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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Man From Elysian Fields (2001)

Luther: Elysian Fields is an escort service. We tend to the wounds of lonely women in need of emotional and spirtual solace.
Byron: Only women?
Luther: Call me old-fashioned.

- Mick Jagger, Andy Garcia

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: April 21, 2003

Stars: Andy Garcia, Mick Jagger, Julianna Margulies, Olivia Williams, James Coburn
Other Stars: Angelica Huston, Michael Des Barres, Joe Santos
Director: George Hickenlooper

MPAA Rating: R for language and sexual content
Run Time: 01h:46m:42s
Release Date: March 18, 2003
UPC: 043396002722
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB-B B-

DVD Review

Author Byron Tiller (Andy Garcia) has hit rock-bottom. His first novelóHitler's Childóreceived critical acclaim but failed to inspire readers with its oddball premise. When his editor rejects his second novel, discovering any financial means to support his family is nearly impossible. His wife, Dena (Juliana Margulies, E.R.), has total faith in her husband, but few options seem available. Feeling completely helpless to remedy the situation, Byron receives a crazy proposal from the stylish Luther Fox (Mick Jagger) to work as a male escort for Elysian Fields. Will he take the job and possibly destroy his happy family? Once Byron starts down this treacherous path with even the best of intentions, his doomed fate is virtually assured.

The Man From Elysian Fields offers a compelling morality tale about Byron's descent into an ethical quandary. Luther speaks with a refined tone and makes the position appear more positive than it eventually becomes. Played wonderfully by Jagger in perhaps his finest movie role, the Elysian Fields' boss exudes a charming elegance that masks his own personal frustrations. Byron's first client is Andrea Alcott (Olivia Williams, Rushmore), a very attractive young woman with a friendly, yet cold demeanor. Her husband is the famous author, Tobias Alcott (James Coburn), but his health is quickly dwindling towards an unfortunate end. Tobias actually supports Byron's hiring, and they quickly strike up a surprising bond. The stubborn, remarkable old writer recognizes a kindred spirit and provides a nice remedy for Byron to forget his troubling profession.

Director George Hickenlooper (The Big Brass Ring, Hearts of Darkness) has crafted a unique and complex work that features just the right atmosphere to inspire audiences. While the central premise is Byron's conflict, the tale also offers an enjoyable collection of characters who seem to live beyond the confines of the Hollywood sets. Screenwriter Phillip Jayson Lasker generates plenty of clever dialogue that helps us to understand the motivations of each individual. Everything works perfectly for Jagger, who enhances the role because of his rock star persona. We observe a much different type of performer here who spots talent for his own financial gains. Unfortunately, the nature of the business becomes lost even for a veteran like Fox when facing a lover's rejection.

James Coburn unfortunately died shortly after the film's release, but it does provide an effective culmination to the remarkable actor's career. Like Tobias Alcott, he continued to work until the end, even when it became more difficult to overcome physical obstacles. Coburn brings a wonderful vitality to the dying author and injects enjoyable quirks into every scene. In contrast to his steely wife, Tobias' energy inhabits the screen. His connection with Byron increases when they combine to finish his last novel. Working with an acclaimed genius finally cranks up the younger man's creativity, which leads to a top-notch book. However, Byron's unique occupation may not lead to a happy conclusion.

Although it only remained in theaters for a short time, The Man From Elysian Fields did receive considerable acclaim from critics like Roger Ebert about its rarely seen complexity. The entire cast performs superbly, including Margulies, who faces perhaps the most difficult role of playing the frustrated housewife. Her performance never feels like a caricature and retains its truthfulness to the end. Garcia makes Byron understandable without making his improper actions seem less important. Kramer Morgenthau's cinematography creates just the right mood and allows Hickenlooper to keep everything simple. When personas like Jagger and Coburn overtake the screen, the last thing a director wants to do is utilize overly clever gimmicks. The impressive atmosphere and stunning performances make this film a must-see for viewers looking for more depth than the usual multiplex fare.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The Man From Elysian Fields utilizes a decent 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that presents Hickenlooper's impressive shots with vibrant colors. The picture's main drawback is a significant amount of grain that appears often during the darker indoor and nighttime moments. Much of the image is clear, but the overall presentation is too uneven to garner a higher rating.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.0
Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Also slightly disappointing is this release's 5.0-channel Dolby Digital audio track. The sounds emanate clearly from the front speakers, but they just lack the power normally associated with this type of track. Turning up the volume makes everything resonate fine, but it never moves toward the premier level. The rear speakers come into play intermittently, which lessens the transfer's complexity. It works acceptably on an overall scale, but needs a bit more force to match the better tracks.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Enigma, Punch-Drunk Love
3 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Feature/Episode commentary by George Hickenlooper, Philip Jayson Lasker, Andy Garcia
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only prominent extra feature is a commentary from director George Hickenlooper, writer Philip Jayson Lasker, and star Andy Garcia. Their enjoyable discussion covers all the pivotal themes without being dry or overbearing. All three speakers have a nice chemistry and lead well into the other's comments. It is obvious they really enjoyed working together. Hickenlooper is very down-to-earth and open, which definitely makes the track worth a listen. Especially interesting is the director's story of his journey to Venice for dinner with Mick Jagger.

The budget limitations and brief shooting schedule probably made any behind-the-scenes documentary unlikely, but this omission is disappointing. The only remaining supplements are the basic filmographies, trailers, and television spots. In addition to The Man With Elysian Fields preview, commercials also exist for Enigma and Punch-Drunk Love. All three trailers utilize attractive widescreen transfers.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Last November at the St. Louis International Film Festival, native George Hickenlooper spoke extensively with the audience following the showing of this movie. Much of the discussion focused on his deference to Hollywood's heyday of the 1970s and dislike for the current post-modern, cynical tone of many films today. The Man From Elysian Fields channels the creative energy of the '70s and shines as a personal, emotional tale. Its remarkable screenplay, complex performances, and many intriguing moments make it one of the best films of the past year.

 


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