Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ah, the $5 Blu-Ray; plus Mud

It's kind of bizarre to me that HMV have opened up a Robson Street store in, I believe, the same location where they used to be - or surely only a few doors away - before their ill-fated venture into the space left by the Virgin Megastore. It's a strange trip back in time, in a way - an assertion that physical media is not dead, just undergoing a lesson in humility. Now that I'm actually able to watch Blu-Rays - having picked up a used, RCA-cable compatible one to plug into Mom's old TV - I find myself unable to resist picking the odd one up, and it's quite convenient that said HMV is very, very close to where I work. One phenomenon of interest is the 3/$15 Blu-Ray - a bin of which has provided some very respectable/ entertaining titles, mostly DVD upgrades, like Roman Polanski's The Ninth Gate - which I would have resisted at $25, but can't at $5... It's encouraging that the prices are becoming reasonable for Blu's, though no doubt it's too little too late, in terms of keeping the format afloat in the long term...

Anyhow, a bit of a gem I picked up from said bin that I wasn't at all prepared for was Mud, which I bought simply hoping for a competent drama/ thriller to keep Mom entertained. I did not realize the director was Jeff Nichols, nor had I really been paying close enough attention to his output to recognize his name before tonight, or to realize that he had made two films I'd admired previously, Shotgun Stories - which I sometimes still kick myself for not picking up when it was abundant in the PV bins at Rogers Video - and Take Shelter. The thought crossed my mind watching Mud that it may well have been made by the same filmmaker, since it shares elements, particularly in terms of Shotgun Stories' rural Southern locations and its humanizing portraits of people that might in other contexts get dismissed or depicted negatively - I'm thinking Winter's Bone, here - as violent, degraded white trash. I was pretty sure I was on the right track when Michael Shannon popped up in a memorable bit part, but it's only now that I'm checking the internet that I know for sure that I was right (I'm also very pleased to learn that Nichols is presently making an SF film, called Midnight Specialwhich he's likening to the works of John Carpenter!).

Mud tells a pretty moving story, of two young boys who encounter a strange man (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on an island, who is fleeing retribution for a murder and hoping to be reunited with the woman he loves (played by Reese Witherspoon, in one of her many unglamourous roles of late; she seems an unlikely candidate to get typed for playing slightly coarse, salt-of-the-earth working-class characters, but nonetheless appears to be heading in that direction). Wikipedia describes Mud as a coming-of-age tale, and I'm betting it's no accident that it more or less replicates at least one shot from the film Bright Angel, which is definitely a coming of age film, not otherwise very similar. It seems more to me to be about how young people perceive adult relationships and make investments in them according to their own needs, projections, and ideals: what adult love looks like to a child, and how children will sometimes try to mediate relationships they don't much understand. Saying more should be unnecessary, but there are all sorts of good reasons to see the film, though it should be enough that both Michael Shannon and Sam Shepard are in it. Oh, and so is Joe Don Baker! Though he's not given much to do, it was surreal and surprising when he popped up, since a Facebook friend is apparently a big Joe Don fan, and I've had the man on my mind a bit. I'd been meaning to check him out on Wikipedia to see if he was still alive and working, and I guess the answer is yes.

Anyhow, I have no great insights into the film but it has an unusual depth of character for an American-made drama; it's a fairly conventional use of cinema as a method of storytelling, but there's nothing at all wrong with that, when the end product is as authentic, engaging, and consistently interesting as Mud is.

So, errm, rush to your nearest HMV sale bin and snap it up! (By the way, you don't actually have to buy all three movies to get the deal - you can just get two and still get them for $5 each. There's some pretty good films to be found in those bins...).

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