PicturePicture quality in the 2.35:1 anamorphic release is uniformly excellent. Note I said 2.35:1 despite the packaging stating 1.85:1. Action is set mainly in the interior of the garish, neon lit, casino, and the dim interior of Bernie's dingy motel apartment. Black levels are very good with high detail and good contrast. Cinematographer Jim Whitaker does a superb job of lighting the sets, producing deep shadows when Bernie is in his bad luck phase, and almost angelic backlighting when Natalie comes into his life. These are all beautifully reproduced by the encoding. Skin tones are accurate and once again details are sharp and cleanly reproduced. There are no instances of edge enhancement, or other digital artefacts.
SoundThe Dolby Digital track is encoded at 386kbps with a +4dB enhancement of the dialogue channel. The dialogue is clear and transparent, from Macy's nasally stammering to Baldwin's gentle, hushed threats. The score provides a wonderful ambiance from the original soulful jazz saxophone, to the Frank Sinatra songs that set the scenes so well and go with a Vegas movie like bacon and eggs. The soundtrack should also be praised for the excellent atmosphere produced by the kerching of slot machines, and excited bustling crowds. Spot effects and off screen action are also clearly reproduced.
ExtrasThe disc contains a nice variety of extras which vary in scope and quality. At the bottom end of the pecking order are the storyboards. I often wonder what useful purpose these things serve as an extra on a DVD. Who is interested in little pictures showing what the onscreen action should look like? OK all you cone heads put your hands down. Much more interesting is the Sundance “Anatomy of a Scene”. These short documentaries are popping up on several discs and are always worthy of a watch. Breaking down the scene, in this case the first time Bernie's luck starts to improve, and explaining the decisions made with regards to lighting, make-up, costume, direction, and acting. For movie students this is fascinating. Next up is an isolated DD 5.1 music score. This is a real treat as the score, by Mark Isham, is a beautifully haunting, and at the same time laconic jazz based score, with lilting saxophone highlights.
Finally is not one but two commentary tracks. Director Wayne Kramer is involved with both of them. On track one he is accompanied by co-writer Frank Hannah and DoP Jim Whittaker. On the second track the aforesaid composer, Mark Isham, joins Mr Kramer. Both tracks are packed with information that can keep the most ardent trivia fan going long into the night.
VerdictThe Cooler is more akin to the work of P.T Anderson than Scorsese, despite the setting and subject matter. As such I can thoroughly recommend it. A well presented disc with a great variety of added value extras that wonderfully rounds out an outstanding movie.
Just to clear up any confusion this is the R rated version which has had cuts made to obtain that certificate. Originally the MPAA gave the uncut version the dreaded NC-17 certificate. I could find no mention that the NC-17 version has actually ever been on general release.
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