• Patty Hearst (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: June 30th, 2020.
    Director: Paul Schrader
    Cast: Natasha Richardson, Ving Rhames, William Forsythe, Dana Delany
    Year: 1988
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    Patty Hearst – Movie Review:

    By Todd Jordan

    Paul Schrader, known for his directorial efforts such as Hardcore and the 1982 remake of Cat People, and known even more so for his screenwriting credits such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, helms this biopic based on the controversial Patty Hearst story.

    For those not familiar with the case, newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst was kidnapped in 1974 at the age of 19 by a radical militant group calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army. She was soon after involved with the group, denounced her parents and her wealthy lifestyle, and participated in armed bank robbery with the SLA, which also involved murder. After she was captured, a trial followed and was covered heavily by the media. She served a couple of years in prison, was released on orders by President Carter, and later pardoned by President Clinton. She wrote a book about her experience and this film is based on those writings. The controversy lies in that she makes claims of being brainwashed, physically and sexually abused, and confined to a closet with barely enough room to lie down for two months before joining the SLA. There are those who believe she was less than truthful about her ordeal, and that she was a willing participant in the activities for which she was incarcerated.

    As said, Schrader’s film follows her side of the story, and is told with the angle that she was brainwashed and broken down to the point of sympathizing with her captors, referred to as Stockholm Syndrome, and thus not acting on her own accord. Whether it will ever be proven beyond a doubt if she did or did not act on her own free will and not due to mental distress remains to be seen, but as a narrative this is an interesting film.

    The first 25 minutes or so are predominantly played out as a point-of-view tale, as seen through Hearst’s eyes. Lots of scenes are filmed in low lighting, and many times all that is seen is an open door with light coming in, making those speaking in the doorway difficult to see. It makes for an effective way of giving the viewer that sense of the unknown, and although it certainly doesn’t put one in the shoes of the captive, it certainly helps to give an idea as to how someone in the situation must feel. And it’s the most interesting of the portion of the movie, visually speaking. As the film progresses, her transformation from college student to radical leftist is the focus, along with her interrogation by the FBI and her eventual trial.

    Performance wise, there some solid acting here. Natasha Richardson does a nice job of in her portrayal of Hearst (hey, full frontal nudity too), even though at times she goes a little overboard. But generally she’s pretty convincing. William Forsythe plays a militant who wishes he was black and makes his character one of the standouts. Look for Dana Delany in a smaller role (she shows her boobs!) and is cute as a button. But the real kudos goes to Ving Rhames (with hair) as the head of the SLA. His character evolves rather quickly from a level-headed, street-wise leader to an insane, near Messiah-like figurehead who seems to lose his direction and delves further into delusion.

    The pacing is slow at times, but the story is pretty darn interesting. Add to that some excellent character acting and you have an often overlooked biopic that deserves attention.

    Patty Hearst – Blu-ray Review:

    By Ian Jane

    Patty Hearst debuts on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome on a 50GB disc with the feature taking up just under 31GBs of space. Taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm interpositive and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, the picture quality here is great. Detail is very strong in pretty much every frame, there’s great depth and texture here as well. Colors are reproduced very naturally looking and black levels are nice and deep. There are no problems to note with any compression artifacts or any issues with edge enhancement or noise reduction. The natural amount of film grain is there, but there isn’t much in the way of actual print damage. The movie looks great.

    The 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 track sounds quite nice. Dialogue is always easy to follow and to understand and the levels are balanced. The score sounds good, there’s a fair bit of depth to it and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    The main extra on the disc is Telling Her Story, a thirteen-minute interview with director Paul Schrader. He talks about how he ‘watched it all live’ and the burning house, how he and everyone else in Los Angeles became interested in the case as it was playing out, how other directors were scared of making the film due to the first third of the movie taking place in a closet and how he overcame that, changes that were made to the script before shooting and his thoughts on the script, the debate over whether to do things from Hearst’s point of view or not, the controversial politics of the picture, working with the cast and crew on the picture and quite a bit more.

    Aside from that, the disc also includes a promotional still gallery, menus and chapter selection and it comes packaged with some nice reversible cover artwork.

    Patty Hearst – The Final Word:

    Patty Hearst is a well-made drama based on a true story that delivers an entertaining enough couple of hours. Schrader’s direction is solid and the movie gets quite tense in spots. It also features some really solid performances. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray is a good one, presenting the film in an excellent presentation and with a very interesting interview as its main supplement. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full-sized Patty Hearst screen caps!