DVD LET­TER­BOX

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - MICHAEL BODEY

AC­TORS don’t of­ten par­tic­i­pate in DVD com­men­taries be­cause they’re not paid enough. Pure and sim­ple. Ac­tors, or their agents, see the mil­lions be­ing reaped from this lu­cra­tive an­cil­lary mar­ket and be­lieve they have earned a piece of it.

Which is why Ed­die Mur­phy is sadly ab­sent from Paramount’s spe­cial edi­tion of Trad­ing Places , for ex­am­ple; the man who you would think was cru­cial to that film’s suc­cess and would be in­te­gral to the DVD.

Th­ese ab­sences are the one weak spot in the DVD for­mat. Key stars just won’t play ball, and there ap­pears to be no res­o­lu­tion in sight. Stu­dios won’t pay six- fig­ure sums to the Jim Car­reys of the world to lay down a com­men­tary, and the ac­tors won’t do it for good­will or for their au­di­ence.

That said, I don’t think it’s a big blight, given how in­dul­gent most com­men­taries are. The ac­tors who tend to par­tic­i­pate are those who are creative or pro­duc­ing part­ners — your Will Fer­rells, Jack Blacks or Wil­son brothers — or those start­ing out in the busi­ness who’ll do any­thing to raise their vis­i­bil­ity.

And I’m a lit­tle over co­me­di­ans who be­lieve just rock­ing up un­pre­pared to a sound booth with their mates will some­how turn into DVD com­men­tary gold. Which is why I had to lis­ten to Pene­lope Cruz and Salma Hayek’s com­men­tary for the re­cent re­lease, a west­ern com­edy, Ban­di­das .

Some­thing told me this film, writ­ten by French mav­er­ick Luc Bes­son and di­rected by two Nor­we­gians, Joachim Roen­ning and Espen Sand­berg, wouldn’t lose much with­out hear­ing the di­a­logue. And who couldn’t give up an op­por­tu­nity to lis­ten to a com­men­tary by two ac­tors for whom English is not their first lan­guage?

But the ac­tors’ at­ti­tude to it is given away fairly promptly when Cruz notes it is ‘‘ the first time I have to do this’’ and ‘‘ there’s go­ing to be a few long pauses’’.

At first, the duo of­fers many of the plat­i­tudes ac­tors de­liver way too of­ten and of which I’m tired. Hayek con­fesses she’s very proud of one scene be­cause she’s ac­tu­ally rid­ing the horse; Cruz pulls out the peren­nial ‘‘ we had to cut so many takes in this movie be­cause we were laugh­ing at each other’’; and they con­fess ad­mi­ra­tion for their co- stars, in this in­stance the un­likely trio Sam Shep­ard, Dwight Yoakam and Steve Zahn.

But, as they warm up, there’s a few — well, a cou­ple — of in­ter­est­ing peeks into both the pro­duc­tion and their off- screen lives. And, no, I hadn’t imag­ined how hard it must be to run in a corset. I will now try it.

Some of the ob­ser­va­tions are quite dis­arm­ing, es­pe­cially Hayek’s ad­mis­sion she suf­fers such hic­cup at­tacks they de­cided to in­cor­po­rate it as a char­ac­ter trait.

The ac­tors’ re­spec­tive at­ti­tudes to life off the screen are be­trayed by Cruz’s com­plaints about not hav­ing a bath­room on lo­ca­tion. A small thing, you would think, but out in the wilds of Mex­ico, Hayek was wor­ried about the snakes and Cruz was wor­ried about pa­parazzi. That’ll hap­pen to you if you shack up with Tom Cruise, but those Syd­neysiders who saw Hayek waltz­ing around Bondi Beach in a bikini a cou­ple of years ago won’t be com­plain­ing about her free­dom from pho­tog­ra­phers.

Hayek is very much the big sis­ter in this com­men­tary, chid­ing Cruz dur­ing one long­winded anec­dote: ‘‘ Get to the point, you aren’t writ­ing a novel.’’

There’s not much else to con­vince stu­dios many ac­tors are worth pay­ing for their DVD com­men­tary in­sights.

* * * DISC WATCH: Blue Fin ( Rain­bow, G, $ 9.99). The 1977 Aus­tralian chil­dren’s clas­sic makes it to DVD at last. It’s child ac­tor Greg Rowe’s mem­o­rable fol­low- up to an­other beauty, Storm Boy , re­leased on this for­mat last year. bodeym@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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