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John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man

Olive Films // Unrated // March 24, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted March 9, 2015 | E-mail the Author
In 2013, Olive Films released John Ford's The Quiet Man on Blu-ray for its 50th Anniversary, complete with a beautiful new restoration (DVDTalk has a review of that disc here). Although the presentation was impeccable and the set came with a lengthy booklet, the one area where it came up a bit short was in the supplement department, offering only a previously released 25-minute featurette by film critic Leonard Maltin. Now, two years later, they're bringing the 2012 documentary John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man to Blu-ray on its own, in a separate release.

Directed by Se Merry Doyle, Dreaming The Quiet Man is a loose, wide-ranging documentary that not only examines the production of The Quiet Man, but also looks at John Ford's life and career to try and understand what it was that drove him to make it, and the effect the film has had on the community in which it's set. A long list of filmmakers, film critics, scholars, and crew are interviewed, as well as a number of people who live in the community and were alive while the movie was being made, not to mention John Wayne's daughter Aissa Wayne and star Maureen O'Hara. These memories are accentuated by plenty of archival footage, including material from Peter Bogdanovich's documentary on John Ford, as well as vintage photographs, clips from Ford's other films, and more.

Doyle has directed six documentaries including this one, and all six appear to be about Irish public figures, so it should be no surprise that the element he most effectively captures with the film is the way the movie integrates and affected the Irish people. Ford, who was Irish (born John Martin Feeney, then changed for career purposes), clearly had an affection for the locale in the film and the film spends a good deal of time with locals who watched the filming, participated in it, or simply love the movie. Much like the movie itself, the documentary features a number of gorgeous shots of the locale, drinking in the beauty of the isolated rural countryside. Doyle returns to a number of iconic locations from the film, including the site where the home that Wayne's character comes back to buy used to be located, the bridge he stops on early in the film, and the bar.

The other half of the documentary focuses on Ford's career and how many of his life's twists and turns, including a stint in the military and the nature of his home life, all influenced and drew him toward Walsh's story. The film goes over the struggle to get the film made in a way that would satisfy Ford, as well as his general demeanor and what it was like to work for him. The movie is far from a career overview, limiting itself to aspects of Ford's life and career that lead into The Quiet Man, but it does provide some of those kinds of details. Bogdanovich, as always, is an invaluable resource, having spent time with Ford, both for a book and the subsequent documentary, and Martin Scorsese also talks about the influence Ford had on him as a young, impressionable filmgoer.

Although Doyle handles both of these threads well individually, he has some trouble weaving them together into a narrative that flows nicely. The film often feels as if it's jumping around at random, especially on the more geographical or cultural side, while the thread about Ford occasionally comes off contradictory, painting a picture of the director as a man who hated to be interpreted or viewed through an introspective lens while doing exactly that, attempting to ascribe deeper meaning to his actions. The film is also accentuated by somewhat sleepy voice-over by actor Gabriel Byrne, whose lines are often a touch overwrought and his delivery too laid-back for its own good. The movie is rich with detail and packed with interesting stories, but Doyle is less than a fully assured hand on the wheel, bringing the overall effectiveness of the piece down a few notches. That said, fans of The Quiet Man will almost certainly enjoy it...if not necessarily the fact that this material couldn't have been included with the original Blu-ray of the film itself.

The Blu-ray
Olive Films brings Dreaming The Quiet Man to Blu-ray with artwork based on one of the original theatrical posters, although the actual image is either a photograph with some sort of PhotoShop filter on it, or a newly-created version of the artwork, as O'Hara is wearing different clothing, and the likeness of John Wayne is much more accurate. The color scheme is a bit muted, not matching the vivid artwork for The Quiet Man itself. The one-disc release arrives in a boxy InFiniti Blu-ray case, and there is a postcard insert advertising other Olive Films releases.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 1080p AVC and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Dreaming The Quiet Man seems like more of a mixed bag than even an average documentary, culling from a wide variety of footage of differing quality. The interviews are often the most crisply rendered, including O'Hara, with vivid color and strong detail, although on close inspection these bits of footage have a certain harshness or lack of polish that is common with untreated HD footage. Other material is in standard definition, including, oddly enough, the footage from The Quiet Man, despite the fact that Olive's Blu-ray of the film looks exceptional. The high-def soundtrack captures the subtle nuances of Byrne's voice-over, and nicely accentuates the bits of music added for the documentary itself. Disappointingly, no English subtitles are provided, which would be appreciated for the bits when Irish folk are speaking English.

The Extras
In addition to the film itself essentially being a feature-length supplement for The Quiet Man, this disc actually features its own extras. Upon closer investigation, though, all of these additional supplements turn out to be deleted scenes from the doc. "Maureen O'Hara Interview" (8:13) includes some additional memories of Ford and Wayne from the actress, which are very funny and delivered by the actor with a great warmth and fondness. "The Story Behind The Quiet Man Costumes" (3:45) is a look at a collection of memorabilia from the film, complete with a little historical tour by the owners of the items. "Maureen Coyne Cashman: A Quiet Man Extra" (1:56) is a brief interview with a woman who, as mentioned, worked as an extra on the film, recalling her experience, and "The Quiet Man Sheepdog" (0:38) is an even briefer interview with a man who helped wrangle the sheep for O'Hara's introduction. "May Murphy Upstages John Wayne in The Quiet Man" (1:34) chats with a woman who invaded the film set unexpectedly as a little girl. "Jack Heanue & John Daly on The Horse Race Sequence" (2:40) is pretty self-explanatory, an interview with the two men about their memories of the making of the horse race in the film. Finally, "The Annual Quiet Man Fan Club Celebration" (1:55) catches up with fans at, you guessed it, the annual Quiet Man fan club, including the two people chosen to re-enact parts of the film, playing Wayne and O'Hara's roles. It's easy to see why all of these snippets were cut, as for the most part they feel like color relating to the production of the film as opposed to the core story about Ford, but it's nice that they were included here.

The disc wraps up with an original theatrical trailer for Dreaming The Quiet Man. All of the video extras are presented in HD.

For those who are only casually interested in John Ford, John Wayne, or The Quiet Man, this documentary is probably inessential, as it carries a full-fledged price tag for a feature presentation that probably deserved to be included with the film. That aside, it's a decent look at the film's influence, one that more devoted fans of the movie will want to pick up. Recommended.

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