Main St. (Main Street) (2010)
|Category||Drama||Menu Animation & Audio-Live action and musical theme.|
|Year Of Production||2010|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (90:00)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||John Doyle|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, B & W archival footage pre main title.|
Main Street is a film that I chose to review purely on the basis of its star, Colin Firth, in his first film after The King's Speech.. I was very surprised to find that the film was "dedicated to" and written by Horton Foote. This original screenplay was the final work of this writer who has been called "America's Chekhov". Foote died in 2009, at the age of ninety-three, and has left behind a legacy of work far too large to go into in the space of this review. He won, during his life, numerous awards and prizes, from the Pulitzer in 1995 for The Young Man from Atlanta to the Oscar, twice, for his adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962 and again for the original screenplay of Tender Mercies in 1983.Main Street is as finely a crafted piece of screen writing as you could wish for. There is no padding, just clean narrative lines and characters revealed in brief, bold dramatic interaction.
Working on this script, in his first film, is Scottish Tony Award winning stage director John Doyle. As a regional artistic director, Doyle has to his credit over two hundred productions, covering straight plays, musicals and opera. In the last few years he has won wide acclaim for his innovative staging of Stephen Sondheim works, boldly having the cast members not only sing, dance and act, but also physically play the musical score. First he succeeded with Company, in London and on Broadway, and then his Sweeney Todd was applauded in London and re-staged in New York with Patti Lupone.
Pre the film's title, we have archival black and white scenes of a thriving 1940s North Carolina town, Durham. Streets are bustling and all is energy and life in a town economically dependent on tobacco. Then after the film's title we cut to the present day in colour, and the once crowded streets are virtually empty. The once thriving town has all but died with the collapse of the tobacco industry. A survivor of one of the original tobacco families is Georgiana Carr (Ellyn Burstyn) still living in the grand old house in which she was born. The old lady pays her taxes by renting out her obsolete tobacco warehouses. It seems that Georgiana's sole comfort is her fortyish niece, Willa Jenkins (Patricia Clarkson). There is also the young police officer, Harris Parker (Orlando Bloom), studying law at night to better himself in his home town. Harris' mother, Myrtle (Margo Martindale), wishes her son would spend less time studying and more time with his girlfriend, Mary Saunders (Amber Tamblyn). Mary's mother Miriam (Victoria Clark) and stepfather Frank (Tom Wopat) would also like to see Mary become more serious about Harris, instead of dating her boss Howard (Andrew McCarthy). Into this town comes Gus Leroy (Colin Firth) a Texan who wants to rent one of Georgiana's warehouses in which to store toxic waste, enroute to its ultimate destination in Texas where it is to be de-contaminated and ultimately "disposed of".
Not so much plot driven as character driven, we watch with growing concern as the lives of these individuals come under one stress or other. No one here is "bad", all are real human beings, with virtues and flaws. We understand the possessiveness of the parents who fear that their offspring will fly from the decaying small town to the big smoke. We understand that Mary is a decent young woman, but are disturbed at her cursory treatment of the sincere Harris when he phones her. Her farewell to her parents as she leaves home is also shocking in its curtness. Willa is not the clichéd spinster who is confronted by what may be her last chance, and Georgiana's attitude to her forced sale of her loved home may surprise us. In this key role, Ellen Burstyn (Resurrection) proves that her talent and beauty have not diminished in her senior years. All performers are superb, with Orlando Bloom (Elizabethtown) cast against type and a real surprise. Playing Harris' mother, Margo Martindale (TV's Dexter and The Riches) once again proves that she is one of the outstanding character actresses of today. As Mary's mother, Victoria Clark is achingly plain. I saw this woman star in New York in the musical version of The Light in the Piazza. She shone and has a soaring, belting voice. A very talented lady, here partnered with Tom Wopat (The Dukes of Hazzard), who also has become an acclaimed Broadway star. Amber Tamblyn (127 Hours) is luminous and lovely and Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent) is glorious, but isn't she always? No one in the cast can be faulted. Colin Firth's Texas accent may be a little troubling, but the sensitivity and depth of his performance more than compensate. This is a marvellous collection of characters, who never stray into caricature. Not all character issues are voiced in this screenplay nor are wider issues actually spelled out. The "toxic waste" is seen as a modern evil in contrast to the glowing past. The fact that this past flourished on the insidious glow of millions of cigarettes is not mentioned. This film is actually adult enough to let the audience do some of the brain work.
The movie also looks tremendous. The colour is rich and warm, and the widescreen frame is used to maximum effect. The photography of Donald McAlpine is exemplary, simple, controlled and brilliantly mobile. McAlpine was responsible for 2003's Peter Pan and The Chronicles of Narnia : The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. McAlpine's camera makes the meeting in the mayor's office, which occurs early in the film, a scene that is visually exciting. The camera smoothly moves around the faces at the table, finally pulling back to a beautiful composed shot with characters at each end of the screen's extremities. Every frame of the film is superb. Set decoration, from the barren warehouses, to the warm clutter of Georgiana's home, to the modern kitsch of Mary's home, is meticulous. The music from Patrick Doyle (Thor) beautifully supports the comedy and drama of these lives.
Undoubtedly there will be critics who say this is "old fashioned" filmmaking, a throwback to the studio system in its golden years. True, I can see a 1940s cast in the film. Bette Davis as Willa, Ann Sheridan as Mary, John Garfield as Harris and so on. Yes, it would have been a Warner Bros movie. However, there is nothing dated about this Foote / Doyle film. It is brilliant, assured filmmaking, executed with love and compassion for the characters and their lives. Beautifully written, superbly directed, gloriously photographed and performed flawlessly, there is not a frame that does not in some way contribute to the emotional force of the film. This is one of my favourite films of 2011.
Main Street was exhibited at the Austin Film Festival in Texas last October, without any subsequent theatrical release. Shame!
The video transfer of this movie is about as good as a standard DVD can get. The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
The full widescreen frame is used to perfection, whether capturing the deserted streetscapes of Durham or Tom Wopat on a sofa watching TV. The transfer is very sharp and clear throughout. Detail is superb, the domestic interiors almost distracting with their attention to detail. Blacks are deep and beautifully solid, with excellent shadow detail. Colours are rich and vibrant, covering the full spectrum and skin tones are totally realistic. I was totally unaware of any type of artefact, video or film.
There are no subtitles.
This is a dual layer disc, but there is no layer change within the film's tight ninety minutes.
As with every other aspect of this film, the soundtrack is first rate. There is one audio stream, English Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps.
The dialogue was crisp and brilliantly clear, with never a syllable in doubt. There were no sync problems. Dialogue is front and centre, with quite active directionality whenever required. The surrounds were used primarily for ambience around the town, with dramatic impact when the opportunity arose.
The original orchestral score from Patrick Doyle sympathetically supports the varying moods of the film, and is beautifully reproduced, with solid subwoofer emphasis whenever appropriate.
|Surround Channel Use|
The review copy had no extras at all. There is so much fodder here for additional information, such as Horton Foote's career and John Doyle's theatrical credits, that it is a shame there is nothing on offer.
Here is an excellent film, "little" in its focus but mightily impressive in its humanity and execution. A classic final script from a literary giant, a brilliant stage director making his first film, a dream cast with talent and expertise galore behind the camera. If you have ever caught yourself saying, "why don't they make films like that any more", here's one you must not miss. The immaculate transfer gives us full "scope" widescreen and beautiful colour, but there are no extras on my review copy.
|DVD||SONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output|
|Display||Samsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|