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DVD at last, but spoiled by technical flaws
on 7 September 2002
I first saw this movie in 1985 at The Screen on Baker Street, and I still remember that the soundtrack was turned up painfully loud. Nevertheless, I loved the movie and I have watched it countless times since on VHS. Strange, then, to find that the long-awaited DVD issue also has major problems with the soundtrack. Nevertheless, whilst my first instinct was to send this the way of the broken R2 Blade Runner DVD (i.e. back to the shop), I persevered and decided to keep the disc after all.
Specifically, then. My ecstasy at finding a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on the DVD was short-lived because, despite Ry Cooder's beautiful stereo backing to the menus, the original soundtrack has NOT been remixed from the original recording. It looks like a quieter version of the existing soundtrack has merely been piped out of the rear speakers, drawing us a little bit further into the experience. HOWEVER, none of this even matters because the movie is unwatchable with the Dolby Digital soundtrack because the lipsync is completely broken.
Thankfully, there is a workaround: the Dolby Stereo soundtrack DOES lipsync correctly and hence redeems what would otherwise have been an outrageous, not to say extremely disappointing, fiasco. Luckily the only other significant flaw - a vertical yellow line at the left-hand side of the image during the opening desert scene - disappears after a few minutes. I assume this was a flaw in the print, although it seems odd that it couldn't have been corrected digitally. The strange green colour casts in several interior and night scenes looked odd at first, but the director's commentary explained that these were deliberate and I can only assume that the VHS release to which I'd gotten used had been colour-corrected to some degree.
I was disappointed to find no proper documentaries on the DVD, but the deleted scenes are interesting and the Wim Wenders commentary gives a great insight into the craft of 'proper' movie-making in a pre-digital world. It's also intriguing to discover that more than half of Paris, Texas, surely one of the greatest road movies, was actually written on the road during the shooting of the first half of the movie.
Disappointments aside, this is currently the best way to view this classic movie, in a 16:9 ratio and with passable (if resolutely monaural) sound. The extras add significant value to the package, in particular the director's commentary on both the movie itself and the deleted scenes. There aren't too many other extras, but for what is basically a low-budget independent movie we can count ourselves lucky that they found anything at all.