Blu-ray Review: In The Family
I’ve written on a few occasions about films earning multiple appearances on this website, namely at the start of a series of posts on Django Unchained. However, even if the film does engender multiple write-ups that doesn’t mean I will hesitate to champion it whenever and whenever I can.
Such is the case of the self-distributed In the Family, which in good old-fashioned barnstorming fashion went around the country city-by-city for more than a year, if not two. Now that its arrived on both Blu-ray and DVD, the great equalizers of the film marketplace, it deserves a proper mention here.
This is a film that I not only reviewed upon having seen it but also won the BAM Award for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for two others so it’s a home video title I was quite excited to get to view.
If you have yet to see it I recommend you watch the film via rental means. If you feel as strongly about it as I, and many others do, rest assured that the video release could not come more highly recommended.
Since I viewed the film, and became a fan, I tracked its progress and further triumphs both on its Facebook and Twitter pages. One day on Facebook I saw a pull-quote of a DVD review I could not get out of my head which compared it to a Criterion release. That’s high praise but that comparison echoed through my mind repeatedly as I got willfully immersed in the myriad special features.
What’s great about a film like In the Family is that it is nuanced enough to earn not only the bonuses that are included on the disc, but any others that may come along should Criterion ever pick it up. As I finished reading the varied essays in a booklet that was included, it struck me that quite a few other topics could’ve been explored – that’s how you know you have a nuanced title.
The special features are many and are for the most part all pretty great. I have to admit to not watching too many video essays but the two by outside parties on this disc really exploit the technique brilliantly: one exploring, and further extrapolating visual motifs of the film, expounding upon vague notions I had that really underscore why the film is as effective as it is; another is a great recounting of a Q & A session Wang had in San Francisco. Having been on both sides of the Q & A equation I must tell you it’s fascinating to have this perspective wherein the discussion points and conversations have been digested. Usually you go, listen to, ask or answer the question and it ends, here it reflects back on the kind of impact the film already was having.
Wang narrates two great featurettes one called A Tour of the Cutting Room Floor and another called Sculpting a Scene. In the former, he, more methodically than most, illustrates deleted scenes and shot and discusses why they went unused in the final edit. However, even more valuable than that is Sculpting a Scene. The scene chosen is one of several long takes in the film so rather than discuss editing he discusses through three takes the evolution of the camerawork, lighting and acting and gives examples of the sound edit by switching between production sound and the final audio mix. Whether you’re a filmmaker or enthusiast it’s really great to get that focused and that dramatic an example of the craft of filmmaking.
Lastly, comes the trailer and a behind the scenes video. The trailer was interesting for me to see because I hadn’t seen it ahead of watching the film and not since. It’s a really well done trailer that employs an approach so many other films would do well to learn from. “Cut it like this,” producers and marketers should say. The Behind the Scenes is not so much a making of as a collection of outtakes, however, incorporating music from the film makes that a bit of an artistic achievement also.
As for the written essays they were equally, if not more, compelling than the video essays; and as I mentioned earlier got me thinking that there were other segments, motifs and themes that could’ve been explored also. However, then this bundle might be approaching a bundle with a book the thickness of a BFI Classics book and a disc in tow.
I wanted to write about this film again because it’s deserving of more recognition and audience but also thinking that it might be my ode to its coming home to me after its nomadic journey found me and convinced me to go see it. However, maybe there’s one more piece in me about it. Perhaps it would be about dragons and Ingmar Bergman or the the virtues of carefully fractured chronologies. With In The Family now being available to take home I feel it will be a film written about for many years to come.