The Darjeeling Limited (Blu-ray)
Directed by Wes Anderson
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 91 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
MSRP: $ 39.95
Release Date: October 12, 2010
Review Date: October 1, 2010
Wes Anderson is known for his quirky little movies with offbeat characters who usually exhibit dissatisfaction with life along with a melancholy air of quiet desperation. The Darjeeling Limited certainly continues along those same lines, and he’s working with some actors who have done all of this before in his films so they’re completely in tune with the writer-director’s tone and sensibilities. In its oddball way, it’s a fairly amusing if slight dramedy, but it’s thankfully no longer than it needs to be. There isn’t much story here, and even the characters don’t make great strides toward epiphany during their adventures in India.
Three estranged Whitman brothers Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody), and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) agree to a month-long trip together in India hoping to reestablish a connection with one another after each has gone off on his own path after the death of their father. They also hope to reunite with their mother (Anjelica Huston) who is now working in a convent but isn’t anxious to reconnect with them. There are control and dependency issues among the brothers that lead to problems along the way, and each of the brothers’ idiosyncrasies also adds to their adventures' often taking them into unexpected detours: everything from a loose cobra in their train compartment to attempting to save some native boys whose raft has capsized in a rapidly flowing river.
As in his previous films, the dialogue written by director Wes Anderson (along with co-writers Roman Coppola and co-star Jason Schwartzman this time out) is dry and droll, and the comic bits are almost always small and internalized, much more intellectual in nature than the obvious slapstick and gross-out comedy of other lesser movie humor merchants. (A typical example: on their spiritual odyssey, the brothers aren’t traveling light as might be expected; they’re lugging thirteen pieces of luggage between them along with a printer and a lamination machine. Finding a power converter for their equipment becomes one of the running gags of the picture.) We don’t really explore much into the psyches of these troubled men: Peter’s wife is a month away from giving birth, Francis arrives with quite serious appearing lacerations from a motorcycle accident, Jack is proud of a short story and working on another, based on unhappy experiences with an on again-off again relationship with an enigmatic woman (Natalie Portman). And when we meet mom, what might have been a grand reunion with some questions about these somewhat wretched souls finally answered instead continues with the frustrating enigma of closed-off feelings and a refusal to face truth. The comedy is fleeting and precious, but the film’s overriding mood is one of melancholy and dissatisfaction.
Owen Wilson’s quaint way with quipping makes him the ideal Wes Anderson leading man, and Jason Schwartzman makes a believable baby brother in both look and action. Adrien Brody is harder to believe as part of this triumvirate, but he expends a monumental effort to fit it among his morose kinsmen, and together the three keep the picture moderately interesting. Fun, too, are Wally Wolodarsky as Francis’ assistant Brendan who makes sure their daily itineraries are laminated to perfection and the subtle hilarious expressions and reactions by Waris Ahluwalia who must deal with the brothers’ smoking on the train, their cobra, and Jack’s infatuation with his girl friend Rita (Amara Karan).
The film’s Panavision theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is above average but never quite as razor edged as in other better transfers, perhaps partially due to the yellowish haze that has been imposed on the image to establish its Indian setting. The color timing does strange things to flesh tones, of course, and a chalky texture often is seen as the result. Color saturation is vivid, though, and black levels vary from pretty good to excellent. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix uses the music as the film’s most enveloping audio element. Very little has been done to immerse the viewer in the sounds of India apart from the emblematic melodies which the director has borrowed from films of James Ivory and Satyajit Ray. Dialogue comes through well in the center channel, and there is no problem with artifacts such as hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter.
The audio commentary is contributed by writer-director Wes Anderson, co-writer and second unit director Roman Coppola, and co-writer/co-star Jason Schwartzman. Though not the most animated or interesting conversation ever placed on a commentary track, Anderson and Schwartzman especially comment on various aspects of the production as scenes come up that remind them of memorable people or events.
Hotel Chevalier, a 13 ¼-minute 1080p prequel to The Darjeeling Limited featuring Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman as troubled lovers, is offered on the disc either to be played automatically before the main feature or to be played separately at one’s leisure. Writer-director Wes Anderson also has contributed an audio commentary for the short film in which he explains how it came about and details concerning its production a full year before photography on the main feature began.
“Documentary: Barry Braverman” is a unique behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. Done without any narration but simply as a montage of shots featuring the director, his cast, and crew working on setting up and shooting some of the film’s most famous scenes, this documentary runs 40 ¾ minutes in 1080p.
“A Conversation with James Ivory” has director Wes Anderson talking over his use of music in the movie with director James Ivory. Extensive clips from films by Ivory and Satyajit Ray illustrate the original uses for music Anderson has pulled and used in his own movie. There are lengthy scenes from Bombay Talkie, The Guru, The Mean Room, The Householder, and Shakespeare Wallah, among others. It runs 20 ¾ minutes in 1080i.
Matt Zoller Seitz contributes a helpful video examination of the movie discussing the journey the brothers are taking in a thoughtful critique that sheds light on the director’s themes for the movie. It’s in 1080p and runs for 11 ¾ minutes.
Wes Anderson’s amusing American Express commercial runs for 2 minutes in 1080p.
Audition footage for Srihereh, one of the children in the tragic rafting sequence, is shown in a 2 ¾-minute piece in 1080i.
Oakley Friedberg presents a brief talk and slide show to fellow students at the Parker Collegiate Institute about his experiences on location during the making of the movie. It runs 3 ½ minutes in 1080i.
There is one deleted scene (playing cricket with a tennis ball) and two alternate takes of scenes in the movie which together run 3 ¼ minutes in 1080p.
Co-writer Roman Coppola’s sketch of the film is a montage of behind the scenes images (film, photographs, home video footage) edited into a 2 ½-minute visual essay with music provided by an electronic tabla presented in 1080i.
Actor Waris Ahluwalia contributes eleven entries into a video and photographic diary, all of which must be selected individually. They range from thoughts about the various animals they run across to his costumes for the movie, the fans who want autographs, and various foodstuffs available to a selection of Polaroid pictures. Each runs from ½ to 2 minutes in 1080i.
The trophy case is a brief thank you to two unusual groups who voted the film its only two awards. This runs ¾ of a minute in 1080p.
There are three available stills galleries. Official on-set photographer James Hamilton provides a wide variety of behind-the-scenes shots. Laura Wilson (mother of Owen) and Sylvia Plachy (Adrien Brody’s mother) contribute brief snapshots, all of which can be stepped through by the viewer.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs for 2 ¼ minutes in 1080p.
The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.
Instead of the usual booklet, Criterion has enclosed a folded pamphlet in the case which contains cast and crew lists and a lengthy appreciative essay on the movie by author Richard Brady.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Fans of such previous Wes Anderson films as Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums will feel right at home with his slight but entertaining The Darjeeling Limited (along with its prequel Hotel Chavelier, also included in this set). It’s a fine package with some notably excellent special features that recommend the set.