Fargo made an immediate impact on cinemas across the country when it opened in 1997. This isn’t about an astounding technique or new technology. When you went to see Fargo, the screen was blinded in a whiteness from blizzard snow and untainted clouds. In a few seconds you knew if the projector had scratched up the 35mm film and where the stains were on the movie screens. My local screen resembled a hotel sheet during one of those ultraviolet light sanitary tests they do on TV. What movie theater thinks of cleaning their screens? The thing is when Fargo arrived on VHS, it let people know to break out the Windex to get the dust of their old big tube TV. And now with Fargo: 20th Anniversary Steelbook Blu-ray, you’ll grasp how clean is the flat screen on the HDTV.
Jerry Lundegaard (Shameless‘ William H. Macy) is a car dealership manager who has been doing shady business practices on the job. He has a two part plan to get him out of his hole. The first part is to get his father-in-law (Harve Presnell) to advance him the cash for a real estate deal. The second part is to have his wife (Kristin Rudrüd) kidnapped by two goons (The Big Lebowski‘s Steve Buscemi & Peter Stormare). Both plans go horribly wrong when the father-in-law wants to buy the property and take control of the ransom. The kidnappers screw up when they get pulled by a state trooper in Brainerd, Minnesota. Instead of playing it cool, the trooper is shot to death. This puts Brainerd police chief Marge Gunderson (Almost Famous‘ Frances McDormand) on the trail. Her main clue is the trooper called in temporary plates that link back to Jerry’s dealership. She heads to Minneapolis not knowing that there’s so more killings and a kidnapping in such a sweet city.
Fargo is a tale of shadowy figures in the blindly white landscape. William H. Macy is a horrible character and yet he does his best to be Minnesota nice with his treachery. For the Coens, the film stands out for it’s lack of camera trickery. The freezing temperatures make you not want to move the lens too much. This less flashy approach suits the material properly. It’s an unassuming film that turns out to be full of complicated ugliness. There is a person being fed to a wood chipper. Fargo lost out on Best Picture Oscar to The English Patient which is a shame. This little tale of darkness in Minnesota has proven to be more enduring than that bloated epic romance that has faded a bit after the hype. Nothing about Fargo has faded.
The video is 1.85:1. The high definition transfer brings out the whiteness of the snowy shots. The audio is a 5.1 DTS-HD MA that gives a bit more of the local sounds in your ears. There’s also 2.0 DTS-HD with dubs in French and Spanish. The movie is subtitled in English.
Audio Commentary with Roger Deakins, the cinematographer. He talks about the issues from shooting in snow and freezing weather. This is a master class on how to work with the Coens. He explains that elements came from various criminal cases. So far Deakins has been nominated 13 times for an Oscar and has yet to win which is a shame.
Minnesota Nice (27:48) is the making of featurette made during the production for the theatrical release. Buscemi talks in his wardrobe.
Interview with Coen Brothers and Frances McDormand (20:32) is from the Charlie Rose Show. The trio are relaxed around the table promoting the film. Charlie goes after the based on a real crime angle, but the brothers stick tight to their story.
Theatrical Trailer (1:58) sets up the crime, snow and Minnesota accents.
Television Spot (0:34) flirts with the concept that this might be a real crime drama.
American Cinematographer Article (15:57) is the article about Roger Deakins printed large on the screen. You’ll need your pause button to read in peace.
Still Photos (5:53) covers the production and promotional pictures.
Shout! Factory presents Fargo: 20th Anniversary Steelbook. Directed by: Joel Coen. Screenplay by: Joel & Ethan Coen. Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell & Peter Stormare. Running Time: 98 minutes. Rated: R. Released: August 8, 2017.
Tags: Coen Brothers, Fargo, Shout! Factory