Saturday, March 21, 2020

Blu-ray debut for another under-rated Philip Ridley film, THE PASSION OF DARKLY NOON

Only eight months ago, we were treated to the Blu-ray debut of Philip Ridley's first full-length film, The Reflecting Skin, and now we're graced with the same for his second feature, THE PASSION OF DARKLY NOON.

Released theatrically back in 1995, the film not only holds up far better than it did (for most critics) at the time of its release, it actually seems a much stronger film today, what with its major theme of how religious fundamentalism destroys lives being ever more timely and important.

Though Mr. Ridley, pictured at left, has only three full-length films (a sort of trilogy, the filmmaker has suggested) to his credit (his last was the dark, marvelous and best-of-the-lot Heartless from 2010), the man -- as we learn from the superb 20-minute appreciation by James Flower that is part of the disc's Bonus Features -- is a polymath: a fine artist, writer, playwright and filmmaker. He can probably cook, too.

As much as I love Ridley's work, and even after viewing and listening to Mr. Flower's fine appreciation, TrustMovies feels that each of the filmmaker's movies has been better than its predecessor. On second viewing, The Reflecting Skin -- a kind of indictment of America and its supposed values -- simply bites off more than it can properly chew, interesting as it is to contemplate, as well as gorgeous to view.

The Passion of Darkly Noon, on  the other hand, for all the drama and melodrama on hand, tells its urgent story extremely well, with literally every scene and theme necessary and contributing by the finale to a quite satisfying whole. The title role -- an unusual one for the actor Brendan Fraser (above) -- is played very well indeed, as are all in the quintet of supporting roles.

In the film's opening, we see Darkly running and running through a forest until he collapses and is later found by a local (the uber-charming Loren Dean, above), who transports him to the nearest house, inhabited by Callie (Ashley Judd, below, who has never looked hotter nor more gorgeous)

and Clay (Viggo Mortensen, below, who always looks hot and gorgeous). Initially, it's only Darkly and Callie in this large house (he has a room atop the barn), and romance soon blossoms -- at least for one of these two. "We want you to be part of our family," Callie tells Darkly. "Don't ruin it."

The characterizations, via the excellent actors as well as from the screenwriting (also by Ridley), is strong and true. Even though the characters here tend to be either kindly or crazy -- one of these, the local undertaker, delightfully played by the late Lou Myers, is both -- the characterizations are nuanced enough to seem real and easily engage us.

The final member of the supporting quintet -- played with her usual truthfulness and ferocity by Grace Zabriskie, above -- is the craziest, for good reason. Together, these folk dance around and with our troubled Darkly. Add the boy's dead but still crazy parents to the mix, and you have an excellent recipe for disaster.

Ridley's penchant for fascinating byways -- into caves, hot springs (above), fantasy and really oddball visuals (the giant floating shoe is my favorite) -- is on full display.

Yet even the most unusual of these gets its own delightful, out-of-the-blue, well, of course! moment at the finale, making The Passion of Darkly Noon a very special kind of entertainment indeed.

The Blu-ray transfer is a very good one, and don't let the above photos fool you; they were all I could find, and they do not reflect the quality of that transfer.

From Arrow Video (distributed in the USA via MVD Entertainment Group/MVD Visual) and running a just-right 101 minutes, the movie arrives on disc -- with beaucoup Bonus Features -- this coming Tuesday, March 24, for purchase (and I hope somewhere, for rental, too). The shot of the barbed-wire bloody Fraser, two photos above, may give certain viewers an idea from where Paul Schrader got his inspiration -- other than from the Crucifixion itself -- for the finale of First Reformed.

No comments: