One Hour Photo

One Hour Photo (2002)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Trailer, TV Spot

From the outrageous comedian, Robin Williams turns more and more into a serious character actor in recent movies – and an extremely good one at that. Somehow he just manages perfectly to play the nice guy from next door on the outside, yet retains a very subtle, sinister overtone throughout his performance that makes him extremely menacing and unpredictable. Once again, Williams is putting in such a marvellous performance in 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s "One Hour Photo," which is now available on DVD.

Sy Parrish ( Robin Williams) is taking his job very seriously. He is "the photo guy" at a supermarket, developing people’s pictures with a meticulous precision that is often lost in today’s fast-paced world. But he also has a dark secret. For many years he has been developing the family pictures of the Yorkins, a wealthy, young suburban family. Sy is a lonely man and his desire to have his own loving family makes him worship the Yorkins and their happiness. He follows every one of their steps and obsessively collects every picture they take to pin it on the wall in his own home. He daydreams about being part of their family and does everything to feed his psychosis. But one day, Sy’s fantasy family collapses when by accident he finds out a secret in their lives. How will he be able to handle this new situation? Or can he handle it at all?

"One Hour Photo" is a disturbing film and Robin William’s performance is once again remarkable to say the least. The contrast the director builds by using many light-colored and white sets to oppose the dark nature of the story, is a great example how filmmakers can use their visual vocabulary to create atmosphere through style. The film’s narrative is a bit slow, but once again it is a deliberate device by the director to explore the desolation of his main character and to underscore his own emptiness.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment presents "One Hour Photo" in its original <$PS,widescreen> format on this DVD in a transfer that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> television sets. The transfer is absolutely clean and free of speckles. The film itself reveals a bit of grain, which is an intentional device the filmmakers employed for this movie, and not a shortcoming of the DVD. Colors are extremely faithful and even the most subtle hues are nicely reproduced. Blacks are deep and solid without breaking up, creating shadows that are deep, yet full of detail. There’s no distracting edge-enhancement evident and the compression has also been handled very carefully, as to not to introduce compression artifacts.

The DVD comes with a variety of audio tracks, including a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> track, as well as <$DS,Dolby Surround> tracks in French and Spanish. The tracks are very well produced and especially the <$5.1,5.1 mix> is rich and voluminous. The movie makes great use of foreshadowing events in music, and relying of drones and clusters to create suspense. These clusters are beautifully integrated in the mix, creating a wide sound field that engulfs the viewer. But also the sound effects are very active, making dynamic use of the surround channels.

The DVD also contains a <$commentary,commentary track> featuring director Mark Romanek and actor Robin Williams. The track is quite interesting and offers a lot insight into the production. It is a bit dry at times and not as lively as you may hope for, as Romanek is often very technical in his analysis of the images on screen. On the other hand, as a result there is a lot of information to be found in this commentary.

You will also find a Cinemax "Making Of" featurette for the movie on the release, which is a promo piece to advertise the movie, in essence, but doesn’t really cover any of the film’s background or production aspects, though it does contain some interview snippets.

The DVD also contains the Charlie Rose interview with Robin Williams and director Mark Romanek. As always, the interview is poignant, very observing and convinces through its candidness. It’s a great addition to the DVD so make sure to check it out.

"Anatomy of a Scene" is yet another featurette, essentially covering the same ground, complete with interviews with cast and crew members. It is a bit more in-depth and production oriented than the previous ones and as such offers some valuable additional information. The disc is rounded out by the movie’s trailer and selected TV Spots.

For a first-time feature film director, this is a remarkable debut. Romanek previously directed music videos and I was surprised to see how restrained yet incredibly visual his direction for the film was. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment put together a good DVD, although the extras seem to be slapped on simply because of their availability and not because someone felt they really added to the overall experience.

Fortunately I’m doing all my photos digitally these days, so I don’t really have to be afraid someone like Sy Parrish is lurking around me, but nonetheless this story of intrusion, violated privacy and freaky obsession, does hit its mark. Check out this film, it’s a very sobering experience.