Directed by Robert Altman
USA 2006

 

  Altman's film is a celebrity performed cinema version of Garrison Keillor's radio show - A Prairie Home Companion. Occasionally narrated by Kevin Kline who plays a security guard named Guy Noir - another nostalgic throw-back as an ex-private investigator temporarily out of work due to the deficiency of both missing heiresses and tycoon's lying in the solarium with lipstick stains on their smoking jackets. Two kind of quasi main plots - a new owner (Tommy Lee Jones) has purchased the Fitzgerald theater (that the show broadcasts from) and is going to tear it down while an angel (Virginia Madsen) stalks the theater to take one of the performers and converse with a few others. Other than that we have a wonderful plot less narrative of rapid-fire dialogue, hints of sub-stories and character placements. Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep play the singing Johnson Sisters, with Lindsay Lohan Streep's suicide-obsessed daughter. Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly are a singing cowboy duo, Dusty & Lefty. And yet the story hints that there are an endless procession of eccentric performers giving body and soul for their craft.

It has the totally ingratiating unique style of Altman with his previous films desperately surfacing in your grey cells as you view. I think Keillor (whose work I have loved for almost 20 years) and Altman make the absolute perfect team. This is a timeless film that will have you warm and smiling for weeks after viewing. Strongly recommended.

Gary W. Tooze

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Theatrical Release: February 12th, 2006 - Berlin Film Festival

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DVD Review: New Line - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:45:20 
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.37 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, Spanish, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: New Line Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by director Robert Altman and actor Kevin Kline
• Deleted scenes with optional commentary
• "Come Play With Us: A Feature Companion" featurette
• "Onstage at the Fitzgerald: A Music Companion" - extended musical performances and advertisement segments
• Soundtrack preview (jump to songs in the film)
• Trailer

DVD Release Date: October 10th, 2006

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Chapters: 25

 

 

Comments:

Altman is known to adopt certain unorthodox visual (and audio) styles and since I did not see this theatrically I can't really comment on the accuracy of the DVD image. The 'thick' look is probably intentional - the image is fairly sharp and colors look fine. It is progressive in the 2.35 widescreen ratio and, as I have read as its intent, quite dark. It looked fine on my system.

There are two tracks - a 2.0 and a 5.1 with the latter showing its superiority in occasional sequences of song and background dialogue, but for the most part the enveloping track is untested. There are optional English and Spanish subtitles.

The Altman/Kline commentary is quite laid-back and warm - much like the film itself. Production details are explored and, as with Altman, there is much to learn and appreciate. There is a healthy Featurette - Come Play With Us that explores some topics mostly based on Altman's crafting of the film. There are some unused musical pieces performed and the ability to jump to specific songs in the film.

Overall, this is a wonderful film experience. The fact that many will not appreciate it to the degree that it deserves only makes it more comforting and homey. Not for everyone, A Prairie Home Companion's nostalgic respect and references are even better than simply 'charming'. They carry some strong messages of the joy of the simplicities of life, togetherness, artistic creation, family and friends. I loved every minute - even the cynical moments.  

Gary W. Tooze

 





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Distribution New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

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