• Mutual Appreciation (Arbelos Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Arbelos Films
    Released on: June 11th, 2019.
    Director: Andrew Bujalski
    Cast: Justin Rice, Rachel Clift, Andrew Bujalski, Seung-Min Lee, Andrew Bujalski
    Year: 2006
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    Mutual Appreciation – Movie Review:

    Andrew Bujalski’s 2006 indie hit Mutual Appreciation kind of feels like a mix between John Cassavetes’ more personal, low budget pictures and the early work of someone like Jim Jarmusch, without ripping off either director. Shot on 16mm black and white film stock, it’s got that ‘indie film’ look that was popular at the time, and while it may be very much a product of its time, the film is not without a considerable amount of charm.

    The story revolves around an aspiring twenty-something musician named Alan (Justin Rice). When his Boston-based band breaks up, he winds up in New York City and crashes with his old pals Ellie (Rachel Clift) and Lawrence (played by Bujalski himself). Ellie and Lawrence are a couple, but it’s clear that she and Alan are attracted to one another. It’s also clear that Lawrence isn’t about to rock the boat and say anything about it. At the same time, he hits it off with super cute radio DJ Sarah (Seung-Min Lee) all while searching for a new drummer to get a new project going with.

    That’s more or less it. The plot in this picture definitely comes secondary to the characters that populate the film and their various day to day lives. Those looking for a tense or action-packed picture aren’t going to get that here but if you can get into more intimate, people-based films that are done with a sense of humor and that manage to keep things pretty much entirely grounded in reality, this’ll likely float your boat.

    A big part of the film is spent trying to get us into Alan’s head space. Almost everything here revolves around him, whether he wants it to or not. He clearly overanalyzes almost everything that happens to him to the point where he’s almost neurotic, but he’s no different than his friends in that regard even if they’re more likely to call him out on it than the other way around.

    Performances are good. Justin Rice does a good job of keeping Alan likeable while ensuring that we know he’s human and, as such, imperfect. Rachel Clift and Bujalski are also quite good as his friends while Seung-Min Lee does a fine job as Alan’s love interest, crafting an interesting and unique character.

    Production values are intentionally a little rough around edges, but the black and white cinematography suits the low-fi, mellow nature of the story really well. It’s a handsomely shot picture that moves at a slow but deliberate pace.

    Mutual Appreciation – Blu-ray Review:

    Arbelos Films brings Mutual Appreciation to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed in its original 1.37.1 aspect ratio taken from a ‘new 2K restoration from the original 16mm camera negative’ on a 25GB disc. The picture quality of the black and white image is excellent. Contrast is spot on and while the image is naturally grainy, no surprise given the format it was shot on, there isn’t any serious print damage to discuss. Fine detail is pretty solid here and the transfer is free of noticeable compression issues, noise reduction or edge enhancement. It looks like film. Fans of this picture should be quite pleased with Arbelos’ efforts here.

    The DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track is clean and clear if a bit limited in range by the original recording. Still, the dialogue is easy to follow and understand, the score sounds good and everything is properly balanced throughout the duration of the film.

    A Kind of Professionalism, a new video interview with Andrew Bujalski, runs twenty-nine-minutes and sees the director talking to an interviewer, Lars Nilsen, on a couch at the Austin Film Society about his work on the film. They discuss some of the ‘true’ stories revolving around the film, starting with Dolph Lundgren and the crimes that he prevented. OK, there’s a joke there, but really they do talk about Dolph to start things off. They talk about the type of storytelling that Bujalski has become known for, the focus that his work often has on ‘little conversations’ and ‘small things,’ how he tries to make sense out of the human experience with his work, what he wanted out of his actors in the picture and some of the trickiness involved in that and loads more. This is very casual and almost aloof at times but it’s an interesting talk, much different than your standard director interview.

    Also included on the disc is Interjections And Observations From The Parents Of The Cast And Crew, which runs an hour-and-forty-eight-minutes – the length of the feature, because this is basically a commentary track, literally recorded with some of the parents of the people who worked in front of and behind the camera. A lot of times they’re just laughing at the movie but they make observations about how the characters shouldn’t make out with the windows open, offer observations about what musicians are really like (many of them are like musicians, we learn), who does and doesn’t seem to be enjoying their work in the movie, their thoughts on the characters and more.

    Rounding out the extras on the Blu-ray is the U.S. theatrical re-release trailer, the 2007 eight-minute color short film Peoples House (which includes some of the characters featured in Mutual Appreciation), an amusing two minute ‘Vampira’ introduction (essentially a horror hostess parody bit), menus and chapter selection. The release also contains an insert booklet that holds essay penned by Damien Chazelle and Will Sheff that are worth checking out.

    Mutual Appreciation – The Final Word:

    Mutual Appreciation isn’t going to be a film that everyone immediately falls in love with but those who can and do appreciate quirky character studies and ‘slice of life’ storytelling will enjoy what Andrew Bujalski has done here. Arebelos Films’ Blu-ray release for the picture is excellent, presenting the picture with great audio and video quality and some nice extra features as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Mutual Appreciation Blu-ray screen caps!