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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Northfork
Northfork
Paramount // PG-13 // December 30, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 29, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


A very interesting and original film from directors the Polish Brothers ("Twin Falls Idaho"), "Northfork" focuses on the town of the title, a little city in the heartland whose time is about to be up. A dam will be constructed nearby, turning the town into a lake, running out the remaining townsfolk and driving surrounding property values up. Those who have decided to remain face opposition from men in dark suits (including one father/son team, played by James Woods and director Mark Polish), who do their best to persuade the folks to leave, since they have been promised waterfront property if they reach their goals.

Those who remain include Irwin (Duel Farnes), a sick little orphan who was returned by his parents, since he couldn't make the journey out of town. Another resident has built himself an ark, complete with two wives. The local priest remains, attempting to comfort those who remain. As Irwin becomes sicker, he begins to imagine himself in the presence of angels (Daryl Hannah, Robin Sachs, Anthony Edwards and Ben Foster), who believe that he might be "the lost angel." I almost forgot the wooden horse that walks across the plains.

This clearly appears to be the Polish Brothers' biggest effort, complete with some impressive period props/sets and utterly stunning cinematography from M. David Mullen that is quite nearly monochromatic and often quite haunting. However, the film clearly isn't going to appeal to all tastes; its deliberate pace and David Lynch-like oddness turned off some audiences during the film's release, while other critics called it "a masterpiece".

While I wasn't quite as positive about the film, I did find it to be an enjoyable effort that takes the very offbeat imagination of the directors to another level. The story idea is certainly an original one, and some of the actors (Woods, Farnes) manage to suggest more complex characters under the rather dry, understated tone (the Coens handled the same tone better in "The Man Who Wasn't There") of the entire movie.

I wasn't entirely thrilled with the whole "angel" subplot, as it wasn't terribly well-integrated, but it was still an interesting fantasy element that was presented with the same imagination and interesting visual style as the rest of the film. I think a better film with more drama and conflict could have been made out of the story of a town's struggle to save itself from being washed away, but this was at least an inspired, involving attempt. I look forward to what the Polish brothers do next.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Northfork" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Given the film's stunning cinematography, a fine transfer would be appreciated, and thankfully, Paramount has provided a terrific effort. Sharpness and detail are many not be remarkable, but the image is consistently smooth and film-like, seemingly capturing the film's "look" accurately.

The only issue that I occasionally noticed with the presentation was the presence of some very slight edge enhancement in a couple of scenes. Other than that, no compression artifacts were noticed and the print used appeared to be in excellent condition, aside from maybe a speck or two. As for colors, well, the film's nearly colorless color palette seemed to be rendered accurately. Black level remained strong throughout, while flesh tones appeared accurate.

SOUND: "Northfork" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. As expected, the dialogue-driven film really doesn't have much use for the surrounds. The rear speakers kicked in a couple of times for music and some light ambience, but otherwise, they remained silent. Dialogue remained crisp and clean-sounding throughout.

EXTRAS: Aside from an informative commentary by writer/directors the Polish Brothers, the DVD offers a few other features, including:

Bare-Knuckle Filmmaking: This is an extremely enjoyable 36-minute documentary that chronicles the making of "Northfork". With ever-changing weather conditions in Montana, disappearing financial support (as we find out early on, a proposed $1.8m in financing never arrived), the Polish brothers found themselves facing problems early on in the production of this, their most ambitious effort. The film only had a shooting schedule of a tiny 25 days and, over the documentary, we watch as the filmmakers bump up against the elements and manage to push forward to try and get their movie made, despite the odds against them. We also learn that the writer/director's father served as the production designer on the film, building sets and other aspects of the film in hail storms and 70mph winds. Interviews with the writer/directors, actors (Woods is hilarious) and other crew members are also included. I wished this documentary was longer, as I thought it was a good exploration of indie filming that I wished was even more in-depth.

Also: A Sundance Channel news featurette (the writer/directors take their film back to show residents of Montana, which is where it was filmed), a photo gallery, trailer and promos for other Paramount titles.

Final Thoughts: "Northfork" was an interesting, original film that, while not an entirely successful effort, still offered fine performances and strong, rather imaginative visuals. It's not a film for everyone, but those in the mood for something different should give it a try as a rental. Paramount's DVD effort provides very good video and audio quality, along with a few enjoyable supplemental features.

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