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Bartleby (Indicator) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Bartleby (Indicator) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Indicator
    Released on: February 22nd, 2022.
    Director: Anthony Friedman
    Cast: Paul Scofield, John McEnery, Thorley Walters, Colin Jeavons
    Year: 1970
    Purchase From Amazon

    Bartleby – Movie Review:

    Directed by Anthony Friedman from a script he co-wrote with Rodney Carr-Smith based on the story ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street’ originally written by Herman Melville, 1970’s Bartleby is centered around the titular young man played by John McEnery who spends his days toiling away working as an office clerk in an industrial part of London, England. He’s hired on the spot after interviewing in person, and accepts the job for whatever salary his new employer deems reasonable.

    As life outside the office seems to continually get Bartleby into increasingly dire spirits, he begins to withdraw from society more and more, not at all keen on keeping up with his duties at the office and now quite prone to upsetting many of those he works with who do pull their own weight. Eventually this gets to the point where his employer, an accountant played by Paul Scofield, has to step in to stop Bartleby from completely retreating into his own world and, for all intents and purposes, rejecting society all together. It doesn’t quite work out well, with Bartleby soon deciding he’ll live in the office, causing the accountant to fire him, at which point Bartleby simply refuses to leave.

    Nicely paced and very well-shot by Ian Wilson (who shot The Crying Game and quite a few other bigger films), Bartleby features solid production values and a good score from Roger Webb (who would later score Au Pair Girls and Burke & Hare), Bartleby works as well as it does mainly because of the quality of the acting delivered by its two leads. There are good supporting players involved with the production, like Thorley Walters (who played Dr. Watson in a few Sherlock Holmes pictures and also starred in Hammer's The Phantom Of The Opera and The Earth Dies Screaming) and Colin Jeavons (who appeared in a few episodes of Doctor Who), but it’s Paul Scofield and John McEnery who really shine. They both do an excellent job of bringing their characters to life and properly humanizing them to make them interesting to watch.

    A strangely compelling film that was remade in 2001 with Crispin Glover well-cast in the part that John McEnery so perfectly embodies in this original picture, Bartleby is as compelling as it is odd. At times darkly comedic, the film makes it clear that Bartleby is not well and that he should be getting proper treatment for his issues, which makes it all the more interesting when instead of pawning him off on someone else or on the state, Scofield’s character takes it upon himself to change a man who seemingly cannot or will not be changed no matter what. This all builds to a conclusion that, in hindsight, seems inevitable, what with the road to Hell being paved with good intentions and all that. It’s a picture that, when viewed through a modern lens, offers up some interesting food for thought in terms of how mental illness has been dealt with in the past and in the present, and how humanity deals with the grind of day to day working life.

    Bartleby – Blu-ray Review:

    Indicator brings Bartleby to region free Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that is taken from a new 4k restoration from the original 35mm negative by Powerhouse Films. With the feature using up 23.8GBs of space on the 50GB disc, the feature looks excellent on this disc. The film’s bleak, industrial color scheme is represented very accurately – this isn’t the type of movie where the colors pop very often, but there are spots where some of the brighter, primary hues shine through nicely. Skin tones are lifelike and accurate and black levels are nice and strong. The image always looks nice and film-like, showing no noticeable noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts. This would seem to be a very accurate representation of how the movie should look.

    A 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono option is provided in the film's original English language with English subtitles. Audio quality is also very good. The track is clean and properly balanced with no audible hiss, distortion or sibilance. There are a few bits here and there with the dialogue sounds just a tad low in the mix but thankfully these moments are few and far between. The score, and the song that plays over the end credits, also sound very good.

    An interview with writer-director Anthony Friedmann recorded in 2022 starts off the supplements. This audio interview runs for fifteen minutes and features the filmmaker discussing how he got into filmmaking, his obsession with the medium developing at a young age, where the idea for Bartleby came from, how he set about getting the film actually made and how he feels about the movie many years later. This was recorded remotely over the internet during the Covid-19 pandemic so the quality isn’t amazing, but it’s great to have it included regardless.

    Bartleby’s London, also shot in 2022, is a look at the locations used for the film. It’s a quick four minute piece that really just downs down and offers some basic trivia on most of the key locations used in the movie.

    Beat the Bomber is a 1975 anti-terrorism documentary short directed by Friedmann that runs for seventeen minutes. It’s an interesting archival piece, very much a product of its time, and it gives us a glimpse at some of Friedmann’s commercial film work (Bartleby being the only feature he helmed).

    Also included on the disc is a stop-motion animation version of Bartleby made in 2017 by Kristen Kee and Laura Naylor. It’s a weirdly appealing twelve minute take on the source material that actually works quite well and is definitely worth checking out. We also get some extras on the disc related to the short film: a quick one minute Timelapse Videos showing off some animation test footage, a quick trailer and a still gallery of promotional material.

    Finishing up the extras are still galleries of promotional and publicity images and a second one featuring script pages, a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection options.

    As far as the packaging goes, Indicator supplies some nice reversible cover sleeve art as well as a full color limited edition exclusive booklet that contains a new essay on the film by Jeff Billington titled ‘Ah, Humanity!’ archival interviews with star Paul Scofield and director Anthony Friedmann, an overview of contemporary critical responses, credits for the feature and notes on the restoration used for the presentation.

    Bartleby - The Final Word:

    Bartleby is as quirky as it is simple, and yet it’s still completely engrossing and entertaining thanks to Friedmann’s skilled direction and John McEnery’s excellent work in the lead. Indicator’s Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic and brings with that fantastic presentation a nice selection of extra features. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Bartleby Blu-ray screen caps!

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