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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Comedy > Filmmaking > Barton Fink (1991/Fox DVD)

Barton Fink


Picture: B-†††† Sound: B-†††† Extras: C†††† Film: A-



When Barry Sonnenfeld left the Coen Brothers as their cinematographer, a shift in their work visually was noticed, though it still retained many qualities typical of their films.Roger Deakins, B.S.C., who would take the writer/director team into a more comic, would mark the difference and experimental direction than they might have gone into otherwise.Barton Fink is the first film in what would develop into the trademark look they now share, even more manic and slightly demented than they would have ever become with Sonnenfeld.


In what may be one of the greatest send-ups of Hollywood ever made, the title character (John Turturro, incredible in this film) is a respected playwright who is sought out by a major studio mogul (Michael Lerner, nominated for an Oscar and particularly emulating Louis B. Mayer) wants to hire him to make a great film at his studio.Unfortunately, itís a boxing B-movie!What is he supposed to do with that?


Of course, the money is good, but he finds he cannot deliver.This is more from lack of interest or the impossibility of making this fiasco into something good than, say, writerís block.Visiting the shooting soundstage does not help him out either.The hotel he has been staying at is not exactly in four-star condition.His bellboy Chet (Steve Buscemi) is just a little too efficient and annoying, while his temporary neighbor Charlie (John Goodman) ties to be supportive and offer him another angle on how wrestling works.With this set of goings on, the center of the film remains Finkís mind and the system that is causing it to be messed with.The surprises are as plentiful as the comedy.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image looks fair, but is recycled from an analog master source.The film was first issued in the full-frame it was shot in on VHS and LaserDisc when it arrived on home video.It did not look as good as Millerís Crossing did, but then the film had a more complex color scheme and fancier patterns due to the world in which it was set.Later, Fox mated the film at 1.85 for another LaserDisc, which did not stay in print as long.That is what is here.Really, this film will not look right until a high definition transfer is done, which Fox should strongly consider for the D-VHS/D-Theater format.


The Dolby Digital 2.0 Pro Logic surround is the best by default, because the other language options are monophonic, but is still no match for the PCM CD Pro Logic the LaserDiscs offered.The film was released theatrically in Dolbyís older a-type analog system, but this mix is not representative of the filmís true sound as it should be.†† Even more oddly, it sounds better than the 4.0 on Millerís Crossing, offering more depth, surround information and detail.However, this is still negligible.


There are some extras never issued before on home video, including 23 stills on the film, eight deleted scenes that add to the film, and trailers that include this picture and Millerís Crossing.


In one strange way, you can see Barton Fink in all the future Coen Brothers films to follow, and that is a good thing.Many just want to see their films as comedies, and they are savvy enough to let those who miss what is really going on in their films keep thinking just that.However, there are always deeper layers in all their films and Barton Fink demonstrates this like none of their other films, which is why it will remain one of their best-ever efforts.



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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