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Blu-ray Review: Don Juan DeMarco

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Romance. It’s that thing women fantasize about, and men just sort of shrug their shoulders at, mistaking it for something called “sex.” In 1994, New Line Cinema granted writer/director Jeremy Leven (who would go on to bring us The Legend of Bagger Vance and Real Steel) permission to film his own novella, Don Juan DeMarco and the Centerfold into a feature-length romantic dramedy film. And, just to sell the essence of romance and sex to both genders, he cast the one man that all women swoon over and men yearn to be like in the lead: a fat Marlon Brando. Oh, and some guy named Johnny Depp, too.

At this point in the late actor’s life, Marlon Brando had ballooned out to morbidly-obese proportions that would have had Orson Welles shake his head with shame. Meanwhile, young Johnny Depp was beginning to finally crawl out of that eccentric outsider shell he and filmmakers like Tim Burton and Benny & Joon director Jeremiah S. Chechik had built for him; alas, his role in Don Juan DeMarco (as Don Juan DeMarco) is indeed that of another eccentric outsider — though one of the most mainstream eccentric outsiders he has ever played. And the reason for that is that his character is flat-out crazy.

Don Juan DeMarco is a young 21-year-old lad who dons an attire similar to that of Zorro’s, and who fancies himself to be the legendary fictional lover, Don Juan. His own public attempt at suicide is hindered by a kindly old psychiatrist, Dr. Jack Mickler (Brando), who befriends the confused lad and convinces him to undergo ten days of psychiatric treatment at the mental hospital where he works. Mickler himself is only ten days away from retiring from the establishment — an institution that seems more than happy to just pump its patients full of drugs and release them after the trial period has ended.

Mickler, being a swell guy in general (in every respect), refuses to treat his final patient with drugs. Actually, he finds Don Juan to be a very enlightening character — one who not only has a great (unbelievable) tale to tell about his past, but whose apparent knowledge of the intricacies of everlasting romance intrigues the analyst, causing him to realize that his own sense of ardor for his wife (Faye Dunaway) may not be deceased as he has presumed it to be. With his feeling for feeling reinstated, Mickler not only begins to re-woo his spouse, but also starts to defy his superiors on how to treat Don Juan before the ten-day evaluation ends and the head doctors employ pills to “cure” the young nutter.

Most films from the past have this tendency to unceremoniously age — sometimes long before the very decade they’re produced in comes to an end. With the case of Don Juan DeMarco, however, the aging process is more like maturing. The film only grows more graceful with time, especially to those who are beginning to advance in years themselves and may find the borders of romance shrinking. Seventeen years after its 1995 theatrical release (which really isn’t that long of a period), the Francis Ford Coppola-produced tale of love still manages to delight viewers.

Heck, even the now-forgotten Bryan Adams song “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” (which was a hit for a while there, and was played incessantly by radio stations in the mid ’90s) has become slightly-more tolerable again after all these years. The fact that the love ballad has gone by the wayside in terms of contemporary media programming helps as well, mind you. In fact, I was even able to sit through the music video for “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” that accompanies this Warner Brothers Blu-ray presentation — amusing myself at how ’90s-made vignettes look today. An additional special feature — an isolated music score for the film showcasing Michael Kamen’s work — is also included.

Transfer-wise, Warner’s presentation of Don Juan DeMarco is a beautiful one. In fact, it’s probably as good as a film made in 1994 will probably ever look, and adequately presents Ralf Bode’s cinematography perfectly. Likewise, the disc’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack delivers remarkably, despite not having very much to work with in the first place (this isn’t Die Hard with a Vengeance, you know). Interestingly, there are several alternate audio options found on this release, ranging from Castilian Spanish to Czech, and subtitles varying between Portuguese to Romanian — which concludes this must be a Region Free release (and it is).


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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.