The Last Concert [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Japan - Orustak Soft
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (8th April 2018).
The Film

"The Last Concert" (1976)

In a small hospital near Mont Saint Michel in France, Richard (played by Richard Johnson) hears that things are not looking well for his daughter, as she may only have a few months left in her life due to Leukemia. Awkwardly Richard tells the doctor that he has no daughter and was only in there to receive treatment for his injured hand, and the doctor explains that the diagnosis was for the young woman who was in the office just prior. The awkwardness for Richard continues when he meets the young woman again, named Stella (played by Pamela Villoresi) at the bus stop. She continues to try and make small talk with him to which he refuses as he does not want to be bothered as well as the fact he accidentally knows about her unfortunate medical condition. While Stella is upbeat, loud, and unfettered, Richard is silent, distant, and annoyed but the former pianist has been experiencing a creative block and personal troubles that has kept him from working in music for some time. During their travel together, Richard reluctantly helps Stella on her quest - to be reunited with her father who lives in France and at the same time, Stella tries to help Richard into opening his heart and his mind again. But will Stella be able to find her estranged father and come to terms with closure? Will Richard be able to compose and perform again while Stella is still alive?

"The Last Concert" is a story that is simple enough to have audience appeal with its melodrama, comedy, and heart-tugging story of a young woman nearing the end of her life, but the film doesn't stand out as much as it could have. The character of Stella is a very early example of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl - a character of unnatural positivity who frequently causes trouble with her actions and outbursts. She clearly knows she is dying and has only a short time to live. She doesn't want sympathy from others and doesn't look at her condition as a reason to stop living but a reason to live the life to the fullest. She is almost the opposite of Richard who is close to a dead man walking as he stays away from conversation with others as much as possible, has no steady job, and no real reason to continue his work in music. He has no way to get rid of Stella from his side as she sticks to him like glue. But the question is "why"? Richard frequently tries to separate from her telling her to go her own way but no matter what, she continues to tag along and find a place next to him from the instant they met onward. Is it because she wants to use her last few months to live as positive as possible and to somehow open him towards happiness? Is she just really lonely and wants companionship with the first man she met? Or was it really love at first sight for her?

There are portions in the film that work very well, but there are some issues with the story as well. The English adapted screenplay has a few hiccups in the delivery from the non-English native characters, with some phrases that seem unnatural. English actor Richard Johnson obviously sounds fine in his deliveries which are mostly short quips of anger and limited phrasing, while Italian actress Pamela Villoresi who takes the bulk of the dialogue has some trouble at times. Other performers such as Maria Antonietta Beluzzi speaks in her native Italian tongue with the dialogue dubbed into English and in some minor portions in French. The plotline of Richard gradually falling in love, starting to compose again, and having a concert planned are almost too quick and sudden, with no major hurdles for his part. Even the one portion of Richard giving her a big slap on the face that leads to her bursting out laughing was one that at first shocking and leading straight into cartoonish territory. One second it's a violent action, the next scene it's like nothing has happened. For Stella's roadtrip across France to find her estranged father is not the most original scenario but is one that works for cinematic purposes for reaching multiple locations and showing the glorious sights. The roadtrip might have not had the happiest ending as Stella had hoped for, though it's clear her plans for happiness was not from her real father but a man that is old enough to be her father.

The gradual love story between a 20 year old woman who only has a short time to live and a middle aged man who is not caring of living is an interesting concept, but the execution seemed rushed too quickly in a forced situation. "The Last Concert" has its very good moments, but nothing to set it above other melodramas of the period. Directed by Luigi Cozzi in one of his earliest productions, the director would find more fame with cult science fiction and horror films later in his career with "Star Crash" (1978), "Contamination" (1980), and "Hercules" (1983) with many of his productions under his English pseudonym "Lewis Coates". Over the years he has frequently stated that "The Last Concert" was his best movie he has ever done, and in some ways that can be true. It doesn't have the spectacle or the tension of his more well known works but it is one which has heart and soul. It's not a flashy movie with colors and intricate cinematography but one that lets the characters do the work, and in that way is a success. The soundtrack by Stelvio Cipriani is a wonderful one with its piano compositions as well as Morricone-esque pieces common in Italian works at the time.

"The Last Concert" was an Italian-Japanese co-production set in France, featuring stars from Italy and the UK with a film made in English. With many alternate English names for the film including "Stella", "Take All of Me" and the Italian title of "Dedicato a una stella", the international production was a film on a fairly small scale with a cast of few in a mostly intimate setting. The film was first released in Italy on August 15th 1976 to lukewarm reception. While in Japan it was marketed as a double feature with "The Cassandra Crossing" by Herald Distribution opening on Christmas Day in 1976, it was not a big hit, not even breaking the top 20 grossing films of the year in 1976 or 1977. Although on the brighter side for Herald, "The Cassandra Crossing" was the sixth highest grossing movie of the year in Japan with a box office gross of 1.5 billion yen. A US release came in 1978 and it barely made an impact. More than 40 years later the film is still one of the least seen films in Cozzi's filmography and one that is rarely mentioned about. It is not because it is bad because it is not bad at all. There are some great scenes and wonderful music, but not enough to elevate it from the average script and average direction.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray and region 0 DVD set which an be played back on any Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Orustuk Soft presents the film in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. The master was taken from an English language print with the title "The Last Concert (Stella)" (as seen in the screencap below), with English credits for the opening and closing. The HD master has some positives and negatives, though mostly negatives. First it is a fairly clean transfer with very little damage if any at all. It is framed at the American theatrical aspect ratio, though to note it is stated the Italian version seems to have been framed at the European 1.66:1 ratio. Some negatives - the colors seem very washed out with everything looking slightly greener than it should. Blues, reds, browns all look slightly faded and looking like the print was run through a green tea filled wetgate. Some film grain is visible but it seems noise reduction has filtered out the finer details, making skies, faces, and bacgrounds look a bit on the waxy side. Blacks are not completely black and dark scenes do not look as dark as they should be. Overall this is a disappointing transfer for the film, but currently the only release of the film in HD.

The film's runtime is 92:35.

Note the screenshots were taken from the standard definition DVD which came from the same HD master



















Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

There are two English audio tracks plus a Japanese dub track. The first English audio track is a lossless mono track while the second is a lossy mono track. The lossless one sounds fair, but it has some issues with fidelity, with some of the music and dialogue sounding distorted at times. It also has some background hiss which is noticeable on quieter scenes. It is a mostly dialogue affair and there are no issues with unclear or unbalanced portions. The second track is a downscale of the lossless track and has similar issues as the first track. The Japanese dub is the same track created for the 2004 DVD, and has been given a lossless treatment. As this track was created a little over 10 years ago, the voices are very clear with no issues of hiss or distortion. The 2004 DVD also had a television dub track but that has not been carried over for this release.

There are optional Japanese subtitles for the main feature in a white font. The subtitles translate all the English portions as well as some of the minor few lines of French spoken at the inn. There is also a second Japanese subtitle track, but this is for use with the dubbed audio track to translate the signs and other text portions.

Extras

This is a Blu-ray+DVD release with both discs having the film with the trailer, while the DVD also includes some additional trailers. Note that the film is also available in a Blu-ray only edition.

Blu-ray

Re-release Trailer (2:13)
Presented is a modified version of the original trailer which has a lot of spoilers throughout, giving a very touching vibe that probably is more emotional than the film itself. The end is an advertisement for the remastered version's Blu-ray and DVD release.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with burned-in Japanese subtitles


DVD

Re-release Trailer (2:13)
Bonus Trailers
- "A Crime" (1:31)
- "Chino - The Valdez Horses" (1:20)
- "The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella (1:42)
- "Blazing Magnum" (2:28)

The DVD offers the same re-release trailer for the film as seen on the Blu-ray with a few additional trailers. When playing "Trailer", all five trailers play back to back. They are offered in their original language with burned-in Japanese subtitles.


Considering the slight obscurity of "The Last Concert" it's probably no surprise that no additional extras were provided. No commentary, interviews, featurettes, nothing.

Packaging

The packaging claims the Blu-ray is region A only and the DVD is region 2 only, but they are both in fact region free. The Blu-ray is region ALL and the DVD is region 0 NTSC.
In addition the packaging and the menu mistakenly state the Japanese dub as Dolby Digital while in fact it is LPCM 2.0.

Overall

"The Last Concert" is not a long lost classic nor is it the most original melodrama. It has its flaws with its pacing and its execution, but it is an enjoyable film with some light humor and drama with a beautiful score. Orustuk Soft's worldwide Blu-ray debut is a slight disappointment with its audio and video as well as a lack of meaningful supplements.

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

 


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