Angela's Ashes/ B, B+
unremitting vision of a Irish family enveloped by poverty, Angela's Ashes
is told from young Frank McCourt's point of view. The improbable McCourt
family return from America to Ireland after the sad death of their infant
daughter is the opening salvo in a series of narrative gaps that prevent the
full force of the powerful immigrant story to effectively charge the movie.
In the end, perhaps the overwhelming bleakness of Angela's Ashes
finds redemption, but I left the home theater without a requisite uplifting
of the fleas
This is unusual material for Alan Parker. Most
of Parker's work, often brilliant, has been slick, slick and slicker. Parker
is seduced by the darkness of the original novel, and he plods rather than
dances through the direction. It's a sincere effort, but it does not
successfully animate the lives depicted.
Emily Watson is a family pillar, holding things
together under the most dire circumstances. Watson's gravity and strength
are great assets in her portrayal of Angela McCourt. Robert Carlyle captures
the pathetic hopelessness of McCourt senior. The various children playing
the pivotal role of young Frank are effective.
Frank McCourt provides commentary on one audio track
while director Alan Parker provides his insights on another track. McCourt's
observations are filtered through memories and attests to the authenticity
of Parker's interpretation of his own memoirs. McCourt poses the question
"Why they ever went back I don't know." It's the same question that bothered
me throughout the film.
Trust me, this is difficult transfer material for DVD. The
dark mood is amplified by dark cinematography. But it is reverently
clean. Contrast survives through some tough original material. Lighting
effectively remains faithful to the prevailing mood. Colors are somewhat
muted, but again, this is faithful to the original material. Image is
consistently sharp. There is some edge ringing evident in patches, but it
does not further muddy the grungy look of the film. The Dolby Digital 5:1
surround is clean with good detail location. Dialogue, while sometimes
difficult to understand, is located perfectly.
April 19, 2000
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