Serious Man, A (UK - DVD R2)
Our Marcus seriously checks out the latest Coen Brothers' movie on DVD...
It’s 1967 and Jewish college professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is having a rough time of it. His kids aren’t his biggest fans and his wife wants a divorce as she wants to be with family friend Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed). On top of that one of Larry’s students is trying to blackmail him for a higher grade and Larry’s brother can’t stop getting in trouble. All of this and the college committee keeps receiving anonymous defamatory letters that may jeopardise Larry’s chance of tenure. Larry’s life is falling apart around him and he’s just trying to do the right thing.
Despite enjoying A Serious Man while watching it, I’ve gotta say I walked away from the latest Coen Brothers' movie a little unrewarded. As always their characters make all the events a joy to watch, with fantastic dialogue and performances and of course the movie looks and feels fantastic but the Coens' fascination with abrupt endings is beginning to wear a little thin with me I think.
I had a few issues on the first viewing of Oscar winning No Country For Old Men, mainly due to the demise of the Josh Brolin character and even though I think Burn After Reading is brilliant, the ending is always a little jarring (despite making sense). The end of A Serious Man is so ridiculously abrupt and I was just left thinking ‘is that it?’, mainly due to the fact I was invested in these characters and didn't like their big moments left behind as the credits rolled.
I like the almost fable like approach to Larry’s story (with the universe's bad reaction to Larry’s bad decision) and I really liked Larry as a character as well as the cast of characters around him but even on this, my second viewing, the abrupt ending sort of wipes my enjoyment of the movie to one side and all I’m left with is the feeling that it’s all a little bit one note and that all I’d seen was an enjoyable build up towards this one mis-step to destroy the character. I don’t know, maybe I’m missing the point; maybe it’ll click on further viewings. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the movie, I did, a lot in some places but I just came away from this latest Coens movie unsure about what I’d just seen.
Starting with the short Jewish folk tale, the transfer is immediately great to look at. Deep blacks are countered against the orange glow of the first place, and even for standard DVD the detail levels are pretty good.
Hopping into 1967 and the image just looks great. Warm, bright and beautifully lit (it’s the Coens what do you expect?). The small details in the sets look great and the period looks alive and lived in. Skin textures are great, clothing looks good and colours just pop out of the screen, whether it be the green lawns or the bright blue sky. There’s just nothing to fault and is pretty much as good as DVD gets when it comes to presenting the genre.
A Serious Man comes with a subtle track with a fine use of the great score and some of the period’s music. The tracks sit in the speakers well, usually living in the rears and complementing the clear and strong (and frankly brilliant) dialogue.
Ambient sounds work well, with cars driving by and tweeting birds filling out the track and even music playing on characters' stereos within scenes adding a realistic feel. All in all the track creates a mood and is presented well, playing with silence as well. This once again shows that a relatively basic drama doesn’t need to be lazy with sound design.
‘Becoming Serious’ (17:05) has the Coens running through their movie and as always the two of them talking about the movie somehow makes me like the movie more. There are cast interviews and a real sense that the movie is personal to the brothers. The making of also features the shooting of the movie and once again shows off masters at work.
‘Creating 1967’ (13:44) show the meticulous stylings of the period and the talented individuals who managed to capture the era.
‘Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys’ (02:15) shows clips from the movie where Jewish phrases are used with a pop up note to tell you what the references mean. It was pretty damn good and an enjoyable two and a bit minutes.
I didn’t get too much of a connection from the new Coens movie, despite enjoying the situations, the characters and the general mood of the movie (and wanting to like it more than I did). Bigger fans of the film should be more than happy though, as it comes with a fine transfer and audio track and a nice set of extras.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 15th March 2010
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Spanish 5.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Becoming Serious, Creating 1967, Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys
Easter Egg: No
Director: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Cast: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed
Length: 101 minutes
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