3 Women Blu-ray Review
Simmering with slow-burning intensity, director Robert Altman’s small-scale 3 Women is an exquisitely-drawn psychological character study driven by a pair of career-defining performances.The late, great filmmaker made a career out of atypical anti-genre movies where nothing is what it seems; where characters are painted in a multitude of shades, and evolve across the piece in the most unexpected of ways. Few have come close to that kind of dynamic filmmaking (P.T. Anderson has taken his cue and run with it to make his own masterpieces in this vein). Two decades into a career that spanned five, and Altman was riding high on the critical acclaim of M*A*S*H, but still finding widespread appeal elusive, to which end he established his own studio to produce films the way he wanted to make them. 3 Women was borne out of this decision, and indeed reportedly out of a bizarre dream that Altman had which was fashioned into a makeshift script that would, in his typical directorial style, evolve into the more improvisational end result that we now see. Largely disregarded on release – again not uncommon for his films – rights issues left it languishing for the best part of three decades before finally being released on home formats.The story follows a small town Texas girl, Pinky (Sissy Spacek, Badlands) who starts work at a health spa and finds herself drawn to one of the other workers there, the seemingly vacuous, self-involved Millie (Shelley Duvall, a league apart from her work opposite Nicholson in The Shining) who thinks the whole world revolves around her despite the fact that it very clearly does not. When tragedy befalls them, however, the tables are turned, and both girls find their worlds veritably turned upside down. 3 Women draws some wonderful performances out of Spacek and Duvall, which require of them to work hard to not only develop their characters but also be prepared to completely spin themselves out of their respective comfort zones. Indeed it is hard to know quite which one puts in the more impressive performance. Whilst the film is innately slow-burning, this pacing is very much necessary to fully flesh out the characters before Altman pulls the rug out, and the payoff is desperately compelling. Don't miss out on this classic gem.
3 Women hits UK Region B-locked Blu-ray with an impressive 4K-restoration.
Arrow's delivery is unquestionably impressive considering the age of the film, and the budget which restricted its production, however there are some reservations that are arguably beyond the scope of this review which will leave some viewers in a quandary. Reportedly, although it has not been possible to do a direct comparison of the two releases, Arrow's presentation is strikingly different from the Criterion Blu-ray presentation which preceded it. The colour scheme is significantly different, by all accounts lending a more overt yellow dominance to this Arrow release.
Ultimately though, Arrow's 3 Women release, taken apart, is hard to fault. The bias towards yellows is hard to notice without prior knowledge, and whilst the colours may run quite hot, that both suits the sun-drenched California locales and also the more sickly/dreamy content. And beyond that, the detail is excellent, with fine object observation, clarity and a grain structure that would appear hard to top. There are some slight reservations with regard to darker lit sequences but overall it is still a strong effort, and without direct comparison to the US release - or indeed any official confirmation of which was closer to the director's original intention (which would be slightly hard now) - it's hard to mark this presentation down.
The accompanying Linear PCM 1.0 mono track is just as impressive, and even harder to question.
Although innately limited at a technical level, the LPCM accompaniment still provides fresh audio for the classic feature, which sounds authentic at all times. Dialogue retains presence throughout the proceedings, whilst effects are nominal but wholly natural, with scope to take in both the ambience of the bars, the buzz of the spa or the hospital, and the background hubbub (Altman loves his background mumbling), and also the punch of some gunshots at the range. It's nothing to ignite the track, but it's still noteworthy that the mix manages to draw you in, which is in no small part thanks to a slightly forceful but nevertheless undeniably intoxicating score.
Arrow once again impress on the extras front.
David Thompson on 3 Women: This provides the meat in the supplementals package; a 38 minute video interview with the Altman expert himself, recorded exclusively for Arrow earlier this year. It's a worthy effort, with plenty of background not only into the themes and production of 3 Women itself, but also into the man behind the project.
Interview with Shelley Duvall: This six minute featurette offers insight into the actress's introduction into the film industry and career-changing work with Altman.
Galleries: A trio of comprehensive galleries
We also get Arrow's trademark article-based booklet and reversible cover.
Blu-ray VerdictAlmost four decades on and Altman's 3 Women is still an acute dissection of one woman's psyche, as seen through three disparate characters. It may not have been all that well received at the time, but it has been swept up and lavished with praise ever since, and rightly so.
Arrow's 4K-based release is largely another impressive effort.
Strong video and audio provide the backbone to this release, and a decent set of UK-exclusive extras round off the disc. Fans who are not restricted by Region Encoding are going to have a hard decision here, because there are reportedly quite significant colour scheme differences between the Region A-locked US release from Criterion, and this Region B-locked release from Arrow, but those limited to UK region-coded discs should largely relish what this package has to offer, with only the slightest of reservations. And given the near-30 years that the film spent buried without a home video release, we should relish the fact that we've actually got the privilege of not one, but two High Definition Blu-ray packages to choose from.
You can buy 3 Women on Blu-ray here
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