A Few Words About A few words about...™ Before the Devil Knows You're Dead -- in Blu-Ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, May 8, 2008.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Sidney Lumet is one of our greatest filmmakers.

    And has been for over half a century.

    Now at an age (he's 83), when most people might be retired and living on their laurels and royalties, Mr. Lumet is still adding to his wonderful catalog of work.

    His catalog of work?

    If his name isn't automatically ringing bells for you, try 12 Angry Men, The Fugitive Kind, Long Day's Journey into Night, Fail-Safe, The Deadly Affair, Murder on the Orient Express, Network, Dog Day Afternoon and The Verdict.

    In his review of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Roger Ebert noted, "The Japanese name some of their artists Living Treasures. Sidney Lumet is one of ours. He has made more great pictures than most directors have made pictures.

    Here he takes a story that is, after all, pretty straightforward, and tells it in an ingenious style we might call narrative interruptus. The brilliant debut screenplay by Kelly Masterson takes us up to a certain point, then flashes back to before that point, then catches us up again, then doubles back, so that it meticulously reconstructs how spectacularly and inevitably this perfect crime went wrong."

    Before the Devil... was shot on Panavision gear in HD and was taken through the DI process to a 35mm printing negative. But unfortunately, and possibly because it wasn't a studio picture, the film found scant distribution after running the festival circuit.

    To many potential home video viewers, this film will be an unknown, which is a pity, as the quality of Before the Devil... on every level, beginning with an incredible cast which moves this powerhouse of a film along rapidly, and ending with Image Entertainment's Blu-Ray disc is remarkable.

    As an aside, the title comes from an Irish toast: "May you have food and raiment, a soft pillow for your head; may you be 40 years in heaven, before the devil knows you're dead."

    Please do not permit the fact that it didn't receive an advertising program equal to the budget of a small state hold you back from picking this one up.

    At 83, Mr. Lumet is running on all 12 cylinders. He has created a film that one could easily see coming from a brilliant 35 year-old filmmaker, fresh on the trail for new ideas. It seems to combine New York, Lumet grittiness with the dark minds of the Coen Brothers.

    Before the Devil... is one of the best films released in 2007, and is Very Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    Guess I have another film to add to my collection. Your recommendations are taking a toll on my wallet [​IMG]
     
  3. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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    Fantastic film, all around. What a nice surprise! Solid a/v quality with the exception of some blown out whites during exteriors. And my goodness, Ms. Tomei is aging like fine wine...
     
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    The Blu-ray is sitting in my viewing pile, but I distinctly remember noticing something like that in the print I saw in the theater. So that may just be the source material.

    Lumet has been a long-time proponent of digital, even though he never got much attention for it. His TV show 100 Centre Street on A&E (2001-2002) was shot entirely digitally, and Lumet said at the time it was the best filming experience he'd ever had.

    As for Devil, I think it's Phillip Seymour Hoffman's best film work ever, superior even to Capote or to his Oscar-nominated role in Charlie Wilson's War. He's mastered the craft of acting through small gestures that don't look like acting. So you don't think he's doing all that much until he sneaks up on you and . . . pow!

    M.
     
  5. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I have this in my unwatched pile too.






    Crawdaddy
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Shots that appear to be "blown out" would be purposeful.
     
  7. Danny_N

    Danny_N Second Unit

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    Ordered this blind after reading Roger Ebert's glowing review and watched the BD about a week ago. I do not watch/buy many modern movies but this film is excellent.
    Anybody who liked No Country For Old Men will like this one as well.
     
  8. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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    The features include a wonderful interview with Lumet re: shooting in hi-def. Great stuff.

    Hoffman is fantastic here. I've read some off-base criticism of Tomei indicating she doesn't have much to do but take her clothes off, but during Hoffman's monologue in the car, she gives a reaction that is truly haunting. So simple, and yet it's still imprinted in my mind. Just a look that says, "you know, now that I think about it, I don't know who the f*#k you are."

    One of the best from '07, and nearly slipped under my radar.
     
  9. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    I had it on order on HD DVD, which was canceled then. Ordered it again now.
    Thanks for the review, Robert. I had not realized Sidney Lumet being 83 years old already. Can't wait to see this.

    Yes, it was Roger Ebert's review that first drew my attention to this film, which I haven't seen in the theater (Roger Ebert has given me so much valuable free advice during the past years, that I decided to buy almost all of his books, to duly pay for it).

    My final decision to order this film was based on Michael Reuben's recommendation elsewhere. And I think Phillip Seymour Hoffman is one of the strongest actors we currently have.


    Cees
     
  10. elden

    elden Auditioning

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    Hi, I certainly agree with you. Your advice is really very helpful for us.

    Thanks a lot!
     
  11. Jake Lipson

    Jake Lipson Supporting Actor

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    I saw this in the theater and agree that it's one of the best things that came out last year. Just wanted to add my voice in support of it for now. The Blu-ray isn't a high priority at the moment but I would like to get it eventually. I too strongly reccomend at least a rental for those who haven't seen it.
     
  12. Todd Schnell

    Todd Schnell Second Unit

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    Excellent film indeed!
     
  13. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Watched it again this weekend. The film packs even more of a wallop the second time.

    I'd forgotten how much I liked Carter Burwell's score. It adds the perfect note of ominous inevitability to the whole affair.

    M.
     
  14. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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  15. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I thought this was a daring line in your review, Sam:

    I mean, I love it. I suspect some other people in this thread would share that sentiment.

    As becomes immediately clear in the "How the Devil Got Made" featurette, Lumet grasped instantly that this wasn't a crime story so much as an intense family drama. Some reviewers compared it to Long Day's Journey into Night, which isn't inappropriate. On my second viewing, I was just amazed at how many layers of subtext are woven into every scene between family members -- a function, in large part, of casting actors with theater experience and going through the rehearsal process described in the featurette.

    Lumet just gave every young filmmaker a textbook demonstration in how to use old-school techniques to make a film that feels as vital and contemporary as anything out there.

    M.
     
  16. Daniel P

    Daniel P Stunt Coordinator

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    has anybody seen the region b version of this? from the UK?
    reason I ask is, I live in region B - so the USA version is no good for me [​IMG]
     
  17. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    I think you are taking that a bit out of context Michael. What I meant was that it's not the kind of film that resonates with the mass audience, that they can identify with and feel inspired by. These are desperate, unlikeable people who continue to make choices that send their bad situations into tragic tailspins. As a cautionary tale and as a finely crafted film I totally agree there is brilliance here. Certainly there are people who will love this film but it is not a film that I think will be _beloved_. Does that make sense?

    Sam
     
  18. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Certainly that explanation makes sense, Sam. But I don't think I could have taken your original quote "out of context", because you didn't supply the context until just now.

    In any case, I disagree with your premise, because I think the "mass audience" is capable of accepting a much broader range of characters than they're generally given credit for by studio marketing types. In fact, your description -- "desperate, unlikeable people who continue to make choices that send their bad situations into tragic tailspins" -- would fit a lot of the protagonists of great drama and literature, from MacBeth to Madame Bovary to Tony Soprano (or even Daniel Plainview). It would also encompass much of the population of soap opera, which has never had any trouble with mass appeal.

    Who's to say whether this film couldn't have had more of an audience with a wider release and better marketing? Hoffman's name counts for something these days; The Savages did OK, and none of the characters in that film were warm and fuzzy. (Admittedly, it had laughs.) And part of the briliance of Hoffman's performance is that, by the end of Devil, you actually feel for Andy, just a little, as everything begins to close in on him, because Hoffman gets you to understand how he came to be what he is.

    No, it was never going to be a tentpole movie, and if by "beloved", you're talking Wizard of Oz affection, well, few movies attain that. But I think it could have found a solid audience, and maybe now on video it will. In sheer filmmaking skill, it's the equal of anything that was released last year (and yes I'm including No Country for Old Men).

    M.
     
  19. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    I agree, but I was teetering between not really caring about and actively disliking both Andy and Hank.

    I like a lot of anti-heros, I got a big kick out of Anton Chigur and Lewellen or however you spell em both from No Country which you cite. As Mr. Jackson notes "Personality goes a long way" and for all of Devil's other merits, I found the personality of these two lacking. I'd not even put them head to head against the depth of a character like Macbeth...
     

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