What's new

McCabe and Mrs Miller - Any reviews yet? (1 Viewer)

JulianK

Supporting Actor
Joined
Oct 3, 2000
Messages
843
I believe Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs Miller is due next week, but I've not been able to find any reviews yet.
The disc promises a full-length documentary, which should be very interesting!
 

JulianK

Supporting Actor
Joined
Oct 3, 2000
Messages
843
Thanks, Patrick. I guess I've not been paying as much attention as I thought I was!

Mod's - Please feel free to close this thread.
 

Robert George

Screenwriter
Joined
Jul 3, 1997
Messages
1,161
I've posted my review of the DVD. A difficult film to transfer to video, but Warner has done their usual exemplary job.
 

Coressel

Supporting Actor
Joined
May 26, 1999
Messages
699
Hey thanks for the review. Is Altman's commentary better than his MASH or Nashville commentaries? I thought he sounded pretty board during the MASH commentary.
 

PatrickL

Second Unit
Joined
May 13, 2000
Messages
426
Obi, thanks for reviewing the disc. Your review is especially valuable to me because you've seen the film before and can judge the transfer with that as a frame of reference.

Mark Zimmer, I'm looking forward to your review as well. Also, dvdauthority has a review coming, presumably tonight.

Perhaps one of the mods can close the *other* thread?

About Altman commentary tracks: count me among those who are usually disappointed by their sparseness. Altman isn't particularly chatty, and he seems unwilling or unable to talk about what is going on in his films below the surface. He once said something along these lines: he goes out and pours himself into making the movie, and then reads the critics and scholars to find out what he did. There's probably a little truth in that at least.

Because he has company on this particular track for McCabe, I'm hoping he might be a bit more revealing than is his norm.

In any event, I'm spinning this disc the moment I get it. Then, I'll be counting down 'til "The Long Goodbye" is released.
 

JulianK

Supporting Actor
Joined
Oct 3, 2000
Messages
843
Thanks for the review, Obi. I guess I'll have to add this film to my next order.
Incidentally, I thought that Altman sounded very uncomfortable during the MASH commentary, and only recounted the same anecdotes and information that was in the other supplements. My advice to anyone watching the disc is to skip the commentary, but make sure they watch the documentaries.
 

Marc Colella

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jun 19, 1999
Messages
2,601
Great review.
Looks like Warner pulled off another quality transfer - which is tough to do with this particular film.
I was pleased to see that Futureshop has it priced at $17.99 CDN. At that price, it's pretty much a no-brainer.
With this film, the upcoming Gosford Park and the just announced The Long Goodbye, fans of Robert Altman sure are getting their DVD fixes.
 

Guy_K

Second Unit
Joined
Aug 14, 2001
Messages
470
I got an early copy of this DVD. The transfer is pretty good, but not the audio track. I was under the impression that it was a 5.1 remix, when in fact it's a 1.0 mix. The documentary is also very dry and boring (no interviews, or insight, just a voice over explaining what goes on in the film.. the whole thing runs about 8 minutes).

I'm glad to finally have the DVD though. It's a very good film.
 

Michael Reuben

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 12, 1998
Messages
21,763
Real Name
Michael Reuben
The transfer is pretty good, but not the audio track.I was under the impression that it was a 5.1 remix, when in fact it's a 1.0 mix.
This is one instance where tinkering with the audio track would have been truly unforgivable. McCabe is famous for its muddy sound and muffled dialogue. It's as integral to the effect of the film as the snowy rough-hewn setting and washed-out color scheme. There's nothing to "open up" with a 5.1 mix, and if the sound were to be cleaned up and clarified, it wouldn't be the same film.

I did notice one oddity with the disc: It wouldn't load on my Panasonic player, but worked fine in my Sony. I haven't seen other reports of problems, but that's probably because this isn't the type of film that sells millions of discs.

M.
 

Rich Malloy

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2000
Messages
3,998
I love this movie - my favorite Robert Altman flick - and what a wonderful DVD Warner has created.

The cinematography looks amazing, including some very difficult scenes to transfer (smoke, fog, snow falling). The "flashed" negative, the many filters, the natural lighting... this must've been a monster task for the compressionist!

The "documentary" is a brief one, shot contemporaneously with the film, and basically shows how the town of Presbyterian Church was created for the film. Interesting, but the best stuff's on the commentary track.

And it's the best Altman commentary I've yet heard - also present on the track is the film's producer - and we get some really fascinating background on a lot of interesting topics: how Leonard Cohen's music came to be used (what Cohen himself thought of the film, initially and subsequently), how they decided to start shooting the finale when the snowstorm came and simply hoped the snow would keep falling until they were finished (it did!), how Pauline Kael was so instrumental in championing the film ... plus a few, veiled but revealing references to the on-set difficulties between Altman and Beatty.

Great movie, great disc!
 

JohnRice

Bounded In a Nutshell
Supporter
Ambassador
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2000
Messages
14,905
Location
A Mile High
Real Name
John
Thanks to the good graces of one of our own HTF members, I got to see this film for the first time last week. Even though I had never seen it, I was impressed by the look of the DVD. As others have said, it sure looks like a difficult one to transfer, and Warner seems to have done an outstanding job. As far as the soundtrack, I agree that nothing fancy should have been done. It would diminish the theme of the film.
 

Mark Pfeiffer

Screenwriter
Joined
Jun 27, 1999
Messages
1,339
So I take it that I can just ignore the terrible DVD File review then? Although I've never seen it, it's one on my long list of films to check out and was considering buying this one. DVD File gave this an awful audio and video review, which had me somewhat concerned.
 

PatrickL

Second Unit
Joined
May 13, 2000
Messages
426
It's interesting. Often when I read criticism about the discs of Altman's films, there's an unfamiliarity with how they looked on screen. For instance, the "MASH" disc was faulted in many reviews I read for an image that was a little soft and desaturated - but in truth it was an accurate representation of how the movie was meant to look.

But it's quite a different story here, where the reviewer at dvdfile considers "McCabe..." one of his all-time favorite films (as I do) and has seen it presumably more than once in the cinema. I think the review is excessively harsh, and that there's every reason to pick up this disc if you've any interest, but I do have a kind of sympathy for his viewpoint. It seems to me that there is something lost seeing this film on video as opposed to film, I guess because of the unique qualities particular to the cinematography.

However, as others have said in this thread, this video transfer is remarkable in many ways and NOT at all a slouch job. If someone had only seen this film before on vhs or even on LD, this transfer would be a near complete revelation!

The sound is what it is. One of the sound people who worked on the film said somewhere that it was "always f--ked" and frankly, it is a bit. Altman's team later became much more sophisticated and innovative with live multi-track recording but for this film, the fidelity is limited. The review at dvdfile asks why the track couldn't be cleaned up and made more intelligible. That complaint is really with the source material, and not with the disc.
 

Rich Malloy

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2000
Messages
3,998
Yes, ignore it. Certainly, one has to make certain concessions when rating an early-70's low-budget film shot and recorded in the manner this one was, and source elements aren't always preserved as well as they should be. But most of what the reviewer sees as "defects" were actually artistic choices (that is, not defects due to budget limitations). Flashing the negative, using copious filters and shooting in natural light are going to give the film a very soft, burnished, "old-timey" look. Quite simply, it doesn't look a thing like "The Fast and the Furious"... and it's not supposed to. Warner Bros. has been making fantastic, anamorphically-enhanced transfers for quite some time now, and they know how to do it well. This disc is no exception.

I think Obi (Robert George) gave a great review of the image quality (and he knows this stuff much better than I, that's for sure):
Visually, McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a wonderfully dense, beautifully photographed film. Much of that beauty is derived from the use of naturalistic lighting. The cold, gray light of the Canadian northwest outdoors and the warm glow of natural wood and firelight indoors. The problem is reproducing this rather dark look on video. The best attempt up to now was the letterboxed laserdisc edition released some years ago by Warner. Even then, many of the darker shots were reduced to murky, indistinct shots that could only hint at what was photographed. Warner’s new DVD edition goes a long way toward reproducing Vilmos Zsigmond’s gorgeous cinematography. Color balance is excellent with the cooler, more precise whites and grays of the snow covered landscapes and the warmer, more saturated hues of the indoor shots. The image is generally sharp with very good detail. There are a few shots that appear intentionally hazy and these are reproduced relatively cleanly with no visible pixel breakup. There is some film grain apparent throughout but the MPEG compression handles it well enough that is does appear as film grain rather than noise. Most important to this transfer is the relatively greater contrast range of the DVD format. The many darkly lit shots in this film are reproduced with greater clarity and detail than I’ve ever seen before. Blacks retain the deep, velvety smoothness required yet shadow detail is quite good. Even so, viewing in a darkened room is recommended.
I've seen this film many times - on TV, on VHS, in the theaters - and it's never looked so good. "Gorgeous" I thought to myself on many occasions while watching this disc. I think Warner should be commended.
 

Michael Reuben

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 12, 1998
Messages
21,763
Real Name
Michael Reuben
, and that music has never left me.
Translation: "I wasn't around in the 70s, I have no idea how films from that era looked and sounded in theaters, and my frame of reference for reviewing DVDs is films shot and mixed in the 90s."
Well, I did see McCabe and Mrs. Miller in 1971, when it was first released. If you want to see and hear the film that Robert Altman made then, this disc can provide that experience.
M.
 

Mark Pfeiffer

Screenwriter
Joined
Jun 27, 1999
Messages
1,339
Thanks for the advice. Considering the general level of quality in big studio releases these days, I found the sharp criticism very surprising. Looks like the biggest problem now may be finding a B&M that carries it. :)
 

JohnRice

Bounded In a Nutshell
Supporter
Ambassador
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2000
Messages
14,905
Location
A Mile High
Real Name
John

I think this comes a lot these days from people who are too into the "reference DVD" mentality. The assumption that all films should be crisp and have rich, vibrant colors.
 

Nick Graham

Screenwriter
Joined
Oct 16, 2001
Messages
1,406
I have been reading the book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll Generation Saved Hollywood", and the author looks at the McCabe sound issue with both Beatty and Altman offering their two cents. Beatty blames the film's poor commerical performance on the sound, but Altman offers no apologies, even though people involved with the production of the film and the soundtrack itself describe it with less than complimentary adjectives, stating that Altman would have it no other way.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Forum Sponsors

Forum statistics

Threads
348,460
Messages
4,846,389
Members
142,322
Latest member
DK Baker
Recent bookmarks
0
Top