Director Terry Gilliam’s loving adaptation of Richard LaGravenese’s script, which took viewers in 1991 into a romantic urban fairy tale tied to the Arthurian legend, now debuts in the glorious ultra-high definition disc format with The Fisher King (Criterion, rated R, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 138 minutes, $49.95).
Two broken, lost souls join forces in New York City on an improbable quest while sharing a common tragedy. One man, former shock jock Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) through terrible on-air advice caused a shooting rampage, and a homeless man Harry “Parry” Sagan (Robin Williams) is paying forever in the loss of his wife for the killing spree.
Believing to be a Camelot knight, Parry has a line of the Holy Grail and considers Jack the one who can acquire the relic held in a rich businessman’s Manhattan apartment. Jack not only befriends and helps Parry but might just save him in the process.
Williams delivers perhaps the most complex role of his career, crafting a man mixing enormous heartbreak and humor while Mr. Bridges plays the texture straight man looking for redemption and tethering Parry’s real and fantasy worlds.
Their work was amply supported by actress Mercedes Ruehl in an Academy Award-winning performance as Jack’s girlfriend and the quirky Amanda Plummer as Lydia Sinclair who Parry has fallen in love with.
4K in action: Sony Pictures provides Criterion with a meticulously clear 4K restoration crafted from the 35 mm camera negative approved by Mr. Gilliam and in its original screen-filling presentation.
Viewers are privy to stunning shots of New York City from glowing, smoky bridges to a detailed gold-leaf statue of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman on horseback, a homeless camp around Manhattan Bridge Archway Plaza, the Squadron A and Eighth Regiment Armory castle, and a dance scene set in Grand Central Station complete with mirrored ball spinning.
A preponderance of angled close-up shots reveals with clarity of various states of Parry and Jack’s duress with grizzled facial features distinguished by stringy long hair, unkempt beard dirt and plenty of glistening sweat.
4K reference quality moments happen anytime the armored, fire-expelling red knight on horseback comes into a scene to thwart Parry.
Best extras: Both the 4K and included Blu-ray disc include a vintage solo commentary track with a joyful Mr. Gilliam recorded back in 1991 for Criterion’s laserdisc release.
Of course, that is the Holy Grail of an optional audio track, a director who has crafted a great film and is very willing to talk about it near nonstop.
He expands on the meticulous details of the production but also acts more as a life scholar discussing his attitude about a smothering media and reflecting on the state of a sad society.
The Blu-ray also offers all of the extras from Criterion’s previous high definition remaster of the movie from 2015.
The bountiful selection leads with a pair of documentaries (one hour in total) that cover the history of the production and includes interviews with the director, Mr. Bridges, Ms. Ruehl, Ms. Plummer and tons of insight from Mr. LaGravenese and co-producer Lynda Obst.
Equally interesting is 20 minutes with Mr. Bridges and acting coach Stephen Bridgewater as they discuss teaching the actor to be a shock jock with archival improvisation sessions included.
Other extras include a 20-minute, 2006 interview with Williams; 12 minutes with Mr. Bridges discussing some of the photos he took during the shoot, effects artists Keith Greco and Vincent Jefferds explaining the extreme challenges of bringing Parry’s Red Knight to the screen, and a gallery showing six deleted scenes.
The package also includes a fold-out, double-sided illustrated poster (18-inches by 13-inches) that contains notes on the restoration and the essay “In the Kingdom of the Imperfect” from New York magazine writer Bilge Ebiri.
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