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A Few Words About A few words about...™ The Swimmer -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Apr 8, 2014.

  1. Jon Hertzberg

    Jon Hertzberg Screenwriter

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    You and I are pretty much in agreement, Bruce. I was surprised since Chris Innis and Bob Murawski are Oscar-winning editors, but it seems that they were really in love with all of their footage in this case.
     
  2. Hollywoodaholic

    Hollywoodaholic Edge of Glory?

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    It was the 'Director's Cut' of the documentary.
     
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  3. ROclockCK

    ROclockCK Premium
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    ...more like the extended TV cut to be broadcast over 2 nights.

    I agree with Bruce and others on that doc...man, what a slog!
     
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  4. Reggie W

    Reggie W Screenwriter

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    I commented on the film in another thread and honestly I think this is a great film. Lancaster is fantastic in it and obviously many people thought it was an unusual role for him but it really works. We accept the character as brash and virile at the start of the film for the very reason that Lancaster is playing him. This makes the rest of the film and what unfolds all the more effective in my opinion...so what I'm saying is I thought this was a great role for Lancaster and he really nails it.

    On these complaints about the documentary...well...all I can say is I really enjoyed the doc because quite honestly I never expected to see a documentary of any kind on The Swimmer. It is sort of an obscure film that was a troubled production and I think was basically seen as a failure at the time it was released. Other than Lancaster starring in the film there is not much here to draw a general/casual audience in. This is a difficult and complex work that I think for those that enjoy this kind of thing is a fantastic night at the movies (or home cinema) but others may sit there wondering just what the heck is going on in this film and find it all a bit too bitter for their tastes. So to me the documentary was just icing on this very fabulous package that Grindhouse have delivered.

    I will say that if you are a fan of the Perrys the documentary may be more than a little sour. They don't exactly get a lot of kind words in the doc outside of Joan Rivers who ended up becoming a close friend of theirs. Take solace in this though, I don't really care what all the people in the documentary say about the Perrys, if you look at the evidence--the film itself--what they did both in the writing and making of the film was pretty spectacular. This is a great film and before it was taken away from them it was obviously very much their baby so it is a great film in large part thanks to them. So they crammed as much as they could into the documentary and maybe some things are repeated or overlap but there is a lot of great information in there and if you are a fan of the film I think it is well worth sitting through. Sure it would have been great if they had found more people to talk about the film but of course the major players are no longer with us. I think they did a fine job with what they had and probably as big fans of the film themselves crammed as much as they could onto the blu-ray...which is an amazing package for a film as little known as this.

    I'm completely with Mr. Harris in asking "Please, may we have some more?"
     
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  5. Jon Hertzberg

    Jon Hertzberg Screenwriter

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    Reggie, you and I are in agreement on the merits of THE SWIMMER. It's obviously one of my all-time favorites, which is why I was quite disappointed in the doc...for 2.5 hours, I was expecting far more substantive content then we got. This easily could have been half that length and communicated the same information.

    And, yes, as an admirer of the Perrys...they got extremely short shrift in this documentary, which paints Frank, in particular, as weak and clueless. There were so many ways in which the documentarians could have made this a richer, more informative piece by--forgive my horrible pun--going a little more beneath the surface. They couldn't find a Cheever scholar or a scribe inspired by Cheever to speak to his writerly gifts and influence? They couldn't connect the dots between this film and some of the Perry's other collaborations--LAST SUMMER, DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE, etc.? They couldn't talk to some contemporary filmmakers who've been influenced by THE SWIMMER or get some critics to speak to the film's continued influence on films and television...the MAD MEN connection is rather low-hanging fruit in this regard. Nope, let's continue to get essentially the same soundbites from the two assistant directors who don't remember much from the film nor consider it or its filmmakers anything special. Primary, first person accounts are essential to a piece like this, but so are a few well-curated secondary sources and testimonials.

    I hate when these made-for-DVD docs turn into back-slapping, "didn't we make a great film?" affairs, but overall, this extremely long documentary goes too much in the other direction for my tastes and doesn't really do justice to the film's status as an admirably unique and oddball film, and also a prescient one, whose "cult" following grew somewhat gradually, to the point that THE SWIMMER's influence could be clearly felt on some pretty big, popular film and television pieces from the '90s onward.
     
  6. haineshisway

    haineshisway Screenwriter

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    Yes, no one is saying the documentary doesn't have interesting things in it - that's not the point - it's just that the interesting things are repeated ad nauseum and the documentary is therefore padded and bloated by at least forty minutes, probably more if you had an editor willing to trim. Nothing would be missed by taking out all the repetition.
     
  7. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp
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    To be fair, the documentary is present as a series of featurettes, and each of those featurettes work fine. Yeah, information is repeated, but if it wasn't, the individual featurettes presentation would suffer.

    They made the right choice. I fine disc and a fine documentary.
     
  8. Tina_H_V

    Tina_H_V Supporting Actor

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    I just obtained my Blu-ray Disc copy last week. I look forward to sitting down to take a look at it very soon!!!! This one truly intrigues me. :)
     
  9. JoHud

    JoHud Producer

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    I watched this just last year so the blu-ray is still kind of on the backburner though I intend to purchase very soon.

    I also greatly enjoyed the film and was enthralled and entertained throughout. It's low-budget to be sure, but is very finely crafted with a complex and well done deconstruction of Lancaster's on-screen character. The plot is simple on paper, but that's not the draw--it's the journey. Consider myself a fan as well.
     
  10. Reggie W

    Reggie W Screenwriter

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    Yes, I understand, Jon, and I'm not saying the doc is perfect but it was more than I was expecting so for me it was very enjoyable. I mean would I rather have heard somebody talk about John Cheever and his work instead of a swimming coach? Sure, you bet. What drew me to The Swimmer was that it was a Cheever story and I really have enjoyed his writing. I guess I was just appreciative that anybody went to the trouble of making a 2 and a half hour special feature about a film like this. So, I don't want to be too hard on the people that delivered it because my thinking is very few people exist that would have even bothered.

    I think your points are valid, Jon, and well taken. Yes, the treatment of the Perrys is mostly pretty poor. As somebody else pointed out this may be why Joan Rivers is in the doc. As a bit player that only worked a few days on the film she does not have much to add, a nice story about her scene with Lancaster, but is the one person who speaks highly of the Perrys. If you remove her from the doc it would play like 2.5 hours of people saying the Perrys screwed up this picture and had to be sacked to save it. I don't think that is a fair assessment at all. The Perrys had an interesting vision that they wanted to bring to the screen and the film mainly exists in the form it does because of them. I should say I don't think the makers of the documentary where intentionally trying to lynch the Perrys but let the recollections of the people they interviewed stand warts and all. Obviously the doc was made because these people were fans of the film and what the Perrys created. Who knows how much time or money they had to make the doc and maybe they did the best they could with the restraints they had.

    Yes, I think these two guys could come across as annoying to fans of the film because they seem to have this attitude of "Why are you even bothering to ask us about this film it was a bomb?" and they pretty much claim not to have revisited it much over the years because the feeling was it stunk. They worked on the picture, it was a mess and they mainly seem to blame Frank Perry and they moved on. I took it all with a grain of salt and the one thing they really did convey was that the Perrys were pretty much fighting for their lives on this picture. I mean even the story Rivers tells about Lancaster indicates he was actively trying to undermine the director. You do get the feeling after two and a half hours that it is amazing this film exists and is actually a great film.
     
  11. haineshisway

    haineshisway Screenwriter

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    It is presented as a "series of featurettes" for union reasons only.
     
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  12. Jon Hertzberg

    Jon Hertzberg Screenwriter

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    Yes, I was the one who responded to Mr. Harris, saying that Joan's involvement in the doc was a very good thing because she spoke up for Frank and Eleanor and her story illustrated that our good man Burt was far from a saintly presence all the time on the set, which you would not really know, if she weren't there. :)

    As much as I've kvetched about the shortcomings of the not-short-enough documentary, my main disappointment is that the Loden footage was not included, making me fear that Mr. Barbara Loden's (aka Elia Kazan) wish to have the negative burned was abided by by Mr. Spiegel. A shame. Loden was a great actress and a talented filmmaker, as evidenced by her masterful WANDA.

    Years ago, I was thumbing through a bio of Burt and there was a pretty extensive passage on the filming of the scene with Ms. Loden. The implication was that Burt was uncomfortable with how powerful she was in the scene and was not cool with it, i.e. another actor being stronger than he, which, perhaps explains, the unscripted ripping down of her bikini top, which you can see in the stills and which is alluded to in the doc by Zachary or Hertzberg.

    A few months ago, my mother had the occasion to speak with Rose Gregorio, who was married to the late Ulu Grosbard, and who acted in THE SWIMMER. My mother told the actress that I was a big admirer of her husband's film STRAIGHT TIME and also THE SWIMMER. Rose couldn't believe that anyone remembered THE SWIMMER...she said that the original actor who played her husband (in the public pool scene) was replaced after Burt punched him out; the star apparently did not like how the other actor touched him in rehearsals of their scene. Rose loves to talk ;) , according to my mom, and also later acted in Perry's fine telefilm DUMMY, so it's unfortunate that she not was not part of the SWIMMER doc, for whatever reason.
     
  13. Yorkshire

    Yorkshire Screenwriter

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    I think the discussion about the documentary is interesting.

    However, let's not let that discussion colour or detract from the fact that we have an exceptional film with an exceptional transfer.

    Steve W
     
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  14. Jon Hertzberg

    Jon Hertzberg Screenwriter

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    And, that is, of course, the most important thing, Steve. :)
     
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  15. Richard V

    Richard V Screenwriter

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    Have always admired this film, and love the transfer. Great job, Grindhouse. Now give us another Lancaster overlooked gem, Go...Tell the Spartans.
     
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  16. Reggie W

    Reggie W Screenwriter

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    I think we are all pretty thrilled to have a wonderful blu of this film...that part we are all in agreement on I'd say. Special features are a hit or miss item and really fall far below actually having the film itself looking quite spectacular.
     
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  17. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    I just wish Jeff Ulmer had lived to see this beautiful release from Grindhouse. He was totally obsessed with this picture (as well as Zardoz).
     
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  18. davidmatychuk

    davidmatychuk Screenwriter

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    Posted January 14 2014 - 12:57 AM

    I'm sure that my late friend Jeff Ulmer is already enjoying his copy of this old obsession of his. A fully-loaded Blu-Ray of "The Swimmer"! Two-and-a-half-hour documentary - check. John Cheever reading his short story - check. Still galleries, trailers, deluxe booklet - check, check, and mate. Wish you were here, buddy. Catch you later.



    I think he's enjoying his "advance copy" of Criterion's "Picnic At Hanging Rock" right now.
     
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  19. Reggie W

    Reggie W Screenwriter

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    A great blu-ray that you should pick-up if you have not yet done so.
     
  20. BarryR

    BarryR Supporting Actor

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    I'm glad the troubled production ended up as good as it was. However, it also evokes a feel that reminds me of something Stanley Kubrick could have played with. Sort of a reconfigured EYES WIDE SHUT.


    Well, just a thought.


    ^_^
     

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