Even devout Coen Bros. nuts could be forgiven for feeling neutral upon the 1996 release of their breakthrough Midwestern opera of murder and fanatical politeness. Blame the throngs of fans who rendered tone-deaf intonations of the film’s “Minnesota Nice” dialect well into the current Bush administration. Now, the choruses of “you betchas” and “oh yahs” have quieted and thanks to MGM’s Special Edition DVD release, a vast improvement over the skimpy 2000 version, “Fargo” can be seen for the offbeat gem that it is.
The DVD medium, with its chapter selection and persistent time display, helps reveal the movie’s unique structure. While considered the lead in the picture, Frances McDormand’s Chief Marge Gunderson doesn’t even show up until past the thirty-minute mark. After another half hour of interplay between the film’s three storylines, Marge’s old schoolmate Mike Yanagita appears for a painfully funny detour from the plot before the pace picks up for Fargo’s grisly, deadpan climax.
Despite the fact that “Fargo” features the most subdued camerawork of the Coens’ pre-“Intolerable Cruelty” productions, commentary track duties fall to cinematographer Roger Deakins. A charming chap who has done first-rate work for Joel and Ethan ever since Barry Sonnenfeld ditched lensing their pics to direct his own, Deakins’ observations and recollections are limited in scope and will be best appreciated by members of the ASC. Same goes for a reprint of the American Cinematographer article included here, thankfully well formatted for television viewing.
Technically, the disc delivers a top-drawer digital transfer that serves the pictures snow bleached vistas admirably. The 5.1 surround soundtrack does justice to Carter Burwell’s evocative and haunting score, one that must rank as one of the best in recent film history. An appropriately whitewashed menu design of soft animated type serves as an elegant gateway to the disc.
Other features include the all- new documentary “Minnesota Nice” and Charlie Rose interview with the Coens and McDormand, both of which assess the validity of the film’s opening boast that “This is a true story.”
The package also contains the original theatrical trailer and TV spot, a behind the scenes photo gallery (mostly featuring the bearded Coens wearing funny hats) and an annoying “Pop-Up Video”-style trivia track which superimposes tangentially related arcana over key areas of the frame. Skip the trivia, enjoy the movie and leave the “oh yahs” to the professionals.