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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Stereo
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interviews with Kelly Reichardt, Peter Sillen, and author Jonathan Raymond
  • New conversation between actors Daniel London and Will Oldham
  • Trailer
  • An essay by film critic Ed Halter and the short story by Jonathan Raymond on which the film is based

Old Joy

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Kelly Reichardt
2006 | 73 Minutes | Licensor: Filmscience

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #1008
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: December 10, 2019
Review Date: December 10, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

Two old friends reunite for a quietly revelatory overnight camping trip in Kelly Reichardtís breakout feature, a microbudget study of character and masculinity that introduced many viewers to one of contemporary American cinemaís most independent artists. As they drive from Portland into the woods in search of a secluded hot spring, expectant father Mark (Daniel London) and nomadic Kurt (Will Oldham) make fumbling attempts to reconnect, butting up against the limits of their friendship and coming to grips with just how much their paths have diverged since their shared youth. Adapted from a short story by Jonathan Raymond and accompanied by an atmospheric Yo La Tengo score, Old Joy is a contemplative, wryly observed triumph whose modest scale belies the richness of its insight.


PICTURE

Kelly Reichardtís second feature film, Old Joy, receives a new Criterion special edition on Blu-ray and is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on this dual-layer disc. Sourced from a new 2K restoration (scanned from a 35mm digital negative created during the filmís production), the film comes with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode.

A very low-budget film shot on 16mm I canít say I was expecting too much from the picture, yet this still manages to deliver a knockout presentation. Outside of close-ups and some nature shots I canít say the image is ever super-crisp, which I think comes down more to photography, but Iíll be damned if this doesnít look like a projected 16mm film in the end. Grain is pretty heavy (as one would expect) but it looks completely natural, rendered about as perfect as you could hope for it to be.

The restoration work is also impressive, and only a handful of minor imperfections pop up here and there; most of the film looks about spotless. Colours also look striking, particularly the greens of the Pacific Northwest, and black levels look great, at least during daytime sequences; they can come off a bit muddy during a nighttime campfire sequence, though this seems to be more of a byproduct of the low lighting.

Granted, itís not that old of a film, but I was expecting a lot of limitations due to the filmís indie/low-budget nature and surprisingly there really isnít much holding it back, outside of the limitations of the film stock and shooting conditions. It really does look incredible.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion includes a lossless PCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack. Itís a talky film but it manages to have a rather engaging and active mix. Sequences out in the woods present a lot of wonderful background effects, from running water to chirping birds, all of the sounds crisp and clean with impressive range, and itís spread nicely between the fronts. This all likewise holds true for Yo La Tengoís subtle but effective score. Dialogue isnít as sharp as the music these background effects, but itís clear and easy to hear. Despite the filmís low-budget nature it sounds wonderful and itís almost a shame this couldnít get some sort of 5.1 surround upgrade.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The features end up being limited to a few interviews, though most offer some charming stories about the filmís ultra-no-frills shooting. Actors Daniel London and Will Oldham first pop up together to talk about their initial casting, with Oldham apparently up first for the role of Mark (played by London eventually) because Reichardt felt he would be ďtoo on the noseĒ to play Kurt, and then about moments of improvisation (like Kurtís story at the end, which Oldham based on a real experience). The two also talk about the experience of making the film (which felt more like just a bunch of people hanging out) and share some funny (if gross) stories, specifically one about the hot spring tubs central to the film (if I ever visit the place I will make sure not to jump in them). The two seem deathly serious at first so I was anticipating a rather dry affair, but it turns into a fun recollection. Their discussion runs 23-minutes.

Kelly Reichardt next shows up for 19-minutes to talk about how the film came together, which started with her getting a short story from Jonathan Raymond, scouting locations (which would inspire her for this film and others), getting the appropriate props (Reichardt ended up trading her car for the Volvo used in the film through Craigslist), and then finally getting through the long post-production process, which included getting a score from Yo La Tengo. Author Jonathan Raymond also appears here to explain the background behind the story and share his thoughts on Reichardtís adaptation (and also touch on their other work together). Things then end with director of photography Peter Sillen, covering the technical details around the shooting this filmówhich includes more detail about the camera used than you would expectóand then some of the difficulties that come with shooting a low-budget film of this nature (they got fed, though, which he was happy with). The latter two interviews are over 10-minutes each.

Rather humourously, a common topic in all of the interviews (other than Raymondís) is Lucy, Reichardtís dog, who sounds like quite the character, and was apparently only in the film because she could not be left alone and no one wanted to watch her.

Criterion also includes a booklet. Ed Halter provides a decent analysis of the film in the included essay, but the best supplement to be found in this release is in this booklet: the original short story by Raymond. Told in the first person from Markís perspective, the story is very similar (even a lot of the dialogue is the same), and most differences are minor, but Kurtís story is completely different, with the character of Yogi getting mentioned again. A key moment near the end (that comes after the story in the film) also plays out differently. Raymond and Reichardt talk a bit about the original source and some of the changes, but itís great to get a firsthand look at all of this.

Disappointingly slim in the end, but the material is still strong and getting the original story is a great bonus all on its own.

6/10

CLOSING

Slim on features but theyíre all solid and the booklet includes the original source story. The A/V presentation is also a stunner on its own.


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