Based on a series of avant-garde vines by creator Albert Birney, Sylvio is the story of Baltimore-based gorilla Sylvio Bernardi’s rise and fall from local TV fame. Sylvio’s droll 9-to-5 is interrupted when he is sent to collect the debt of a small talk show producer, and is mistaken for a juggling guest. The fallout of Sylvio’s clumsy juggling is not just broken vases–the viewers fall in love with Sylvio’s chaotic and destructive ape persona. As a result, Sylvio’s personal preferences for tender puppetry and delicate stop motion are put at direct odds with the character he finds himself playing for his human viewers. As Sylvio’s identity crisis mounts fantasy and reality poetically blur to reveal that he has been fighting the “beast” image for years. Sylvio is a downright lovely and absurdist cult classic that speaks to anyone who fails to live out their stereotype.
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Sylvio comes to Blu-Ray in a 1080p presentation that brings this to life very well. While we cannot find definitive clarification, this feature appears to have been shot digitally but given a 16mm pass like the duo did with Strawberry Mansion, at least when it comes to the Herbert Herpels videos. What grain is featured is resolved well without anything seeming too clumpy. While not quite as fantastical as that feature, Sylvio has a very distinct reality filled with whimsy. This primarily takes place in the winter, so shots of nature are slightly tinged with death, but these landscapes and other environments showcase a tremendous amount of detail.
There are splashes of bright colors within the production design that make an impression. Interiors are typically a more conservative environment, especially in the office, which presents with more moderate tones that the presentation translates perfectly. Highlights are handled effortlessly, along with the deep blacks that do not appear to suffer from any compression artifacts. Skin tones look detailed and natural all around, and the texture of Sylvio’s appearance comes through well. We are grateful to have this one looking so good on Blu-Ray.
The Blu-Ray disc comes with both a DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Master Audio track in the original English that captures this narrative well. Dialogue comes through clear and precise without ever being overshadowed by the sound effects or the score. This is far from an action-heavy film, but activity in the low end does pop up in some instances. The score is important to establishing the mood of the feature, and it fills the room appropriately. Environmental effects create a really unique soundscape of nature and noises of the artistic pieces. The sound design positions all the sounds carefully in the mix. This audio experience delivers everything that is asked of it. This disc offers optional English SDH subtitles.
- Audio Commentary: Directors Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney provide a really fun and informative commentary track recorded in 2022 in which they delve into their inspiration and motivations behind different creative decisions, premiering at SXSW, the origins from the Vine videos, the music in the film, how they crafted different aspects of the production design and more. This enhances your appreciation of the film even more.
- Deleted Scenes: A selection of unused material totaling 27 minutes is provided here including more work with the miniatures, abstract talk shows and more that fit in with the absurdity of this world.
- Theatrical Trailer: The two-and-a-half minute trailer is provided here.
- Kickstarter Video: The two-minute Kickstarter promotional video is provided here
- Bonus Films
- Gorilla Video: A minute-long meta video about individuals being fed up with technology.
- Beach Birdie: A minute-long trip to the beach with Sylvio.
- Stomach Virus: A minute-and-a-half video in which Sylvio faces the consequences of being unhygienic.
- Banana Moon: A three-minute sci-fi dream with Sylvio.
- “Run To Your Bedroom” – Carol Cleveland Sings Music Video (2:47)
- “Hiding Records” – Teen Men Music Video (3:04)
- “The Sea, The Sea” – Teen Men Music Video (2:30)
- Quiet Times: A 13-minute piece with the puppet show that Sylvio puts on in the film.
- The Quiet Times with Herbert Herpels (Collected Episodes): A 14-minute collection of Herbert Herpels adventures.
- Original Vines: All 800+ vines from the Simply Sylvio series created between April 2013 and November 2016 are included here in one 85 minute video.
Sylvio is the type of film which captures the magic of independent cinema. Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney have an admirable way of working with one another to create something that feels completely unique to their vision. The concept may seem a bit silly, but it is played so earnestly that you find yourself completely invested in this character and his place in the world. The themes of artistic integrity and longing for a connection are effectively realized within a well constructed narrative. Music Box Films Home Entertainment has delivered a Blu-Ray featuring a fantastic A/V presentation and a surplus of special features. If you like scrappy independent filmmaking with clever ideas, give this one a shot. Highly Recommended
Sylvio is currently available to purchase on Standard Edition Blu-Ray or with a Limited Edition Slipcover exclusively through Vinegar Syndrome.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Music Box Films Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.