L.A. Confidential(SE)/A,A

Warner/1997/143m/WS,ANA 2.35

      Let's not mince words here. L.A. Confidential was unquestionably the best picture of 1997, hands down. At least the screenplay adaptation by director Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland received the Academy Award. From the dense James Ellroy novel, the script is an extraordinary accomplishment. The novel is very complex with story lines moving in a million directions. It's a really great read, but the movie is something else again. It's an amazing job of paring down the elements of the book without losing the grand scale of the story.
     Curtis Hanson rises to the very top of his profession with the fantastic directing of L..A.Confidential. The director digs deep to find the proper rhythms to move between the converging stories. The timing is perfect, the threads woven together with brilliant precision. From the grand photography of Dante Spinotti and elegant production design of Jeannine Oppewall to Jerry Goldsmith's stirring score, Hanson puts all the pieces together. Along with the tightly scripted plot, action fans won't want to miss one of the best screen shoot-outs of recent memory at the Victory Motel.

laconfidential.jpg (12038 bytes)

Spacey cruising gritty L.A. ©Warner

     L.A. Confidential is Los Angeles in the beginning of the 1950s when Hollywood and television were about to collide and movie magazines spread star stories across the nation. Not just another story of corruption in paradise, Ellroy's novel is about changing values. It's characters are not black and white. It's heroes are tarnished by the corruption around them and even the acts of heroism are questionable.
     The cast is so good uniformly good I believe it hurt their chances come award time. Russell Crowe is positively frightening as Detective Bud White. Though he's not a big man, he fills the screen with his presence, bulking up from the inside out. This guy is positively scary. Part white knight, part crude thug, White means business. Kevin Spacey finds a perfect match for his talents as slick and sleazy cop Jack Vincennes and Guy Pearce presents a chilling portrait as the ambitious up-and-comer Sgt. Ed Exley. All supporting players are powerful presences including Kim Basinger as a Veronica Lake hook-alike, James Cromwell as corrupt Dudley Smith and Danny DeVito as tabloid editor Sid Hutcheons.
     What a gorgeous DVD! This is just the way I envisioned L.A. Confidential when I first saw it, but I was disappointed with the choice of look. The print I saw in the theater was washed out and grainy. This presentation blows away what I saw in the theaters. The glossy nights filled with neon signs blazes beautifully on the DVD. It's everything I could have hoped for and more. Sharp as can be with no NTSC or MPEG artifacts in evidence, the colors pop off the screen with energy and force. The Dolby Digital 5:1 sound is outstanding. Check out the the hail of bullets at the Victory Motel shoot-out. It's amazing. And Jerry Goldsmith's score surrounds the action with beautiful horns. Call it a reference DVD if you like. You won't find many better. And Warner's has presented L.A. Confidential as a special edition to boot. I regret there is no running commentary by Curtis Hanson, but the "making of" documentary is quite good with insightful moments with director and cast. I recommend, however, watching the "Photo Pitch," before the "Off the Record" documentary. This is the way Hanson claims he sold the idea of L.A. Confidential to producer Arnon Milchan and the tool he used to invest the cast with the feeling of period and themes. It's also touched on in the documentary, but it's much better viewed first in this small gem of a presentation.


Selections from the Feature Archive include articles on Akira KurosawaBlonde BimbosFrank Darabont, Steven Culp, John Herzfeld or Vietnam: The Hollywood Pariah, and many more....
Director Walks the Wire

Balanced by an armor of movie lore and filmmaking daring, director John Herzfeld is comfortable walking the high wire. Check out this interview by Stu Kobak. 

The major studio vaults are filled with incredible film treasures which few have seen the light of DVD.
Open the Vaults

Looking for information about widescreen movies and hardware. The Widescreen Movie Center is the place to go.

The National Film Preservation Foundation
(NFPF) is the nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to save America's film heritage.

The voice of cinema
European film portal and hard to find video store.

The AV Science Forum provides great feedback on the latest home theater equipment with a wide range of opinions. Outstanding home theater resource.

An on-line Home Theater magazine with excellent hardware reviews, including thorough and responsible research. Check it out.

Excellent resource for movie review links, with many early looks.