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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English DTS-HD 2.0 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • All three of Arnold's short films: Milk (1998), Dog (2001), and the Oscar-winning Wasp (2003)
  • New video interview with actor Kierston Wareing
  • Interview with actor Michael Fassbender from 2009
  • Audition footage
  • Stills gallery by on-set photographer Holly Horner
  • Original theatrical trailer

Fish Tank

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Andrea Arnold
Starring: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender
2009 | 122 Minutes | Licensor: IFC Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #553
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: February 22, 2011
Review Date: February 19, 2011

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SYNOPSIS

British director Andrea Arnold won the Cannes Jury Prize for the searing and invigorating Fish Tank, about a fifteen-year-old girl, Mia (electrifying newcomer Katie Jarvis), who lives with her mother and sister in the depressed housing projects of Essex. Mia's adolescent conflicts and emerging sexuality reach boiling points when her mother's new boyfriend (a lethally attractive Michael Fassbender) enters the picture. In her young career, Arnold has already proven herself to be a master of social realism (evoking the work of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach), investing her sympathetic portraits of dead-end lives with a poetic, earthy sensibility all her own. Fish Tank heralds the official arrival of a major new filmmaker.

Forum members rate this film 8.4/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterion presents Andrea Arnoldís acclaimed film Fish Tank in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.

Despite the rather dank and dreary nature of Fish Tank itís an fairly vibrant and colourful looking film and Blu-ray is the perfect format for it. Colours are absolutely stunning and look natural and rich. Blacks are deep and pure and details remain without ever being lost in some of the darker scenes (except for the few moments where thereís next to no light present.) The image is also sharp and crisp with superb definition and thereís never a moment where it goes soft or fuzzy.

The digital transfer presents some mild shimmering in a couple of scenes but is otherwise free of problems, and also perfectly renders fairly mild yet natural looking film grain. The print is in excellent condition and I canít say I noticed a single mark throughout the film, though this isnít too big a surprise since the film is barely 2 years old.

Unsurprisingly itís a superb presentation.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion gives the film a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track, but other than during the closing credits the film basically gets a mono presentation with most of the audio coming through the front center. Music does make its way across all three fronts but thatís about the limit of the track (the closing credits is the only moment where music actually fills out the entire environment.) Dialogue is clear, though Iím sure some may have issues with the accents and may want to turn on the subtitles. Audio quality overall is good and there isnít any noticeable damage present.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This special edition includes a small number of supplements starting with an interview with actress Kierston Wareing who plays the mother in the film. Running a little over 14-minutes Wareing talks about being cast in the film and working with Anders, who worked hard with her on her character, making the character colder and more distant than Wareing originally intended. Interestingly it sounds as though none of the actors were allowed to see the script in its entirety (something Michael Fassbender also mentions in another feature found on the disc.) Because of this none of the actors were aware of any of the scenes in the film they werenít involved in, and also wouldnít know where the film was going. While this might sound maddening it was eased a little by the fact Anders shot the film in order which sounds to have helped Wareing grow her character as they filmed. Wareing also talks to an extent about director Ken Loach and does compare Anders to him both in filmmaking technique and in a working nature. Wareingís charming (nothing like her character) and offers some nice insight into Andersí filmmaking technique.

Another great is interview is the audio-only interview presented next which features actor Michael Fassbender talking with David Schwartz, chief curator at the Museum of the Moving Image, touching base after what I assume is a screening of Fish Tank. It runs about 26-minutes and features a fairly loose and engaging Fassbender talking about the film and working with Anders, also confirming he and the cast were not allowed to see the script other than the scene they were shooting at the time. He talks about his character, offering his opinion on his actions throughout the film. The last third of the interview is a Q&A session where audience members got to ask him questions but itís a fairly obnoxious presentation: unfortunately we canít hear the questions being asked and thereís a couple of times where the track goes quiet for an extended time as the question is being asked (at one point the track is near-silent for almost a minute.) This does lead to one humourous moment, though, where Schwartz is assuming someone is asking about prostitutes in the film (which causes confusion because thereís are no prostitutes in the film) but it turns out Schwartz confused the word ďhorseĒ for ďwhoresĒ. But during this portion Fassbender reveals just how he was able to catch that fish during the lake scene, and also offers other technical explanations, like why the film was presented in the Academy ratio. Great, breezy interview worth listening to. The interview plays over a still shot of Fassbender from the film.

Following this is almost 10-minutes worth of audition footage featuring 10 individuals trying out for the part of Mia. The hopefuls trying out only perform dance routines and donít actually read any lines. Music plays over the footage. Interesting though sadly Kate Jarvis isnít in here (though according to Fassbender in the previous feature it sounds like she was cast on the spot when she was seen by a casting director a railroad station.

The big feature on here is the collection of short films by Anders, her first three to be exact. First is the 1998 film Milk, which runs over 10-minutes. The general story follows a mother who recently gave birth to a still born baby boy and, in dealing with the grief, meets and bonds with a troubled young man. Not a bad debut by any means, effectively shot and certainly devastating but I have to say the final shot of the film is beyond heavy-handed and almost ruins the effectiveness of what preceded it. Still, despite this, itís an impressive first run.

Following this is another 10-minute short, the 2001 film Dog, which really leads up to Fish Tank, as it follows a young girl living in the housing projects with an uncaring mother and involved with a dead beat boy from the neighbourhood. Not as heavy handed as the previous effort itís an effective film and thereís some elements in here, even some scenes, lifted from here and used in Fish Tank.

The best of the three, though, and the one that won Anders the 2003 Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Film, is Wasp, yet another film about the lower class in the housing projects, this time focusing on a young mother (of four!) who, desperate to go out on a date with an old flame and with no one to watch her children, makes some questionable decisions (I wonít spoil it.) I liked this one as it doesnít judge the young mother, though also doesnít let her off the hook for what sheís done. Itís also nicely directed and edited and has some effective performances, even from the young children. Itís the longest of the three, running about 26-minutes, and is also the only one presented in 1080p (the other two films are presented in 1080i.)

The disc then concludes with a photo gallery featuring just over 50 photos, and then a rather awful IFC theatrical trailer shown in the United States.

The booklet then includes an excellent essay on the film and Anders by Ian Christie, offering a nice analytical slant to this edition.

I would have loved if Anders could have participated, and also getting Jarvis for an interview would have been wonderful, but Criterionís inclusions here are all excellent, with the interviews and the three short films especially being a treat.

7/10

CLOSING

Criterion yet again delivers another excellent disc for one of IFCís films, presenting a sharp, surprisingly colourful looking transfer, and some excellent supplements. An easy recommendation for those that enjoy the film.


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