Lantana [DVD] [2001]

From its Citizen Kane-like opening shot -- in which an invasive camera slowly moves through dense shrubbery and ultimately reveals the body of a dead woman -- Lantana evokes an eerie, unsettling atmosphere. Visually and aurally, the Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD release of the critically acclaimed Australian film, which has been compared to Robert Altman's Short Cuts and Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, earns high marks from its very first scene. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track gets a chance to kick in immediately as an ambient insect buzzing accompanies the drawn-out zoom and builds to a feverish pitch, while the colors of the aforementioned lantana plant are vivid and sharp, thanks to an excellent 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Also worth noting in regards to the sound is Paul Kelly's haunting score, which further highlights the film's moodiness and unites the intersecting lives of the characters. Most of Lantana consists of dark scenes, but thankfully, the DVD offers plenty of contrast and brightness, with very precise shadows. Particularly memorable is a series of later scenes involving a nighttime car accident and subsequent chase through moonlit wilderness. The only real significant extra here is an enjoyable 24-minute making-of documentary called "The Nature of Lantana." The large ensemble cast (Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey) and crew (director Ray Lawrence, screenwriter Andrew Bovell) passionately discuss their enthusiasm for the project and the film's thematic elements. Only one question remains: Why is Lantana, which won seven Australian Film Institute Awards including best film, Lawrence's first movie since 1985's Bliss?
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Overview

Special Features

  • 16×9 Widescreen (2.35:1)
  • 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Behind-the-scenes footage
  • Trailer
  • Interactive menus
  • Scene access
  • English and Spanish subtitles

Synopsis

Lantana
The intertwined lives of four couples living in and around Sydney, Australia, form the structure for this drama masquerading as a whodunit. Andrew Bovell freely adapted his play, Speaking in Tongues, opening up the action, as the geography and topography of Sydney and its suburbs become major characters as well. The film opens with a shot of what looks like a corpse entangled in a thick stand of branches -- the title plant, which grows in profusion in Australia. Bovell and director Ray Lawrence take their time in explaining whose body that is and then slowly reveal, with no help from a number of red herrings, how it happened to be there. The principal players are Valerie Somers (Barbara Hershey), a psychiatrist with issues over her child, a murder victim; her husband, John Knox (Geoffrey Rush), an aloof professor whom she suspects of infidelity; Leon Zat (Anthony LaPaglia), a police detective cheating on his wife, Sonja (Kerry Armstrong), who is a patient of Valerie's. Zat's mistress, Jane O'May (Rachael Blake), is someone he met at a dancing class his wife dragged him to; she is estranged from her husband, Pete (Glenn L. Robbins). Their neighbors, Paula (Daniela Farinacci) and Nik D'Amato (Vince Colosimo), try to stay neutral in the O'Mays' split; she works days as a nurse and he's unemployed and minds their children. Suspicion around the disappearance of one character manages to enmesh all of the others. Bovell's stories are about secrets, real and imagined, and how they can poison relationships. The film virtually swept all the major awards at the Australian Film Institute's annual ceremony, though its reception in the States was mildly respectful. ~ Tom Wiener, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Anthony LaPaglia
    Anthony LaPaglia - Leon Zat
  • Geoffrey Rush
    Geoffrey Rush - John Knox
  • Barbara Hershey
    Barbara Hershey - Dr. Valerie Somers
  • Kerry Armstrong
    Kerry Armstrong - Sonja Zat
  • Rachael Blake
    Rachael Blake - Jane O'May
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