The Cotton Club

The Cotton Club (1984)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, James Remar
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

Francis Ford Coppola’s 30’s period piece ’The Cotton Club’ is another one of his stylish films that are full of hauntingly beautiful images and an almost poetic visual style, underscoring the filmmaker’s rather artistic take on movies as opposed to the overly commercial style found in most modern Hollywood releases.

New York’s Cotton Club was a hub for jazz musicians during the 30’s, and cornet player Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere) is one of the aspiring young musicians hoping for the big break. Night for night he plays the club, but nothing happens. Trouble with the clubs owner, a love interest and stiff competition for people’s attention make it a rough going, and over time, the Cotton Club becomes a place of hot tempers and when the Mob eventually becomes active in the club, things inevitably boil over.

MGM Home Entertainment is bringing us ’The Cotton Club’ as part of their ’Contemporary Classics’ series, in a DVD that is restoring the film’s original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio in a transfer that is enhanced for 16×9 television sets. The print used for this DVD is generally clean and free of defects or mars, but slight registration errors are evident in some portions of the film, causing the image to waver slightly. The transfer also appears a bit soft at times, which may have been the director’ intention however, in order to create the beautified imagery of the film. No edge-enhancement is evident, which gives the transfer a rather natural look. Coppola has used a noticeably muted color palette for this film that makes strong use of shadows and highlights. The DVD restores this flair perfectly, creating bold blacks and well-delineated shadows that also carry enough image information to create a highly detailed picture. Flesh tones are naturally and no compression artifacts are visible.

The DVD contains a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio track, which is also coming to life nicely on this DVD. Music is – for obvious reasons – integral part of the story and the film, and John Barry’s jazz score is perfectly represented here with a wide sound field that creates an intimate atmosphere of a bustling and busy club. Surround usage is good throughout. The audio is free of distortion or sibilance and has a very good frequency response, bringing out the best of ’The Cotton Club’s’ aural side.

’The Cotton Club’ is a great film that nicely meshes dramatic storytelling with a setting that seems to be telling side-stories all of its own. Nicely capturing the flair of the 30s, the film is not only beautiful to watch but also a feast to listen to. MGM Home Entertainment is delivering a solid DVD with this release that Coppola fans should definitely check out.