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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New conversation with director Albert Brooks and filmmaker Robert Weide
  • New interviews with actor Julie Hagerty, executive producer Herb Nanas, and comic writer and director James L. Brooks
  • Trailer
  • An essay by critic Scott Tobias

Lost in America

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Albert Brooks
1985 | 91 Minutes | Licensor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #887
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: July 25, 2017
Review Date: July 16, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

In this hysterical satire of Reagan-era values, written and directed by Albert Brooks, a successful Los Angeles advertising executive (Brooks) and his wife (Julie Hagerty) decide to quit their jobs, buy a Winnebago, and follow their Easy Rider fantasies of freedom and the open road. When a stop in Las Vegas nearly derails their plans, they’re forced to come to terms with their own limitations and those of the American dream. Brooks’s barbed wit and confident direction drive Lost in America, a high point in the string of restless comedies about insecure characters searching for satisfaction in the modern world that established his unique comic voice and transformed the art of observational humor.


PICTURE

Albert Brooks the director enters the Criterion Collection with his Regan-era comedy Lost in America, presented here on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This new 1080p/24hz encode comes from a brand new 2K restoration scanned from a 35mm interpositive.

The film has a few rather wonderful shots but Brooks seems more interested in letting actors just do their thing so he doesn’t get too elaborate with camera work. The look of the film is pretty typical of Hollywood films of the era. Because of that I didn’t have exceedingly high expectations for the end presentation but much to my surprise it comes off looking quite wonderful. I wouldn’t say the image is excessively sharp and/or crisp (it’s possible that a scan of the negative could improve upon this but I’m not entirely sure) but the level of detail is still notable. Many of the interior shots look fine, and the textures and depth are all there, but I was most impressed with the detail present in many of the sequences that are supposed to take place around the Hoover dam: even in the long shots you can make out every bit of detail in landscape and the dam itself.

I was also very pleased with the rendering of the colours, particularly in some of the reds and yellows present, as well as the sharp blue skies. Blacks are a bit hit-and-miss on the other hand: though quite deep they seem to limit shadow detail and a handful of darker moments are crushed out.

The best aspect, though, is just how film-like the image is. The film is quite grainy, surprisingly so, but the rendering is spot on, looking natural and never like noise, while motion is smooth and natural. The restoration has also been thorough and there isn’t a blemish to be seen. It’s probably a title that Warner could have released themselves, and I’m still rather surprised Criterion would go after it (at least before some of Brooks’ other films) but they’ve really done a lovely job with it, and I feel it probably wouldn’t have received the same amount of love if Warner handled a release themselves.

8/10

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

The lossless linear 1.0 PCM monaural track also exceeds expectations. Despite being limited to the center channel it still manages to be a rather dynamic presentation with wide range and superb fidelity, noticeable even in the dialogue and the score, but it’s probably best shown when Born to Be Wild (one of the film’s allusions to Easy Rider) makes its appearance. Even if it’s not a surround presentation it manages to be sharp and engaging.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion includes a handful of interviews on the release, all of them focusing on Brooks’ work over the years. The most extensive one is 30-minute discussion between Albert Brooks and Robert Weide about Brooks’ early career with guest spots and comedy albums, and then his move to shorts films for Saturday Night Live and eventual move to film with Real Life and Modern Romance. The two then move on to Lost in America, Brooks talking about working with co-writer Monica Johnson, his co-star Julie Hagerty, why he cast Gary Marshall and other non-actors in the film, and why Brooks’ performance in this film inspired Nicolas Winding Refn to cast him as a psychopath in Drive (Brooks jokes that maybe the possible dubbing for his character made him sound scarier). It’s a very entertaining and funny retrospective.

Julie Hagerty spends 11-minutes talking about coming on to the film and compares Brooks’ style of directing to other directors she had worked with up to that point (the Zuckers on Airplane! and Woody Allen on A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy), explaining how he manages to get the reactions he wants out of his actors. This is then followed by a 12-minute segment with Brooks’ manager and the film’s producer, Herb Nanas, who covers everything from first representing Brooks, booking the right gigs to propel his career, and then producing (and even getting small roles in) his later work.

Nanas does a fairly wonderful job explaining what made Brooks so unique at the time, and how he worked as a director. But the best tribute comes from filmmaker James L. Brooks, who speaks passionately about his friend’s work through the years, from his stand-up routines to his work on his film Broadcast News. But he also speaks affectionately about Albert’s own films, explaining why he finds them so wonderful. Albert’s humour, he explains, comes from dissecting comic clichés and he does his own dissecting of sequences from Lost in America to show the development and execution of its gags, even admiring some of the camerawork in the film. He even offers a great breakdown on the effectiveness of the film’s opening scene. It’s only 14-minutes long but it’s an insightful and engaging extra on Brooks’ humour and style of directing, adding an academic element to the release.

(As a note, there are clips from Real Life and Modern Romance scattered about the supplements, which I would usually take as a sign that there is a slight chance Criterion is releasing them, but I would hold out on those hopes: they’re all upscaled standard-definition, so I don’t see that as a real signal of that happening just yet.)

The disc then closes with the film’s fairly generic theatrical trailer. But there is a rather nice insert featuring an excellent essay on the film by Scott Tobias, contextualizing the film to its Reagan-era settings.

Ultimately it’s not the loaded edition I may have expected, though I feel it’s certainly more than what Warner Bros. would have offered if they did their own edition (I’m pretty sure their DVD edition only included a trailer) and I still feel it offered a terrific examination of Brooks’ career and work.

6/10

CLOSING

It’s again not a title I would have ever expected Criterion to go after but I think they’ve done a rather wonderful job with it. The supplements, though not plentiful, are still engaging and I was more than pleased with the final presentation. Highly recommended.


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