Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 12th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1986
Director: Julien Temple
Writers: Michael Hamlyn, Richard Burridge, Christopher Wicking, Don MacPherson, Terry Johnson
Cast: Patsy Kensit, Eddie O’Connell, David Bowie, James Fox, Ray Davies
BluRay released: July 25th, 2016
Approximate running times: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS HD-MA 5.1 English, LPCM Stereo English
Subtitles: Engiish SDH
BluRay Release: Second Sight
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £19.99 (UK)
Absolute Beginners was directed by Julian Temple whose other notable films include, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, Earth Girls Are Easy and Bullet. Key on Absolute Beginners collaborators include, cinematographer Oliver Stapleton (The Grifters) and screenwriter Christopher Wicking (To the Devil a Daughter, Lady Chatterley’s Lover). The screenplay for Absolute Beginners was adapted from Colin MacInnes’s novel of the same name. Also Absolute Beginners is part of MacInnes’ London Trilogy, with the other two novels being, City of Spades and Mr. Love and Justice.
Julian Temple began his career documenting the Punk Band, The Sex Pistols and when the band was falling apart at the seams, he would direct The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle a film that superbly encapsulated the demise Punk Rock. From there he would a some more documentaries and make the transition towards directing music videos. Many of which are now regarded as some of the best music videos ever made. So it was only a matter of time before he would get an opportunity to direct a feature film. And that film would be Absolute Beginners!
Trying to adapt a novel into a film is never an easy task and it is even more difficult trying to make said adaption, a musical. And this is choice that has affected the film since its inception, with many devote fans of the novel from which this film was adapted wanting a more straightforward adaption. Fortunately, time has been kind to Absolute Beginners and now thirty years after its initial release it’s finally finding its audience and garnering the accolades it has for so long richly deserved.
Just like he had done a decade before with The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle. Julian Temple does it once again with Absolute Beginners, creates a film that perfectly captures the essence of the era it is depicting. The late 1950’s and 1960’s pop culture scene in London.
First and foremost, the thing that immediately grabs you while watching Absolute Beginners are its striking visuals, which have a vibrancy not seen since the demise of Technicolor. Other areas where this film excels are its rock solid musical numbers, especially Ray Davies musical set piece for the song Quiet Life. Another area where this film excels it is production design by creating an utterly convincing world which these characters exist in.
And though the more musical aspects of this production are bound to garner the most attention. One must not overlook or under estimate this film’s darker half, it’s final act. It is also during this act that the film delves strongest into social commentary. With racial tensions being the launching point for a race related riots.
Performance wise the entire cast are a joy to watch as they all deliver enthusiastic performances that elevate the story at hand. And no performances shine brighter then, Eddie O’Connell in the role of Colin and Patsy Kensit in the role of Suzette, the object of his desire. Also they have a tremendous amount of chemistry and the moments these two characters’ share onscreen are by far and away the most compelling. Besides the Aforementioned Ray Davies, other memorable performances come from James Fox (Performance) and David Bowie (The Man Who Fell to the Earth), who also wrote the performed the main theme for the film.
Absolute Beginners comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The source used for this transfer is in great shape and there are no issues with DNR or compression. Also colors look vibrant and are nicely saturated, black and contrast levels look strong throughout and the image always looks crisp. When compared to previous home video releases, this new transfer is superior in every way.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS HD-MA mix in 5.1 English and a LPCM stereo in English. Both audio mixes sound, clean, clear, balanced and robust, especially when it comes to the musical numbers. Range and depth wise both audio mixes deliver in these areas and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack being well represented throughout. Also this release includes removable English SDH subtitles.
Julien Temple: How he wanted to make a film that captured the energy of the British music cinema from the 1960’s, Colin MacInnes and his novel Absolute Beginners, The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, the transition to directing music videos, David Bowie and the theme song for the film and how he was fired before post production.
Other topics discussed include, Place Video and the transition from acquiring films to producing their own films, the decline of British cinema by the 1980’s, how the financed and promoted the film, adapting the novel into a musical, the cast other information about them, the look of the film, how the entire film was shot in studio on sets, problems that arose during post production, negative critical response to the film in the UK, positive critical reaction to the film is the U.S. and their thoughts on how the film.
Overall Absolute Beginners gets a solid release from Second Sight.
Note: This film is also being released by Second Sight on DVD.