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Introduction
O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the most recent Coen Brothers’ film to be committed to Region 4 DVD. It is set in depression stricken Mississippi, during the 1930’s. Simply put it is a reworked allegory of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.
The protagonist is Everett Ulysees McGill (George Clooney), who leads an escape from a chain gang along with two fellow inmates   Using the promise of a share in hidden treasure as incentive, Everett leads fiery redneck Pete (John Torturro) and delightfully dim-witted Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) on a compelling journey through the Heartland of America.  

Through the course of the film, the three meet family members with curious eating habits; a corrupt, thieving, cycloptic, bible salesmen and a clairvoyant oracle; get swept up in the political machinations of the time and maybe even come up against the devil himself. All the while Everett’s motivation to subvert the impending wedding of his wife (Holly Hunter) to a “bona fide” member of the community.  
In a wicked stroke of irony, a chance record cut by the three felons – called ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ – provides them a legitimate hit and record company executives add themselves to the ever increasing list of people chasing them.  

O Brother, Where art thou?
Movie
O Brother is imbued with the dry, idiosyncratic wit that makes Coen Brothers’ films so widely respected. Joel and Ethan both have remarkable ability to write dialogue and in this case they have taken the imagery from the Odyssey and moulded it into a contemporary (musical) comedy. Only the Coens' would think to do it, let alone combine the elements so well.
There are some standout performances from Coen Brother’s stalwarts John Turturro, Charles Durning and John Goodman (as the “Cyclops” – a character that hasn’t fallen far from the literary tree).  A big surprise here though is Clooney, who tackles the honourable rogue Everett with aplomb, tweaking every ounce of humour from the script. O Brother is a sophisticated comedy set amongst the lives of simple people.

O Brother, Where art thou?
Video
The Video is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen in the original aspect ratio (OAR) of 2.35:1. Throughout the presentation, the visuals are intentionally washed out, giving them the underexposed feel of the desired place in time.  It helps to strongly suggest the style of ‘old timey’ twenties America.  The print used for this transfer is utterly clean (as you would absolutely expect from any film from the DVD age).  Largely shot on location, rich yellows stand out, and indeed a golden hue settles over the film. Even during scenes shot at night, roaring, golden fires generally dominate. Fantastic costume design helps to strengthen the desired atmosphere.  

Audio
The main soundtracks are English, German, Italian and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Channel mixes. The dialogue (a huge, comedic punch delivered in a velvet glove - very important in this film) is clear and audible once you get used to the colloquial vocabulary. The 5.1 mix reproduces dialogue capably.  The other language options are of similar quality (even though it’s fair to say I didn’t understand most of them).
There is a very musical theme, not limited to Man of Constant Sorrow, with a gospel feel to a lot of the piece, consisting mostly of close harmonies.  The soundtrack effectively brings out the drama and period of the piece.  The quiet, pensive moments are just that: quiet.  There are some nice rear surround effects, particularly the gunshot from Hogwash’s boy in an early scene (8:46).  All up, one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable soundtracks in recent memory.

O Brother, Where art thou?
Extras
This disc would have to set a record (if not, then pretty close) for least extras in a release by a major studio.  In an unusual move from Columbia Tri-Star, static menus for language options and chapter select are it I’m afraid.  Not an extra sausage. This is most definitely one film I would have liked to learn more about. A look behind-the-scenes perhaps.  Of particular interest would have been the unusual co-directorial style of the Coen brothers or the stunning photography of Roger Deakins.  Alas, such flights of fancy will have to lay in wait for some future feature-packed re-release. With a spate of recent budget releases carrying more extras, it is only by the good grace of the Coen name that I paid full price for this title.

Overall
A thoroughly entertaining film that, as a disc, is not only bare-boned, but is calcium deficient.


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