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In the Frame is a new collection of DVD box sets celebrating iconic stars of the silver screen, complete with smart new packaging.
This deluxe set contains 6 classic films demonstrating the incredible versatility of one of Hollywoods most celebrated names, Dustin Hoffman. Included in this box set are:
Kramer vs Kramer
Stranger Than Fiction
Joan of Arc
Franklin J Schaffner's Papillon is quite possibly the definitive prison escape drama. Not as thrilling as The Great Escape, nor as emotionally cathartic as The Shawshank Redemption, its unflinching emphasis on the barbarism of "civilised" societies is nevertheless unparalleled. Significantly, the only characters to display any real kindness in this film are the social outcasts: the lepers and native Indians; everyone else has been corrupted and debased by the true villain, the penal system itself.
Based on Henri Charrière' s heavily fictionalised "autobiography", the film's timeless themes of man's insatiable desire for freedom and the indomitable human spirit are thankfully not dependent for their impact on the source material's veracity. Dalton Trumbo's liberal-minded screenplay echoes the themes of his earlier script for Spartacus, and Schaffner's innate gift for epic cinema (this was made just two years after his great war biography Patton) is fully equal to the task of realising it on screen.
The director's painterly eye for widescreen composition and his careful pacing impart a gravitas to proceedings even during the film's most squalid depictions of brutality, of which there are many emphasising the cheapness of human life among the convicts and their equally criminal prison guards in the penal colony of French Guiana. Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman form a remarkable screen pairing, with Hoffman outstanding as the pusillanimous Dega. McQueen magnificently overcomes his tough-guy persona in the extraordinary solitary confinement sequences as he is gradually reduced to a shambling, cockroach-eating wreck. Longtime collaborator Jerry Goldsmith, who had previously scored Schaffner's Planet of the Apes and Patton, attained yet another career high with his music.
Tootsie inevitably looks dated in some respects now, but it's still fabulous in others--the sexual politics look distinctly faded in their sniggering approach to sexual ambiguities, while the sardonic portrayal of a showbiz that loathes perfectionism is still both timely and hysterically funny.
Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of Michael Dorsey is a memorable self-caricature--the man is so obsessed with the craft of acting that he refuses to sit down when playing a tomato in a commercial, and so producers run away rather than work with him. By playing Dorothy Michaels playing her soap character, Dorsey gives himself the freedom to be a bad and popular actor. He is so busy with the surface of being a woman--the voice, the hair, the frocks--and with all the bad faith of his and Dorothy's emotional lives, that he learns to relax into the pleasure of performance.
This aspect of the film is far more interesting, ironic and funny than the corny New Man moralising about sexual roles that goes with it. Jessica Lange got, and earned, an Oscar for her sensitive straight woman performance as the colleague Michael falls for, and Bill Murray, Teri Garr, Geena Davis (momentarily) and Charles Durning all turn in reliable supporting roles. Sydney Pollack directs efficiently rather than inspiredly--oddly, he earns almost more credit for his well-observed performance as Michael's world-weary agent.
Dustin Hoffman plays a lowlife who happens upon a plane crash and rescues the passengers, but doesn't really care about the value of his deed or the attendant publicity when the media starts searching for the hero. Another fellow (Andy Garcia) steps into the gap and claims credit, and as his life changes for the better he takes on a Messianic glow. Geena Davis is the cynical television reporter who pushes the latter's fame in order to keep her story alive, and this film, directed by Stephen Frears (Prick Up Your Ears, High Fidelity), takes a few familiar jabs at a manipulative and voyeuristic press. This is essentially an unofficial remake of Meet John Doe, though it is less dramatic and forceful in the end than Frank Capra's classic. Chevy Chase has an oddly anachronistic part as Davis' editor (maybe he thought he really was in Meet John Doe), but the film belongs to Hoffman, who makes his character a slightly cleaned-up version of the actor's own Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy. --Tom Keogh
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