Tuesday, June 26, 2007

[DVD] Barton Fink (1991)

DVD Cover

This is my first time viewing a Coen Brothers movie, so why not start with one which had won them the 1991 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or award for Best Direction, and a movie which had also garnered an award for Best Actor in that same festival year for lead John Turturro as the titular character.

Barton Fink is a successful playwright, the talk of NY City after the staging of a highly successful play to the delight of critics. His ability and dream of writing for the theatre about the common man, for the common man, strikes box office gold, and while his intentions are noble, let's face it, a man's still gotta pay his bills. An opportunity arose with an offering from Hollywood in getting him to write a studio's wrestling picture. So off he goes to the West Coast, but all he could muster was one line, before being struck by writer's block.

His prima dona demeanour and intentions somehow strike a chord in me, in that there are folks out there who have a distain for the rather formulaic Hollywood movies that get churned year after year. There's little creativity that goes around to come up with something different, and plenty of rehashing the same old tried and tested material to pull wool over audiences. With Barton's passionate speeches about his noble ideas, you can't help but to agree with the imperfection of the system.

And there are plenty of wry humour in the movie, most of which slyly prods the Hollywood studio system of yesteryear. You can't help but laugh at the veiled references, especially that of having a clueless head honcho who's in the film business not for the love of films, but in it for the profits (hey, it's a business after all). But it's not always about the movie business, as a good part of the movie also focused on Fink's friendship and camaraderie with his hotel neighbour, a certain insurance salesman called Charlie Meadows. an affable man who's more than meets the eye.

I'm quite certain that Barton Fink has more subtexts and harbours a lot more depth that I would have gleaned from superficially from the first viewing, and certainly, this movie deserves at least a second viewing or more. With plenty of interesting dialogue laced with quick, dark wit, and interesting incidents encountered by Barton Fink, this movie is beautifully shot, especially the finale containing an pseudo action sequence.

Code 1 DVD by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment comes in widescreen anamorphic with aspect ratio 1.66:1. Visual transfer is crisp, and audio comes in English Dolby Digital 2.0, or English, Spanish and French Mono. Subtitles are in English or Spanish. Scene selection is spread over 28 chapters.

The special features contain only the photography stills (21 of them), and trailers for this movie, Raising Arizona and Miller's Crossing. The only other major extra is the collection of 8 deleted scenes, and usually is the edited portions of scenes in the movie (versus additional ones). What's neat is those portions that remain in the movie are recollected in black and white, while the deleted parts remain in colour. The 8 scenes are Richard and Poppy Loved the Play (0:40), Garland's Pitch on Hollywood (3:25), Desk Clerk Calls Barton (1:16), Barton Bonds with Charlie (1:04), Barton Meets Mayhew (0:43), Sink Overflowing (1:10), Detectives are Downstairs (2:27) and A Note Under the Door (0:55).

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