Newly restored in HD via 4k digital transfer supervised by cinematographer Robert Yeoman, and director Noah Baumbach (‘Kicking and Screaming‘, ‘Frances Ha‘).
As noted on the Special Edition Features for this release, during the interview with Baumbach, this film and ‘The Royal Tenenbaums‘ (also rereleased via Criterion Collection UK, out now) were two projects in discussion around the same time. Anderson made ‘Royal Tenenbaums‘ immediately in 2001, before bringing in Baumbach to produce his next feature ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou‘ in 2004. Anderson would then produce the Baumbach directed ‘Squid and the Whale‘ in 2005. Both RT and ‘Squid…’ have a series of connections and disconnections within unit of the family.
In this case, ‘The Squid and the Whale‘ sees a complex and intense family relationship fall apart. Bernard (Jeff Daniels) divorces Joan (Laura Linney), leaving their offspring Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline) to navigate the family unit at the same time as growing into high school and adolescence. The narrative interweaves through the four characters changing approach and perceptions. The camera follows them each in turn as we see several changes being introduced.
Set in 80’s Brooklyn, and filmed all in lo-fi handheld tracking camera, you wouldn’t have thought that a rerelease in High Definition was all that necessary. It is, however, a joy to see this film again. Each frame a little clearer, and the all important soundtrack taking centre stage with the 5.1 surround DTS-HD. The scene where Jesse Eisenberg‘s character mimics ‘Hey You’ looms over the film more than ever.
The story begins with a tennis match, the atmosphere is already heated between the four central characters. The cast keep up a uniform understanding of these relationship dynamics – even in the way they track and comment on something as arbitrary as a tennis doubles match. The film then continues to develop on the tensions present in the first few moments. It is well written, and echoes Noah Baumbach‘s personal experiences.
The Special Features shed some light on a lot of the finer details. There are even audition footage reels showing an early reading of a scene heavy on Walt and Frank dialogue. Baumbach talks at length about how the film took years to form as a project before filming had begun. Initially, the picture had a time frame that used flashbacks to explore the teen/child elements of the story. In the writing process, it had become increasingly clear that these flashbacks had more clarity than the “present day” footage… that’s why we are taken back to the 1980’s for the entire thing.
An interesting project made rich once again in the special features of the disc. Worth your time. ‘The Squid and the Whale‘ is released on BluRay on 5th December 2016 in the UK.
[rating=4] | Zach Roddis
Comedy, Drama | USA, 2OO5 | 15| Criterion Collection UK | 5th December 2016 (UK) | Dir.Noah Baumbach |Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney,Owen Kline, Jesse Eisenberg | Buy: (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]