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Nine DVD Review

Nine (2009) movie poster Nine

Theatrical Release: December 18, 2009 / Running Time: 118 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Rob Marshall / Writers: Michael Tolkin, Anthony Minghella (screenplay); Arthur Kopit (Broadway musical book); Mario Fratti (musical adaptation); Maury Yeston (music & lyrics)

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis (Guido Contini), Marion Cotillard (Luisa Acari/Contini), Penélope Cruz (Carla Albanese), Judi Dench (Lilli La Fleur), Fergie (Saraghina), Kate Hudson (Stephanie), Nicole Kidman (Claudia Jenssen), Sophia Loren (Mamma), Ricky Tognazzi (Dante), Giuseppe Cederna (Fausto), Valerio Mastandrea (De Rossi), Elio Germano (Pierpaolo), Martina Stella (Donatella), Roberto Nobile (Jaconelli), Andrea Di Stefano (Benito), Roberto Citran (Doctor Rondi)

Songs: "Overture Delle Donne", "Guido's Song", "A Call from the Vatican", "Folies Bergères", "Be Italian", "My Husband Makes Movies", "Cinema Italiano", "Guarda La Luna", "Unusual Way", "Take It All", "I Can't Make This Movie"

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The film Nine is adapted from the 1982 Broadway musical, which itself was adapted from Federico Fellini's 1963 film . Nine is the third theatrical release directed by Rob Marshall, whose previous stage-to-screen adaptation, Chicago (2002), set box office records and won the Best Picture Oscar.

Remaining fairly faithful to Fellini's semi-autobiographical classic, Nine centers on a 1960s Italian film director named Guido Contini (played by the ever-professional Daniel Day-Lewis). Press from all over the world have no shortage of questions for Guido, who in turn has no desire to answer any of them. Wishing his work could speak for itself, Guido is busily planning his next project. It is called Italia and that is all that has been worked out, despite a looming production start.

Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), the paparazzi magnet protagonist of "Nine", is rarely seen without a cigarette on hand. Fellow 2008 leading actor Oscar winner Marion Cotillard plays Luisa Contini (née Acari), who gave up stardom to be Guido's wife.

Guido's life is hectic enough without the ambition of telling his nation's story in a symbolic fashion.
Rather than embarking on the hounded director's creative journey, Nine depicts the many human obstacles standing in the way of (and also influencing) his art. Specifically, a number of women from his past and present turn up for songs of reflection, evaluation, and stimulation.

High among these females are Guido's sufferable wife, his former star Luisa (Marion Cotillard), and his passionate, equally-married mistress Carla (Penélope Cruz), who is only somewhat willing to lay low at beck and call. There is also Guido's muse of a regular leading lady, actress Claudia Jenssen (Nicole Kidman), his loyal longtime costume designer Lilli La Fleur (Judi Dench), and Stephanie (Kate Hudson), a smitten American reporter for Vogue magazine. Still lingering in mind from Guido's childhood are his mother (Sophia Loren, the one Italian leading cast member) and the curvy beach prostitute (Fergie, of the Black Eyed Peas) who thrilled boys with sexy dancing for a price.

With the Italia script still not written, Guido struggles to make sense of the love he holds for all these different women.

Playing Guido's mistress Carla, Penelope Cruz sings and dances atop a black mirror's reflection of herself clad in fancy underwear. Stepping out from her romantic comedy comfort zone, Kate Hudson plays Vogue fashion reporter Stephanie, who sings the energetic ode "Cinema Italiano", one of the film's three original songs.

The lyrics of the musical numbers, all but three of which emanate from the play, aren't always the most profound. But they are performed with gusto and each is cleverly and distinctly staged. The songs serve the film well, developing characters and situations without piling up to bloatedness or stalling the story. Marshall balances psychology and spectacle, never getting heavy but sparing us the oh-gee humor that turned me off from Chicago. The comparable anguishes of filmmaking and figuring out what the heart wants are both adequately conveyed and that feat alone qualifies Nine as a success.

Though this is one of the lighter-hearted films in his selectively staggered, densely-acclaimed career, Daniel Day-Lewis doesn't approach the material casually. He delivers an unwavering Italian accent and prevents his weary, sunglassed, smoky protagonist from being the caricature he easily could be. There isn't a weak performance surrounding him, as the supporting players provide the stage presence and energy to make their limited screentime felt throughout. None particularly stands out above the rest, although Cotillard and Cruz get to do a little more acting. This is one of the first credits post-Almost Famous that Kate Hudson can stand to take pride in.

As Italian beach whore Saraghina, Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson thrills young boys with her erotic dance moves in this intercut black and white flashback scene. Although it's reasonable to assume that "Nine" refers to the number of focal women in Guido's life, a count of this group shot reveals that to be false. In fact, the title adds a fraction to 8½, which by Fellini's math was his eighth and a half film as director.

Long before its theatrical release, Nine was foreseen as the film to beat for the Academy's Best Picture award. There wasn't just the possibility of Marshall repeating the success of his decorated debut. There was the cast full of recent Oscar winners and critical favorites. Perhaps more importantly, there was the subject matter, inviting an always desirable romantic period setting and calling back to the most admired creation of one of cinema's most esteemed classic auteurs.
This film of course had a December release date and the high expectations that come with it, which were nothing new to producer Harvey Weinstein (although they've yet to become the norm at his young namesake studio).

The seemingly direct path to awards glory took a wrong turn when Nine got hit by surprisingly cool reviews. The critical disapproval didn't shut out this much-anticipated musical from the awards scene altogether, but it did render it less than a powerhouse player. Three of the film's four Oscar nominations came in technical categories: costume design, art direction, and song; the fourth was for Penélope Cruz, earning a chance to repeat her previous Supporting Actress win. The film earned more and more meaningful nominations from the Golden Globes and the International Press' Satellite Awards, the latter ceremony being one of the few Nine didn't leave empty-handed.

With The Weinstein Company experiencing financial difficulties (which Nine compounded, failing to earn back even a quarter of its $80 million budget in domestic exhibitions), its home video arm Genius Products was purchased by Vivendi Entertainment last year. Now, Weinstein has partnered with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on a new long-term home video distribution deal. Nine becomes the first Sony-distributed Weinstein film when it comes to DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow.

Buy Nine on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Commentary & Featurettes Subtitled
Release Date: May 4, 2010
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $28.95
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc


Nine bounces between a grainy black and white vintage look and clear, colorful footage. Both appearances satisfy in the DVD's nice 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Visuals rank among the film's strengths, and this presentation doesn't fail to impress. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack also gets the job done, allowing the music to maintain a wide, constant presence and aptly mixing the elements so that none drowns out the others.

Sophia Loren, the most seasoned (and only Italian) lead actor, discusses what it's like to be one of "The Women of 'Nine'." Sand is poured onto a miniature of the film's ambitious main set in "The Look of 'Nine'." Director Rob Marshall tells aspiring Nine dancers what he's looking for in their group audition.


A pretty full slate of special features begins with an audio commentary by director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca. It is a little underwhelming, as they compliment everyone's performances and regularly resort to narrating or decoding the drama of scenes that is already clear. The track seems to lack an insider's perspective beyond spouting out some filming locations or conditions.
But a few interesting remarks do emerge, regarding specific contributions of screenwriter Anthony Minghella (who prematurely passed away before production), the process of casting actors before writing the script, and their black & white Italian cinema influences. This definitely isn't a must-hear commentary, but it's also not a complete waste.

Next up come eight featurettes.

"The Incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis" (5:05) lets co-stars and Marshall describe Nine's leading man, painting a flattering picture of an insanely committed method actor. We also get a little of Day-Lewis' perspective. "The Women of Nine" (10:45) discusses casting the eight main female parts, with the actresses and their collaborators weighing in on the experience. You'll never guess what "Director Rob Marshall" (6:20) gathers comments on. The cast offers the expected praise, but gets specific about Marshall's methods, some of which B-roll shows. "Behind The Look of Nine" (8:20) turns our attentions to the film's cinematography, costumes, and production design none too interestingly.

"The Dancers of Nine" (4:35) shows us video of the men and women auditioning to play background dancers in the film, gleaming comments from some hopefuls and crew members. "The Choreography of 'Be Italian'" (4:10) documents the rehearsal for Fergie's sandy stage number. "Making of 'Cinema Italiano'" (2:50) lets Kate Hudson discuss the challenges of singing her number, written for the film. "The Choreography of 'Cinema Italiano'" (8:35) gives a truer making-of, covering the creation of the fast-paced song and its flashy, bold staging.

Wearing white, Fergie stands out from her backup dancers in "The Choreography of 'Be Italian.'" Marion Cotillard keeps her clothes on while recording "Take It All" in the Oscar-nominated song's music video. Nicole Kidman makes an appearance on the Nine DVD main menu.

The DVD extras conclude with three music videos. Kate Hudson's "Cinema Italiano" (3:45) opens with her and Fergie joking, then proceeds to cut between the scene in the film and black & white footage of Hudson recording her vocals. Marion Cotillard's "Take It All" (3:35) takes a similar approach, but relies more on the actress' studio sessions (in color) and behind-the-scenes rehearsals and less on clips of the film's striptease number. Finally, "Unusual Way" (3:40) is performed not by Nicole Kidman but Griffith Frank, a stubbly young man whose dramatic rendition gets edited with a variety of film clips.

Exclusive to the Blu-ray release are the featurette "Sophia Loren Remembers Cinecittà" (about the Italian cinema hub in which Fellini and Nine both filmed), a Screen Actor's Guild Q & A session, and the BD-Live feature movieIQ+sync.

Trailers play at the start of the disc for The Road, A Single Man, Extraordinary Measures, and Not the Messiah: He's a Very Naughty Boy. These are joined on the accessible previews menus by promos for The Young Victoria, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Back-up Plan, Dear John, An Education, Bright Star, Michael Jackson's This Is It, and "Drop Dead Diva": The Complete First Season.

The DVD's main menu sets an upbeat montage of clips to "Be Italian." Most of the static submenus feature a different one of Guido's women.

Inside the environmentally-cut black keepcase, a 4-page insert promotes a Roman holiday sweepstakes and serves up coupons for Classico sauces and Frommer travel guides.

Guido Contini's (Daniel Day-Lewis) doubts about creating an epic film titled "Italia" come to a head while an actress' nervous screen test is projected behind him.


Nine may have gotten lower marks, lesser returns, and far fewer awards than Rob Marshall's first musical film, but I found it to be considerably more appealing than Chicago. Much of that may be due to Nine having a stronger foundation story, but it's also better executed.

The many who didn't see Nine in theaters ought to check this musical out on disc. The fine DVD will meet most expectations, with a satisfactory feature presentation, a decent hour of video bonuses (though suspiciously no deleted scenes or songs), and an average audio commentary. This debut Weinstein-Sony partnership establishes that the co-releases will remain close to Sony's standards, which is probably for the best.

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The Cast of Nine:
Daniel Day-Lewis: There Will Be Blood | Nicole Kidman: AustraliaEyes Wide ShutMargot at the Wedding
Judi Dench: Die Another DayHome on the Range | Penelope Cruz: G-Force

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Reviewed May 3, 2010.

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