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 Post subject: Denise Calls Up (1995) [82546]
PostPosted: 29 Dec 2019, 13:04 
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Denise Calls Up

NTSC LBX 1:85 Dolby rot

A leftover in several senses from the `90s, this is the sort of movie you may remember having once seen the preview of which when something jogs your memory. A hazy recollection of a preview is probably the best way to come across Denise Calls Up, as unfortunately it now seems to belong to hallowed Indie ground where everything so-not-mainstream is worshipped blindly and loudly, meaning internet reviews will celebrate it like the invention of the telephone.
The telephone is of course the name of the game. Each character spends the entirety of his screen time on the phone. Mainly these are house phones; gratefully the ringers aren't crazy loud the way those in most thrillers or movies of every kind from the `80s and before are. Still, because of this I didn't sample the Dolby audio; as usual the LD stereo is rich relative to the source, but there is never a saturation of audio sources in the chambers where each character talks into his phone.
The strength of Denise Calls Up is its loyalty to its theme. About twenty minutes in there is a lull of creativity where the stammering, noncommunication, and nincompoopery feels like Seinfeld, but that passes to some genuinely funny and adroitly underplayed exchanges, then by the side flip the film has established itself as a quality, distinctive piece. Its weaknesses are in its failure to technically develop its theme. Some split screen dialogue would have been preferable to the constant back and forth cuts (though there's a purpose to that), while keeping the camera on only one character would have elevated certain conversations.
Another weakness is the misleading cover, as Tim Daly's is not the central character, at least not in screen time. Not that he's a great actor, but had his been that aforementioned lull could have been averted. On the other hand, the backside write-up conveys an unusually truthful idea of what you're getting into.
The tone is a little subdued. Another way of putting that is the dialogue and events are weaker than the motif. But the motif of everybody being separated across a phone line nonetheless makes the goings-on more interesting than if everybody were spitting this stuff at each other face to face. The tone is also one of futility, comic futility with a muted `90s sensibility, at odds both to `90s sitcoms (I mentioned Seinfeld when Denise Calls Up sputters) and that sort of 2000s bitter aimless indie stuff Catherine Keener populates fifty percent of.
The LD image is quite good. Letterboxing relieves the continual presence of a single face at a time by keeping extra details in the picture, although it is all pretty static.
At only 80 minutes of film the package could have contained some trailers or relics of its favorable press from Cannes.

Final Impression: 3/5 stars. I did laugh a couple times and come away with a distinct impression. Recommended for cheap--more than a throw-in, but not worth holding out for a sealed copy.
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