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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt Pratt@moviecitynews.com

DVD Geek: The Killing

More and more, movies seem like short stories and TV shows seem like novels. It took two ‘seasons’ (actually, each is a half-length season) for the murder mystery program, The Killing, to reach its highly satisfying conclusion. Set in Washington State, it is stocked with more red herrings than Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market. But if you sit down over a weekend and watch the whole two seasons at once, it is a wonderfully involving mystery with rich character development and nearly constant suspense. You know they aren’t finding the killer in the second episode, but that doesn’t stop you from thinking that they have.

The Killing: The Complete First Season, opens with an outright spoof of the opening of Twin Peaks and then proceeds along much the same lines, minus the close-ups of traffic lights, as a Seattle cop, played by Mireille Enos, continually postpones her retirement to investigate the murder of a high school coed. Sure enough, like Twin Peaks, at first the coed appears to be innocent and pure, but eventually it appears that she was hooking on the side at a nearby casino. Originally broadcast in 2011, thirteen 45-minute episodes (the last episode runs 48 minutes) are spread to four platters. Each episode represents a day in the investigation, and it seems like each opens with a new suspect that just has to be the one who did it, only to close with the focus shifting to someone else. Indeed, much to the consternation of fans but in keeping with its witty storytelling, the entire season ends just the same way. At the same time, there is a mayoral election approaching and the victim is discovered in the trunk of a car belonging to one of the campaigns. Enos is a little vague as the heroine, both as a detective and as a single mom, but Joel Kinnaman is terrific as her stoner partner and the program, as it leaps from suspect to suspect, is highly addictive. There is a substantial amount of time devoted to the grieving family, and the program does a good job at charting the arc of that grief. It also is always raining, which is different from the real Seattle, where it is always just drizzling (it actually rains more in New York), but is great for moody murder mysteries. Agnieszka Holland directed one of the episodes.

Each platter has a ‘Play All’ option. The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 1.78:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The color transfer looks fine, despite all the dark and rain. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound is quite good, with a strong dimensionality and some nice directional effects. There are optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. The final platter contains a passable 17-minute production featurette (as usual with shows set in Seattle, most of the program was shot in Vancouver—and the cast members, including Enos, occasionally mispronounce local names), a 5-minute blooper reel and 13 minutes of wisely trimmed sequences, although there is one nice segment where the younger brothers of the victim get into a fight, and a little more elaboration to the season’s final minutes. The first and last episodes are also accompanied by commentary tracks featuring a couple of members of the cast and the crew. They talk about the aspects of the show that they feel are unique, a few of the challenges that confronted them (Enos was pregnant during some of the shoot) and how everybody wants to know who the murderer really is. “We were sworn to secrecy. We swore an oath of secrecy and I believe it’s only the writers in the room who know who the killer is and we had to talk to each other about keeping our faces passive when we spoke to cast members and people in the beginning would try to get it out of us. It’s like, ‘I’m sorry. Pain of death. I cannot tell you.’”

Demonstrating a bit of a lack of faith, Fox released The Killing The Complete Second Season directly onto the Internet as a Fox Cinema Archives title. Spread to three platters, there are another thirteen 43-minute episodes, and each platter has a Play All option. In keeping with the cost-cutting manner of its release, however, the sound is dialed back to a standard stereo mix that is not as pleasingly dimensional as the 5.1 mix on First Season, and there is no subtitling or captioning. The picture quality and format are commensurate with First Season. There is one special feature, a 5-minute video that was ‘shot’ by the victim.

First and foremost, Second Season, originally broadcast in 2012, picks right up where First Season left off, and brings the story, by the end, to a fully satisfying and resolute conclusion. Secondly, the rain continues. Some viewers may feel the story is stretched out, but that just makes the final few episodes leading up to the end all the more nail-biting, and the atmosphere along the way all the more succulent. The writers have a tough juggling act, telling the story in just four weeks or so, because the characters go through so much—one character is even shot and paralyzed, but is up and about in a wheelchair a couple of days/episodes later. The background of Enos’ character is developed a bit more, and she seems more comfortable in her part than she did in First Season, as her character’s desperation becomes more frustrated—her performance is outstanding in a psychiatric ward sequence.

 

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas