little else to advertise the film. Nothing particularly worth watching twice, but I was still pleased it was included with the disc.

The rest of the features are accesible from the extra features page, and they are completely off the wall (and also filmed - at times frustratingly - with a hand held camera)....

"Araki - An Interview with the renowned Photographer" is a featurette that runs for 6:30, and after watching the film I should have expected something this random that makes little to no sense to me. Highlights of this include the photographer asking his (fully naked) model to mimic having sexual relations with a crocodile, and going on to say that he guesses the crocodile represents his genitals. Funny for all the wrong reasons.

Next up is "Shunga - The Art of Japanese Erotica" - another featurette (slightly longer at 12:09) exploring the unique world and drawings of Japanese Erotica. Noted for their impressive, yet surreal, style they are most recognisable for beastly coloured, beastly sized and beastly shaped penises. Not especially erotic to me personally, but others may care to differ.

The last of the featurettes is "Nawa Shibari - The Basics of Bondage" (6:17) and mainly consists of footage from a bondage instructor, teaching some bondage. Interestingly it also makes a mention of taking care with bondage, so as to avoid such unwanted results like accidental strangulation. Couldn't help but think this was both too short and slightly biased.

A rather mixed bunch of featurettes, all in all - evidently they all have some loose connection to the film (only just though) but none of them bear repeat viewing for me. The director even says the same quote in each one - like it's some kind of mantra for him.

Finally there is 'No End' - a Deleted Scene. Played out in black and white, as a flashback; fairly monotonous; deleted for a reason.

Overall, I doubt other DVDs have this kind of extra material on them, but then that might be saying something important. Kudos to DV1 never-the-less, though, for carrying over all the extras present on the French R2.

Overall

The Film: D+ Video: C+ Audio: C- Extras: D+ Overall: C-

 


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