Picking Up the Pieces (SE)/D,B
Artisan/2000/85/ANA 2.0

     We all know how tough black comedy is to put across.  Picking up the Pieces stars Woody Allen as a Texas butcher who chops his wife into prime cuts. A blind woman miraculously discovers sight again finds the wifeís hand in the desert. The hand, incidentally, has been frozen in time with its long middle finger prominently protruding in offending posture.  A small New Mexico town is prime beneficiary of handís miraculous powers, as the populace of misfits and handicapped are miraculously healed. The town itself, dominated by a small prostitution enterprise, finds the tourist trade a financial windfall. Everything is seen through the eyes of the local priest, who has been having it off with the prime cut of the local call girls. Only the butcher can spoil everything his handy chain saw work has created. There you have it.

Praying to the hand. ©Artisan

      I donít think this film directed by Alfonso Arau (Like Water for Chocolate, A Walk in the Clouds) even saw the light of theatrical release. I wonder if all the stars Arau got for this dubious enterprise even bothered to read the script? It appears that once Woody Allen committed to the role of homicidal butcher, other actors were attracted by the Woodsman magnet. The black comedy is sure to offend far too many people, but thatís okay if you force others to laugh uncontrollably. Unfortunately, the only thing out of control is the artistic vision. The crew and cast of Picking up the Pieces may have been having one hell of a time poking fun with a severed hand as itís chief ammunition, but it doesn't add up to a bag of body parts worth of laughs.
    Joining Allen in this lamentable choice are Sharon Stone as the dearly departed Candy, Keifer Sutherland playing a one-thought cop, David Schwimmer as a priest in crisis, Maria Grazia Cucinotta as the best little whore in El Nino,  New Mexico, and assorted other names actors doing cameos.

     Artisan has actually released Picking Up the Pieces in a special edition. Perhaps listening to Alfonso Arau on the audio commentary will give you further insight into the manic comic style. Thereís a very short making of featurette, separate cast interviews that are more substantial, a trivia game and a theatrical trailer.
     Overall, the DVD is sharp enough, but it seems slightly less than maxed out. Fine details of the skies, for instance, seem flat. In lower light situations, peripheral action is fairly dim. Color is bright in the day light scenes.
The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround adds to the fiesta atmosphere of the town at the height of tourist success.




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