Written by: David Mamet, based on his play
Directed by: James Foley
Starring: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin
- Individual scene specific commentaries by director Foley, actors Baldwin and Arkin, cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchia, and production designer Jane Musky
- Magic Time: A Tribute to Jack Lemmon
- ABC: Always Be Closing featurette
- J. Roy: New and Used Furniture documentary
- Jack Lemmon clip from The Charlie Rose Show
- Kevin Spacey clip from Inside the Actor’s Studio
- Cast and crew biographies
- Production notes
Released by: Artisan
My Advice: Own it.
[ad#longpost]Premiere Properties is in a bit of a slump. Ricky Roma (Pacino) seems to be closing deals, but the other salesmen (Harris, Lemmon, Arkin) are having problems. Their leads are too damn old to be believed, the guy who runs the office, Williamson (Kevin Spacey) is a prick, and to make matters worse: a fast talking hitman of a motivational speaker (Baldwin) has shown up and told them: close deals or get fired. It’s just that simple. He’s also brought with him a goldmine of new leads–but when they turn up stolen, the fingers start getting pointed.
Hot damn, this is an incredible movie. When you get Mamet’s rich, amazing dialogue into the mouths of this cast of actors? Je-sus, people. It’s a cinema-lover’s dream come true and then some. There’s not a single part of the show that isn’t stunning. Everything from the performances, including Baldwin’s ten minute “Excuse me whilst I waltz into your film and take over” scene to…well, Christ, who wouldn’t want to see Pacino and Spacey in a shouting match? Throw in a very stylish soundtrack, incredible production design and lighting, and you simply can’t go wrong. Thank God Artisan decided to get this on DVD at last.
And thank God further that they decided to put some effort into it. There’s a wealth of extras on this two-disc set, and there are gems among them. My personal favorite is the half-hour Jack Lemmon featurette, Magic Time. You have director Foley, Jack’s son Chris, and actor Peter Gallagher, among others, remembering the man. Unlike most featurettes where–as HTQ4 has said many a time–they’re just blowing smoke, here you have a group of people who are simply honestly remembering a great actor. And their devotion to him shows. Hearing Chris Lemmon talk about how he held his father in his arms while he passed away…my God, who couldn’t be moved hearing that tale told?
Also on the first disc is commentary by director Foley, but this isn’t a running commentary… nor is it exactly scene-specific. All of the commentaries on this set appear to be just general information and don’t really coincide necessarily with what you’re seeing on screen. However, Foley’s is the best of the bunch, with information on his attitude at the time, Baldwin’s interaction with the rest of the cast, and his style for dealing with such an arsenal of acting talent.
Second disc is where things get very strange. First up, you get the “Always Be Closing” featurette/documentary. I understand that this is supposed to be a look at the realities and the fictions of the art of selling. However, there are a bunch of people appearing on screen that, to be honest, I had no idea who the hell any of them were. Their names never appear to provide any context on who they are. It’s only about five minutes in that I realized, oh, these are real salesmen. And then you have cursory (at best) attempts to tie this back to artistic depictions of the salesman’s profession, including Glengarry (both play and film) and Death of a Salesman. The introduction of Arkin and Foley towards the end only muddies the waters further and it’s only at the end that everybody gets to make some kind of closing statement–then they’re named. Very poorly done.
Next up is something that…to be honest, I don’t know what the hell it is. It’s the J. Roy documentary, and it’s apparently a film by Tony Buba about a furniture salesman, Jimmy Roy, out of Pennsylvania. Now–this might be have been interesting if it had been provided with some context about what the hell it was supposed to be and why the hell it was included. Instead, it’s just…there. And although this whole salesman angle is nice, this is completely irrelevant to my enjoying the film Glengarry or learning more about it.
In a section called “Bonus Audio Commentary” you get a few scenes each with Baldwin, Arkin, production designer Musky and cinematographer Anchia. These feel like simple interviews spliced on top of scenes–again, they don’t seem to go along with what you’re seeing on screen most of the time. And, unfortunately, you’re watching the pan and scan version of the flick while hearing these. Baldwin’s appears to be the most relevant, as he talks about coming into the project as an interloper, and then tangents off into other topics, such as Lemmon and teaching acting and whatnot. Arkin’s commentary wanders all over the place and starts off talking more in general about his method than the film itself. Anchia’s and Musky’s are both interesting, but they, again, feel like they’re just wandering from subject to subject. Somebody really needed to sit down and give structure to these comments.
The two best items on the second disc are the clips. The first is of Lemmon from The Charlie Rose Show, and I’m glad somebody’s making an effort to get Lemmon’s appearances archived as much as possible. The second is of Spacey from Inside the Actor’s Studio, where a second-year acting student asks Spacey to play Williamson while he himself plays Arkin’s character and gets told to “go to lunch.” The student even brought the sides for the scene with him–gotta admire those balls. Spacey is put on the spot and the student’s incredibly nervous, but the snippet is quite amusing nonetheless.
So is it a quality special edition throughout? Not really. It feels thrown together in places and polished in others. But the movie makes up for any problems the DVDs themselves might have, and even for a film-only release it would be worth owning. So consider the rest a bonus and pick it up.