Cover Art and Menu: 9/10
This is a movie about a solitary man, so the cover is spot on. It shows Robert Duvall sitting alone looking, well, lonely. I like Home Vision DVD’s and I appreciate their design for covers and menus. This menu is pretty basic, but with the simple beauty of the movie, it makes perfect sense.
Extras & Features: 7/10
- New Digital Transfer – The movie looks fantastic and consider the age of the film that is quite an achievement. I applaud those little digital transfer elves who spend countless hours making sure these movies fly into the 21st century with a lot of class.
- New interview with Duval and Foote – A wonderful interview with Robert Duvall and Writer Horton Foote who laugh it up and talk candidly about making the movie. This is a power pair in terms of American film history and I am thrilled to have the chance to hear them chat about their own careers and their impressions of film making.
- Original Faulkner Short Story – You can read the original short story that inspired the play and ultimately this film.
- Original Theatrical Trailer– Oh my goodness, trailers can be so, um, strange. This one looks like some kind of local used car salesmen got a chance to produce it. It’s kind of chopped together and the bold text graphics are throw backs to the fifties. It’s interesting, but I would not want to see the trailer before watching the movie. It basically tells the whole story. Hey, that sounds like some of the trailers of today’s latest flicks. I guess not much has changed in that arena for the last several decades.:)
The Movie: 8/10:
The characters seem two dimensional, but they aren’t. The setting seems sterile and unfriendly, but it’s not. The love story feels shaky, untouched by emotion, but that is far from the truth. This story is based on a short story that was then turned into a theatrical play, and finally into this amazing film. At the core of the story is a man seemingly incapable of emotionally connecting with anyone. He finds a woman lying on the ground outside his one room shack at a saw mill and it takes no time for the quiet compassion in him to boil to the surface. The boil is the quiet calm type, barely noticeable, but with few words to let his feelings escape, he goes from a single lone man on his own to having a family. The woman is already three months pregnant by her estranged husband and she has fallen into what could be described as a serious depression. She was wandering away from home in search of a place where the sun was shining because the cold weather was getting to her. She seems a bit odd to the casual observer, because of her semi-frenzied chat and her sad stories of a life of sorrow. For some reason though, Fentry (Duvall) is immediately drawn to her, with no physical contact and with barely a word spoken, he propose’s she stays in his shack until the baby is born. The winter passes and their relationship draws no closer. She always calls him Mr. Fentry and he keeps his distance.
Without trying to spoil the story for you I have to say that she is apparently a long time ill and after her baby is born, she dies. It is one of the most profound scenes I have seen in a film. He vows to take care of her baby as if it were his own. While the bulk of the film is the build up to the birth, there is a long segment where he is raising the boy with such delicate hands, and such love that you feel deeply this man was meant to be in this exact circumstance. While you feel he’s unable to be warm and affectionate through the first part of the film, just watch more closely. His compassion and his conviction to taking care of this found woman is in deed special.
I love the story and Duvall is so convincing it makes the story that much more interesting. Olga Belin is, at times, a bit too Broadway (if you know what I mean) but after you get to know her character she really comes to life as one of the most intriguing female characters I have seen in a film. Overall it might be kind of slow paced for some people, but it’s not supposed to be a powerhouse action packed story. It’s too classy for all that.
It was filmed in black and white to add to ambience to the era it’s set in. I would also like to think there was some thought given to the black and white as a way to make the setting and characters seem even more isolated, but that’s just me.. It is a beautifully shot film with a lot of takes set up as if they were posed for paintings of photographs, well composed and a pleasure to look at. The dialogue can be a challenge because we are all so used to quick little one liners and characters who yammer on and on and on, but it’s a nice change to be kind of lulled into the calmness and not hit in the face with quick cuts and dummied down writing.
I don’t want to pass up the opportunity to rave about this movie. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Sometimes it just takes a few decades to find a film that takes you by surprise. A long deserved surprise at that.
$22.00 online is always a bit steep for a single disc limited extras DVD. I do have to say, however, that this film is a classic and if you are true movie history type you might want to add this to your collection. It’s Duvall’s first notable performance and it’s a beauty of a movie to watch more than once. I love the look, the writing, the relationships, everything, so I’m willing to pay full whack. I do recommend that most of you do rent it first. Even if I love it, I know it’s not that palatable for a lot of movie watchers today.
Overall Score 8/10