Northfork (2003)

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Released 8-Feb-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers
Featurette-Bare-Knuckle Filmmaking: The Construction Of Northfork
Featurette-24 Frame News Segment: Northfork
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 99:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Michael Polish

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring James Woods
Nick Nolte
Douglas Sebern
Claire Forlani
Duel Farnes
Mark Polish
Daryl Hannah
Graham Beckel
Josh Barker
Peter Coyote
Jon Gries
Rick Overton
Robin Sachs
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Stuart Matthewman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I'll say it now. Northfork is one of those movies. You're either going to love it for its painterly framing, bold symbolism and fable-like narrative or be completely and utterly bored with its at times glacial pace and dedicated strangeness. I haven't decided what to think yet. I'm still trying to come to terms with this, the most peculiar and confounding film I've seen since David Lynch's cinematic dreamscape, Mulholland Drive.

    Visually, the film is stunning. The muted palette beautifully captures the wide, barren expanses of America's interior. It is set in the small town of Northfork, Montana, a little hamlet nestled amongst the forbidding plains of America's north west that is about to be submerged thanks to the building of a hydroelectric dam. It is 1955 and the wave of progress is causing many towns to die out as people move away, mostly to the cities. This theme, handled with care by the filmmakers, who were born and live in Montana, will be familiar to many from the rural interior of our own country, where town after town has shrunk and then disappeared, ending generation long associations by families with their local communities. James Woods heads a team of six evacuation officers who are trying to convince the few stubbornly remaining residents to leave, to go to 'higher ground'. Their incentive is a good one: upon success each will be granted a plot of newly made waterfront land. As with any small town (and I have grown up in a few) there are some interesting locals, and director Michael Polish and his brother Mark, with whom he co-wrote the screenplay have a good eye and ear for capturing their idiosyncrasies. Each frame has been lovingly filled with an extraordinary eye for detail. The composition of shots is simply superb. From a cineaste's perspective this is a film in a million. However, for those of us, and I typically include myself in this group, who need something more than pretty pictures to look at, what we have in the way of a story is sparse and metaphorical.

    As mentioned, the evacuation to higher ground is a potent, some might find pretentious allusion to the passage from life to death, and the need for people to eventually accept this fate. Nick Nolte, who managed to squeeze his small but important performance in between shooting scenes for the significantly higher budgeted Hulk, provides a spiritual centre for a film that lingers on these themes of mortality and the afterlife. He plays the local priest, and in his care, after having been abandoned by his adopted parents, is a young boy who believes himself to be an angel. This young boy roams the empty spaces of the dwindling town and comes across a small group of eccentrics. They too might be angels, or perhaps merely gypsies, passing through. The film doesn't say, and nor does it need to - the hammering out of a story, complete with the necessary plot points could not be further from the Polish brothers' concerns. Like the themes they try to tackle, the film remains quietly but insistently devoted to its own elusiveness, permitting a myriad of interpretations, none of which, thankfully, could easily, if ever, be said to be wrong.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    As one would expect for as recent a release as this, the transfer is fantastically clean, presented correctly in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness is uniformly good whilst not quite achieving greatness and there is scarcely anything to complain about in terms of levels of shadow detail.

    The colour palette is extraordinary in that it is both limited to mostly whites, greys and blacks, but endlessly subtle - the skies, the plains, the craggy mountains, the light dappled timbers - all are beautifully caught.

    There is little grain and edge enhancement. MPEG artefacts are noticeable but not a major problem, whilst aliasing is kept to a minimum.

    The print was clean with few blemishes.

    All in all, this is an excellent transfer.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    We have been presented with a solitary English 5.1 Dolby Digital track that is perfectly suited to the film.

    Dialogue is crystal clear, although some may struggle with hearing many of the voices, which barely raise above a whisper.

    Audio sync is terrific and I detected no dropouts or blemishes worth mentioning.

    The surrounds are not used aggressively but there are occasional instances of natural ambience being aided by the surround channels and subwoofer. A subtly immersive track provided the room is quiet!

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    For a no budget film, the extras included here shame many big budget studio releases.

Audio commentary with the Polish Brothers

    Don't expect the 'secrets' of the film to be revealed - this informative and laid back track featuring the sibling team offers many insights into this carefully designed and shot film, but doesn't provide a solution. The two speak throughout the length of the film and are easy to listen to. Well worth a listen, even if it's just to get a sense of the love of filmmaking these two young men obviously have.

Bare-Knuckle Filmmaking: The Construction of Northfork

    This thirty minute documentary is divided into seven sections, which can be selected individually at the menu or played through. It is the most poetic making of featurette I have ever seen, featuring voice over readings from the Bible by Peter Coyote which reflect the different struggles and obstacles of making a film in the sometimes unforgiving environment of America's rural north west.

Photo gallery

    A decent collection of artfully captured black and white shots, perfectly in keeping with the mood and style of the film.

24-Frame News Segment

    This four minute segment from the Sundance Channel shows the Polish brothers on the road, going to a small Montana premiere of their film.


    A letterboxed trailer that is nonetheless of decent length and suitable austerity and guile.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The versions appear to be identical so I would opt for the cheaper release, which will of course depend on the respective strengths of ours and the American dollar.


    Northfork completes the Polish brothers 'small town America' trilogy with inimitable style.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio is a study in subtlety and the value of silences.

    The extras are informative and diverse.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Scott Murray (Dont read my bio - it's terrible.)
Friday, November 26, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S100, using Component output
DisplaySony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DVR-S100 (built in)
SpeakersYamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer

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