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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: April 25th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1989

Speaking Parts

Overview -

Atom Egoyan’s 1989 film Speaking Parts is a moody, surrealistic drama about the power of obsession, image, and connection. The film sees the intertwining lives of three characters as they struggle with their dependence on specific images. Dark and atmospheric, Egoyan’s film is a thought-provoking experiment worth experiencing. The Blu-ray disc from Canadian International  Pictures and OCN Distribution provides an excellent A/V package and a wealth of bonus features. Recommended

Love. Passion. Obsession.

Hotel employee Lisa (The Sweet Hereafter’s Arsinée Khanjian) develops an obsession with her co-worker Lance (Dog Park’s Michael McManus), a struggling actor who has appeared in several films as an extra. With the help of a local video store, Lisa carefully investigates Lance’s body of work, as he undergoes his own pursuit – of screenwriter Clara (The Stepfather’s Gabrielle Rose) and a film role inspired by her late brother. As their connection grows, this production’s ties to reality start to unravel… and so do our three protagonists.

One of the most singular and defining films from celebrated Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan (The Adjuster, Exotica), Speaking Parts mixes the all-consuming video addictions of Videodrome with an artfully perverse exploration of fractured inner lives. Produced in collaboration with Egoyan, this deluxe special edition also includes three of the filmmaker’s early shorts and Sarabande, his little-seen 1997 film starring Khanjian, Yo-Yo Ma, Don McKellar, and Lori Singer.

directed by: Atom Egoyan
starring: Arsinée Khanjian, Michael McManus, Gabrielle Rose, David Hemblen, Tony Nardi, Gerard Parkes, Franco Tata
1989 / 92 min / 1.85:1 / English DTS-HD MA 2.0

Additional info:

  • Region A Blu-ray
  • Scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm interpositive
  • New audio commentary featuring Atom Egoyan and actress Arsinée Khanjian
  • Archival audio commentary featuring Egoyan
  • Scoring Parts (2022, 22 min.) – New interview with composer Mychael Danna
  • A Different Breed (2022, 20 min.) – Former TIFF CEO Piers Handling reflects on Egoyan in the ’80s
  • Archival interview with Egoyan (1989, 6 min.)
  • Deleted scenes with commentary (2002, 7 min.)
  • Afterword featuring Egoyan and Khanjian (2022, 18 min.)
  • Sarabande (1997, 56 min.)
  • Sarabande introduction by Egoyan (1998, 2 min.)
  • New Sarabande audio commentary featuring Egoyan and Khanjian
  • Egoyan student shorts Howard in Particular (1979, 13 min.), Peep Show (1981, 7 min.), and Open House (1982, 26 min.) with new introductions by the filmmaker
  • Booklet featuring an essay by professor/author Ron Burnett
  • Reversible cover artwork
  • English SDH subtitles for all five films

Purchase Original Edition From Vinegar Syndrome.

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray Disc
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
92
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Special Features:
2022 Audio Commentary Track, Archival Audio Commentary Track, Scoring Parts Interview (22mins), A Different Breed Interview (20mins), Archival Egoyan Interview (5mins), Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (7mins), Afterward Audio Piece (17mins), Short Film Sarabande with Optional Commentary (56mins)
Release Date:
April 25th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

“You just gotta know which buttons to push.”

Speaking Parts follows three characters as their obsession with electronic images reveals the deeper connections between them. We’re introduced to Lance (Michael McManus, Lexx), a working actor who has yet to land a speaking role. He works as a housekeeper at an expensive hotel where he moonlights as a gigolo.  Lisa (Arsinee Khanjian, Lost in Armenia) works in the hotel and is obsessed with Lance and his films. She visits the local video store and frequently checks out his tapes only to watch his scenes. Lance shrugs off her awkward advances. Finally, we meet Clara (Gabrielle Rose, The Sweet Hereafter), a screenwriter struggling to get a script approved by her director. She checks into the hotel, drawing Lance’s attention. As each character works to achieve their dreams with the help of electronic images, their realities become skewed.  

Speaking Parts is a cautionary tale about the power of technology and its ability to change our perceptions of reality. Much has changed since 1989, but Egoyan’s sentiments are still relevant in the Zoom age. As our three characters engage with various video screens, an alienating atmosphere develops in which the monitors aren’t welcome but a necessary evil. Alone in her spartan living room, Lisa sits on the floor watching Lance’s videos. Roses surround her TV as she pours herself into the flickering images. Clara sits in a mausoleum. Her brother’s vault stone was replaced with a video screen showing home movies of them together. Lance has sex with Clara over video chat, using his body to secure a part in her film. Every instance of video screens transports them outside reality, struggling to achieve their hopes and dreams. This juxtaposition of reality and surreality is what gives the film a stylish and experimental access to the story. 

Speaking Parts comments on the power of distance and our need to find connection, whether through screens, writing stories to preserve memories, or touching someone physically. The quiet moodiness rings loud as the characters navigate these connections. Sustained sequences without dialogue help build tension along with eerie synth scoring. Each character is grasping for meaning and happiness as their lives are complicated in the search for connection. Lisa finds solace in the videotapes. Clara finds meaning in sharing her brother’s story for millions to see. Lance is the puppet of his job’s management, pimping out his body while his mind is clearly focused on acting. Atom’s scenes are meticulously crafted with the glowing blue light of video screens, highlighting darkness and shadow. 

Performances are engaging and brimming with emotion. McManus carries his performance through his eyes hidden behind strands of curly hair. Rose’s vulnerable intensity and Lisa’s searing obsession play out marvelously against each other. Their motivations are sometimes unclear, giving the perception that anything can happen. Most scenes are minimalist, with little dialogue or camera movement, which can be daunting to some viewers. 

In an interview on the disc, Egoyan references Fritz Lang's Liliom from 1934, where a character is on trial. The accused sees their actions presented to them on a film screen. Their inner thoughts are heard on voice-over. It was truly a revolutionary moment in cinema and one that would inspire Egoyan to harness the power of images for the film. In the 1980s, the future was on our doorstep. It was filled with technology that could transport a version of us anywhere. Speaking Parts succeeds in providing a captivating visual language to convey the inner demons of this technology. Comparisons to Videodrome and Sex, Lies, and Videotape are frequent, but neither offer Egoyan’s signature moody arthouse atmosphere. 

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Speaking Parts arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of CIP and OCN Distribution. The disc is housed in a transparent keep case with reversible artwork and an insert booklet.  Loading the disc presents the Canadian International Pictures (CIP) logo before landing on the Main Menu screen. Typical navigation options appear below scenes from the film playing on repeat. 

Video Review

Ranking:

This new HD transfer of Speaking Parts was scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm interpositive. The film is presented in an AVC-encoded 1080p HD image in the original 1.85:1.  Over the image is a knockout with Inky black levels and a stable grain field. Primaries are strong, with reds and blues vying for dominance in nearly every frame. Most of the film is set within darkened interiors, which Egoyan fills with texture. This transfer provides plenty of detail within shadows, giving us an excellent view of his morose production design. Fibrous textures in costuming and facial features appear in great detail within closeups. 

Audio Review

Ranking:

Speaking Parts arrives with a single DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track. Dialogue is clear and clean. Synth scoring is melodramatic and eerie. Effects are sharp, whether it's tape cases opening or door knobs clacking. Egoyan keeps tensions high throughout the feature with scoring elements but otherwise maintains a minimalist approach to the sound design. 

Special Features

Ranking:

CIP and OCN have loaded the disc with a wealth of bonus features: multiple commentary tracks, short films, and interviews.  I recommend watching the short films before checking out the interviews and commentaries. It's all golden for fans of Egoyan and independent Canadian cinema of the 80's. 

  • 2022 Audio Commentary Atom Egoyan and actress Arsinée Khanjian
  • Archival Audio Commentary with the Director Atom Egoyan
  • Scoring Parts (HD 22:21) A 2022 interview with composer Mychael Danna speaks about his career, meeting Egoyan, and collaborating with him on Speaking Parts
  • A Different Breed (HD 20:11) A 2022 featurette with former TIFF CEO Piers Handling reflects on Egoyan in the ’80s and his place within Canadian film development. 
  • Archival Interview with Egoyan (HD 5:48) A 1986 CityTV interview with Egoyan in which the director discusses his motivations and personal influences on his work. 
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (HD 6:45) Scenes cut from the film with an optional commentary from Egoyan. This featurette was ported over from the film's 2002 Kino Lorber DVD release. 
  • Afterword featuring Egoyan and Khanjian (HD 17:33) This audio piece from 2022 features the director and star discussing the film’s relevance today and its spiritual roots. 
  • Sarabande Introduction (HD 1:46) Egoyan speaks about his experience listening to Yo-Yo Ma. 
  • Sarabande Audio Commentary featuring Egoyan and Khanjian
  • Sarabande (HD 56:04) A 1997 Egoyan short film that was part of a series of six features with the generic title “Yo-Yo Ma Inspired by Bach,” The film stars Arsinée Khanjian, Yo-Yo Ma, and Lori Singer in an intertwined drama scored by the famed cellist’s rendition of Bach’s Suite No. 4. 
  • Egoyan Short Films:
  • Howard in Particular (HD 12:40) An Egoyan short film from 1979 during his film school days. Here we get a surreal examination of one man’s retirement through the lens of the capitalist machine treating workers as disposable objects. 
  • Director Introduction to Howard in Particular (HD 6:33) Egoyan discusses his influences for the film, including an extended discussion on Samuel Beckett. 
  • Peep Show (HD 7:13) Film student Egoyan riffs on the alienating effects of technology in this 1981 surrealistic rotoscoped oddity. 
  • Director Introduction to Peep Show (HD 1:45) The director briefly discusses the technical rotoscoping technique used in the film. 
  • Open House (HD 25:49) A real estate agent attempts to sell a home to a young couple. Bizarre and foreboding, the film deals with family grief and hiding the past. 
  • Director Introduction to Open House (HD 1:29) Egoyan’s first drama with actors utilizing a professional camera. Here he examines his early years crafting a narrative feature.    
  • Insert Booklet with an essay by Professor Ron Burnett that was originally published as an introduction to the screenplay in 1993. 

Final Thoughts

Stylish and compelling, the images presented offer something new with each viewing. Egoyan’s dark and surrealistic view of human connections smartly uses electronic video as a cautionary tale. His other features may have received more acclaim, but Speaking Parts captures Egoyan at his most experimental. The Blu-ray from CIP and OCN Distribution presents an excellent A/V package paired with a wealth of bonus features. Recommended

Order your copy of Speaking Parts on Blu-ray