DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Don't Come Knocking

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Aaron Silverman, Aug 10, 2006.

  1. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Jan 22, 1999
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    Aaron Silverman
    Don’t Come Knocking

    Written By: Sam Shepard
    Directed By: Wim Wenders
    US Theatrical Premiere: March 17, 2006 (Sony Pictures Classics)
    US DVD Release: August 8, 2006
    Running Time: 1:50:44 (28 Chapter Stops)
    Rating: R (For Language and Brief Nudity)
    Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic (Extra Features: 1.33:1 & 1.78:1 non-anamorphic)
    Audio: English DD5.1 (Extra Features: English DD2.0)
    Subtitles: French (Extra Features: None)
    TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None)
    Menus: Not animated.
    Packaging: Standard keepcase; insert features cover images from other Sony Pictures Classics titles on both sides.
    MSRP: $24.96


    Against a backdrop of wide-open vistas broken up by ancient rock formations, a grizzled cowboy rides off into the sunset. He leaves behind not a grateful family of ranchers, but a frantic assistant director who can’t find the star in time for the next scene – the movie isn’t finished yet. In fact, the real film is only just beginning.

    The “cowboy,” a B-list movie star named Howard Spence (Sam Shepard), has reached a state of ennui in his life of Hollywood debauchery. He is aging and tired, and has eschewed any meaningful relationships for the vices of the moment. His plan is to retreat into his own past, and perhaps ground himself by re-connecting with his roots. But can he go home again?

    Director Wim Wenders and writer/ star Sam Shepard return to the general setting of their 1984 cult classic Paris, Texas and use the American West as a sandbox for playing with their characters, following Howard on his quest through Nevada and Montana. He decides to start his journey at the beginning, and heads straight for his Nevada hometown, in which he hasn’t set foot in decades. Along the way, he drinks in the vast plains that for once lack camera cranes and production crews (at least within the context of the story, anyway).

    Howard’s first stop is his mother’s (Eva Marie Saint) house. Although they haven’t seen each other in thirty years, their reunion feels strangely mundane, as though they’d only been apart for a day. In fact, the basement bedroom is still adorned with the décor of Howard’s boyhood. But this venue doesn’t provide the escape for which he’d hoped. His mother is well aware of his drug-fueled, decadent lifestyle thanks to gossip magazines, and it’s impossible to take a step in town without tripping over a row of slot machines. To make matters worse, a relentless investigator (Tim Roth) from the bond company that guaranteed the film being held up by Howard is hot on his trail. Before long, he hits the road again.

    Based on some information from his mother (it’s unclear whether he was already aware of it), Howard decides to head for Butte, Montana, the scene of a long-ago movie shoot. Butte holds an old flame, Doreen (Jessica Lange), as well as other elements of Howard’s past that may provide refuge from the emptiness of his current existence. He also meets three young people – Doreen’s son Earl (Gabriel Mann), a local musician filled with rage; his tough-on-the-outside but sensitive girlfriend Amber (Fairuza Balk); and the mysterious Skye (Sarah Polley), who walks around town carrying the remains of her mother in a large blue urn. Their emotional honesty and vulnerability contrast sharply with the Hollywood types with whom Howard normally interacts. And if perhaps it’s too late for Howard to change himself, maybe these more youthful folks still have room to grow.

    Wenders and cinematographer Franz Lustig film Butte essentially as it is, with an eye towards the aesthetics of Edward Hopper. The city’s environs are bright and scenic, but the buildings themselves are somewhat decrepit, and few residents are seen outside of eating and drinking establishments. It all adds up to something of a ghost town feel. Here are the peace and quiet that Howard seeks, but the sense of emptiness is still present.

    Don’t Come Knocking deals with some fairly heavy subject matter, but maintains a light tone throughout. For example, a bitter confrontation between Howard and Doreen, which could have been overly dark, plays out in front of the huge window of a gym, mere feet from curious onlookers in the midst of workouts. A number of moments feel as though the characters are on the verge of violence, but things never quite make it that far. Thanks to the fine performances and Wenders’ deft tightrope walk between comedy and drama, the character-driven story will touch viewers’ hearts without weighing too heavily on them.

    Don’t come knocking (ha ha) if you expect a complex plot or a tidy resolution. The film is focused on character observation, and while it isn’t overly slow-paced, it doesn’t feature much in the way of action. Depth is revealed through dialogue and gesture rather than through external activities. Fortunately, the characters are interesting enough, and display enough development over the course of the film, to maintain interest.

    THE WAY I SEE IT: 3.5/5

    The image, shot on Super 35 but using anamorphic lenses rather than being cropped, mostly looks pretty good. There are a few instances of pattern shimmer, and a fair amount of edge enhancement – a bit more than has been the standard lately, but still not as bad as it used to be. In many scenes, colors are deeply saturated, which lends the picture a surreal quality but also produces some rather weird skin tones. Most of the time, the image features very good detail, although on occasion the focus seems slightly uneven.

    THE WAY I HEAR IT: 4/5

    The center-channel dialogue sounds great, as does the music, which is mixed entirely in the front. There are plenty of ambient directional effects, even though there isn’t a ton of action. The LFE isn’t too active, but there are a couple of spots where it tries to make up for lost time, namely when vehicles enter the picture. It’s a little jarring when it suddenly cranks up to 11 after being AWOL for several scenes.

    THE SWAG: 2/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

    Commentary With Director Wim Wenders

    This track starts out with the dreaded “I don’t know who’d be listening to me while watching the movie,” but thankfully goes right into actual content and doesn’t let up. Wenders talks non-stop throughout the running time, with lots of interesting information that runs the gamut from technical details to production anecdotes to character development. Overall, an excellent commentary.

    New York Premiere Featurette (18:21)

    Some footage of the film’s NY debut, mainly consisting of an interview with Wenders, Jessica Lange, and Gabriel Mann. Not the greatest piece of its type, but still worth checking out.

    Sundance Featurette (12:09)

    This includes some brief clips of interviews with Wenders and the cast at the Sundance Festival, as well as Wenders’ onstage introduction to the film, which consists mainly of calling the actors up to the stage. All told, this material is rather fluffy.

    Interview With Wim Wenders and Eva Marie Saint (4:59)

    This is the best of the three featurettes, but unfortunately it’s the shortest. It’s a run-of-the-mill junket-style interview, but the interviewer comes up with some good questions and his subjects provide interesting answers.

    • Quinceañera (1:56) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic)
    • Friends With Money (1:40) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic)
    • L’Enfant (1:46) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
    • Art School Confidential (1:44) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
    • The Devil And Daniel Johnston (2:25) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • Sketches Of Frank Gehry (1:58) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • Caché (2:09) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
    • Mountain Patrol: Kekixili (1:50) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
    • Why We Fight (1:55) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada (1:55) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic)
    • Lies And Alibis (2:10) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)


    The Way I Feel About It: 3.5/5
    The Way I See It: 3.5/5
    The Way I Hear It: 4/5
    The Swag: 2/5

    Don’t Come Knocking is one of those films where the setting is almost as much of a character as the people. Wenders’ and Shepard’s love for the open West is clearly evident. Butte may only be a shell of the city it once was, but the characters and Lustig’s cinematography make it feel homey just the same. This is a visual and emotional study of characters (including the setting), rather than a traditional plot-driven narrative, and it may not work for everyone. It also strikes a nice balance between darkness and lightness, with a playful tone that compensates for some melancholy emotions. The A/V quality is nice, despite some digital crap in the picture, and while the extra features aren’t plentiful, what is there is well worth checking out (especially the commentary track). This disc is a fine choice for when you’re in a particular mood.
  2. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

    Dec 11, 2000
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    Picked up the German DVD of this awhile back and was pleased, though I won't double-dip for the R1 disc despite the extras. I also have the German DVD of Wenders' Land of Plenty with Michelle Williams - no R1 of that yet?
  3. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Jan 22, 1999
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    Real Name:
    Aaron Silverman
    Amazon has Land Of Plenty up for preorder with a release date of October 10. No info on features, though.

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