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Written by: on January 25th, 2005
What? What?
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, December 7th, 1972
Director: Roman Polanski
Writers: Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski
Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Sydne Rome, Romolo Valli, Roman Polanski

DVD released: 2002
Approximate running time: 110 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian and Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: 20th Century Fox
Region Coding: Region 2 Pal
Retail Price: $25.95

The film opens with Nancy (Sydne Rome) a tourist who 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?

The film focuses through out on the view point of the character Nancy whose plight is similar to that of Alice from Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece Alice in Wonderland. Sydne Rome who plays the lead Nancy with a sweetness and naivety that may her plight even more convincing. The always suave Marcello Mastroianni plays the retired pimp Alex who serves as Nancy’s guide through out the story. Mastroianni performance is dead on as he becomes the character complete with phobias that help drive his compulsive tendencies. The films narrative is not exactly liner as scenes are repeated more then once with slight variations the second time through which add to Nancy’s disorientation. This film is filled with sexual references and situations most of which enhance the story. The strongest moments in the film are the moments the involve interaction between Sydne Rome and Marcello Mastroianni. The film is also blessed with an amazing supporting cast that includes Romolo Valli and Guido Alberti. Roman Polanski beautiful captures the Italian landscapes with his fluid camera movements.

The DVD:

Roman’s Polanski’s What?, is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. There are no problems with compression and grain is kept to a minimum. The healthy flesh tones blend flawlessly with the films luminous color palette. The black levels are stable which is especially noticeable by the amount of detail present during the night time scenes. There is some minor print damage in the form of specs of dirt. Overall this is a solid transfer from Fox.

This DVD comes with two audio options Italian and English both of these are presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1(Even though the box states that the English is in a Dolby Digital mono my DVD player read the track as Dolby Digital 5.1). Both tracks are in good shape as the dialog is always easy to hear. The Italian language track does sound slightly more robust then the English language track. There are forced Italian subtitles that play during the English Language track. These subtitles can be disabled by selecting the Italian Language track via the language menu and once the movie has started use your controller to switch over to the English Language track.

Extras include biographies & filmographies for Roman Polanski, Marcello Mastroianni and Sydne Rome all the text for these extras in Italian only. This DVD’s main extra is a twenty one minute interview with Sydne Rome which sadly all of the extras on this release are in Italian only. Rounding out the extras is the films original Italian theatrical trailer which features music instead of dialog from the movie.

Roman Polanski’s What?, is an inventive variation on the Alice in Wonderland theme that is sure to challenge most viewers with its complex subtext. Because of this I can only recommend this film to Roman Polanski fans.

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