• Light Sleeper (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: October 3rd, 2018.
    Director: Paul Schrader
    Cast: Willem Dafoe, Susan Sarandon, Dana Delany, Mary Beth Hurt, Sam Rockwell
    Year: 1992
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    Light Sleeper – Movie Review:

    Written and directed by Paul Schrader in 1992, Light Sleeper opens with a scene where a drug dealer named John LeTour (WillemDafoe of Wild At Heart and To Live And Die In L.A.) prowls New York City bathed in neon. Soon after, he’s at work, delivering his product to a wealthy Manhattan clientele.

    LeTour, however, is only the dealer – he’s not the supplier. That role belongs to Ann (Susan Sarandon of Thelma & Louise and The Rocky Horror Picture Show). She and her assistant, Robert (David Clennon of Mr. Jones and The Thing), are the ones that arrange for the drugs to be brought in and handle most of the higher-level aspects of the business. LeTour is essentially, for all intents and purposes, on her payroll. He’s looked after, but is unlikely to climb the ladder. However, he seems content in his role and he’s good at it.

    All of this changes when it comes out that Ann is planning a shift of sorts. For some time now, she’s been planning to use the money she’s made in the drug trade to go legit and start a fashion business. LeTour didn’t really see this coming and while she values him as an employee, he’s not sure that this is the right transition for him to make. While considering his options and trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, he runs into his ex-girlfriend Marianne (Dana Delany of Tombstone and China Beach), a former addict who had to get away from his lifestyle to get clean. They catch up and LeTour starts thinking maybe they ought to give their relationship another shot – and then it all hits the fan.

    Easily the best of Schrader’s nineties output, Light Sleeper is a character driven neo-noir that is both engaging and entertaining. While the film spends a considerable amount of time exploring the methodology of LeTour’s occupation, it also does a good job of letting us into his head. We get to know him as he goes about his business and as his relationships with both Ann and Marianne evolve, he becomes a more interesting character because of it. Dafoe is excellent here. He makes the character is own, adding little quirks and specific touches to both his delivery and his body language to make LeTour interesting. Sarandon and Delany are both excellent too, Dafoe shares the screen really well with both actresses, but his performance is the best in the film.

    The movie is stylish to an almost insane degree. Edward Lachman handled the cinematography on the film and he never quite takes things over the top but he really does go all out with the compositions and the lighting. This is a very good-looking film. Michael Been’s may sound like a product of its time but that’s not a problem – the movie is clearly set in the early nineties, the music reflects that. Schrader’s direction is tight, he controls the pacing well. His script is layered and smart, effective in crafting characters we find interesting and placing them in situations that we want to see resolved. It functions as an interesting companion piece to both American Gigolo and Taxi Driver.

    The film also features an early appearance from David Spade. Interestingly enough, if you pay attention to what’s on TV in Ann’s apartment at one point in the movie, you’ll notice it’s Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising.

    Light Sleeper – Blu-ray Review:

    The AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen transfer presents the film in 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc and it looks good, even if it looks to be taken from an older, existing master. Detail is generally strong here, handily rising above what standard definition would be able to provide, and color reproduction is good. Some of the darker scenes have a bit of noticeable flicker but it’s never really truly distracting. Minor print damage appears here and there but it’s nothing more than small white specks. Skin tones look fine, black levels are good and the image is free of any noise reduction or edge enhancement problems.

    We get one audio option for the feature and that’s an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track. Removable subtitles are provided in English only. No complaints here, the audio is strong. Dialogue is always easy to understand and the levels properly balanced. The track is clean and clear from start to finish and both the score and the sound effects sound really good here too.

    Film critics Emma Westwood and Sally Christie offer up an insightful audio commentary that is equal parts critical analysis and trivia/background information on the film and those who made it. There’s lots of talk here about Scharder’s background, how he got into writing and directing, the cast that was assembled for the film, the themes that the picture explores and exploits and quite a bit more. It’s a well-paced and interesting track.

    The disc also contains a thirty-one-minute Q&A Session with cinematographer Ed Lachman and Paul Schrader that is quite interesting. Schrader talks about how the main character in this film ties into other characters he’s written, explains where he got the idea for the film from and talks about working with the cast and crew. Lachman has less to say but covers some of his own contributions to the picture.

    Rounding out the extras are a VHS promo for the film, a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    Light Sleeper – The Final Word:

    Light Sleeper is an effective and stylish crime drama that benefits from strong cinematography, inspired direction and some great performances. Umbrella Entertainment’s region free Blu-ray release is a good one, presenting the film in fine shape and with a few good extras too. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Light Sleeper Blu-ray screen caps!