The Film (4/5)
Robert Altman's 1969 early feature film That Cold Day in the Park is a discreet little thriller that plays in the same ballpark as Polanski's Repulsion, and Altman's latter Images and 3 Women. The film follows Sandy Dennis as Frances Austen a bourgeois woman in her late 30's who finds her life bereft of any sort of excitement. As it stands her life as it is right now consist of dwelling among social circles that are quite upper crust, and the people with whom she socializes have ages that far exceed her own. It is quite obvious that she finds her own existence quite tedious, and when she sees a young boy played by Michael Burns sitting by himself on a bench in a park on his own one cold rainy day she decides to take him home, clean his clothes, and feed him a warm meal.
She then notices, that though the boy doesn't speak, he excels at the much beloved art of listening, which is something that Frances needed in her life at the moment. The more she talks to the boy the better she feels herself, until she decides to keep him in a spare room, almost as her own listening pet. The relationship appears to be one sided at first, and Frances appears to be pushing her utmost desires on to the boy, but as it turns out he is also discretely using her as well. Things finally come to a head after Frances allows the boy to act her latent sexual desires on a prostitute she brings home for him.
The film was shot in Vancouver B.C., and unlike many productions shot in that area actually utilize the location for it’s own unique features. As it is a cold rainy Pacific Northwest region, Altman uses that to his advantage, and it helps to create a cold atmosphere for the film itself. Even the interior apartment bound segments of the film take on a certain cold and detached atmosphere with the occasional warm tone.
Altman's The Cold Day in the Park works on multiple levels. It is a wonderful character driven drama, with a stunning career best performance from Sandy Dennis. It is works as a tight chamber-thriller, that has a nice air of suspense as our character's motivations begin to reveal themselves. Further, the film works as a wonderful piece of social satire in the Bunuel-ian mode. The opening portions of the film alone showing Austen's bourgeois existence wouldn't be out of place in a North American Bunuel film, but the latter portions of the film with the boy locked up and begin semi-dominated by Austen really show a model of the upper class dominating those of lower wealth.
Eureka: Masters of Cinema present That Cold Day in the Park with a splendid 1:78:1 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer. On initial inspection it appears to derive from the same source Olive used for the film, but no complaints there, as that was quite decent. The Blu-ray has excellent color reproduction, deep blacks, and good to decent detail. There is a healthy natural grain structure apparent during the presentation.
The audio is presented with an LPCM 1.0 mono track in English. The track is quite suitable to the material, and the dialogue and score and audible throughout. I did not detect any issues while listening.
Eureka has included a 29 minute interview with film critic David Thomson about the film, and also a booklet of liner notes.
Altman's That Cold Day in the Park is a wonderful blend of character driven drama, social satire, and thriller. The Blu-ray from Eureka, looks and sounds amazing, but is limited in the extras department. RECOMMENDED.