Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 15th, 2016
BluRay released: April 26th, 2016
Approximate running times: 110 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: LPCM Mono English, LPCM Mono Italian
BluRay Release: Severin Films
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: A tourist named Nancy (Sydne Rome) is attacked by three men, who she has just hitched a ride from them. She escapes from her attackers finding refuge at a Mediterranean villa where everything and everyone is not what is appears to be. Shortly after Nancy’s arrival she forges a relationship with a retired pimp Alex (Marcello Mastroianni) who seduces and dominates her. Nancy soon discovers that the villa is filled with eccentric guests whose libidos are in overdrive. Will Nancy succumb to the other’s sexual desires or will she find the key that unlocks her door too freedom?
What? was co-written and directed by Roman Polanski whose most notable films include, Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown. Key collaborators on What? include, composer Claudio Gizzi (Flesh for Frankenstein, Blood for Dracula), cinematographers Marcello Gatti (Black Belly of the Tarantula, Massacre in Rome) and Giuseppe Ruzzolini (Duck, You Sucker, Short Night of Glass Dolls) and screenwriter Gérard Brach (Identification of a Woman, The Phantom of the Opera).
Content wise, this film is filled with sexual references and situations. And the end result is best described as an eroticized adaption of Alice from Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece Alice in Wonderland. With that being said, this is not your run of the mill soft core romp, since the majority of the sexuality onscreen is limited to nudity.
This film features a nonlinear narrative is told from the point of view of a young woman Nancy. Also to further compound this film’s disjointed narrative scenes are repeated more than once with slight variations and by the second time through this enhances to Nancy’s disorientation. Another strength of this film are its rock solid visuals.
Performance wise the entire cast are all very good in their respective roles. With the strongest moments in the film are the moments the involve interaction between Sydne Rome and Marcello Mastroianni characters. This film’s standout performance coming from Sydne Rome in the role of Nancy, this film’s protagonist. She beings a sweetness and naivety to her performance which makes the plight of her character all the more convincing. Another performance of note includes, Marcello Mastroianni (Casanova ’70, La Grande Bouffe) in the role of a retired pimp Alex who serves as Nancy’s guide throughout the story. He delivers a pitch perfect performance as he totally immerses himself into the role. Another strength of his performance is how he exploits his character’s phobia’s. Ultimately What? is an inventive variation on the Alice in Wonderland theme that is sure to challenge most viewers with its complex subtext.
What? comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. A brand new 2k transfer was created for this release and the end result is easily the best this film has ever looked on home video. Colors look vibrant, flesh tones look accurate, details look sharp and black levels remain solid throughout. Also there are no issues with DNR or compression and grain looks natural.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono in English and a LPCM mono mix in Italian. Both audio mixes sound great. Dialog comes through clearly and everything sound balanced. Range wise things sound very good, especially the film’s score and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well presented. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (1 minute 55 seconds) and three interviews – the first interview with actress Sydne Rome titled Sydne in Wonderland (16 minutes 44 seconds, in English), the second interview with composer Claudio Gizzi titled Memories of a Young Pianist (21 minutes 49 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles) and the third interview with cinematographer Marcello Gatti (16 minutes 3 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles).
Topics discussed in the interview with Sydne Rome include, her audition and how her persistence got her the lead role, her thoughts about the film, working with Roman Polanski, Marcello Mastroianni, key moments in the film, shooting nudity, how What? Shaped her career as an actress, audience reaction to the film and locations featured in the film.
Topics discussed in the interview with Claudio Gizzi include, his strong interest in music since he was a child, how he got into the film industry, Death in Venice and collaborating with Luciano Visconti, the score for What?, working with Roman Polanski, his thoughts on the film and the scores for Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula.
Topics discussed in the interview with Marcello Gatti include, how he was approached by producer Carlo Ponti to work on this film, how he shot all of the interior scenes and one exterior scene where Mastroianni’s character whips Rome’s character on a beach and the rest of the exteriors scenes where shot by cinematographer Giuseppe Ruzzolini, Marcello Mastroianni and their friendship, Gérard Brach’s screenplay for What?, working with Roman Polanski and his thoughts in the film.
Overall What? Makes its way to Hi Def via an exceptional release from Severin Films.
Note: Severin Films are also releasing this film on DVD.