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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Moonlighting (1982) (Blu-ray)
Moonlighting (1982) (Blu-ray)
Other // PG // Region A
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted May 20, 2015 | E-mail the Author

Not to be confused with the popular TV series at all, Jerzy Skolimowski's Moonlighting (1982) is a clever examination of a country in turmoil and four men trapped outside of it. Jeremy Irons stars as Nowak who, with three other workers, emigrates from Poland to London under false pretenses. They're actually renovating a run-down apartment in the city for their boss: he likes the deal because they'll do the job much cheaper than English laborers, and they like it because of Great Britain's strong currency value. As the only bilingual team member, Nowak is their de facto leader and handles all the business details, finances, and even the groceries. Before long, they're smashing down walls and putting on fresh coats of paint, keeping a low profile and only corresponding with family back home on Sundays.

Unfortunately, one Sunday brings terrible news: the military has imposed martial law in response to the Solidarity union protests (which actually took place while Skolimowski was writing the film, and would continue for almost a year after its release), so Poland's borders and communication lines are closed indefinitely. Unable to hatch a better plan on short notice, Nowak decides to simply withhold the news from his team; he'd rather they get the job done without distraction. But the lack of correspondence also means their finances eventually dry up...so Nowak resorts to theft and trickery to feed his men, secretly watching news reports and reading newspapers to stay informed.

Even at face value, Moonlighting will impress first-time viewers with its slow-burning but magnetic narrative, uniformly strong performances, and heightened level of tension during otherwise ordinary events. Yet there's an obvious subtext here: is Nowak the leader of his own little country, keeping their hands busy and minds distracted from the truth? Is he honorable in his actions, or the worst kind of evil? Whatever Moonlighting's ultimate message, it does a commendable job of leaving just enough room for interpretation without beating viewers over the head with an obvious political statement. Shot independently in a London flat owned by the director (who also appears in an uncredited role), Moonlighting was an immediately penned response to real-world events and filmed in less than two months on a shoestring budget. The meta-commentary of its simple but cleverly layered story is just one highlight in this overlooked gem, which also features a memorable joint score by Stanley Myers and Hans Zimmer.

Released on Blu-ray by B2MP (who also handled last year's release of the similarly underrated Tomorrow), Moonlighting wasn't necessarily an obvious candidate for the format but fans will be happy to have it. Still, I've got more than a few nagging complaints about their treatment of the film: some are unavoidable due to source material issues, but others just feel like sloppy oversights that could've been easily fixed. Still, the main feature is definitely strong enough to tempt first-time viewers and seasoned fans alike, even considering its relatively high price point.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Presented in a slightly modified 1.78:1 aspect ratio (which is either slightly cropped or zoomed in from its original 1.85:1 framing), Moonlighting looks...OK in high definition. Though the overall image definitely appears "thin" (possibly because this is a single-layered disc, although it could just be a source material issue), detail is still good during close-ups and wide shots have a modest amount of depth. The subdued color palette holds up nicely and light textures are present. Film grain levels are inconsistent, and occasional clumps of noise and sporadic levels of edge enhancement (combined with its "thin" appearance) often give Moonlighting a slightly processed appearance. But the film is still watchable overall, and I'd imagine that die-hard fans will simply be pleased to have it on Blu-ray.

DISCLAIMER: The screen captures in this review are decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p image resolution.

Audio is presented as a linear PCM 2.0 track in English with occasional moments of Polish dialogue. Though definitely mixed a little low, dialogue is relatively clear and the score by Stanley Myers and Hans Zimmer (also available as an Isolated Score Track in PCM) sounds very good. Still, Moonlighting is an extremely low-key and subdued experience, so a few of this lossless mix's fundamental strengths aren't as obvious as others. But I had more than one problem with the optional English captions (incorrectly labelled "subtitles"): in addition to a few glaring typos ("Marshall law"?), only select portions of the Polish dialogue have been translated and a music note icon appears every time background music is present...even at almost undetectable levels, which is quite often. The variety of regional accents and dialogue almost make captions necessary, so I wish B2MP would've treated them with more care.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

B2MP presents Moonlighting in a similar fashion to their 2014 release of Tomorrow: this two-disc package (one Blu-ray, one DVD) is housed in a dual-hubbed keepcase with a tiny-print Booklet featuring an essay by Polish film critic Ewa Hanna Mazierska. The menu interface is bland and uninspired, but at least everything's right up front.

Bonus Features

Not too many, but at least there's some effort. Aside from the Isolated Sore Track. we get a feature-length Audio Commentary with Jeremy Irons...which is at least 80% silent and mostly filled with plot narration and surface-level comments, such as cast biographies. There are a few bits of interesting info along the way, but this definitely could have used some editing (or just been recorded as an interview). Last but not least is the film's Theatrical Trailer.

Final Thoughts

More than three decades after its release, Jerzy Skolimowski's Moonlighting still works perfectly well as both a character-driven drama and a clever allegory of the director's home country during its production. Jeremy Irons turns in a remarkable performance as the soft-spoken, deeply conflicted Nowak, while supporting roles are filled admirably by lesser-known faces, non-actors, and even the director himself. The score by Stanley Myers and Hans Zimmer, alternating between softer moments and unsettling electronic flourishes, partners well with the dreary London backdrop. First-time viewers may have trouble adjusting to Moonlighting's atmosphere at first, but it eventually settles into a focused groove and, in just over 90 minutes, becomes an unforgettable slice of foreign cinema. B2MP's Blu-ray package offers a decent enough A/V upgrade from Trinity Entertainment's 2005 DVD and a few modest extras, but portions of this disc would have benefited greatly from more attention to detail. Recommended.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.
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