Punch-Drunk Love Criterion Blu-ray Review
I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine.
One of the greatest films you may have never even heard of, let alone seen, Punch-Drunk Love is a minor masterpiece.Yes, it's an Adam Sandler film. Yes, you may have, understandably, never heard about a 'good' Sandler film. But filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson (the man behind There Will Be Blood - which won Daniel Day-Lewis Best Actor again), who gave Tom Cruise something to get his teeth into in Magnolia, and surprised us with Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights, crafts a surprisingly touching, thoughtful tale about love and loneliness; mental abuse and mental illness; emotional damage and social awkwardness. And sticks Sandler right at the core of it; the heart of it, leaving him to deliver easily the greatest performance of his career (excepting all his bad films, he's also made a few other buried gems such as Spanglish, The Wedding Singer or Funny People - but none come close).Sharing great chemistry with Emily Watson, and frightening ferocity opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sandler adopts a nuanced intonation; awkwardness, hesitance and frustration over finding the right words; inability to express - or defend himself - as his neurotic, damaged businessman navigates a world where the weak get squashed (there's a scene with the character surrounded by his seven overbearing sisters which is one of the truest visions of bullying ever captured). With Robert Elswit's striking cinematography, Jeremy Blake's mood-fueling visual interludes, and Jon Brion's innovative, experimental score all playing their part within this tremendous Anderson production, Punch-Drunk Love remains absolutely unmissable, despite the many that have missed it.
Picture QualityCrtierion's Region B-locked UK release of Punch-Drunk Love delivers the movie with a fabulous 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation - personally supervised by director Paul Thomas Anderson - framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Making the most of Robert Elswit's striking cinematography and distinctive broad shots, the film has simply never looked this good.
Punch-Drunk Love has never looked this good
Detail is impressive at every stage, picking up on the finer nuances even in these broader shots; bringing the landscapes to life and delivering intimate textures and observations on close-ups. The colour scheme is broad and distinctive - steeped in vibrant tones and boasting unconventional usage of primaries - and Blake's video art stands out in particular. Black levels are strong and deep, and the added clarity and depth leave this a fantastic looking title.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track also does a stunning job with the sound, delivering dialogue precisely, with clarity and coherence, largely dominating the fronts and centre channels, whilst lapping up the finer nuances of the subtle yet authentic effects peppered throughout.
The audio track also does a stunning job
Aside from a couple of more shocking standout sonic flourishes, it's a mostly restrained affair which brings the office locations, bustling flights and various locales to life, although the score - an experimental affair by Jon Brion - gets centre-stage in the proceedings, maintaining momentum; heightening the tension of some of the more painful sequences, and mirroring the mood and emotional core of the piece.
ExtrasAlthough even the original DVD release was far from bare-bones, Criterion once again go above and beyond in the extras department, not only bringing us the original Deleted Scenes, Scopitones, Mattress Man Commercial, Blake artwork and Trailers from before, but also a whole horde of further additional material.
First up is the 12 minute Short Film by Anderson, Blossoms & Blood, which is actually more of a b-roll montage of alternate sequences from the film, with Sandler and Watson, as well as music from Jon Brion and more of Blake's distinctive video interludes. Worth checking out, it is perhaps misleading to call it a short film.
Jon Brian talks about the rhythms of Punch-Drunk Love:
Criterion once again go above and beyond in the extras department
There are also two further new Interview-based Featurettes looking at the work done by Brion for the score, with comments from the man himself, as well as a discussion of Blake's artwork too. Some 2002 Cannes coverage and interviews provide a contemporaneous marker for the reception of the film, and we also get an archival NBC interview.
Of course the package is rounded off by Criterion's trademark booklet, which features several interesting and informative essays and interviews about the film.
Jon Brian on Punch-Drunk Love and the Hollywood musical:
Blu-ray VerdictPunch-Drunk Love remains absolutely unmissable, despite the many that may have missed it
Criterion's Blu-ray release - hitting UK shores less than a week after its US bow - boasts striking video and excellent audio, as well as a nice selection of extra features that fans will definitely want to check out. It comes highly recommended.
You can buy Punch-Drunk Love on Blu-ray here
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