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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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“A shot is a story. A shot on its own should be a piece of a story. Which is why I talk a lot about watching films, even the films we’re working on, with the sound off. Just to analyze how the film works, because a film should work for an audience without any sound. The biggest problem I see is that someone may have a superficial understanding of what a shot is propositionally, but they don’t have an understanding of how all of these shots are part of a family that needs to connect, and so you’ll get something that’s like a sentence arranged poorly with six nouns in a row. That surprises me, because I think that’s something that can be learned. Some things can’t be, but that can. It’s a grammar. In a classroom I could walk somebody through the difference between a sequence in which the filmmaker has a deep understanding of how images connect, and someone who doesn’t. It’s not really an intellectual process. Some people are just born with it and are just sort of savants at that deep mathematical understanding of shot construction.  I’m better than I used to be, but there are some people I’m just never going to catch. Spielberg. His staging ability. I’m never going to catch him. But when you’re trying to figure out how to get better—I’m not competitive in the sense of looking around at other filmmakers and comparing myself to them. What I do have to think about in trying to navigate myself through a career is: what can I get better at, and what do I have that I can enhance that somebody else doesn’t have?”
~ Steven Soderbergh

“It’s not going to be huge. He and I had been corresponding for a while. When I finally met him, he said, ‘We should collaborate.’ When John Ashbery says that to you, you don’t say when, you just say yes. It has not been easy to conjure this out of nothing. Sean Price Williams and I spent time with him, and it will appear on FilmStruck before the year is out…. I have figured out how to streamline things. I still have dreams of making movies with bigger budgets, and they might be considered to have more of a voice in pop culture. I don’t want to let go of that. I also realize that you grow up a lot of your life with wishful thinking and waiting. I have figured out ways to avoid doing that. I am working on a bigger movie about Nikola Tesla, set in the past, so it is not an easy film to make. I am also working on an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s ‘White Noise.’ That seems more likely to catch fire.”
Michael Almereyda Steps It Up