Sunday, 5 February 2012

"Four Weddings And A Funeral". A Review Of The 1994 Film Now Reissued On A 2012 BLU RAY.

"…Damn Fine Filly…"

I recently reviewed the BLU RAY reissue of "Love Actually" - commenting on how beautiful the picture quality had suddenly become over the preceding DVD versions. Well - somebody seems to be taking care of business here too - because the print on this 6 February 2012 reissue of "Four Weddings And A Funeral" is exceptional also - especially given what's gone before.

Filmed in the summer of 1993 and released in the spring of 1994 - Director Mike Newell and Producer Tim Bevan took a big chance on a then largely unknown Hugh Grant as the male lead. Playing Charles - a nice but bumbling 32-year old British bachelor - he's the love interest for the sophisticated and sexy American socialite Carrie (Andie MacDowell hot from her successes in "Green Card" and "Groundhog Day"). With six hundred thousand dollars lopped off their budget and only 38 days to shoot - it cost very little to make - and therefore when it became a global phenomenon it eventually grossed over $250 million in profit worldwide. "Four Weddings..." also made stars of Hugh Grant (and Liz Hurley in 'that' dress at the London premier). It laid the ground for so many British rom-coms to follow - highlighted the classiness of Kristin Scott-Thomas ("The English Patient") - Rowan Atkinson as a comedic genius - John Hannah as the thinking-woman's crumpet - and of course properly launched the 'film' career of England's best scriptwriter - Richard Curtis. It was even nominated for 2 Oscars - Best Film and Best Original Screenplay.

Clarity - starting with spotlessly clean PolyGram Filmed Entertainment and MGM logos - the BLU RAY bypasses a menu and goes straight into the credits - and as the principal characters are established in the opening montage - its clear that some kind of restoration has been done here. It looks really great - bright, clean and amazingly fresh. The picture is also automatically defaulted to a 16.9 aspect - so it fits your entire screen without losing any definition to stretching.

So much is visually improved in this transfer, but moments that stick out include - the scene outside the church after the first wedding where Charles spots Carrie across the churchyard - it's beautifully clear. When they are making their way back from the tent reception - drunk in a Land Rover singing "Stand By Your Man" - and Charles gets out of the car under some trees at night - it's 'so' clear. Charlotte Coleman as Charles' eccentric sister Scarlett and her scary dress sense - orange hat and purple dress - Rowan Atkinson as the trainee priest conducting his first wedding service and blowing almost every line - when Carrie turns up at the end in the doorway in the rain - all of it - just great. There are only a few occasions when you notice slight haze and blocking (Bernard and Lydia getting it on in the bedroom as Charles hides) - but mostly it's a joy to look at and really brings out the summery feel of it all - smartly dressed guests in sunny garden locations etc. It also shows a London landscape that has no Gherkin building, the lovely Lady Di was still with us and a person gave you a Fax number and not an e-mail address.

It's very funny too - the script is fantastic in so many places - Charles describing one of his posh friend's new look "Tom...disastrous haircut..." - Scott Thomas describing the dress of the first bride Laura "...She looks like a big meringue..." - George the boor at the Boatman pub thinking he's in with the American sexpot - "Damn fine filly..." - Charles confiding in Matthew (John Hannah) about fluffing an attempt at wooing the same - "Do you think there really are people who can say...Hi Baby! My name is Charles! And this is your lucky night!" And Matthew replies "Well if there is...they're not English!"

And when actual heart is called for (tears instead of laughter) - Curtis gives John Hannah the speech at Gareth's funeral complete with the W.H. Auden poem "Funeral Blues" at the end ("Stop all the clocks...He was my North, my South, My East and My West…my Sunday Rest…"). It's still evocative to this day. Even the gay relationship between their characters was handled with joy and class and didn't focus on disease and ostracization.

Niggles - we've seen it too many times and it hasn't dated as well as "Love Actually" or "Nothing Hill" when it comes to repeat viewing. The terrible Elton John at the beginning. The lack of language subtitles shows an amazingly cavalier attitude to audiences outside of English speaking countries. The 'Extras' listed below are good - the 2004 versions put out on the DVD double (interviews with Grant, Newell, Callow, MacDowell etc) - but it would have been nice to have something new. But apart from those small points – there’s little else. If only Terry Gilliam's film legacy was treated with such respect and smarts...

To sum up – an evergreen movie and a very satisfying transfer to BLU RAY. So if you've any affection for this great British romcom - then acquire this version of it pronto - especially as its relatively cheap.


PS: this review is dedicated to the memory of the actress Charlotte Coleman who died in 2001 and starred in this film

BLU RAY Specifications:
PICTURE: Widescreen 16.9 Aspect Ratio
AUDIO: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
SUBTITLES: English For The Hearing Impaired
Audio Commentary with Filmmakers Mike Newell
Four Weddings And A Funeral - In The Making Featurette
The Wedding Planners Documentary
Two Actors And A Director Featurette
Two Promotional Clips (one with Hugh Grant as Lead, then Andie MacDowell as Lead)
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer

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