An ‘old fashioned’ approach that is still quite enjoyable
I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man. Know what I mean?What is an unemployable actor to do when he needs to finance his friend’s new play? Dress as a woman and get a job on a daytime soap. And that, in one line, is the basic premise for tonight’s feature, Tootsie. Of course the idea of men in drag for entertainment has been around for hundreds of years, normally in comedic roles and whilst Tootsie is regarded as a comedy, it is not filmed as such. Indeed it was taken very seriously by all involved and the comedy evolved from the situations and crucially not the caricatures. Director Sydney Pollack keeps the pace high, the characters grounded and gets incredible performances from his actors, particularly co-star Jessica Lange who earned an Academy Award for her portrayal. While both Teri Gar and Bill Murry, although largely playing bit parts, have a significant impact on the film.But this is Dustin Hoffman’s film. The character of Michael Dorsey was based on an exaggerated performance of himself (the many jobs that he gets fired from where taken from his real life experiences) but it is when he puts on the dress that the film comes alive. The character of Dorothy is of a strong independent woman, so much so that, it is possible to forget that it is actually a man. In playing the film straight the natural comedic elements are drawn out as the audience is drawn into the film. Spiralling cases of misidentity begin to impact on Michael as Dorothy’s popularity and relationships become the cause of much mirth. But beyond the obvious, Pollack also takes swipes at sexism, soaps and acting in general. In fact the film has a good wholesome feel to it - an ‘old fashioned’ approach that is really quite enjoyable.
Picture QualityThe disc presents a widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio with a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region locked to B. Criterion’s 4K restoration is, as you might expect from the masters, stunning. Detail is sublime from skin texture (check out the makeup scene) to clothing weaves, from set dressing to New York street scenes; everything has keen, tidy edges. Colouring is excellent, all the primaries are bold and strong without wash or bleed, red is particularly vibrant (check out Dorothy’s red, sparkly dress, or her fingernails), though greens and blues (check out the farm for best examples) are no slouch either.
Criterion’s 4K restoration is, as you might expect from the masters, stunning
Brightness and contrast are set to give good strong blacks that add both depth and punch to the picture and for the most part this is fine – except in the bedroom scene at the farm, which does show a little crush at the expense of shadow detail. No such qualms at the other end with whites that never clip. Digitally there are no compression issues or any edge enhancement (early scenes with Michael against a beige background are so defined you could be fooled into thinking it’s extra sharpening). The original print has cleaned up remarkably well, with no issues of dirt, scratches or tram lines. There is a nice organic layer of grain leading to a really filmic look to the picture. Excellent stuff.
Sound QualityJust the one track: English LPCM mono. Like the picture the sound has been through the remastering process and has come out the other end as clean as a whistle. Dialogue is clear and natural sounding, while effects are well layered. The score has a good range and makes use of the lower end well, while the higher end never turns tinny or shrill. Everything is clean and precise even at reference where there is no hint of background hiss, distortion or other issues. Again, excellent stuff.
ExtrasAudio Commentary – With director Sydney Pollack was originally heard on the Criterion Laser Disc where he talks about his experience on the film.
A Better Man: The Making of Tootsie – Originally made in 2007 this look back at the making of the film contains plenty of interviews with cast and crew alike containing, as it does, raw footage of the film and excerpts form the original making of documentary made during filming. Concentrates on the early production, script evolution, director choices, the ‘heated debates’ between the director and star as well as how the whole thing came about.
The Making of Tootsie – The original 1982 making of feature filmed during the production of the movie.
Screen and Wardrobe Tests – Two screen tests of Hoffman made for Hal Ashby who was originally going to direct.
Deleted Scenes – Nine deleted scenes.
Interviews – Two interviews: one with Dustin Hoffman in which he discusses his time on the film, interaction with the other actors, his debates with Pollack and other stories. The second is with Phil Rosenthal (writer/producer/actor) who uses the time to discuss the film. Both were recorded exclusively for the original US release of the Blu-ray.
Blu-ray VedictTootsie sees volatile character actor Michael Dorsey dress up as a woman to get a part on a soap opera as his temperament meant that no one in New York will work with him; to the chagrin of actual women he wins the part quickly becoming a star, but when aspects of his personal life impact on his work he needs to find a way out of his contract.
Tootsie, in many respects, is a good old fashioned film – a ridiculous idea, played straight, drawing comedy from the situations with both drama and romance thrown in for good measure. It plays extremely well, you know the characters, what drives them and although the end is always in sight, the enjoyment is in the journey. Director Sydney Pollack keeps the pace high, the characters on track and provides a snappy comment on sexism, day time TV and acting.
Tootsie, in many respects, is a good old fashioned film
The Blu-ray package from Criterion is wonderful; the picture is bright, detailed, with great colours, strong blacks (barring some minor crush) and has a terrific filmic look, while the sound, being LPCM mono, still manages to be well layered, audible and clean. Extras are plentiful and go well behind the scenes. The film itself is one of the better known titles from this first set of releases, but it still hails a momentous time: Criterion are finally coming to UK (Region B) shores and this can only be regarded as a great thing.
You can buy Tootsie on Criterion Blu-ray here
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.