This is not the sort of film I normally like to watch and the first time I saw it it left a bad taste in my mouth and even made me bad-tempered. Except for the sex scene in the kitchen that is which left me with the feeling of awe and admiration which is a recognition of the sublime. I was convinced from the start that here was one of the finest things ever seen on film - a ten minute work of art in itself, comparable, on different grounds, to anything that Manny Farber had ever singled out from it's context.
Since then I have been compelled to admire the sheer craftsmanship with which the film is put together - it's tone, texture, pace, editing, acting, everything. The entire first 20 minutes of the film leading up to the scene in the kitchen is as impeccable a piece of film art as I've ever seen.
Anyone reasonably versed in literature could hardly fail to recognise that this is a re-working of 'Macbeth' and 'Therese Raquin' with the new background for the Tragedy of 30's Depression America. And this is a Tragedy, but it is not so much a tragedy of particular individuals, we feel, as a tragedy, somehow, of humanity in general. Well actually I think I know a little of how that 'somehow' works: it's down to that sex scene in the kitchen and its sheer human/godlike mixture of weakness/grandeur which achieves the sort of grand pathos that 'Gladiator' aims for in the early battle scene and it's slow motion 'musical conclusion' (I mention Gladiator because EVERYBODY will know the sequence I refer to and not because it's particularly admirable or distinguished). That scene, I mean the one with Lange and Nicholson, lingers with us for the rest of the film as they go through the all too fallible and human consequences of that experience.
The film still leaves me with a bad taste in the mouth but I now accept that as part of the truth of this film. Now it leaves me slightly perplexed as to how to place this film in my personal scheme of things.
Perhaps I should mention that this DVD is an old release and not in a wide-screen ratio and so cannot be seen in its full integrity. Resolution suffers of course when watched in wide screen zoom mode. Buy it anyway. Prove that your good taste needed to be at least partially satisfied with what is available for the time being.
We can look forward to it's eventual presentation in it's full vividness and intensity on BluRay.