Miller’s Crossing

Miller’s Crossing (1990)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro
Extras: Featurette, Interviews, Still Gallery, Trailers

Ethan and Joel Coen are well known for quirky stories and characters. In drawing them slightly over the top, yet still realistically portrayed – somewhat like caricatures of the genre they are working in at the time. With ’Miller’s Crossing’ the brothers take on the classic prohibition gangster films and once again their writing, visual style, plotting and the superb cast make this film an exciting cinematic experience. Unlike many other gangster movies, ’Miller’s Crossing’ reveals a lot of character development and drama without toning down the action-elements too much. It tackles many themes that are relevant to today’s society as much as they were back in the 1940s, and it is this ability to connect the audience that really brings the characters in the film to life.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment sis presenting ’Miller’s Crossing’ in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Of course the transfer is enhanced for 16×9 TV sets and it is virtually free of blemishes. The image is clean and clear, revealing a lot of fine details in the picture. Color reproduction is very faithful, beautifully reproducing the color palette the filmmakers have used to create the vintage feel for this film with many brown tones and plenty of shadows. Therefore it is great to see that also the black levels are well balanced, reproducing those shadows with all details intact, and without every appearing murky or breaking up. At the same time, the transfer never appears to dark either, striking jus the right balance between light and dark. Occasionally some light edge-enhancement is evident in the transfer, but it is never distracting and the compression of the film has been handled flawlessly.

The DVD comes with the movie’s original 4.0 Dolby Digital audio track, featuring split fronts with a center channel, and a monaural surround implementation. The effect is very good and definitely suitable for this kind of film, which lives by its understated effects and the vintage-quality, sweet sore. Dialogues are very well integrated and always understandable. The frequency response of the track is also very good with a faithful reproduction of all elements.

The DVD contains a few extras, such as a featurette on Barry Sonnenfeld, who served as the director of photography on this picture. Presented as an interview, in this featurette, Sonnenfeld talks a lot about his influences for the film and how he tried to create the very unique look and feel for this movie.

The DVD also contains brief interview excerpts wit the principal cast members as they talk about various aspects of their film personae, and the production in general. A Still Gallery and theatrical trailers for other Coen movies are also found on the DVD, rounding it out nicely. Too bad only that the DVD does not contain a commentary track by the Coen brothers. I would have loved to hear more about their thoughts on the subject and the production, but I guess you can’t have it all.

’Miller’s Crossing ’is a wonderful and sensitive film that takes a well-known milieu and gives it a different spin. The character interaction, the dialogues and the somewhat wicked story makes it a feast for the senses. It is what I call, intelligent cinema.