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Care to brush up on your Shakespeare? This film will cast your mind back to English class yet have you fascinated by the adaptation in the process. Luhrmann is definitely a creative mind, and his decision to take on a delicate project such as this one came as no surprise. To try and modernise the ancient classic yet retain the original writer’s words throughout was a gutsy move. Thankfully it works.

You all know the tale; the Montagues and the Capulets are the two biggest families living in a place called Verona. A long running feud between the two, often involving guns and destruction, threatens to spill over to the entire city. So when Romeo Montague casts his eyes on the beautiful Juliet Capulet there’s bound to be trouble.

Claire Danes and Leonardo Di Caprio became instant household names after this film, even though Di Caprio may have been idolised by teenage girls following some of his previous work. The casting, as with Strictly Ballroom is brilliant. Danes and Di Caprio light up the screen together and deliver the difficult Shakespeare dialogue with aplomb.

Romeo & Juliet: Special Red Curtain Edition

You can tell right from the outset that this film is going to be a visual feast, not at all a surprise with Luhrmann at the helm. Everything from the flashy costumes, stunning locations and brilliant cinematography screams creativity, helping the audience understand exactly what the characters are saying even though they may have never read Shakespeare at all.

Video
The film is presented in 2.35:1 and is 16:9 enhanced, looking significantly better than the previous bare-bones Region 4 version. A film such as this one cries out for a fantastic transfer so thankfully you won’t be disappointed at all with this disc. All of the bright colours and awesome locations are rendered extremely well, with sharpness and detail definitely at the high end.

Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix also doesn’t disappoint, with the subtle use of surrounds and the subwoofer more than welcome on this disc. Even though you might not understand some of the dialogue it’s due in no part to the sound mix, more so the literary style many will find a little difficult to get used to. But as I’ve mentioned it is a credit to the filmmakers that we can basically understand the gist of their words and realise what is going on, so the soundtrack helps out by making things clear enough to get the picture.

Film soundtracks transferred to retail CD are quite disappointing on the whole, so it is a welcome change when the Romeo & Juliet tracks were released. All of the great songs that run constantly in the background sound particularly well belting out of the surrounds, totally immersive in conjunction with the effects and dialogue. In all, it’s a very solid mix that does justice to the film itself.

Romeo & Juliet: Special Red Curtain Edition

Extras
This time the commentary track with Luhrmann, Martin, co-writer Craig Pearce and director of photography Don McAlpine sounds quite upbeat. It’s a little more structured than the Ballroom track, leading to a heap of relevant information on the production. Again, it’s clear that this team is very close and comfortable working with each other, which is a real bonus in terms of this commentary track.

Also included on this disc is a Director’s gallery, a chance to pick Luhrmann’s brain on various specific topics such as why he chose Shakespeare, the death of one of the characters and the impact of the film overall. This makes for fascinating viewing and really adds some weight behind this extras package. Some clips are quite short but on the whole there’s a wealth of information included with this one.

The cinematographer’s gallery is in the same vein but a lot more brief. Don McAlpine comments on a handful of scenes from the film, which is also quite interesting to listen to. This is coupled with Catherine Martin’s design gallery, which covers the aesthetic decisions made with the costumes and props, another worthy addition to the disc.

The interviews section cover most of the main crew as well as Di Caprio, Danes and John Leguizamo, who plays Tybalt. Most of them are quite short but are worth a look nonetheless. The rest of the extras include film clips for Kissing You and Young Hearts Run Free, a marketing section with TV spots, trailers and posters and a script-to-screen comparison for your DVD-ROM drive. Overall, a very solid package that will appease all but the most die-hard of R & J fans.  

Romeo & Juliet: Special Red Curtain Edition

Overall
This film has finally been given the treatment it deserves. A brilliantly constructed film balancing the delicate task of using Shakespeare in a modern setting extremely well. The transfer does justice to the carefully planned shots, costumes and sets, while the audio belts out the great music tracks wonderfully. The new extras make the package very solid and will appeal to all fans of the film. A great DVD that again fits in perfectly with the Red Curtain Box of Luhrmann’s films.


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