The Coen Brothers masterful Fargo gets a 4K UHD upgrade thanks to Shout Studios and the results are astounding.
Fargo was the moment that the Coen Brothers went from cineastes’ and critics’ favorite American directors to the best working writers/directors in the world. The snow noir collessed everything Joel and Ethan Coen had been working on since Blood Simple. Dark humor, humanity as its strangest and lowest, violence, and an unparalleled vernacular for stylized dialog that never felt stylized.
Jerry Lundegaard (William H Macy) had it all planned out. A little case of kidnapping his wife Jean (Kristin Rudrüd) to con his father-in-law (Harve Presnell) out of money he stole from the Car Dealership he works for. Nothing turns out the way Jerry planned least of all the two kidnappers he’s hired (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) and the very pregnant town sheriff Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) who is on their trail.
Siskel and Ebert championed this film and its script for a reason. The same reason they won their first Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. There isn’t a wasted bit of dialog or action in the 98-minute film. Few films are as perfectly written as Fargo. The way they are able to balance the foley of humanity and cruelty with the sort of messiness of life that ruins everything is almost a magic trick at how easy they make it look.
Though Fargo is not by any means just a stylish directorial effort, the performances are what take the film over the top to a true-blue Classic. Frances McDormand deserved every bit of praise and every award for her work here. As Marge the whip-smart police chief who’s very pregnant, there isn’t a detective like her before or sense. Her good-natured disposition hides just how crafty she is. Watch the work between her and Macy during the Jerry interrogation scene, it’s a masterclass in both comedy and drama how each plays off one another. Macy is as good as McDormand as the biggest dolt in the history of dolts. The beauty in Macy’s performance is the lack of any sort of winking acknowledgment that Jerry is an idiot.
The rest of the cast led by Buscemi, Stomare, Presnell, and John Carrol Lynch do the sort of underappreciated but vital work that makes Fargo a truly lively affair beyond the lead actor’s work. In fact, that may be the Coen’s secret weapon beyond their unapproachable use of language, their obsessive care, and time they spend with supporting characters of their story.
Fargo more than two and half decades later has only grown in esteem as has the Coen Brother’s legacy as great American storytellers. This remains one of the crown jewels of their career and rightfully so.
The all-new 4K Restoration From The Original Camera Negative Supervised By Director Of Photography Roger A. Deakins in Dolby Vision (HDR-10 Compatible) shows how amazing 4K UHD can be. The image is reference quality. Fargo may be the trickiest transfer Shout has had to deal with because of the variances of the whites. The subtly that the transfer handles the opening moment giving us that pure white title card to the shot of a single sedan driving on the snow-covered high during a blizzard is the type of perfection in color correction that is rare – even in a Coen’s home video release. The image beyond the stand-out moments is consistently sharp, colorful, and free of any digital artificing or crushed blacks. For this reviewer’s money this is the best Fargo has looked ever on home video and even in theaters (I saw the film opening weekend in Westwood at the Avco (before it was replaced) to a very stunned and enthusiastic audience).
They include the following;
DISC ONE (4K UHD):
- Audio Commentary With Roger A. Deakins
DISC TWO (BLU-RAY):
- Audio Commentary With Roger A. Deakins
- “Minnesota Nice” Featurette
- Interview With The Coen Brothers And Actor Frances McDormand
- American Cinematography Article
- Original Trailer And TV Spot
- Still Photo Gallery
The archival Audio Commentary with Roger A. Deakins begins with the difficulty of achieving the iconic opening shot he was not there for. Some of the details include how at the time of the production it was the “least snowy winter” in Minnesota history; working with the Coens – how structured it is; the lack of light during the winter and how that affected scheduling and shooting; the importance of Storyboarding for the Coen’s; the story behind the iconic parking log shot; how preproduction works with the Coen’s; working with the cameras in the extreme cold of Minnesota – including some truly hilarious stories about that; a discussion throughout about each scene and how they approached lighting, camera placement, camera movement, et. al.; and much more. There is a fair amount of silence, but Deakins provides a vital informative commentary track – a thing that the Coens do not provide on their releases.
“Minnesota Nice” Featurette (27:48) – this archival making-of featurette covers everything from the inception of the idea for the film, the culture of Minnesota and how it bled into the film; the truth behind the “true story”; how exacting the script is; the costuming – specifically the work done with Mary Zorphies and McDormand did with the pregnancy; how the Coen’s collaborate with actors and crew; the release – including the success and Awards; and much more. Featuring interviews with stars Frances McDormand, and William H Macy, directors Joel and Ethan Coen, co-stars Steve Buscemi, and Peter Stormare, Cinematographer Roger Deakins, and others.
Interview With the Coen Brothers And Actor Frances McDormand (20:32) – the archival interview pulled from the Charlie Rose Show features the directing duo and star speaking about Fargo. Some of the details include disseminating how they describe it as a “true crime story”; writing for specific actors; a great Nic Cage anecdote; how they write scripts – which leads to why they work the way they do; and much more.
Original Trailer (1:58)
TV Spot (0:33)
American Cinematography Article (15:57) – this very famous article is almost a companion piece to Deakin’s commentary here. The article can be run automatically or can be paused and navigated through your remote’s next, back, and pause buttons.
Still Photo Gallery (5:57) – the still gallery consists of 71 different production and behind-the-scenes photos that you can navigate using your remote’s next and back chapter stop buttons.
The Final Thought
Fargo is a stone-cold classic. Shout Factory has treated it as such. Highest possible recommendations!!