Katy Perry: Part of Me (US - BD)
Gabe is a firework, but his review will probably not make you go 'ah, ah, ah'...
Katy Perry: Part of Me is more or less exactly the brand of feel good concert documentary both Perry’s fans and detractors are expecting. Despite her music not really being the kind of thing I tend to seek out, it’s probably among the best, high concept, low smarts, bubblegum pop on the radio right now. She doesn’t have the weirdo edge of Lady Gaga or Nicki Minaj, but her music is incredibly infectious without sounding indistinguishable and rarely hides the kind of repetition that plagues the bulk of similar teenybopper glop. I want to root for her, despite her obviously being afforded massive advantages in life, and I tend to buy into at least some of her sentiment. Here, it’s nice seeing Perry out of make-up and interacting with her staff. It’s nice thinking of her as a regular person. The cynic in me knows that this film is made for the expressed purpose of making the audience love her, yet there’s a big part of me (that’s the title!) that genuinely wants to believe her candy-coated persona isn’t just an act. Sure, she’s a little dopey and doesn’t add anything legitimately valuable to society, but so what?
Perry’s back-story is uncanny in that it’s the same as about one third of popular sex-symbol singers, which, again, makes the cynic in me assume she’s been manufactured, but it also feeds into my obsession with the strange world of insanely religious people. Unfortunately, the movie tamely toes this line and never really paints Perry as a rebel skank spitting on her familial beliefs, instead opting for drama in the difficulty of selling herself to record labels (complete with some pretty brutal footage of producers telling her nobody cares about her personality), that stereotypical downtime before the inevitable meteoric rise in popularity, and the hardships of tour life. This eventually has an effect on her marriage with Russell Brand, but who cares? I want my real-life John Waters movie, damn it! I want to witness a zealot with no hair, thick glasses, plastic shirts, and a giant, jewel-encrusted cross screaming at his ‘harlot’ daughter, who is dressed as a giant lollipop. No, no, seriously, footage of Perry unleashing body-heaving sobs is truly heartbreaking. If I had one realistic complaint about this mostly critic-proof film, it would be that it doesn’t have any uninterrupted concert footage. Every song is cut up with interviews, behind the scenes footage, and vintage photographs, which is too bad, because the concert itself is full of unique dance choreography and top-of-the-line magic tricks. It’s also a sonically interesting concert featuring well-produced, live instruments. And the songs really aren’t that bad, guys.
Like all films in this semi-recent influx of pop concert films, Part of Me was shot using state of the art digital 3D camera rigs, in this case Red Epics. This review concerns the 2D Blu-ray release, which features a nearly flawless looking 1080p, 1.78:1 transfer. Perry’s tour is so ridiculously colourful, it makes even the Hannah Montana and Jonas Bros. movies seem flat and monochromatic. The concert footage also features a pretty wide range of stylistic lighting and costume designs. For every bright, outrageously candied, overwhelmingly diverse set, there’s a dark set brimming with rich, deep blacks and neon lights that cut out all other hues. The brighter sets and shots of the crowd have plenty of complex patterns and sharply separated elements, while the darker sets and documentary footage features more in the way of fine texture. Contrast levels are set pretty high during the concert, which doesn’t utilize the Red format’s soft hue-blending abilities, but the interview footage mostly makes up for this. The concert stuff is super sharp without any noticeable compression artefacts, even when strobe lights and lasers are overwhelming the composition. I caught basically one shot during the ‘everyone get onstage’ moment where the image appeared particularly grainy or featured any edge enhancement. The handheld documentary stuff is pretty rife with digital grain, but it mostly works for sake of contrasting the elements.
And what’s a concert film without a rich and bouncy, uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack? This film is mostly broken up into documentary and concert sections. The documentary stuff is relatively thin aurally, but has natural, centered dialogue and ambient noise, and is often underlined with the driving drumbeats of her music, which is almost always chopped apart by the interviews. This thin quality creates a huge dynamic range uptake when the film cuts back to full volume concert footage. The concert stuff is certainly very loud, like loud enough that I had to turn down the volume a bit a few times (I’m not open-minded enough to want the neighbors to know what I’m watching…), but is consistently and crisply separated. Instrumental elements are separated among the stereo and center channels, ensuring they rarely trip over each other, though they also do not move directionally depending on camera placement. The rear channels then feature the perfect measure of crowd noise (i.e.: very little, unless we’re between songs) and naturalistic echo effects. The LFE is well-modified between throb and pop throughout without warbling. The non-concert, non-music stereo and surround work is quite minimal, mostly delegated to a sequence where Perry and her sister ride one of those zip-line things.
The extras begin with full concert performances of ‘Last Friday Night’ (4:20, HD) and ‘Waking Up in Vegas’ (4:30, HD). These are technically presented in HD, but actually look kind of terrible and include a whole lot of pixilation and dull contrast levels. Next up is a series of deleted scenes entitled California Dreams Tour: Behind the Scenes, which is broken into six sections: 5, 6, 7…Oops…8 (3:20, HD), BFF (2:40, HD), California Dreams Tour Tattoo (5:50, HD), Surprise (2:00, HD), Celebrities (2:20, HD), and E.T. (3:00, HD). The disc ends with an additional extended scene where Perry’s grandmother talks about making g-strings for showgirls in Vegas (6:00, HD) and an additional deleted scene where Perry and her people prep for her 2011 Grammy performance (5:20, HD).
Here’s the thing about pop music – it is made to appeal to the masses, specifically those most ready to spend money on iTunes, like ‘tweens and teenagers that have just begun losing interest in toys and discovered the joys of disposable income (aka: allowance). It’s not challenging, which is why I tend not to listen to it by choice. But when intelligent people dismiss a song like Perry’s ‘Firework’ outright, due to its sentimental lyrical content and heavy pop production, they also need to recognize that they are limiting their greater appreciation for modern music. The reason ‘Firework’ is a good song is because the melodic progression of the chorus is so good that it would’ve worked just as well with any other style of popular modern music. Change up the rhythm a bit and switch out the lyrics for something just as vapid about being a lonely alcoholic, and bam, you’ve got yourself a great Metallica song. At least that’s my theory. I’m sure someone else has a better, more impassioned one about why Katy Perry is ‘the problem with music today.’ I’m also pretty sure she doesn’t need me defending her. She can just roll in awards and cash whenever she feels sad. Anyway, my opinion probably isn’t going change any others and the people that want this disc have probably already bought a copy.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 18th September 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English Descriptive Track
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Extras: 'Waking Up in Vegas' and 'Last Friday Night' Full Concert Performances, Deleted and Extended Scenes, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz
Cast: Katy Perry, Glen Ballard, Shannon Woodward, Angela Hudson
Length: 93 minutes