Red Road (US - DVD R1)
Gabe takes a trip to Glasgow, and wonders why anyone would live here.
Jackie (Kate Dickie) works as a CCTV operator. Each day she watches over a small part of the world, protecting the people living their lives under her gaze. One day a man appears on her monitor, a man named Clyde (Tony Curran) she thought she would never see again, a man she never wanted to see again. Now she has no choice, she is compelled to confront him (taken directly from Tartan).
Another day, another slow burning European thriller, concerned with vengeance and morality. Oh, what’s this, a slow burning European thriller, concerned with vengeance and morality that actually has a plot to unravel? I have to go out on a snobby film fan limb here and admit that I haven’t fully enjoyed a gritty, slow moving indie feature in some time. I’m often impressed by the acting and craft, but films like Michael Haneke’s Cache, Géla Babluani’s 13 Tzameti, even Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes have all impressed me technically more than they’ve enthralled me emotionally. Andrea Arnold’s Red Road belongs in the same category as these films, but its emotional suspense had a real effect on me.
There’s still plenty wrong with the film—it’s too long, it ends on a false emotional beat, it has a pronounced pretentious streak—but its triumphs far outweigh these imperfections. The performances are remarkable, like, ‘watch and learn’ remarkable, and so natural they're painful to behold. Lead Kate Dickie is the standout and her brave theatrics garners the most praise, but I personally was more surprised by Tony Curran as Clyde. Clyde’s development as a sympathetic character, after entering the fray as a bit of an unknown monster is quite subtle, and most impressive coming from that ‘cool looking guy from various vampire movies’.
A grim and anxious atmosphere is caked onto a sort of Orwellian Glasgow. The voyeuristic nature of Jackie’s job transcends obvious and negative comparisons to Hitchcock by treating the surveillance as a theme rather than just a plot device. It appears at times that the plot is never going to come together, and that Red Road may just be another act in meditative masturbation, but the slow burn pays off in both narrative and emotional standpoints. It’s one of those films that are beautiful in its ugliness.
Red Road is, as I stated earlier, a gritty feature, filmed in a pseudo-verite fashion. The 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation is often grainy, dark, and the framing chaotic. The video screen footage has contrast, detail, and colour issues, but this is obviously part of the presentation. Though the transfer won’t be winning any awards, it avoids compression artefacts, and presents a colourful pallet without bleeding or blocking. Like so many Tartan releases, the transfer’s biggest problem is the fact that it is interlaced rather than progressive. Combing effects are minimal, but obvious, and some details are a bit soft.
In keeping with the film’s naturalistic approach, the soundtrack is low-key. The score is so subtle one might not even notice it the few times it rears itself, and sound effects are almost exclusively of the on location variety. The duelling DTS and Dolby Digital tracks are more or less the same, and are both quite clean and clear. There isn’t a lot of spatial envelopment or any big directional effects, but fidelity is impressive. I apologize to residents of Glasgow, but I had to watch the film with subtitles on because I couldn’t understand the majority of the dialogue.
The lead extra is director Andrea Arnold’s Oscar winning short Wasp. Wasp is the grim and brutally realistic tale of Zoë, a single mother of four with no money for food or clothing, who runs into an high school boyfriend, and goes on her first date in several years. Fearing that the boy won’t be interested when he finds out how many children she is in care of, Zoë hides her children outside the bar as her date commences.
Wasp is so sad, sobering, and emotionally draining, that even at only twenty-six minutes I was barely able to finish it. I mean that as the greatest compliment. The actors, including three young children, are all natural without ever appearing studied. The production is impressive without being flashy or obvious. The film is an unmistakable precursor to Red Road, and is a welcome addition to this DVD.
The only other extras are trailers, for this and other Tartan drama releases.
Red Road is not a feel good feature, or particularly easy to watch, but it is a rewarding and intelligent dramatic thriller. Sensitive viewers should be aware of the film’s frank and graphic depictions of sex, and viewers (like me) with shorter attention spans should watch the film only when they have the time and patience to absorb the crawling narrative. Thematically I’d compare Red Road to Hitchcock’s Vertigo, a dark tale of obsession where everything and person we assume we know may very well be false. Including the director’s original Oscar winning short on the disc is a nice touch, and though everything is low-key, Tartan’s A/V presentation is effective.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 28th August 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: DTS 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: Wasp (Oscar Winning Short), Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Andrea Arnold
Cast: Kate Dickie, Tony Curran, Martin Compston, Natalie Press, Andrew Armour
Length: 110 minutes
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